This week, we’ll move into reading Madeline Miller’s Circe, a retelling or expansion of the Odyssey from Circe’s point of view. As we make this transition, I thought this would be a good moment to look back over unanswered questions that arose during our reading of the Odyssey, since those concerns will continue to shape our conversation in the weeks ahead.
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How does Odysseus’ slaughter of the suitors impact his status as a hero?
Odysseus’ slaughter of the suitors solidifies his characterization of a morally gray hero. Although Odysseus’ feats in battle may be considered heroic, his violence and his arrogance introduce another side to his character. Odysseus succumbs to vengeance and brutally slaughters all of the suitors, demonstrating that he is not just a selfless, courageous hero.
I would agree that Odysseus’ slaughter of the suitors contributes to the complexity of his heroic status. This act gives him depth and moral layers; he is not simply a benevolent, brave hero but also a murderer. Odysseus’ violent actions point to a larger truth about the figures we often consider heroes: they do evil things. Being a hero isn’t about being the kindest or the most compassionate or the fairest, it’s about accomplishing the most and becoming known and revered. While Odysseus’ murder of the suitors is indubitably a violent and immoral act, it nevertheless shows the complicated status that heroes gain.
I agree with both of these points! While we see many heroic actions throughout Odysseus’ journey, this slaughter of 138 suitors acts sort of as a balance, showing in Greek myth that a man cannot be truly all good or all evil. A hero is greedy and prideful and will not let anyone step in front of their ego. Odysseus shows us this same behavior when he kills these men, because not only does it come with the feeling of conquering that a hero craves, it also has extreme personal gain for him.
I agree that when Odysseus slaughters the suitors, his status as a hero is challenged in several ways. I think of true heroes as those with compassion for others, something that Odysseus clearly does not exhibit with the suitors. I think it is important to note, however, that Odysseus believes he is doing something heroic – he believes he is defending his own honor (as well as the honor of Telemachus and Penelope), as well as leaving a lasting legacy (i.e. his name will not be forgotten as a result of this action). The suitors have infiltrated his home and disrespected him and his family and as a result, Odysseus believes the heroic thing to do is to stand up for himself. While it is easy for readers to look at Odysseus’ action as the antithesis of heroic, it is interesting to consider the perspective of Odysseus and how he considers this same action heroic.
I would agree with the points above. The slaughter starkly contrasts many of his other actions, but it also stays in line. He has shown that he will defend his family, whether actual or people like his crew, and he sticks to this moral pattern of doing whatever he can in order to accomplish this. In my mind, this puts him in an interesting place because he is doing immoral things in order to accomplish a moral goal. However, I think that overall his legacy as a hero is not changed, since his actions are still heroic. I just feel that he is not a role model or even just a good person necessarily, but that those things are not intertwined.
I completely agree with this statement because while his motivations are pure and heroic, his actions can be immoral. Some stories paint a very clear image of the correct thing to do, but how do we judge someone’s actions, even if immoral, when they are motivated by a just cause.
I completely agree with this statement because while his motivations are pure and heroic, his actions can be immoral. Some stories paint a very clear image of the correct thing to do, but how do we judge someone’s actions, even if immoral, when they are motivated by a just cause. As a result, I think it is more valuable to assess his motivations, rather than actions because they help to explain and justify.
The scene with the dog in the Odyssey made me wonder if in mythology there were consequences for the mistreatment of animals. Was there a god that protected animals or punishment in the underworld for people who mistreated them?
This question really stood out to me – I started thinking about how Egyptian gods often have animal features, and how Greek gods can often change into different animals (like eagles, swans, etc.) but often for truly horrifying reasons. A quick Google search told me that Artemis was the “protector of animals,” which I thought was interesting since she’s often portrayed as a huntress? I also wondered how the mistreatment of sacrificial animals like sheep and goats works too. There’s actually this https://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2012/2012.02.37/ which pops up when you search ancient Greeks & mistreatment of animals – I didn’t have the chance to read through it fully, but there might be more interesting details in there.
Reading that article from BMC, I learned that Ancient Greece did not have a strong sense of animal welfare or animal rights and while some felt bad and anxious about the treatment of certain animals these sentiments were often laughed at. Additionally, depending on the animal being mistreated the severity of the act varied. For example, mules and asses were often mistreated with little concern for their well being while dogs and mustelids were seen as pets and were treated better. Overall, deliberate and unnecessary cruelty towards animals was seen as unacceptable and condemned but incidental suffering was often ignored as the human needs and desires came first no matter the cost to the animal.
I was thinking about this question myself! The difference between reverence with Ancient Egyptians and Greeks is very different, and almost comical. Egyptians treat them as gods, and it doesn’t seem like the greek gods revere them as so. I think the hierarchy of animals, as Eva mentioned is very interesting.
All in all, with our modern view of animals, especially dogs, it is really hard for me to think that the greeks, or any ancient people, didn’t hold them in a high, important regard, as a member of their family as well.
So I think that the this is also a question of not like animal welfare but what specific animals were chosen by the Gods because otherwise there is a lack of animal life quality in most myths. In Circe we see the Golden Cattle of Helios, and in other myths we see Artemis’ Golden Stag, or Zeus and Io but there is no explicit care of a breed. I think that this question would be interesting to see WHICH animals are chosen by the gods compared to others.
As far as I know, there were no blanket protections for animals, even in folklore. However, some of the gods did have sacred animals- Artemis had a sacred deer, Helios had sacred cattle, Hera had the peacock etc. It seemed to me that the cruelty of what happened to the dog was more about the neglect of an animal that was loyal and kind to it’s master, rather than just the neglect of a creature. Like- the animal existed as a symbol of Odysseus, and so it’s abuse was another slight to him. However, doesn’t Odysseus or Penelope refer to certain enslaved women as dog-like? It’s meant as an insult there, I think, because it’s discussing their betrayal.
The idea of Artemis being the Goddess of the Hunt and Goddess of Wild Animals is an aspect I focused on in my reflection project. Artemis ultimately upholds the ideology of the sportsman’s ideal held by hunters. Hunters are supposed to treat wildlife and land with respect. Artemis, while being the Goddess of Hunt, also has a deep respect for animals and nature, protecting young animals. Although the values of hunting and protecting animals are seemingly at odds with each other, in some aspects, Artemis represents what many feel the ideal hunter should be.
Why did Homer choose to have Odysseus be so open with his emotions?
I think the answer to this question lies in Odysseus’ name which means “son of pain” or “man of sorrow.” Odysseus is known for and named for his pain and suffering. I think it would be odd if Homer did not have Odysseus cry so often and be so open with his emotions given that this character is supposed to be suffering immensely, especially on his decade long journey home from war. It is fitting that a character named for his suffering is so open with his emotions and showing his pain.
This is a really great point! In addition, passion and emotions are actually integral to the ideal Greek masculine hero. Tears and crying were typical for the idealistic male hero, and not a weakness that contradicts each other. The Greeks valued passion, loyalty, and glory so much that they made the greatest sacrifices, like death or daring adventures, to achieve a reputation for having these traits. And a lot of times these events involve crying to express such emotions.
I think this is a really interesting point! I’ve been thinking a lot about how masculinity and emotions are portrayed in Greek myths in general, and Odysseus is a really good example of that pattern. At least loyalty and glory are definitely still things that are attached to idealistic masculinity in the 21st century, but there’s been a switch in regards to crying and showing actual emotion. I wonder when that switch occurred.
I agree, I think it certainly has to do with the fact that societal expectations for gendered characteristics have changed a lot from the ancient Greek perspective to a contemporary western perspective. We see this also in the change of perspective on what it is to be a hero. Odysseus is not the only example we see of this, of course we see the strong emotions that Achilles presents in regards to Patroclus’ death. Perhaps this is a part of the Greek perspective on death in that when someone dies, remembrance is the greatest representation of a heroic life well lived, and the more that someone grieves their peers the more respected they are. Perhaps, from another angle, the suffering is shown because he is an antagonist in most other writing and this is a kind of punishment or explanation for his behavior
The meaning of Odysseus’ name is a good point, and I found an article about the name of Odysseus that said ‘to odysseus’ can mean “be wroth against” and “hate”. (https://www.jstor.org/stable/3847614) Aside from his sadness, I think it’s interesting to note the intense fury and vengeance he feels when he returns home. Coupled with his longing, suffering, and pain, there is also an underlying anger that comes to a head when he kills the suitors and can be overshadowed by the more outright displays of sadness like crying and lamentation.
I think everything written above is super interesting, especially the point about how the name “odysseus” means “son of pain” or “man of sorrow”. I also think that having the gods, heroes, warriors, etc, cry is a way to humanize the powerful male characters. Similar to what Tali wrote, crying isn’t necessarily seen as a weakness, but is rather seen as a typical male characteristic.
I think this is a great and insightful point. Throughout our time in this class, it has been made clear to us that Odysseus feel pain, unlike many other male main characters that we have heard of before. This is why the meaning of his name further exemplifies the way in which he is vulnerable. And how important his vulnerability in thought the story.
That is such a good point about the meaning of his name—Odysseus is defined by suffering in more ways than one. I also think his open displays of emotion, such as his frequent, intense bouts of sobbing, serve to elevate his story to superlative and heroic level. Odysseus’ story takes everyday concerns of an Ancient Greek audience, such as worrying about what will happen while traveling away from home, and expands them to an epic scale. Odysseus’ open expression of emotions fits this intense, action-packed style of storytelling. Everything in stories about heroes is big, so their emotions are big as well.
That’s a great point. I also think Homer chose to have Odysseus be very open with his emotions in order to make the overall narrative more compelling. I definitely think the story would be lacking substance if Homer didn’t provide insight into Odysseus’ emotional state. By showing Odysseus struggling with his feelings of grief, anger, and frustration, Homer is able to make Odysseus seem like a relatable and compelling character who undergoes meaningful character development over the course of the story.
It was mentioned in class that the Odyssey has been interpreted as a metaphorical representation of PTSD from war. Having Odysseus cry often and be open with his emotions could help the audience connect with him especially if they too were struggling with the aftermath of a war. It also serves to make him a more sympathetic character, which helps the narrative try to justify the murder of the suitors.
I agree that the answer to this question definitely lies in the meaning of Odysseus’ name. I think Homer also made this choice to balance the violence Odysseus carries out through the book. In being so open with his emotions, Homer humanizes Odysseus and allows the reader to see another side of him. I think this choice is what makes his hero status justifiable. Despite all the violence, we get to see Odysseus vulnerable and emotional.
I think this is a very good point! We have learned by how Odysseus is a man of pain. The way he expresses it may be partly unconventional but there is a lot to be said for and when he portrays these emotions. He is the ideal masculine hero and weakness. So it becomes complex on how Homer delivers his emotion.
This is more of a buzzkill answer to this question but in the Odyssey, there are no internal monolouges for any of the characters (the closest we get is Odysseus telling his story), so the only way for the audience to truly know what a character is thinking or feeling is for it to be displayed to the audience (and as a result, to the other characters as well). Additionally, characters who are not as open with their emotions are typically less interesting unless the audience gets to know their internal feelings, which does not apply here.
I think it’s so interesting to think about the way Odysseus is portrayed in the context of the meaning of his name, and the role that he’s supposed to play/what this signifies. I had no idea that Odysseus means “man of sorrow” but I think it makes his portrayal all the more cohesive–especially related to him crying/showing his emotions a great deal throughout the story. It seems as though vulnerability, and expressing one’s emotions is something of value to Greek writers and their audiences (given that Odysseus is portrayed as a hero in the story). In the context of 21st century conceptualizations of masculinity, I wonder how modern gendered ideals surrounding emotion and vulnerability developed or changed over time, and I think that this is something really interesting to consider. Additionally, I wonder if the Odyssey depicts men and women as being differently emotional, and if this perhaps signifies anything on a social level as well.
This is exactly what I was thinking. Homer’s choice of Odysseus’ name clearly indicates the importance of emotion, especially sorrow in the Odyssey. The importance of showing emotion and passion was emphasized in much of Greek mythology, and Odysseus being a titular hero, especially one with such an evocative name, would be no different. Additionally, no good story can be told without the main character’s emotions being on show. Without such a window into Odysseus’ emotions, the Odyssey would honestly be kind of boring.
I totally agree, I think emotions are one of the lenses with which we view Odysseus throughout the entire epic. It also relates a lot to Telemachus’ journey as someone who is trying to find a way to control and feel his emotions as he matures. I think emotion is one of the central parts of this story, and it is interesting to see it expressed so explicitily.
If Telemachus is meant to be a less ambivalent character than Odysseus (one that we can “root for” more), how do his brutally violent actions at the end of the poem impact the poem’s support for him? Is the audience meant to be supportive of his actions as the culmination of his journey to becoming a hero/man, or is it meant to be disturbing?
I think that Telemachus’ status as a character the audience can “root for,” who is less morally gray than Odysseus, can be more attributed to his lack of life experience and a result of his position rather than something innate about his character. As an aristocratic son in a patriarchal society, his goal is to take on the role of his father. Because the poem (depending on your interpretation) maintains support for Odysseus despite, or perhaps because of, his ethically ambiguous actions, it follows that the same support would be provided to Telemachus.
I think what really stands out to me is how he was described as “cool-headed” while stringing up the enslaved women. That is quite literally the least “cool-headed” action he could’ve taken. I’m not sure if we’re supposed to root for him, like the question says, because he seems to act out of rashness. It could be that he’s young and passionate, and doesn’t consider the consequences of his actions. But if Odysseus is the villain in almost every story, why would his son be any better? I don’t think we are supposed to like Odysseus or Telemachus. I think the idea was that we’d understand their logic — where they’re coming from. But I really don’t think we’re supposed to like them. Telemachus is only truly violent when Odysseus shows up, and he is only bloodthirsty once Odysseus wants revenge. It seems like he is just the escalation of his father.
I agree that the poem is not necessarily suggesting that the audience support either Odysseus’ or Telemachus’ actions, but rather giving a fully fleshed out account of the context in which they perform these violent actions. In fact, descriptions of Odysseus’ behavior during the slaughter of the suitors are incredibly gruesome, painting him as a wild animal. These are not positive pictures, they do not particularly glorify violence, and in some ways, neither does Odysseus; for instance, he admonishes Eurycleia for “crowing” over the deed. Telemachus also goes beyond his father’s wishes when carrying out the murder of the women, perhaps suggesting that this culture of violence takes priority over even filial obedience.
I think Jessica brings up a great point above: the poem is not necessarily trying to have the audience support the actions of Odysseus and Telemachus. I believe that, when it comes to Telemachus, the final scene highlights his youth and lack of experience and character. Up to this point, Telemachus had been chasing and aspiring to be as great as his father. Being in his youth, this led Telemachus to make a number of mistakes but also to find a number of great achievements. Similar to book 22, when he leaves the weapon room unlocked, this scene at the end of the poem highlights Telemachus’ youth and how he still doesn’t have an entire grasp on the consequences of his actions.
As we keep seeing Athena, how do the depictions of goddesses (such as Athena) as strong and powerful reflect or shape ancient Greek perspectives on gender roles and the patriarchy?
In my eyes, the hierarchy in these myths boils down to a separation between the divine and the mortal. The gods have lived countless lifetimes, while the heroes and normal people have only lived a few years and are susceptible to illness and injury. With this separation in place, the gods (whether male or female) are bestowed a sense of otherness that calls for reverence and devotion. This is why we see both gods and goddesses treated with the utmost respect and have these sacrificial rituals in their name to avoid misfortune. Though, it feels as though certain ‘helper’ roles are more expected out of the goddesses than the gods which could be a reflection of ancient Greek perspectives on gender roles. Throughout the Odyssey, we’ve seen Athena come to Odysseus and Telemachus’ aid numerous times, and had Circe and Calypso provide food and shelter for Odysseus. We don’t see the male gods go this far in saving their favorite heroes or treating mortals so favorably, so there’s the possibility that the Greeks demanded more guidance and assistance from their goddesses than their gods because they pressed their gender roles onto them.
I definitely agree with your perspective here. Firstly, it certainly is the case that gods and goddesses are more significant and powerful than mortals. I think that the ways in which Greek goddesses offer more guidance to heroes reflects a level of respect for the female mind, and Athena’s intuition and wisdom specifically. I do not believe, however, that this theory undermines the fact that there was definitely distinct gender roles in ancient Greece based off of a patriarchal system. This is seen in the sheer fact that it is commonly greek goddesses giving only male heroes advice.
I really enjoy your analysis of the separation between the divine and mortal and the significant role it plays. I think it was able to shape different Greek perspectives in regard to patriarchy and gender roles. Gods were seen as superior and deserving of reverence while mortals were left to obey this. This reinforced the power structure and can be seen in the portrayal of Athena. The observation that goddesses were related to roles of guidance or protection is very prevalent. This backs the stereotypes of women being nurturing or supportive of a male character.
I definitely agree with what Jennifer said about the separation of the divine and the mortal, as well as about how goddesses seem to take on a more nurturing role, which relates back to stereotypes about women (as Lauren mentioned). I also think it’s interesting throughout the story, the main gods whose wrath Odysseus fears are male. Athena does help or leave Odysseus throughout the story, but it is Poseidon and Helios who are depicted as powerful and angry beings that Odysseus has to appease. While it is true that Hera’s wrath is prominent in other myths, this is mostly a gendered form of rage: she is depicted as being a jealous wife who is angry that her husband was unfaithful. I also think it’s interesting that Athena often appears in the form of a mortal man (such as Mentor), which again adds on to Jennifer’s point about how the divine is different from the mortal. Athena thus blurs the gendered lines. This can also be seen through her dual role as a patron of highly gendered activities: she is the goddess of war (a masculine activity) and the patron goddess of weaving (a feminine activity).
I agree with Jennifer that the separation between the mortal and divine is definitely what allows the powerful women depicted in mythology to coexist with the strict gender roles and patriarchy. I would add too that even among the gods, women rarely have as much power as men, but they are still appreciated and valued. I also think that women are rarely associated with recklessness and chaos which often posited as a much more masculine trait or fault. This also concurs with Sayo’s point regarding Athena not being a completely accurate representation of a goddess as she does blur the lines and seems to me to be the only goddess capable of thinking as well as the male gods. I also think that characters like Athena made classical mythology more relatable for women during its time as she was one of the only examples of a woman who is equally as capable as her male counterparts.
Hi Jennifer, I totally agree with your idea that goddesses are more nurturing than God. What‘s more, you remind me that the most powerful Olympian gods are male (eg. Zeus, Poseidon, Hades). Among goddesses, Athena was the most powerful one. However, as Sayo says, the myth deliberately blurs Athena’s gender lines and the line between god and man. So I don’t think Athena can be a good representative goddess in terms of gender status. This also reminds me of Hade snatched Persephone to get married in the underworld. Not only the situation that Persephone did not have the power to fight with him, but other gods’ indifference to Persephone’s abduction (only Zagreus sought Persephone) shows the low position of goddesses in gender status.
What side is Emily Wilson on in this murder? Does she feel that Odysseus is unjustified or justified. More generally, how do her personal biases fit into her translation of the Odyssey?
I find this question and the question of authorial bias, particularly in works of translation, very interesting. In the massacre of the suitors, I don’t think Dr. Wilson is very clearly on one side or the other. As we’ve discussed in class, the entire poem, while set up to justify the murder of the suitors, is also ambivalent about the morality of this encounter, since it ends with the souls of the suitors fleeing to the underworld and Athena interceding to stop mass warfare in Ithaca. In the case of the suitors, I think Dr. Wilson follows the poem’s lead in making the justification of the situation slightly ambiguous. Thinking about the murder of the slave girls, though, I think Dr. Wilson seems to take the view that this is unjustified in her translation. She takes great pains to not include any of the misogyny other translators intersperse into this scene, and she also seems to take a less-generous reading of the relations the girls engaged in with the suitors (I’m specifically referencing the line where she chooses to include Aphrodite’s name rather than personifying her as love as some other translators do). I think it’s incredibly hard not to include bias when you’re translating something, particularly a scene as disturbing as this one, but Dr. Wilson seems to do an admirable job of, in most cases, keeping directly to what the Greek says.
I definitely agree! In reading Wilson’s translation I also got a sense that I was reading the work in its “truest” form as she strayed away from injecting her own beliefs into these disturbing scenes. The idea of author bias is a curious one as I wonder how much these myths and others have evolved because of author bias, and how this can effect our understandings of translated texts.
I agree with the previous points, I think that Wilson makes it clear that there really is no black-and-white way to explain Odysseus’s actions regarding the suitors. However, I do think that Wilson tries her hardest to do the original text some justice and translate it in a way that is both accurate and unique. I think that it’s very important that Odysseus is written with some level of moral ambiguity. But not only that, I feel like the entire poem is written with a tone of ambivalence, and she shows that the system of heroism and ancient greek life is not a binary one. Being the first woman to ever translate the Odyssey comes with its own challenges. She had to deliver not only a fresh translation but also one that redefines the industry of translated classics and I think that she did it perfectly!
Why did Homer choose to have Odysseus be so open with his emotions?
Although I’m not certain, I believe that Homer may have chosen to make Odysseus so open with his emotions because it helped him appear more as a hero and assisted in adding extra drama to the plot. At times when Odysseus was upset, it can make the reader sympathize with him and want him to succeed. Along with this, it helps his case of being a true “hero” because his actions are backed by doing something for a good cause. On the other hand, when he is extremely angry, he acts out which often leads to great events happening, such as when Odysseus killed all of the suitors. Killing over 100 people is a great feat, and can keep the reader engaged as they are wondering what will happen next. Odysseus’ openness with his emotions allows us to know exactly what he is thinking in every moment, and yet we still do not know exactly how he is going to react.
I totally agree with this! I would also say that one reason why Homer may have chosen to have Odysseus be so open with his emotions is to make him a more relatable and realistic character. By showing Odysseus’ strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures, Homer humanizes him and makes him more accessible to the audience. Also, Odysseus’ emotional journey throughout the epic is an integral part of his character development. As he struggles to return home and reunite with his family, he experiences fear, grief, anger, and longing, among other emotions. Through these experiences, he learns important lessons about himself and his place in the world.
12. How do human social norms impact (or don’t impact) what the gods can do in Ancient Greece
I would say that while human norms would not necessarily impact what the gods could or could not do in ancient Greece, the gods do definitely influence the social norms. The beliefs that the ancient Greeks held about the gods played a significant role in their day to day life. For example, it was believed that how they prayed, and what they offered as sacrifice would impact the likelihood of the gods granting their request or hearing their prayers. Additionally, it was believed that certain things would anger or upset the gods resulting in an avoidance of such actions. Overall, I would say the ancient greek beliefs about the gods influenced societal norms but not so much the other way around.
I think that’s a very interesting idea that human social behaviors were partially molded around what the Gods may find pleasing or displeasing. I also definitely agree that human social norms do not impact how the Gods behave. It seems that the Gods often behave in ways that are not in accordance with human social customs. Along with this the Gods are not meant to be role models and regularly exhibit deplorable behavior.
As you’ve both outlined, the gods were seen as powerful, immortal beings who had the ability to interfere with human affairs. And since the Greeks believed that they needed to appease the gods in order to avoid their wrath and gain their favor, social norms and customs were therefore influenced by the gods’ beliefs and behaviors, as people tried to emulate what they believed would please the gods. But as you’ve brought up, it’s important to note that the gods were not always seen as moral or ethical role models, so their behavior often contradicted human social norms. Many of the gods, for example, were known for their many affairs and disregard for their marital vows. I would say that ultimately, while the gods impacted social norms in ancient Greece, they were certainly not subject to the same rules and norms as humans.
30. I read in some versions of the Odyssey that Penelope did not stay entirely loyal to Odysseus and slept with some of the suitors while he was away. Why do you think some interpreters added this detail?
I think some of the interpreters may have added this detail in order to sort of balance the scales between Odysseus and Penelope if that makes sense. As in, we hear about Odysseus sleeping around on his travels, and may look down on him for this reason. Though a reader may be inclined to look down on Odysseus less if we discover that both he and Penelope were unfaithful in their marriage, seeing it as an equal amount of foul play on both sides. On top of this, this detail may have been added into some interpretations in order to add realism, as we know Penelope has not seen her husband in over a decade and may have very well moved on, not expecting him to ever return. She may have already coped with the fact she may never see her husband again, and at least culturally now it is normative for people to sometimes move on after a spouse leaves and be intimate with others.
I agree with your point that this addition to the story makes Odysseus and Penelope seem more equal in their moral and unmoral actions while they are apart. I also wonder if changes their dynamic at all, since Penelope is largely claimed to be a great wife to Odysseus for being loyal, and if she is said to have slept with the suitors herself, then does this make her less of a worthy wife? Further, does this version of the myth make Penelope more of a “normal” woman of Greek myth, since at the end of the play we see the suitors and Agamemnon talking about how women are famously disloyal (largely from Clytemnestra’s reputation)? Or, by making Penelope and Odysseus greater mirrors of each other, maybe this makes Penelope better (and even more manly?) to match Odysseus.
Since Greek women were weaving all the time, what happened to the fabric they made? Did everyone have a lot of clothes due to this? Were women able to be artistic with it or did they have to stick to one pattern/project?
I cant answer this question in full, since no doubt each households circumstance and access to materials like wool and dyes were different, but to answer your question about what happened with the fabric they made: sails, clothes, shrouds, curtains, wall hangings (woven paintings)/tapestries are a few varied examples of what you can make with textiles to get an idea of how many things rely on weaving. Due to the nature of a loom you cant really work on multiple projects at once, but certain projects (Im thinking here in instances like the decorative wall hangings Odysseus sees in the palace of the Phaeacians, not so much something practical like sailcloth) woven textiles can be/are incredibly intricate works of art. It really all depends on the function of the textile and the skill of the craftswoman making it (I’d imagine Penelope’s first weaving projects were a lot messier and simpler than the shroud she talks about in the Odyssey).
I think you answered this question pretty nicely. Just as an addition, from what I understand & what we’ve learned in class, sometimes under Xenia one might be expected to clothe any visitors that come to your household so some clothing that might be produced by weaving would be gifted to visitors (depending of course on the finances of the household, as this would be more expected for wealthier households as a sort of signifier of that weath and high standing).
15. I’m still very curious about how the general Ancient Greek populace viewed the poems and plays we’re reading. Were they taken as the truth about the world millenia before they were around, or were they considered fantastical stories back then?
I found this to be a very important question, and one that I’m not sure was ever directly answered. Citing Paul Veyne, a French archaeologist, historian, and author published in the UChicago Press, he states, “Like us, they were able both to believe and to disbelieve aspects of their myths. They believed in them, but they used them, and ceased believing at the point where their interest in believing ends” (p. 84). I really enjoy Veyne’s perspective because often times we forget to view questions through the lense of our subjects (ancient greeks in this case). If done so, given their historical context in terms of time period, technology, and limited knowledge for explaining the natural world, believing in the gods isn’t a wild concept. To what extent these myths were believed is much more debatable, but in the same sense that many people may not believe the entire idea of our modern day God(s), many people believe in ~something~.
34. Why were there no translations of the Odyssey by women before?
I think the answer to this question comes from the history of Classics itself as a very elitist and exclusive institution. Studying classics used to only be accessible to white wealthy men. Even today, there is still a lot of prejudice in higher education, thus a lack of diversity in the field. However it should be noted there were actually other translations of the Odyssey by women before this because Emily Wilson is the first female translator of the Odyssey into *English*, but there are female translators in other languages like Turkish, Italian, and Dutch. For example, Anne Dacier translated the Odyssey into French in the 18th century. However, there is still a point to be made because there is a larger gender disparity in translators.
I agree with your points completely – I think that the exclusivity of the field has a lot to do with the absence of female translators. I think reasons for this disparity also lie within the text. Admittedly, a male-dominated story like The Odyssey is translated most easily by men. Female translators like Wilson may feel obligated to bring new perspectives to their translations and challenge patriarchal conceptions presented by male translators (on top of re-telling the story), which would make translation a taller task.
I also agree with your points and especially as an international student the study of classics has been reserved for those who are likely to end up in institutions of authority such as government in my country. The study of Classics has historically been used as a class identifier as usually only elite private secondary schools have the resources for a department. This makes the study of it at higher institutions harder to enter from those who don’t come from a privileged background. Furthermore, the history of “Grand Tours” which were reserved primarily for European upper-class men to be educated in history and classics led to a huge bias in who was allowed in the field of classics. Therefore, an environment has been created where a woman’s perspective was considered invalid.
I agree with you completely, and I like how you pointed out that prejudice is still in existence today in classics, therefore contributing to the lack of diversity. I don’t think that one’s gender matters when it comes to the ease of translation, as even if the story is dominated by male characters, a woman can still translate the work just as easily as a man can. I think the main thing that makes it difficult to translate texts like the Odyssey as a woman is that men are often times quick to jump at women and attack their work when it doesn’t come from another man due to misogynistic beliefs that continue to be held up by society today. I also think that it can be intimidating to approach a field that is dominated by White men as a woman or a person of color, and that we as classics scholars of today should work to dismantle the prejudices (like racism and misogyny) that exist in the field of classics. One way that we can do this is by reading works in the classics by BIPOC and and women, like Madeline Miller’s Circe that we’re reading in class right now.
I completely agree with Olivia. I think that one’s ability to translate is not dependent on their gender or whether the story is dominated by male or female characters. I think that a translator’s perspective shows a little in the translation, and I would argue that male and female translators would have different perspectives. However, I disagree that these certain perspectives would make translating the writing more difficult. I think that Olivia is right in that it can be challenging to break into a male-dominated area as a female and that often females who do, receive more criticism. I think that this would attribute more to the lack of Female classics translators.
This is a really interesting answer! One additional thing to consider is the historical male-female dynamic in English-speaking nation (namely the United States and the United Kingdom). What did female higher education in the classics look like? How did publishing look from a female perspective? Was a female’s (English) translation of the Odyssey ever even considered for publication before 2018?
5. Was Odysseus’s killing of the suitors really justified? Could there have been a less violent action with the same result of the suitors leaving?
I think there’s many ways this could’ve scene/event could’ve gone, but the suitors walking away isn’t one of them. Letting them go could’ve shown to Odysseus’s enemies that he doesn’t care if he’s disrespected or if they destroy his house. It could give enemies the idea of taking over Ithaca and becoming its rulers. Maybe they could’ve been left alive, and had consequences in another way, such as paying money for their stay, but I think that still would’ve made people dubious of Odysseus’s power and will. I think that the killing of all the suitors also adds to the drama of ‘The Odyssey’, and I think that since Odysseus already had a bad decade, and was definitely not in a very stable mind, he just took the easy route, which would’ve been to kill the suitors. It would show his power as a ruler, and how he shouldn’t be messed with.
I agree that every event in this story led to Odysseus killing the suitors. I like your explanation that he is kind of at the end of his rope and killing the suitors was the only solution he could see. I also think this empathizes the importance of Xenia. These suitors knew they were violating Xenia; they just didn’t expect Odysseus to ever come back to punish them. However, because the audience knows that Odysseus is still alive, we are left to wait for Odysseus to come back and deliver his punishment. After we see the behavior of the suitors, I think we are left to mostly agree with Odysseus: murder was the only option here, however necessary or unnecessary the extent of violence was.
I agree, I think Odysseus was not in the frame of mind to exhibit anything less than rage toward the actions of the suitors. Having gone through 10 years of suffering and waiting, he is justifiably angry at finding his house sacked by uninvited guests who were plotting to kill his son and marry his wife. I likewise agree with your point that killing the suitors was a way to reassert his dominance and power, and anything less would have been perceived as weak. Whether their death was justified is debatable, but I think anyone else in his situation, during the time period, would have wanted to do the same. To be fair, he never just straight up asked them to leave, which could have worked considering his power and position, but this would have lost the element of surprise.
I agree with the above in that though it may not have been necessary/justified for Odysseus to commit mass murder of the suitors by our standards, for the poem’s purposes, it absolutely is. While in theory, he could’ve asked them to leave, that forces no repentance upon them for having ransacked his house. We may also think of it as Odysseus finally learning the value of xenia, which he has struggled to do throughout his time wandering islands, ditching his hosts, and even in Polyphemus’ case, attacking them. It brings the narrative to a fitting end, one that likely wouldn’t be achieved without the murder. So is it justified? I’d say not necessarily, but the poem doesn’t need it to be.
18. How does the concept of Xenia look for men and women? Is there a difference? I ask because when the suitors come to Ithaca and arguably embody the antithesis of Xenia, it seems to be somewhat accepted (in the sense that nothing is done about it until Odysseus returns). What would happen if the roles were reversed and the women were the ones violating Xenia?
After some light research, I don’t think that the concept of Xenia distinguished between men and women. In that scene in the Odyssey, the suitors clearly violated Xenia. However, their actions were probably tolerated for some time because they were powerful and influential men. If it were women who violated Xenia like that there probably would have been much more of a reaction.
Honestly I don’t think that women could have ever violated Xenia in the same way that the suitors would. Mostly because I don’t believe any large group of women would have been allowed to gather unless they were already married or engaged. Women just don’t have the same mobility as men, and no one would think that they really pose a threat to any kingdom. They would not have been able to control the household in Ithaca even if Telemachus died. I think the lack of distinction in Xenia has more to do with the fact women couldn’t really participate in the same way men could. Sure they could be bad guests in general, but they would not have been a bad guest in the same way a man could be.
I totally agree! Because women were mostly confined to the home and incharge of household duties they would have been both responsible for doing a lot of the work behind Xenia, such as cooking or creating the cloth that would be given as a gift, and it would be uncommon for them to be a guest as women where not often permitted to leave the home. They would have been allowed to attend some bigger events like weddings, funerals or some festivals but mostly when they were visiting others it was likely another woman that lived nearby, nothing like the large gathering of men in The Odyssey. Overall, women would have mostly interacted with Xenia when they were giving it rather than receiving.
32. What is the best film adaptation of Greek mythology, in your opinion?
I think “Troy” is the best film adaptation of Greek mythology, at least from the films I have seen. The movie did a great job staying true to the story of the Iliad and keeping the complex characters consistent, most notably with Achilles. The movie gives the audience a more accessible medium to understand the complex emotions of grief, love, and confusion the warrior faces. Additionally, one of my favorite pieces of the film was the battle with Hector and the scene following with Hector’s father. You can feel the emotions on both sides, and you are mad, yet feel for Achilles as he has been driven to a point emotionally where he no longer knows where to go.
Slightly different then film, but I love Hadestown, which is a musical reimagining of the myth of Orpheus and Euridice. I really like how it portrays Hades and Persephone’s relationship as well as how it focuses on the riches part of Hades, not just the death. The music is also phenomenal as well as having Hermes be the narrator and setting it in a great depression-esque era
It might not be the BEST movie adaptation out there, but Wonder Woman is definitely an overlooked movie when it comes to being connected to Greek mythology. It’s so connected to the DC franchise and the comics that people tend to forget its Classical origins. Wonder Woman herself is the daughter of Zeus and an Amazon warrior, and in the 2017 film (not the 2020 one that was straight up wonky), there is a whole conflict regarding Ares as the harbinger of chaos, war, and destruction.
I agree that Wonder Woman is a particularly interesting interpretation on greek classics especially considering the ways in which it is used to re-invent and adapt on the image of the Amazonia woman. This character has been used in a variety of modes for feminist and misogynist motives. In this case I think it is a great mode of empowerment and perhaps a different take on its initial conception in the 5th century.
O brother where art thou, is a solid adaptation I highly recommend it. It’s a great mix of modern and ancient.
Question: The scene with the dog in the Odyssey made me wonder if in mythology there were consequences for the mistreatment of animals. Was there a god that protected animals or punishment in the underworld for people who mistreated them?
After doing some research, I discovered that there actually is a Greek God responsible for the protection of animals. Artemis is the Goddess of Hunting and Protector of Animals. I was a little bit confused by the notion that she is both the goddess of protecting animals and also hunting because these seem like they counteract each other. However, it doesn’t really seem like there are any consequences for the mistreatment of animals.
32. What’s the best film adaptation of Greek mythology in your opinion?
In my opinion, the best film adaptation of Greek mythology would have to be Wonder Woman. Although it is not really explicitly stated, Wonder Woman is based off of Greek mythology, with the usage of the Greek Goddess Artemis. DC Comics chooses to use her Roman name of Diana, but she is revealed to be the princess of the Amazons, who were a group of female warriors under the leadership of Artemis. I think that Wonder Woman touches on a bit of Greek Mythology, and although it’s not a complete retelling of a Greek myth, it provides a modern twist to a part of Greek culture. Wonder Woman provides a strong figure in which young girls can follow and look up to. Wonder Woman reflects the courageous and prideful values of the Amazons.
17. A question I had would be: could Greek Mythology ever be cancelled, or is it too revered and iconic?
I don’t think that Greek Mythology will be canceled. Despite the inclusion of things that we may not morally support (e.g. gender norms, killing, slavery) Greek Mythology and Greek culture has had such a large influence on media and on our culture. This is why I think it is crucial to think about Greek mythology critically and not to excuse the behaviors portrayed. Although I think that it won’t be canceled due to its large influence, I do think that there is the potential for Greek mythology to become less influential because there are so many other cultures and mythologies with stories worth hearing and learning about. I think that a decrease in eurocentrism is central to this.
I completely agree that Greek mythology can never be “canceled” or forgotten, as it has lived on for so long. However, I think in recent times it is important to take into consideration all the things that are “cancellable” about Greek mythology when reading it, and acknowledging that there are deep issues. For example, it is important to be conscious and not normalize concepts of slavery and sexual violence.
One way we’ve seen contemporary authors respond to problematic views upheld in myths is to re-tell these myths in a way that questions or even opposes such issues. Rather than cancelling myths, considering them as reflections of beliefs held at the time is a good jumping off point to further explore these beliefs, and if necessary, update them.
I agree with you in that it would be tough for Greek mythology to be canceled because of how long it has lived on for. Especially with modern retellings of Greek mythological stories, such as Disney making children’s movies that are based on Greek myth. With some of these stories being so prevalent, it is hard to imagine these being canceled, especially with the retellings including new elements that are best suited for the targeted audience that may hide some of the poor qualities of characters in the original myth. However, I definitely agree that it is important now more than ever to acknowledge the deep issues rooted within Greek mythology, and I think in the modern era it is much more likely for these to be mentioned in the context of greek mythology and retellings of greek myths.
I agree Sophia, Greek mythology cannot be cancelled due to its influence and age. This question is an excellent way to emphasize the importance of context. In order for us to ‘cancel’ Greek mythology for its inclusion of sexual violence, slavery, etc., we would also have to ‘cancel’ Greek culture; in other words, the mythology is a reflection of the society it was created in / for. While it is important for us to recognize that the values and plots in the stories cannot be replicated in the modern era, we can use the controversial aspects of the myths to tell us more about Greek morals and the things that the Greeks were thinking about.
Question: Does the dog scene from The Odyssey show up in ancient art alot?
After going through images, I’ve seen the dog scene actually does come up a lot in ancient art. I mean it’s understandable because it’s a scene that is sad and it shows how important the dog was to Odyssey. By protecting his family as he was at war. When he comes back after so long and the dog sees his owner wags his tail and dies after Odyssey turns his head. The importance is the protector of the home is back and his family especially his wife fill her role instead of a mix of all different things.
I completely agree! I also feel like the reunion between Argos and Odysseus is about the loyalty of the dog. The dog was uncared for for so long, that he could’ve died at any point but once he sees his owner is when he is ready to die. It’s almost as if he was waiting for Odysseus’s return. Argo’s last moments were with his lost owner showing that if a bond is a strong enough people will always come back to each other no matter how much time has passed.
I looked into this question as well. I found the art extremely emotionally provoking. Many people understand the bond between a human and their pet, and this scene captures this relationship. After 20 years, Argos still recognizes Odysseus, who is in disguise, by his smell. I definitely agree with Mari’s point that it seems as though the poet is conveying that Argos can finally rest in peace knowing that Odysseus is back home. I found a sculpture of Odysseus and Argos, linked below, that reminded me of when I see my dog for the first time after being away from her at Haverford.
13. In the eyes of the ancient Greeks, are children their own property or independent existence？
I think from my understanding, children are subjected to the household and even the bigger state in the ancient Greek era. When a child is born, the father has the right to either keep or abandon the child. And as the child is growing up, the father also seems to have a lot of say about the duty of the child, i.e., which school they are going to attend or whether are they even attending school or not. Moreover, as an example, Plato wrote that in the city of Athens, only mature men are considered citizens, women, children, and slaves are not citizens. So I assume children are also not independently existing. In greek myths (our encountering), fathers also seem to have lots of say about the children. And children are always obligated to or bound by the ethical duty they owe to their fathers.
35. What actually happened to the men of Odysseus, and is it possible that he murdered them?
I don’t think there’s any certain answer that can be given to this. Odysseus’s account of the events of those ten years between the fall of Troy and his arrival at Phaeacia is impossible for any others to either contest or corroborate, as he was the sole survivor. Odysseus has often been referred to as an unreliable narrator, a characterization with which I am inclined to agree. The supernatural aspects of his story are certainly not plausible, although it’s unclear how much of that was Odysseus’s lies/exaggeration vs. Homer’s fantastical storytelling. I think that everything Odysseus says should be taken with at the very least a grain of salt: he is, after all, constantly characterized in both the Iliad and the Odyssey as a cunning and tricky man. While most ancient Greek heroes were renowned for their strength or fighting prowess, Odysseus’s skills lay more in the realm of logic. All in all, it is perhaps plausible that he murdered them or otherwise left them behind, but there is no real way to tell for sure due to the unreliable nature of the narrative he spins.
I agree that his characterization as a shifty and untrustworthy hero throughout multiple myths make discerning the truth out of his stories impossible. However, his portrayal as a crafty villain in most myths and even how he acts in his recreation of events on his journey home make me believe that it is very likely he sold out his crew for his own safety, should any of them have survived the storm.
Personally, I find it hard to believe that Odysseus, who is portrayed as a hero throughout the Odyssey, would resort to such extreme measures.
Instead, I think that the violence and loss of life in the story may be meant to represent the dangers that sailors faced in ancient times. Furthermore, I see the story of Odysseus as a metaphor for the challenges and uncertainties that we all face in life. Like Odysseus and his men, we must navigate a treacherous world full of obstacles and setbacks. But if we persevere and keep our eyes fixed on our goals, we too can find our way home, whatever that may mean for us personally.
27. I am curious to learn more about the justification of violence, does this come into play in other aspects of Greek mythology (especially in written forms)?
It’s hard to define “justification”, because even in the Odyssey, we don’t see a clear stance from the storyteller or from any character. The most definite case will be the trial held by Athena in the Eumenides by Aeschylus. It is decided by voting that Orestes should be excused of murdering his mother. And when I read the play, I was taught that the reasoning and the verdict was already controversial back then in the ancient Greek society. Besides legal context, I think “justification”, just like “good” “love” “happiness”, is only relevant to each one personally. While in legal context, it is heavily connected to social norms, as indicated by the voting in the Eumenides. It is about what most people can accept based on their intellect, values, and emotions, instead of a clear-cut law.
I agree that it is very difficult to define justification in the Odyssey. Even though a large amount of details are added for the reader to support Odysseus’s murdering of the suitors, it is still up to the reader to decide whether that violence is justified or not. Having said that, a lot of the “justified” violent actions in Greek myths come from the gods. One example of this would be when Arachne boasted her talent as a weaver was better then Athena’s and then beat the goddess herself in a weaving contest. Enraged, Athena forced Arachne to hang herself then, out of “mercy,” revived her as a spider. Some have interpreted this violence as justified, as Arachne should have remained humble about her talents and not tried to intrude on the talent of the gods.
Besides what is suggested with Achilles and Patroclus, how do queer identities fit into Greek mythology and ancient Greek society?
From what we have seen with our reading, many of our greek heroes possess an abundance of love for each other. For example in the Odyssey when we are told by Meneleus that he cries for Odysseus every night in attempts to mourn him. I’m not quite certain how queer identities fit in to greek society in the sense of how clearly and concrete the label was, but there certainly was a lot of love shared between the men in these stories, possibly inferring that the same could be true about the society.
8. What is your favorite Olivia Rodrigo song?
Driver’s License is the obvious choice, but I actually really love “Jealousy Jealousy.” I’m listening to it right now and it rules. Also I can’t believe nobody else picked this question.
Mine is Good 4 U. I like the rock/punk vibe, and the chorus goes hard.
My favorite Olivia Rodrigo song is “traitor” because it is fun to sing with my friends!
I think my favorite would have to be Good 4 U because it is very fun to sing and dance too. It’s very different than some of her slower songs but the lyrics are great and the bassline is cool.
I like Good 4 U because I have really vivid memories of high school associated with it, but it’s definitely tied with traitor for my favorite
I think my favorite Olivia Rodrigo song is probably Favorite Crime. I think it has some of the most gut wrenching lyrics on Sour and similar to what others have said I really enjoy singing it with my friends. The summer Sour came out war right before I went to college so I have weirdly a lot of really fond memories tied to such a sad album, and especially to this song.
My favorite Olivia Rodrigo song is Deja Vu. This song, like the ones others have mentioned, is very catchy and fun to sing in the car with friends. The lyrics are loaded with emotion and honesty. I think she does a great job of making the listener feel like they were there experiencing these memories and having Deja Vu too.
My favorite Olivia Rodrigo song is “Brutal”! I think the way she opens the album with it introduces a cool, unexpected rock sound for her music! It’s also fun to sing and always relatable even as I age out the stage of life she is referencing.
11. What is the impact of Odysseus’ open emotion on the telling of the story?
The impact of Odysseus’ open emotion on the telling of the story is significant, as it provides a deeper insight into his character and humanizes him in the eyes of the audience. In “The Odyssey,” Odysseus is depicted as a cunning and resourceful hero who is determined to return home to his family. However, his emotional journey throughout the epic is equally important, as he experiences a range of emotions such as grief, anger, and despair. By showing these emotions openly, the audience is able to connect with Odysseus on a more personal level and understand the emotional toll that his journey has taken on him. Furthermore, Odysseus’ open emotion also serves to highlight the theme of the epic, which is the importance of home and family. By showing his longing for his wife and son, Odysseus demonstrates that even the strongest of heroes can be vulnerable and that the love of family is a universal and timeless human experience.
And even when his acts are distasteful to the audience they can at least understand why he does what he does. Not only are his thoughts accessible but how he feels about those thoughts and whether he likes them or not can elevate the storytelling.
I’m still very curious about how the general Ancient Greek populace viewed the poems/plays we’re reading. Were they taken as the truth about the world millenia before they were around, or were they considered fantastical stories back then?
This is something I am also really curious about! I found a source that could be a useful starting point for answering this question: https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/grlg/hd_grlg.htm. While this source does not specifically talk about ancient Greek plays or poems, it does talk about Greek myth, stating, “The ancient Greeks worshipped many gods, each with a distinct personality and domain. Greek myths explained the origins of the gods and their individual relations with mankind” (Hemingway, 2003). It seems, based on this source, that the myths were taken as the truth at the time, so presumably the same applies to the poems and plays that we are reading.
34) Why are there no translations of the Odyssey from Women?
First of all, there are translations of the Odyssey made by women, notably Emily Wilson’s translation. But there are notably fewer translations by Women than there are by men. This can be attributed to gender biases, as there were fewer opportunities to women than there are for Men. But the most likely reason is that the Odyssey is a male-dominated text, that talks about the life of male characters and their struggles. This may have demotivated women translators from translating it. Another reason may be that most schools that taught ancient greek were traditionally male-dominated schools, this lead to more male translators than female translators
25. How did the Greeks view Odysseus given that they assumed that most of his heroic stories were lies?
Even though many of Odysseus’ stories were exaggerated over time, the Greeks understood the importance of storytelling and myths to their culture. The ancient Greeks did not view Odysseus solely as a hero who told fake tales. They believed he was one of the greatest heroes of their mythology. Odysseus’s stories were symbolic narratives that conveyed important lessons. So although the Greeks were aware that many of Odysseus’ stories were exaggerated, they still held him in high esteem as a mythological and cultural hero.
In any storytelling, people may be upset when there’s a background story of the “bad guy” because it blurs our definition of justice and morality. It is so difficult to judge the reasons why people do things, especially in criminal cases. To what extent can a backstory justify or redeem a person’s actions?
First of all, I think that the lines between acceptable and unacceptable are different in stories than in real life. In real life, the only reason murder could ever be justified is a last-resort defense. In stories, while one of many purposes of the characters could be role models, their secondary purpose is to impart lessons (which can only happen if they make mistakes), and their primary purpose is to entertain. So although Odysseus’s actions may make people nauseous, they are certainly entertaining and memorable, and it can be argued that this is justification enough— again, remembering this is fantasy. However, I’m not sure that any sad backstory could justify his actions in the sense that it makes them okay. Actions that could be justified from a moral standpoint, in my opinion, are if character acts standoffish or impolite due to trauma, or makes foolish (but ultimately harmless) decisions due to a coping mechanism. If they cause physical harm to anyone without provocation, or are intentionally mean towards a loved one, it cannot be justified. So a sad backstory should only be justification for the lightest of offenses. If anyone is actually, deeply physically or emotionally wounded by someone else, it generally cannot be justified.
33. Are there other stories about violence against those who have violated the rules of xenia? If so, how were those received? Who was seen as the hero?
Interestingly, the conflict that sets off the Illiad is a violation of Xenia that is retaliated against violently. Paris was a guest of Meneleus when he stole Helen, violating Xenia. I think the fallout of this is pretty clearly against the Greeks, but maybe only because they were considered to go way to far. I definetly don’t think the greeks were considered heroes though, but Paris was portrayed particularly negatively.
One other example involved godly punishment, which I think is a bit different, but I will still mention it. Ixion after violating Xenia, getting bailed out by Zeus, then violated Xenia again (by lusting for Hera then acting on said lust with a fake Hera produced by Zeus) and was strapped to a wheel of fire for all eternity. I’m not sure if there are any hero’s here, but I doubt Ixion comes out looking to good.
33. Are there other stories about violence against those who have violated the rules of xenia? If so, how were those received? Who was seen as the hero?
If you think about it, you could interpret the entirety of the Iliad (and the Odyssey by extension) as the direct results of violated xenia. This violation would have occurred when Paris abducted Helen while he was a guest in Menelaus’ house. A breach of xenia of this magnitude was enough for the whole of Greece to join arms with Agamemnon and Menelaus against the Trojans. As a result of his impious transgression, Paris and his whole country were destroyed. Whereas other Trojans such as Hector are seen as heroes, Paris, the violator of xenia, never is. This leaves the “victims” of the broken xenia–Menelaus and the other Greeks–in the moral high ground, almost always depicted as the righteous heroes of the epic.
“I wonder if the Greeks who heard the tale of Odysseus originally ever questioned Odysseus’ right to slaughter the suitors…I wish we could know how ancient Greeks viewed Odysseus as a person.”
As I understand it, the Ancient Greeks didn’t consider Odysseus to be a “good” person any more than we do. The Greeks valued bravery and honor above all else. They even considered archers cowardly because they hung back from the main action. So Odysseus, who was famously a crafty trickster, better known for his intellect than his prowess on the battlefield (the Trojan horse was his idea, remember!), was not exactly the Greek paragon of virtue. Wilson, in our translation, calls him “a complicated man,” but in the better-known Fagles translation he’s a “man of twists and turns.” The Greeks didn’t exactly criticize him for the same things we do today, but they certainly had their own complaints.
20. Are there any other more “traditionally feminine” things that the male Greek heroes do?
I’m imagining traditionally feminine things in the historical context. In this sense, I mean more emotional, caring kinds of traits when I think feminine. I also see women in Greek myth as having a kind of ‘hidden’ intelligence, one that is used more for situations that require a certain finesse or cunning. I believe Theseus was known for being very kind and compassionate towards his subjects when he was king. He was also empathetic and would spare the lives of his enemies if it were possible. Another trait I see as feminine for the time was intuition and sensitivity. Theseus used his intuition to navigate his way through the labyrinth to the center and find the Minotaur. Orpheus was a legendary musician and was known for his artistic expression, which I see as somewhat of a feminine trait for the time as well. His music was supposedly so beautiful that he could move rocks and tame animals. Like Odysseus, Jason is another hero we see cry very openly in the play Medea. I believe Heracles had some feminine traits as well, behaving very kindly towards women and children alike and acting as a caring father figure towards his own kids.
While these traits might not be considered strictly feminine nowadays, I believe these were certainly the traits women had more so than men in those times.
How is racism different in Greek times?
Racism as we know it today did not exist in ancient Greece in the same manner that it does today. Yet, there is evidence that the ancient Greeks did have prejudice against other racial groups. In ancient times, there was a strong sense of cultural superiority among Greeks, as the Greeks saw their lifestyles as superior to all other cultures. With regards to slavery, many ancient societies, including ancient Greece, used slavery. However, slavery wasn’t always based on race. Slaves were frequently born into slavery in ancient Greek times, or taken from battle as prisoner. So, even though the kind of racism seen in ancient Greek times is different from today, racial prejudice and discrimination still existed against people seen as different.
Why did Homer choose to have Odysseus be so open with his emotions?
Homer’s portrayal of Odysseus as a character who is open with his emotions is likely due to many reasons, including the cultural norms of ancient Greece, the epic genre, and the character’s own development throughout the story. It was not uncommon for ancient Greek men to express their emotions in public, especially in situations where they were surrounded by close friends and family. This was seen as a way to form strong bonds and to demonstrate loyalty and sincerity. Therefore, by having Odysseus be open with his emotions, Homer is portraying him as a relatable and empathetic character who is in touch with his own feelings and those of others.