A Conversation on the Odyssey: Odysseus' Relationship with the Gods
Athena assists Odysseus and Telemachus with divine powers throughout the epic, and she speaks up for them in the councils of the gods on Mount Olympus. In Greek mythology, Eumaeus was Odysseus's swineherd and friend. His father, Ktesios son of God-fearing, suspicious, and scrupulous, Eumaeus delivers probably the oldest extant example of literary sarcasm when, Homer even uses a simile to reiterate the father–son relationship between Telemachus and Eumaeus. (IX: 16) Odysseus knows that the gods are controlling his travels home and when another . The Relationship of Telemachus and Odysseus.
Although he does not recognise his old master — Odysseus is in disguise — and has his misgivings, Eumaeus treats Odysseus well, offering food and shelter to one whom he thinks is simply a pauper.
On being pushed to explain himself, Odysseus spins a distorted tale, misleading Eumaeus into believing that he is the son not of Laertes but of Castor. The swineherd refuses to accept the assurance that Odysseus is finally on his way home, though he loves him above all others rendering him especially bitter towards the suitors.
Eumaeus has become inured to such claims owing to their frequency during Odysseus' absence, and additionally because he had been misled previously by an impostor from Aetolia. Don't you try to gratify or soothe my heart with falsehoods.
A Conversation on the Odyssey: Loyalty of Eumaeus
It is not for that reason that I shall respect and entertain you, but because I fear Zeusthe patron of strangers, and pity you. God-fearing, suspicious, and scrupulous, Eumaeus delivers probably the oldest extant example of literary sarcasm when, after Odysseus offers a bargain entailing that he be thrown off a cliff should he lose, he answers: That would be virtuous of me, my friend, and good reputation would be mine among men, for present time alike and hereafter, if first I led you into my shelter, there entertained you as guest, then murdered you and ravished the dear life from you.
Then cheerfully I could go and pray to Zeus, son of Kronos. The axiom "The god will give, and the god will take away, according to his will, for he can do anything" fairly encapsulates his philosophy.
A Conversation on the Odyssey: Eumaeus & Odysseus
During his master's long absence, Eumaeus acquires from the Taphians a servant, Mesauliuswith his own ostensibly meagre resources. Mesaulius serves as a waiter during Odysseus's first supper back on Ithacain Eumaeus's hut with its owner and his fellow herders.
Eumaeus also welcomes Odysseus's son, Telemachuswhen he returns from his voyage to Pylos and Sparta. Right at the beginning of the poem there is invocation to the Muses: The invocation of the muses combined with the knowledge of divine conversations frames Homer as an almost sacred and revered member of a selected few and places him on equal par with, say, a priest. His word is taken as true and the authority with which he tells this story exceeds that of any non-bard telling the tale. This renders his version of the story as true and unquestioned and places Homer on a sort of throne — the divine conveyer of messages.
It is almost as if there are important messages in the Odyssey and Homer is directing us to interpret these messages in the ways the Gods intended it. When we compare characters of the Gods and the Gods and the figures in the Odyssey we can see, for example, how Penelope is cast as the opposite of the Goddess Aphrodite.
Aphrodite is cast as unfaithful, and meddlesome and causing havoc whereas Penelope is portrayed as quick witted, kind and faithful wife of the hero, Odysseus. It can also be said that Odysseus is much like Hephaestus.Odyssey "a man is nothing without the gods."
Athena chooses Odysseus as her champion and focuses on helping him — and she is so much like him. Both are clever, good in war and make good leaders.
The fact that Athena chooses this relationship with Odysseus means that he is privileged — after all, how many mortals have this kind of relationship with non-other than one of the major Olympians? Given her patronage of Odysseus, the readers, therefore, are positioned to view Odysseus even more favorably and heroic because there is an important, benevolent God who believes in him. If Athena, a Goddess, sees the qualities in Odysseus that are considered in the ancient Greek world to be positive, strong and heroic we too, are more likely to see these qualities within him, making him a fitting hero in his era.
Therefore, another way in which the Gods are important with in the Odyssey is how in this case they function to make us, view the epic hero even more positively through their relationships with them. Insofar we have discussed how the Gods serve as mechanisms to frame the narrative, the bard and the characters in a certain way but we have not talked about what they directly do in the story.
Another important function of the Gods is ancient epic is that they at times, directly and indirectly, intervene. The Gods who play the most prominent roles are Athena, and Poseidon. In the case of Poseidon, we see a wrathful and angry God. He does not like Odysseus and clearly favors Polyphemus in the Cyclops incident and, as a favor to the Cyclops, wrecks Odysseus raft. Right at the beginning of the epic she gives Telemachus a great push and helps him to get started on the task, which will aid Odysseus eventually.
At first in the story, Telemachus does not stand up to the greedy, parasite-like suitors: When it comes to helping Odysseus Athena is no less generous — she helps out with the battle in Book 22 and at the beginning too, in Book 5 when Odysseus is shipwrecked. From these interventions, we can see that the Gods serve as characters themselves in the story, not just as outside forces of fate.
Poseidon is the angry man with the grudge against our hero, and Athena is the wise, guiding and helpful friend who helps everything and everyone along the way.