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The Iliad

Achilles - The son of the military man Peleus and the sea-nymph Thetis. The most
powerful warrior in The Iliad, Achilles commands the Myrmidons, soldiers from his
homeland of Phthia in Greece. Proud and headstrong, he takes offense easily and
reacts with blistering indignation when he perceives that his honor has been slighted.
Achilles wrath at Agamemnon for taking his war prize, the maiden Briseis, forms the
main subject of The Iliad.
Agamemnon (also called Atrides) - King of Mycenae and leader of the Achaean
army; brother of King Menelaus of Sparta. Arrogant and often selfish, Agamemnon
provides the Achaeans with strong but sometimes reckless and self-serving leadership.
Like Achilles, he lacks consideration and forethought. Most saliently, his tactless
appropriation of Achilles war prize, the maiden Briseis, creates a crisis for the
Achaeans, when Achilles, insulted, withdraws from the war.
Patroclus - Achilles beloved friend, companion, and advisor, Patroclus grew up
alongside the great warrior in Phthia, under the guardianship of Peleus. Devoted to both
Achilles and the Achaean cause, Patroclus stands by the enraged Achilles but also dons
Achilles terrifying armor in an attempt to hold the Trojans back.
Odysseus - A fine warrior and the cleverest of the Achaean commanders. Along with
Nestor, Odysseus is one of the Achaeans two best public speakers. He helps mediate
between Agamemnon and Achilles during their quarrel and often prevents them from
making rash decisions.
Diomedes (also called Tydides) - The youngest of the Achaean commanders,
Diomedes is bold and sometimes proves impetuous. After Achilles withdraws from
combat, Athena inspires Diomedes with such courage that he actually wounds two
gods, Aphrodite and Ares.
Great Ajax - An Achaean commander, Great Ajax (sometimes called Telamonian Ajax
or simply Ajax) is the second mightiest Achaean warrior after Achilles. His
extraordinary size and strength help him to wound Hector twice by hitting him with
boulders. He often fights alongside Little Ajax, and the pair is frequently referred to as
the Aeantes.
Little Ajax - An Achaean commander, Little Ajax is the son of Oileus (to be
distinguished from Great Ajax, the son of Telamon). He often fights alongside Great
Ajax, whose stature and strength complement Little Ajaxs small size and swift speed.
The two together are sometimes called the Aeantes.
Nestor - King of Pylos and the oldest Achaean commander. Although age has taken
much of Nestors physical strength, it has left him with great wisdom. He often acts as
an advisor to the military commanders, especially Agamemnon. Nestor and Odysseus
are the Achaeans most deft and persuasive orators, although Nestors speeches are
sometimes long-winded.
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Menelaus - King of Sparta; the younger brother of Agamemnon. While it is the

abduction of his wife, Helen, by the Trojan prince Paris that sparks the Trojan War,
Menelaus proves quieter, less imposing, and less arrogant than Agamemnon. Though
he has a stout heart, Menelaus is not among the mightiest Achaean warriors.
Idomeneus - King of Crete and a respected commander. Idomeneus leads a charge
against the Trojans in Book 1 3 .
Machaon - A healer. Machaon is wounded by Paris in Book 11.
Calchas - An important soothsayer. Calchass identification of the cause of the plague
ravaging the Achaean army in Book 1 leads inadvertently to the rift between
Agamemnon and Achilles that occupies the first nineteen books of The Iliad.
Peleus - Achilles father and the grandson of Zeus. Although his name often appears in
the epic, Peleus never appears in person. Priam powerfully invokes the memory of
Peleus when he convinces Achilles to return Hectors corpse to the Trojans in Book 2 4 .
Phoenix - A kindly old warrior, Phoenix helped raise Achilles while he himself was still a
young man. Achilles deeply loves and trusts Phoenix, and Phoenix mediates between
him and Agamemnon during their quarrel.
The Myrmidons - The soldiers under Achilles command, hailing from Achilles
homeland, Phthia.

The Trojans

Hector - A son of King Priam and Queen Hecuba, Hector is the mightiest warrior in the
Trojan army. He mirrors Achilles in some of his flaws, but his bloodlust is not so great as
that of Achilles. He is devoted to his wife, Andromache, and son, Astyanax, but resents
his brother Paris for bringing war upon their family and city.
Read an in-depth analysis of Hector.
Priam - King of Troy and husband of Hecuba, Priam is the father of fifty Trojan warriors,
including Hector and Paris. Though too old to fight, he has earned the respect of both
the Trojans and the Achaeans by virtue of his level-headed, wise, and benevolent rule.
He treats Helen kindly, though he laments the war that her beauty has sparked.
Hecuba - Queen of Troy, wife of Priam, and mother of Hector and Paris.
Paris (also known as Alexander) - A son of Priam and Hecuba and brother of
Hector. Pariss abduction of the beautiful Helen, wife of Menelaus, sparked the Trojan
War. Paris is self-centered and often unmanly. He fights effectively with a bow and
arrow (never with the more manly sword or spear) but often lacks the spirit for battle and
prefers to sit in his room making love to Helen while others fight for him, thus earning
both Hectors and Helens scorn.
Helen - Reputed to be the most beautiful woman in the ancient world, Helen was stolen
from her husband, Menelaus, and taken to Troy by Paris. She loathes herself now for
the misery that she has caused so many Trojan and Achaean men. Although her
contempt extends to Paris as well, she continues to stay with him.
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Aeneas - A Trojan nobleman, the son of Aphrodite, and a mighty warrior. The Romans
believed that Aeneas later founded their city (he is the protagonist of Virgils
masterpiece the Aeneid).
Andromache - Hectors loving wife, Andromache begs Hector to withdraw from the war
and save himself before the Achaeans kill him.
Astyanax - Hector and Andromaches infant son.
Polydamas - A young Trojan commander, Polydamas sometimes figures as a foil for
Hector, proving cool-headed and prudent when Hector charges ahead. Polydamas
gives the Trojans sound advice, but Hector seldom acts on it.
Glaucus - A powerful Trojan warrior, Glaucus nearly fights a duel with Diomedes. The
mens exchange of armor after they realize that their families are friends illustrates the
value that ancients placed on kinship and camaraderie.
Agenor - A Trojan warrior who attempts to fight Achilles in Book 2 1 . Agenor delays
Achilles long enough for the Trojan army to flee inside Troys walls.
Dolon - A Trojan sent to spy on the Achaean camp in Book 1 0 .
Pandarus - A Trojan archer. Pandaruss shot at Menelaus in Book 4 breaks the
temporary truce between the two sides.
Antenor - A Trojan nobleman, advisor to King Priam, and father of many Trojan
warriors. Antenor argues that Helen should be returned to Menelaus in order to end the
war, but Paris refuses to give her up.
Sarpedon - One of Zeuss sons. Sarpedons fate seems intertwined with the gods
quibbles, calling attention to the unclear nature of the gods relationship to Fate.
Chryseis - Chryses daughter, a priest of Apollo in a Trojan-allied town.
Briseis - A war prize of Achilles. When Agamemnon is forced to return Chryseis to her
father, he appropriates Briseis as compensation, sparking Achilles great rage.
Chryses - A priest of Apollo in a Trojan-allied town; the father of Chryseis, whom
Agamemnon takes as a war prize.

The Gods and Immortals

Zeus - King of the gods and husband of Hera, Zeus claims neutrality in the mortals
conflict and often tries to keep the other gods from participating in it. However, he
throws his weight behind the Trojan side for much of the battle after the sulking Achilles
has his mother, Thetis, ask the god to do so.
Hera - Queen of the gods and Zeuss wife, Hera is a conniving, headstrong woman.
She often goes behind Zeuss back in matters on which they disagree, working with
Athena to crush the Trojans, whom she passionately hates.
Athena - The goddess of wisdom, purposeful battle, and the womanly arts; Zeuss
daughter. Like Hera, Athena passionately hates the Trojans and often gives the
Achaeans valuable aid.
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Thetis - A sea-nymph and the devoted mother of Achilles, Thetis gets Zeus to help the
Trojans and punish the Achaeans at the request of her angry son. When Achilles finally
rejoins the battle, she commissions Hephaestus to design him a new suit of armor.
Apollo - A son of Zeus and twin brother of the goddess Artemis, Apollo is god of the
sun and the arts, particularly music. He supports the Trojans and often intervenes in the
war on their behalf.
Aphrodite - Goddess of love and daughter of Zeus, Aphrodite is married to
Hephaestus but maintains a romantic relationship with Ares. She supports Paris and the
Trojans throughout the war, though she proves somewhat ineffectual in battle.
Poseidon - The brother of Zeus and god of the sea. Poseidon holds a long-standing
grudge against the Trojans because they never paid him for helping them to build their
city. He therefore supports the Achaeans in the war.
Hephaestus - God of fire and husband of Aphrodite, Hephaestus is the gods
metalsmith and is known as the lame or crippled god. Although the text doesnt make
clear his sympathies in the mortals struggle, he helps the Achaeans by forging a new
set of armor for Achilles and by rescuing Achilles during his fight with a river god.
Artemis - Goddess of the hunt, daughter of Zeus, and twin sister of Apollo. Artemis
supports the Trojans in the war.
Ares - God of war and lover of Aphrodite, Ares generally supports the Trojans in the
Hermes - The messenger of the gods. Hermes escorts Priam to Achilles tent in
Book 2 4 .
Iris - Zeuss messenger.
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In the tenth year of the Trojan War, tensions are running high among the Achaians (a
super-ancient name for the Ancient Greeks). First, the priest Chryses comes to ask their
leader, King Agamemnon, to release his daughter, whom Agamemnon was holding
captive. When Agamemnon refuses, the priest prays to the god Apollo to send a plague
against the Achaians.

After nine days of plague, the Achaians assemble again and demand that Agamemnon
give the girl back. Agamemnon eventually agrees, but only if he gets to take Briseis, the
girlfriend of Achilleus, the greatest warrior of the Achaians. Even though Achilleus gives
her up, he becomes so enraged that he refuses to fight any more. That and he prays to
his mother, Thetis, who happens to be a goddess, to pull some strings with the other
gods so that the Achaians will start getting defeated in battle and realize how much they
depend on him.

Achilleus's mom definitely spoils him. She gets Zeus, the king of the gods, to agree to
Achilleus's request. Sure enough, the next day the Trojans make a successful
counterattack, led by Hektor, their greatest warrior. Several days of violent fighting
follow, at the end of which the Trojans have the Achaians pinned against the beach, and
are threatening to burn their ships.

At this point, Achilleus's best friend Patroklos asks for permission to go into battle
in Achilleus's place. Achilleus grants Patroklos's request, and even lets him wear his
armor. Patroklos's gambit is successful when the Trojans see him, they think he must
be Achilleus and become absolutely terrified. The plan goes off the rails, however, when
Hektor kills Patrokloswith the help of the god Apollo and a minor Trojan warrior named
Euphorbos. Hektor then takes the armor off Patroklos's body.

When Achilleus learns of the death of his friend, he experiences terrible grief and
swears revenge. He sends his mother, Thetis, to get a new suit of armor made
especially for him by the fire-god, Hephaistos. The next day, Achilleus rejoins the battle
and kills many Trojans, including Hektor in a one-on-one battle.

But Achilleus isn't satisfied. For the next few days, he continually abuses Hektor's body
in gruesome ways, even after Patroklos has received a proper funeral. The gods don't
like this, and send a message down to Achilleus telling him to give up the body. When
the Trojan King PriamHektor's fathercomes unarmed, by night, to ask for his son's
body, Achilleus agrees. The two men eat together and experience a moment of shared
humanity. Achilleus grants the Trojans a grace period to perform their funeral rituals.
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The poem ends with the funeral of Hektorthough we know that soon Achilleus will die
and Troy will be captured.

Moral lesson

the whole story is about the dangers of pride. We see this in a few ways. First, we see
the pride of Achilles as he holds out and does not enter into the battle. This costs many
lives and almost the loss of the Greeks. We also see the pride of Agamemnon. He
cannot take the fact that Achilles is a better warrior than he is. In addition, we see even
the pride of Hector. He knows that Achilles will defeat him, but he has to fight him
anyway. In the end, all of this pride leads to death and tragedy.
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The Odyssey

Odysseus - The protagonist of the Odyssey. Odysseus fought among the other Greek
heroes at Troy and now struggles to return to his kingdom in Ithaca. Odysseus is the
husband of Queen Penelope and the father of Prince Telemachus. Though a strong and
courageous warrior, he is most renowned for his cunning. He is a favorite of the
goddess Athena, who often sends him divine aid, but a bitter enemy of Poseidon, who
frustrates his journey at every turn.

Telemachus - Odysseuss son. An infant when Odysseus left for Troy, Telemachus is
about twenty at the beginning of the story. He is a natural obstacle to the suitors
desperately courting his mother, but despite his courage and good heart, he initially
lacks the poise and confidence to oppose them. His maturation, especially during his
trip to Pylos and Sparta in Books 3 and 4 , provides a subplot to the epic. Athena often
assists him.

Penelope - Wife of Odysseus and mother of Telemachus. Penelope spends her days in
the palace pining for the husband who left for Troy twenty years earlier and never
returned. Homer portrays her as sometimes flighty and excitable but also clever and
steadfastly true to her husband.

Athena - Daughter of Zeus and goddess of wisdom, purposeful battle, and the
womanly arts. 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.
She often appears in disguise as Mentor, an old friend of Odysseus.

Poseidon - God of the sea. As the suitors are Odysseuss mortal antagonists,
Poseidon is his divine antagonist. He despises Odysseus for blinding his son, the
Cyclops Polyphemus, and constantly hampers his journey home. Ironically, Poseidon is
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the patron of the seafaring Phaeacians, who ultimately help to return Odysseus to

Zeus - King of gods and men, who mediates the disputes of the gods on Mount
Olympus. Zeus is occasionally depicted as weighing mens fates in his scales. He
sometimes helps Odysseus or permits Athena to do the same.

Antinous - The most arrogant of Penelopes suitors. Antinous leads the campaign to
have Telemachus killed. Unlike the other suitors, he is never portrayed sympathetically,
and he is the first to die when Odysseus returns.

Eurymachus - A manipulative, deceitful suitor. Eurymachuss charisma and duplicity

allow him to exert some influence over the other suitors.

Amphinomus - Among the dozens of suitors, the only decent man seeking Penelopes
hand in marriage. Amphinomus sometimes speaks up for Odysseus and Telemachus,
but he is killed like the rest of the suitors in the final fight.

Eumaeus - The loyal shepherd who, along with the cowherd Philoetius, helps
Odysseus reclaim his throne after his return to Ithaca. Even though he does not know
that the vagabond who appears at his hut is Odysseus, Eumaeus gives the man food
and shelter.

Eurycleia - The aged and loyal servant who nursed Odysseus and Telemachus when
they were babies. Eurycleia is well informed about palace intrigues and serves as
confidante to her masters. She keeps Telemachuss journey secret from Penelope, and
she later keeps Odysseuss identity a secret after she recognizes a scar on his leg.

Melanthius - The brother of Melantho. Melanthius is a treacherous and opportunistic

goatherd who supports the suitors, especially Eurymachus, and abuses the beggar who
appears in Odysseuss palace, not realizing that the man is Odysseus himself.

Melantho - Sister of Melanthius and maidservant in Odysseuss palace. Like her

brother, Melantho abuses the beggar in the palace, not knowing that the man is
Odysseus. She is having an affair with Eurymachus.

Calypso - The beautiful nymph who falls in love with Odysseus when he lands on her
island-home of Ogygia. Calypso holds him prisoner there for seven years until Hermes,
the messenger god, persuades her to let him go.
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Polyphemus - One of the Cyclopes (uncivilized one-eyed giants) whose island

Odysseus comes to soon after leaving Troy. Polyphemus imprisons Odysseus and his
crew and tries to eat them, but Odysseus blinds him through a clever ruse and manages
to escape. In doing so, however, Odysseus angers Polyphemuss father, Poseidon.

Circe - The beautiful witch-goddess who transforms Odysseuss crew into swine when
he lands on her island. With Hermes help, Odysseus resists Circes powers and then
becomes her lover, living in luxury at her side for a year.

Laertes - Odysseuss aging father, who resides on a farm in Ithaca. In despair and
physical decline, Laertes regains his spirit when Odysseus returns and eventually kills
Antinouss father.

Tiresias - A Theban prophet who inhabits the underworld. Tiresias meets Odysseus
when Odysseus journeys to the underworld in Book 11. He shows Odysseus how to get
back to Ithaca and allows Odysseus to communicate with the other souls in Hades.

Nestor - King of Pylos and a former warrior in the Trojan War. Like Odysseus, Nestor is
known as a clever speaker. Telemachus visits him in Book 3 to ask about his father, but
Nestor knows little of Odysseuss whereabouts.

Menelaus - King of Sparta, brother of Agamemnon, and husband of Helen, he helped

lead the Greeks in the Trojan War. He offers Telemachus assistance in his quest to find
Odysseus when Telemachus visits him in Book 4 .

Helen - Wife of Menelaus and queen of Sparta. Helens abduction from Sparta by the
Trojans sparked the Trojan War. Her beauty is without parallel, but she is criticized for
giving in to her Trojan captors and thereby costing many Greek men their lives. She
offers Telemachus assistance in his quest to find his father.

Agamemnon - Former king of Mycenae, brother of Menelaus, and commander of the

Achaean forces at Troy. Odysseus encounters Agamemnons spirit in Hades.
Agamemnon was murdered by his wife, Clytemnestra, and her lover, Aegisthus, upon
his return from the war. He was later avenged by his son Orestes. Their story is
constantly repeated in the Odyssey to offer an inverted image of the fortunes of
Odysseus and Telemachus.

Nausicaa - The beautiful daughter of King Alcinous and Queen Arete of the
Phaeacians. Nausicaa discovers Odysseus on the beach at Scheria and, out of budding
affection for him, ensures his warm reception at her parents palace.
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Alcinous - King of the Phaeacians, who offers Odysseus hospitality in his island
kingdom of Scheria. Alcinous hears the story of Odysseuss wanderings and provides
him with safe passage back to Ithaca.

Arete - Queen of the Phaeacians, wife of Alcinous, and mother of Nausicaa. Arete is
intelligent and influential. Nausicaa tells Odysseus to make his appeal for assistance to


Ten years after the fall of Troy, the victorious Greek hero Odysseus has still not returned
to his native Ithaka. A band of rowdy suitors, believing Odysseus to be dead, has
overrun his palace, courting his faithful though weakening wife, Penelope, and going
through his stock of food. With permission from Zeus, the goddess Athena, Odysseus'
greatest immortal ally, appears in disguise and urges Odysseus' son Telemakhos to
seek news of his father at Pylos and Sparta. However, the suitors, led by Antinoos, plan
to ambush him upon his return. As Telemakhos tracks Odysseus' trail through stories
from his old comrades-in-arms, Athena arranges for the release of Odysseus from the
island of the beautiful goddess Kalypso, whose prisoner and lover he has been for the
last eight years. Odysseus sets sail on a makeshift raft, but the sea god Poseidon,
whose wrath Odysseus incurred earlier in his adventures by blinding Poseidon's son,
the Kyklops Polyphemos, conjures up a storm. With Athena's help, Odysseus reaches
the Phaiakians. Their princess, Nausikaa, who has a crush on the handsome warrior,
opens the palace to the stranger. Odysseus withholds his identity for as long as he can
until finally, at the Phaiakians' request, he tells the story of his adventures. Odysseus
relates how, following the Trojan War, his men suffered more losses at the hands of the
Kikones, then were nearly tempted to stay on the island of the drug-addled Lotos
Eaters. Next, the Kyklops Polyphemos devoured many of Odysseus' men before an
ingenious plan of Odysseus' allowed the rest to escapebut not before Odysseus
revealed his name to Polyphemos and thus started his personal war with Poseidon. The
wind god Ailos then provided Odysseus with a bag of winds to aid his return home, but
the crew greedily opened the bag and sent the ship to the land of the giant, man-eating
Laistrygonians, where they again barely escaped. On their next stop, the goddess Kirke
tricked Odysseus' men and turned them into pigs. With the help of the god Hermes,
Odysseus defied her spell and metamorphosed the pigs back into men. They stayed on
her island for a year in the lap of luxury, with Odysseus as her lover, before moving on
and resisting the temptations of the seductive and dangerous Seirenes, navigating
between the sea monster Skylla and the whirlpools of Kharybdis, and plumbing the
depths of Hades to receive a prophecy from the blind seer Teiresias. Resting on the
island of Helios, Odysseus' men disobeyed his orders not to touch the oxen. At sea,
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Zeus punished them and all but Odysseus died in a storm. It was then that Odysseus
reached Kalypso's island. Odysseus finishes his story, and the Phaiakians hospitably
give him gifts and ferry him home on a ship. Athena disguises Odysseus as a beggar
and instructs him to seek out his old swineherd, Eumaios; she will recall Telemakhos
from his own travels. With Athena's help, Telemakhos avoids the suitors' ambush and
reunites with his father, who reveals his identity only to his son and swineherd. He
devises a plan to overthrow the suitors with their help. In disguise as a beggar,
Odysseus investigates his palace. The suitors and a few of his old servants generally
treat him rudely as Odysseus sizes up the loyalty of Penelope and his other servants.
Penelope, who notes the resemblance between the beggar and her presumably dead
husband, proposes a contest: she will, at last, marry the suitor who can string
Odysseus' great bow and shoot an arrow through a dozen axeheads. Only Odysseus
can pull off the feat. Bow in hand, he shoots and kills the suitor Antinoos and reveals his
identity. With Telemakhos, Eumaios, and his goatherd Philoitios at his side, Odysseus
leads the massacre of the suitors, aided only at the end by Athena. Odysseus lovingly
reunites with Penelope, his knowledge of their bed that he built the proof that
overcomes her skepticism that he is an impostor. Outside of town, Odysseus visits his
ailing father, Laertes, but an army of the suitors' relatives quickly finds them. With the
encouragement of a disguised Athena, Laertes strikes down the ringleader, Antinoos'
father. Before the battle can progress any further, Athena, on command from Zeus,
orders peace between the two sides.

Moral Lesson

A central virtuous theme in "The Odyssey" is loyalty. Odysseus's devotion to his family,
his country and his god is unwavering, according to Victoria Allen's "A Teacher's Guide
to the Signet Classic Edition of Homer's The Odyssey." Along his journey, Odysseus has
the opportunity to be unfaithful to his wife, renounce his country and ignore his beliefs.
Even though he sometimes falters and some of his decisions have negative
consequences, his allegiance, love for his wife and desire to return home never wanes.


Odysseus has strong moral values when it comes to self-control and sexual temptation.
Even though the beautiful Sirens attempt to draw him off course, he warns his men of
their seductive ways, attaches himself to his ship so he won't stray and plugs his crew's
ears with wax. He also shows self-control when he holds back and doesn't kill
Polyphemus, the cyclops. He waits for the right opportunity so he can gouge his eye out
and escape. Even though some of his men -- those with poor riding skills -- are killed by
Polyphemus, his self-control keeps his whole crew from being slaughtered.
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"The Odyssey" is a story of perseverance. Despite the many obstacles and challenges
he faces, Odysseus never gives up. Even when Odysseus doesn't know how to escape
the cyclops, he makes a noble attempt to survive by riding under the bellies of sheep,
according to "Scope" magazine. Odysseus's perseverance isn't based on physical
strength alone. He uses his intelligence to outwit those who try to ensnare him. From
the very beginning of the poem, Odysseus shows his determination by escaping the
grips of Calypso.


Even though Odysseus is forced to deal with opposing forces using violence and
aggression, he never loses his soft side. He proves his virtue when he allows
compassion to rule his heart. For example, when Demodocus plays the harp and sings
of the Trojan War, Odysseus cries. Odysseus remembers his fellow comrades who died
in war and mourns their loss. His imprisonment, years away from home and oppressive
confrontations aren't able to destroy his empathetic and compassionate tendencies.

Similarities and Differences

Although both works are credited to Homer, The Iliad and The Odyssey provide
two remarkably different views on the nature of the Olympian Gods, their relationship to
humanity, and the general lot of mortals throughout their all too brief lives. As a result of
these differences, both stories end up sending contrasting messages about life in
general. In the Iliad, the supernatural denizens of Olympus are depicted as treacherous,
power-hungry, and above all temperamental beings that are always at each other's
throats. Factionalism abounds, and neither the bonds of marriage, nor the ties of kinship
can contain keep it under control. A perfect example is when Ares betrays his mother,
Hera, and his sister, Athene, by aiding the Trojans instead of the Greeks. When he is
discovered, Athena strikes him down in battle through Diomedes. In the Odyssey,
however, the Gods of Olympus display far more unity and civility toward each other.
They argue and disagree, but their disagreements are never carried out to the extremes
found in the Iliad. When Poseidon punishes Odysseys for blinding the Cyclopes, Athena
does not take revenge. Even though Odyssey's is her favorite mortal, she respects
Poseidon's right to punish him. Also, the treachery among the Gods that is so prevalent
in the Iliad, is nowhere to be found in the Odyssey.
In Iliad, Hera, enters into a conspiracy with Poseidon, Aphrodite, and Morpheus
to aid the Greeks by putting Zeus to sleep thus rendering him unable to help his beloved
Trojans. Nothing like this incident can be found in the Odyssey. References to past
disagreements and arguments between the Gods (such as in the Poet's tale of Ares and
Aphrodite) are scattered throughout the book, however, so the views between the Iliad
and the Odyssey are not exactly diametrically opposed. The role of the Gods in the
affairs of humanity is much greater in the Iliad then in the Odyssey. In the Iliad, the
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Olympians are constantly meddling in the conflict between the Greeks and the Trojans.
At best, they view mortals as amusing pets to be cared for, played with, and loved. At
worst, humans are just pawns to be shuffled around, sacrificed, and set against each
other in order to resolve inter-Olympian ego-clashes. When Zeus wants the Trojans to
win, he'll turn nature against the Greeks, slay one of their heroes, or send one of their
loyal immortals down to turn the tide of battle. If Hera wants to get back at him, she will
do the same thing against Zeus's people, the Trojans. In the Odyssey, things are very
different. The Gods of Olympus generally will not intervene unless they are asked to
such as when the Cyclopes invokes the wrath of Poseidon after he is blinded by
Odysseys. The Gods do not necessarily view all humans as mere as supplicant whelps,
either. Athena's conversations with Odysseys are remarkably free of the condescension
and authoritarian posturing that so pervades the discourse between the Gods of the
Iliad. They do not have a greater respect for human life in general (witness the casual
slaying of Odysseys companions, and the Athena backed bloodbath which occurs when
Odysseys returns home) but they have a greater respect for the humans they do like.
Athena never kills one of Odyssey's loved ones in order to spur him on, unlike Zeus's
slaying of Patroclus to incite Achilles. As a result of these differing portrayals of the
Olympians in both works, the Iliad and the Odyssesy come off as having very different
worldviews. In the Iliad struggles of man are the result of constant meddling from the
Gods, who often use hapless mortals to obtain revenge on each other for sleights,
insults, and betrayals committed in Olympus. Achilles, Agamemnon, Hector, Patroclus,
Priam and certainly none the poor schleps who fought under them had no idea the war
was being perpetuated by the will of the Gods alone. They never had any say in the
matter. They are but marionettes in a great cosmic "Punch and Judy" show, and Zeus
and company were pulling the strings. In the Odyssey, however, Homer takes a different
view. Odysseus, unlike the characters in the Iliad, is ultimately the master of his own
fate. Athena does not aid him when he is forced to deal with the Cyclopes, or when he
has to pass through the ordeal of Skylla and Kharybdis. Odysseus is forced to rely
completely on his own devices, mental and physical, for much of the story. He is not the
sacrificial lamb of Zeus, like Patroclus was, or the plaything of Aphrodite, like Paris was.
When Odysseus went into battle, he did not have an Olympian by his side like Hector or
Agamemnon did in the Iliad.
Ultimately, the Iliad takes the point of view that mortals are nothing more then the
puppets of Zeus's court, while in the Odyssey, humans ultimately control whether or not
they bring death and misfortune to themselves. How the Gods of Olympus treat you
depends on how you treat them Odysseus brought the wrath of Poseidon on him when
he blinded the Cyclopes, who was Poseidon's son. The fact that Odysseus did not know
this until after the fact does not diminish the clear cause and effect relationship.
Odysseus' men bring certain death onto themselves when they slaughter the beloved
sheep of Helios. This is another example of the clear-cut cause and effect relationship
that exists in the Odyssey. In the Iliad, things are not nearly so simple. Sometimes the
Gods just want to stir up trouble, so they break the truce between the Trojans and the
Greeks. Zeus wants to inspire Achilles to enter the fight, so he kills his Achilles best
friend Patroclus. The point is, mortals are ignorant toys to be setup and knocked down
at the Gods leisure, and for their own clandestine reasons. That is why life is so terrible
and random and short for most people. Deal with it. In the Odyssey, life is terrible and
random, but it does not always have to be so short. If you are clever enough, strong
Rafael Ezekiel D. Moreno

enough, and diligent enough, you can conquer just about anything the Gods or other
men throw at you. Well usually anyway.