Homer, Odyssey essay

As an epic of the oral tradition, Odyssey appears in writing until many years after the stories originated. Through the many retellings of the tale, it probably changed significantly over time; however, the essences of the society and the culture of Odysseus have survived. In many ways, Odyssey is not only epic and myth from the time period, but also serves as historiographies of the society and culture of the time. The journey undertaken by Odysseus is not only a personal journey of self-discovery, but journey that establishes the values of the culture.

While the personal adventures and situations are unique, the travel of Odysseus is representative of each human’s quest to find meaning and purpose in life. As Natalia Breizmann points out, Odysseus’s journeys are not unlike quests in which he attempts to find his place in his society and to prove himself as the ideal hero of the Greeks. Odysseus’s journeys begin with his voyage into uncertainty. He achieves not only fame and glory, but also the respect and the love of his people.

Life in the Ancient Ages was uncertain; by necessity, people looked to their warriors to protect them from assault and invasion, and Odysseus represents the ideal adventurer who seeks the truth and purpose of collective existence of his society through his explorations and voyages. (Lamb, 114-5) We easily understand from the story that the society that Odysseus lived was a society that related itself with the gods in a very interesting manner. They were fearful but at the same time were helpful in nature.

These gods often took sides and possessed their own likes and dislikes. This is because the ancient world and its societies were hardly able to distinguish the difference between the natural and supernatural world and often confused the two. This signifies that the society of Odysseus was civilized enough to venture into the unknown of nature and tried to explain every aspect of it but on the other hand they never possessed the resources to justify every act.

This gave rise to the imagination factors that included the existence of gods and demons. The epic of Odysseus also tells us the details of the ancient wisdoms and philosophies of the antique Greek world where the aspects of destiny rules supreme over the will and abilities of a human being. This again, arises from the inability to explain natural phenomenon in a scientific manner but speaks highly of a society that despite the inability of resources to explain scientifically tries all means to justify each act of nature and human life.

This epic also narrates a society where friendship and comradeship is given high priority and trust and truthfulness is the prime aspect between a man and his wife. The narrator Homer states with much pride that “and Penelope remained Faithful to Odysseus through hailstorms and darkness”. (Homer, 29) One very interesting aspect of this epic is that it depicts a society where unknown is often regarded as a sign of evil.

For example when the crews of Odysseus consume lotus in an unknown island the entire scenario is depicted in an ill faith and it signifies the advent of difficult situation upon the men. Thus this society, though adventurous in nature, is unwilling to accept anything that is remotely alien to it and that this society is ready to accept everything that is Greek and known and is presumably skeptic to any element that is unknown to it. However, it should be mentioned that this applies to almost every ancient society of the world but the Greeks, with their epic, manifested this notion very clearly.

It can thus be mentioned that the journey of Odysseus is symbolic of the journeys all people take through life. It could be said that Odysseus must struggle with external and internal forces and eventually accept the destiny. These myths raise universal and timeless questions that are not only a part of their own society, but questions that must be answered by all humans. As Odysseus struggles to establish the identity within his own society, he reflects the journey all people must make to find their role within their own culture.

While the journey of Odysseus is pleasant tale of adventure, the real value of the epic is the glimpse it provides of ancient cultures and peoples. In addition, the story of Odysseus is links between the past and the present and between the values all cultures seem to share. The epic is timeless a myth because it remind us that life, for all humans, is an uncertain journey, often one a person must make, in part, alone, and that ultimately, the search for oneself defines the role one will have within society.

Although the cultural and historical contexts change, certain human truths do not, and in the end, like Odysseus, all men leave their earthly existences, perhaps with the hopes that the myths they leave behind will provide lessons for those who come after them.


Homer; Trans. Lock, E; Odyssey; National Book Trust; 1989 Lamb, Davis; Cult to Culture: The Development of Civilization on the Strategic Strata; National Book Trust; 2004