Nothing less than a stupendous work of art, The Odyssey, written probably 3000 years ago by the blind Greek poet Homer, is a glorious expedition into life as it was believed to have been led i n the great Greek Kingdom of the Bronze Age. ‘This earlier period the Greeks believed was a more glorious and sublime age, when gods still frequented the earth and heroic, godlike mortals with super human attributes populated Greece’. (Homer 2006).
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Beginning in medias res (middle of things), the journey is fasinating intriguing and sensual. It highlights the rich oral in Mythic traditions of the Greeks. The hero, Odysseus, is on nostos (return homehomeward voyage) after a decade of the Trojan victory. His heart is set on his wife and child, separated, rather unwillingly from him. Unfortunately, the beautiful nymph, Kalypso is possessed by love for him and he is imprisoned on her island, Ogygia. He is forced to spend the nights with her but during day time, laments for his wife, “Sitting upon a beach with his eyes ever filled with tears – dying of sheer home-sickness; for he had got tired of Kalypso forced to sleep with her by night, it was she, not he that would have it so.” (Homer 2000).
Meanwhile, the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus debate his future and Hermis, the messenger is summoned to order Kalypso to release Odysseus form her. Kalypso is enraged at the ‘impassion indictment of the male gods and their double standards. They are allowed to take mortal lovers while the affairs of female gods must always be frustrated.’ (Homer 2006). Ultimately Zeus’ decree is obeyed and Odysseus resumes his homeward journey.
From the land of the Laestrygomians, Odysseus and his companians travel to Aeaea, home of the beautiful witch goddess Kirke. She turns his friends into swine, but is unable to conquer Odysseus, who lungs at her as she tries to strike him with her sword. Kirke overpowered, Odysseus demands his friends’ release from her magical stronghold. Kirke is encharmed by the gallant and handsome warrior a d falls in love with him. Odysseus and his companions feast and drink for a year, forgetting the purpose of their journey. Odysseus is the most affected:
‘Prince, what joy this is, your safe return!
Now Ithaka seems here, and we in Ithaka!
But tell us now, what death befell our friends?’ (178)
Ultimately his friends remind him of his aim,
‘Captain, shake off this trance, and think of home –
If home indeed awaits us,
If we shall ever see
Your own well-timbered hall on Ithaka.
They made me feel a pang, and I agreed.’ (179)
Odysseus, in both these encounters is enraptured by the scenic beauty as well as the enchantresses but yearns for his wife Penelope. Kalypso is ready to grant immortality if he remains with her. He is treated like a god. But Odysseus declines her offer. He prefers his wife to immortality. It is quite certain that divinity shapes the ends of things:
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‘His destiny is to see his friends again under his own roof, in his father’s country.’(82)
His encounter with Kirke is according to the dictates of Zeus. Though, for quite some time, he forgets his mission, later at the behest of his companions regains his mental strength and courage to overcome the temptation of luxuries and enchantments.
Homer’s stance is unfair as he pins Penelope to being a woman who entreats suitors at her place, while Odysseus spends days and nights in the company of beautiful women and is justified. Penelope’s steadfast love for her husband is the sole reasons for his languish with Kalypso. The anguish is beyond comparison. Love for his family is the reason why he breaks away from the bondage of Kirke, albeit his decision to spend time with her.
Homer. The Odyssey. Spark notes. 2006.
Homer. The Odyssey. Translated by Samuel Butler. 2000.
Homer. The Odyssey. Summary. Book 5-6. Spark notes. 2006. Web.