Revenge and Justice: Two Sides of the Same Coin
Two Sides of the Same Colon If a person is driving a car and they choose to send a text, this distraction could cause a fatal accident. Everything a person does in life, every choice they make, has a consequence. This is definitely true of the characters in Homer’s The Odyssey. Every choice each character makes has a good or bad consequence, and ultimately shapes them as well as their future. The Cyclops’ choice to disregard the will of the gods, the creamers’ choice to disobey their leader’s commands, and Melanoma’s choice to be disloyal to the royal family all led to their deaths.
Homer uses the themes of revenge and justice in The Odyssey to show that a person arrives at their own downfall through disregard for others. In Homer’s The Odyssey, the Cyclops’ disregard for the will of the gods results in dire consequences, while Nesters respect for the god’s traditions gives rise to rewards. Polymorphous, a Cyclops, pays no heed to Zeus’ guest-host customs, trapping and ultimately eating Odysseus’ creamers. The guest-host customs of Ancient Greece Include giving shelter and gifts to strangers.
Odysseus and his crew believe that even a Cyclops will follow the customs, going so far as to eat Polymorphous’ cheeses when they first arrive. Had Polymorphous run a traditional household, he would have added the cheeses to the other gifts he would have given to Odysseus and his crew as they left. Before demanding gifts from the Cyclops, Odysseus tells Polymorphous, “Zeus of the Strangers guards all guests and suppliants:’ strangers are sacred – Zeus will avenge their rights’/” (Homer 9. 304-305). However, when Odysseus and his crew meet Polymorphous, he greets them with a violent disruption of custom. Polymorphous grumbles, “We
Cyclops never blink at [Zeus] or any other blessed god -l wave got more force by far. R [Polymorphous] ripped [my creamers] from limb to limb to fix his meal/” (Homer 9. 307-330). Polymorphous completely disregards the will of Zeus by trapping Odysseus and his crew In his home. Polymorphous claims he holds more power than the gods, and ultimately eats his guests. However, Polymorphous’ actions lead to his own downfall. Odysseus taunts Polymorphous, Moor filthy crimes/ came down on your own head, you shameless cannibal,’ daring to eat your guests in your own house-Iso Zeus and the other gods have paid you back! Homer 9. 533-536). Odysseus and his remaining creamers have their revenge on the Cyclops by blinding Polymorphous with a stake. Polymorphous does not follow the guest-host custom of being gracious to strangers, but King Nester does. When greeted by strangers, Nester welcomes his guests with open arms. Telemeters objects to King Nester sleeping elsewhere, so that he may have the finest bed. He tells Telemeters, “No, by god, [you]/ wont bed down on a ship’s deck, not while I’m alive” (Homer 3. 395-396). Nester proclaims that it is Telemeters’ right as a guest to have such inner, and gives Telemeters the bed.
King Nester has already been rewarded for his reverence of the gods and their traditions. As Nester came home from fighting in punished the rest of the soldiers. Nester recalls, “Zeus contrived in his heart a fatal homeward run/ for all the Achaeans who were fools, at least,] dishonest too, so many met a disastrous end/” (Homer 2. 147-149). The gods either kept the soldiers from returning home, or killed them outright. Only Nester, thanks to his reverence, avoided this plight. Nester is a god-fearing man, and in accordance with the gods’ guest-host traditions, he is generous to Telemeters.
King Nester, the head of a custom-following household, is the polar opposite of Polymorphous. Polymorphous is a perfect example of how disregard for the gods can lead to one’s own downfall. Odysseus’ act of revenge against the Cyclops was the blinding of Polymorphous. Polymorphous went against the will of the gods when he practiced cannibalism, therefore the gods saw this as a Just punishment. However, there are more ways than one that lead too painful demise. In The Odyssey, the creamers’ direct disobedience of Odysseus’ commands causes their ruin.
Odysseus and his crew stop at Lulus’ island, where the god presents Odysseus with a bag of winds. Lulus makes sure to tell Odysseus not to let his crew touch the bag, for if they do their journey home will be greatly delayed. Odysseus relays this message but regardless, the crew opens the bag of winds. Odysseus’ creamers believe the bag of winds is full of gold, and plot to steal some of it while Odysseus sleeps. The crew “loosed the sack and all the winds burst out/ and a sudden squall struck and swept us back to sea,] wailing, in tears, far from our own native land/” (Homer 10. -54). Unwittingly, they release the winds which blow the ship all the way back to Lulus’ island. Even though the first time the creamers disobey Odysseus, they were sorely punished, they decide to do it again. The creamers disobey Odysseus once more because they feel that slaughtering the cattle to survive is Just. Odysseus’ ship runs ashore on Hellos’ island, and he remembers Eateries’ prophecy. He warns his crew to abstain from slaughtering Hellos’ cattle. Eateries, the blind Thebes prophet, foretold that they would all meet with a horrible demise if they slay Hellos’ cattle.
Odysseus cautioned, “Friends, we’ve food and drink aplenty aboard the ship-I keep your hands off all these herds or we will pay the price! ‘” (Homer 12. 345-346). Regardless, the crew disregards Odysseus’ forewarning, and proclaim they would never dream of hurting a god’s cattle. Unfortunately, the crew runs out of food, so they resort to desperate measures. Odysseus’ crew “slaughtered and skinned the cattle/” (Homer 12. 386). Wrought with hunger and thirst, the creamers disregard Odysseus’ forewarning and butcher the cattle. The creamers offer the choice cuts to Hellos, so he might forgive them for their crime.
Hellos, however, feels anything but forgiving and appeals to his fellow gods. Hellos shouts, “Father Zeus! The rest of you blissful gods who never die-I punish them all, that crew of Alerter’ son Odysseus-I what an outrage! ” (Homer 12. 406-408). Hellos, furious with the creamers for their disobedience, calls on his father Zeus to help him punish the crew. Hellos seeks revenge, however, because he is a god he does not face a downfall. As Odysseus and his creamers set sail, Zeus whips up a mighty storm. Lightning strikes Odysseus’ ship killing everyone instantly, except for Odysseus who survives the wreck.
However, Odysseus and his crew are rewarded when the creamers are obedient and follow orders. Just as they are about to row past sail by Scylla, but all of the creamers will die if they refuse to sail past her. Odysseus instructs his crew to row past Scylla, and the creamers comply. Odysseus is told, “Better by far to lose six men and keep your ship/ than lose your entire creep (Homer 12. 120-121). The creamers sail on, bearing the toll that Scylla exacts on them. The six creamers are rewarded with a quick and painless death, while the rest are content with keeping their lives.
The story of Odysseus’ crew and Hellos’ cattle demonstrates how disobedience can cause one’s demise, even though different motivations were driving each of their actions. However, there is one more example of how one’s disregard for others can lead to their own downfall. In The Odyssey by Homer, Penelope maid’s disloyalty to the royal family results in her demise. Melanoma, Penelope maid, lashes out at Odysseus when she passes him in the royal halls. Penelope, overhearing her, warns Melanoma, “Make no mistake [Melanoma,]/ none of your [disloyalty] escapes me either-I you will pay for it with your fife, you will! ” (Homer 19. 99-101). Even though Penelope raised Melanoma, the maid finds it fit to cast aside her mistresses’ wishes, meeting with the suitors every night. Penelope foretells that Melanoma will pay dearly for her actions, but even so the maid ignores her. The maid runs off to Join her lovers, the suitors. Melanoma relished “the joys of love under the suitors’ bodies/” (Homer 22. 469-470). The suitors court Penelope in the day, and spend their nights with Melanoma and the other maids. This complete disregard for the royal family results in the doom of both parties.
When Odysseus returns, he and Telemeters plot the ghastly death of Melanoma and the maids. Telemeters plans, “No clean death for [the maids,] by god! ‘ Not from me- they showered abuse on my head,] my mother’s too! ‘” (Homer 22. 487-489). Telemeters and Odysseus hang the maids in the barn as opposed to stabbing them to death. Telemeters feels that the maid’s crimes were too great, and that they do not deserve an honorable death by sword. They hang the maids, and they die a dishonorable death. The swineherd and the cowherd are quite a contrast to the maids.
Both of these men pine for Odysseus’ return, and act as a pillar of support for Odysseus’ wife Penelope while he Journeys home from Troy. Upon his arrival home, Odysseus discovers the unsaying loyalty of these two men. Odysseus promises, “I’ll find you wives, both of you, grant you property,] sturdy houses beside my own, and in my eyes you’ll be/ comrades to Prince Telemeters, brothers from then one (Homer 21. 241-243). The cowherd and the swineherd are rewarded by their master for their undying allegiance, despite the betrayal of the other workers.