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Revenge vs. Justice

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    The Root of Justice and Revenge Anonyms Classical Literature Honors 17 May 2012 Classical Literature Honors 17 May 2012 The Root of Justice and Revenge Is justice revenge and revenge justice? Justice is a concept of righteousness, based on a society’s perception of fairness. Whereas revenge, is an act of vengeance, based on spite and vindictiveness. Justice brings forth closure; however, revenge is an ongoing cycle to seek justice for one self.

    By examining the characters; Odysseus, Achilles, Dante, and Aeneas, the nature of justice and revenge do not go hand in hand for the characters show the root of justice is good and the root of revenge is evil. In Homeric society, the feelings and actions of the characters show the diversity between justice and revenge. Odysseus shows the good of justice, meanwhile the others show the wickedness of revenge. Odysseus, a keen deceitful man, goes to the cave of Polyphemus for gifts. He had left the cave injuring Polyphemus in the eye. Hoisting high that stake with its stabbing point, straight into the monster’s eye they rammed it hard…So we seized our stake with its fiery tip and bored it round and round in the giant’s eye till blood came boiling up around that smoking shaft and the hot blast signed his brow and eyelids round the core and the broiling eyeball burst-its crackling roots blazed and hissed-” (Homer 223). Many would say this action was to avenge his fellow companions by the way he brutally stabbed Polyphemus in the eye. If Odysseus had not thought of this idea, he would have never gotten out of the cave alive.

    Yes, Odysseus had to be upset with this situation, however, he had many companions and it was not needed to avenge their death. One has to pick their own battles, the ones they know they can fight, as for Odysseus this was not a battle to fight. There was no good coming out of this situation if he did it for revenge. For stabbing the Cyclops, Odysseus comes out of the cave with a struggling travel back home to Ithaca because of his selfish motives. “Hear me- Poseidon, god of the sea-blue mane who rocks the earth!

    If I am really your son and you claim to be my father-come, grant that Odysseus, raider of cites, Laertes’ son who makes his home in Ithaca, never reaches home. Or if he’s fated to see his people once again and reach his well- built house and his own native country, let him come home late and come a broken man- al shipmates lost alone in a stranger’s ship-and let him find a world of pain at home! ” (Homer 228). Wounded and angry Polyphemus prayed to Poseidon to change the fate of Odysseus. However, once a fate is set a fate cannot change.

    Instead, Polyphemus also asks to stall Odysseus’ fate and make his journey home to Ithaca extremely challenging. This is Polyphemus’ way of revenge, for Odysseus stabbed him in the eye and took his cattle. In no way can this be justified as justice. The cause of Polyphemus praying for a long journey home for Odysseus was coming from anger and the malicious thoughts of Polyphemus. Not only do the humans show the significant difference between justice and revenge, but the gods also show the difference. Earth shaker Poseidon, distraught by the betrayal of the Phaeacians, asked Zeus to take revenge on the Phaeacians. I wish to strike at those Phaeacians, at their splendid ship, as it sails back home, after its trip across the misty seas, so they will stop and never more provide an escort carrying human beings. Then all around their city I’ll throw up a massive mountain range. ” (Homer). The Phaeacians had helped Odysseus get home, when Poseidon had made Odysseus’ journey home longer. Poseidon then throws a huge rock in Phaeacia and had turned all their ships to stone so they could not betray him again. The Odyssey is not the only Homeric work that shows justice but also The Iliad. The Trojan War was shown as revenge.

    All of the actions shown by Homer all had come from rage. Achilles, a great warrior, had taking revenge to a great extent by avenging Patroclus’ death. “But this Achilles- first he slaughters Hector, he rips away the noble prince’s life then lashes him to his chariot, drags him round his beloved comrade’s tomb. But why, I ask you? What good will it do him? What honor will he gain? Let that man beware, or great and glorious as his is, we mighty gods will wheel on him in anger- look, he outrages the senseless clay in all his fury! ” (Homer). Homer’s description about the way Achilles slaughters Hector shows it was for revenge.

    He takes away Hector’s life just as Hector took Patroclus’ life. Homer also tells the readers that Achilles will not earn any honor for killing Hector. This tells the readers this act comes from selfish motives which leads back to revenge. Homer shows very clearly the significant modification between justice and revenge. Virgil’s The Aeneid, was based on Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey. Virgil’s book consisted of mostly propaganda. He had showed the reader the great difference between the Greeks and the Romans. However, they are all the same and all their motives come from the same place.

    Aeneas, a Trojan, was used as a representation of all Romans. He was considered god like, gratefully respected and honored. But, Aeneas is not different from the characters from Homers poetry. Aeneas is portrayed as a more relaxed person, unlike the Greeks. Aeneas had shown his rage towards the end of the poem. Like Achilles, Aeneas had avenged a death of a loved one. “Sacrifices you with this stroke-Pallas-and makes you pay with your guilty blood. ” Virgil tells the readers very clearly that Aeneas killed Turnus as revenge. He tells the readers that Turnus’ guilty blood is payment for Pallas’ blood.

    One of the most fascinating characters in Virgil’s Aeneid had shown revenge by taking her own life. Out of her sadness and resentment she took revenge on Aeneas by killing herself. She had been devastated knowing Aeneas was leaving and begging him to stay. She knew the fate of Aeneas and she says, “Fate has taught me how the vanquished should grieve. Beg from him this last favor, sister. If he grants it, I will pay it back with interest-my death. ” (Virgil 91). Dido has paid all her grieve of the defeated; and by no longer having the capability to stand the wretchedness, she pays it by taking her own life.

    In Homer’s poems, revenge is usually taken by one another; however, Virgil takes a twist on revenge and shows that revenge can also be taken on yourself. The Inferno shows justice. By sending the people to a circle in hell, it reflects what they have done in their life. They are put in a circle of hell by Minos and he judges their crimes by what they have done on earth. In doing this, it makes it realize what the sinners have done. It shows the sinners that they made that choice to stay in hell and it is allegorical to their punishment if they were on Earth.

    Dante, a mortal, traveling through hell being shown what society is like and the punishments of what you have sinned. Justice and revenge are two entirely diverse concepts. Justice is based on a society’s perception whereas revenge is a concept that comes from spite and vindictiveness. The cycles of the two are also unlike. An ongoing cycle of revenge is no good for anyone. It makes the two people and the people who are affected by it become malicious. On the other hand, once justice is done, it’s done. It cannot be changed and acted upon.

    If justice is acted upon, it is no longer considered justice, but is now considered revenge. Authors, such as Homer, Virgil, and Dante, show in their character that these two concepts are different. The motives are also completely diverse. Justice is striving for righteousness where revenge is leaning towards malice, just as The Odyssey, The Iliad, The Aeneid, and The Inferno display. Works Cited Dante. The Inferno. New York: All New American Library, 2001. Print. Homer. The Odyssey. New York: Penguin Group, 1996 Homer. The Iliad. New York: Penguin Books, 1990 Virgil. The Aeneid. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2005.

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