The views and beliefs of societies are often portrayed in the literature, art, and cinema of a certain era. The epic poems, The Iliad and Odyssey, give scholars and historians an idea how the Ancient Greek lived their everyday lives. By reading the two “novels,” the reader is able to experience the three thousand years old society of Homer. The various similarities between our society and the societies depicted in the Iliad and the Odyssey are surprising profuse. To name a few: the superfluous violence in Iliad and Odyssey, the characterization of Odysseus, the obscure use of narcotics, the similarities between Catholicism and certain stories of the Odyssey, and the role of pets and animals.Despite the numerous similarities, there are some distinct differences. The specific differences between our society and that of Ancient Greece is the role of women in ancient Greece, polytheism, the and the importance of hospitality. Violence, it is a part of the Iliad and Odyssey; it is portrayed in nearly all our movies and literature. The numerous battles in the Iliad constantly described the grotesque deaths of warriors. “He brought him down with a glinting jagged rock, massive, top of the heap behind the ramparts edge, no easy lift for a fghger even in prime strength, working with both hands, weak as men are now.” Giant Ajax hoisted it high and hurled it down, crushing the rim of the soldiers four horned helmet and cracked his skull to splinters, a bloody pulp” 435-443. Violence, the many scenes of war in the Iliad reminded me of the first battle scene of Saving Private Ryan.The extremely violent images of men crying out for their mothers, the intestines spilling out of a mans belly, and the many pictures of bullet wounds. I believe that if Homer had lived in the 20th century, that the battle scenes of the Iliad would resemble those of the many gruesome films and books written in this century. A specific example of senseless violence was during the fall of Troy; Hektors young child was thrown off the high walls of Troy. It obvious that every society throughout time has appreciated virulent violence.
Like the Iliad, the Odyssey had many violent and action scenes. Odysseuss encounter with the Cyclopes, Polyphemus, entranced the reader with many cacophonous images. “Up from his gullet, bits of human flesh and wine were gushing: in his drunken sleep, hed vomited.” Pg. 181. Then the description of the blinded of Polyphemus: “and when that stake of olive-wood, though green, it was glowingand then they clasped the pointed stake, and drove it into his eye, twirling the burning hot point deeper and deeper into the eye.” Pg. 181. I could not help it, but when Odysseus returned to Ithaca, it reminded me of a Jerry Springer episode. Near the end of book XVIII, Odysseus is engaged in a verbal argument with Eurymachus; during the argument Eurymachus actually throws a stool at Odysseus! A scene like that has never happened on American TV before.In book XXII, Odysseus kills at least seven men. In the Odyssey, the main character, Odysseus seemed to be “un-touchable.” Odysseus survived the Trojan War, shipwrecks, the raid on the Cicones, The lotus eaters, and the Cyclops. Not to mention the encounter with Hades and the battle with the suitors. Like American “pop” culture, the hero is rarely killed, but rather slightly injured. Rambo, James Bond, Matlock, Magnum P.I., and Odysseus all have the same characteristics: astute, subtlety, self discipline, strong, but not necessarily adheres to the heroic code of conduct. All of these characters adapt their behavior to the circumstances in which he finds himself, although always retaining a realistic conception of his self-interest and his ultimate goals. All five characters have imperfections. Odysseus is full of pride; he nearly got himself killed by Polyphemus. Rambo has a speech impediment, James Bond and Magnum are too fond of women, and Matlock is old. Odysseus was the first “super” hero.
As I read the Odyssey, I could not help but notice the multiples uses of “wondrous magical herbs” and other types of narcotic substances. The first time that I noticed the use of narcotics in the Odyssey, was in the country of the Lotus-Eaters. The inhabitants of this country were nice but somewhat odd. They had a bizarre plant that when eaten by seamen; it would quickly cause memory loss and laziness.In our society, there are countless drugs that effect your memory and our will to survive. Usually the people that are using them are nice but somewhat odd. In the homeland of Circe, many of men were turned into swine by the “magical wand” of Circe. Odysseus survived because he had a mysterious herb called “moly,” which he received from Hermes. The similarity between the beliefs of Catholicism, the Bible and the “Wandering of Odysseus.” I believe, as do many other scholars and student that Odysseuss encounter with the Sirens as the first series of tests which he must pass to demonstrate that he is worthy of the “rebirth” that he has gone through and the exalted vision he will be granted when he arrives at the Land of Phaeacians.I do not know much about the Catholic religion, but the concept of confessing your sins and then being “cleared” of them seems like the “tests” that Odysseus went through. In book XII, Odysseus experiences the temptation, the crime, and the punishment; a strong resemblance to the story of Adam and Eve. When Odysseus and his men land on the island where Hyperion, the sun God, kept his divine cattle. Despite the warnings from Tiresias and Circe, Eurylochus and many other of Odysseus men slaughtered some of Hyperions divine cattle. Just like in the story of Adam and Eve; they ate from the forbidden garden.Odysseus and his persons took the wrath of all the gods. Zeus, destroyed their ship, killing everyone but Odysseus. The society in which we live, animals and pets are very important. We will pay large sums of money to try to prolong the lives of our beloved pets. Whenever a dog or cat gets hurt, we always feel terrible. I remember watching the news; the first three stories were about rapes and murders. Then there was a story about how a dog was shot and killed by a random bulletthere were more people crying and grieving for the dog than there were for the people who got murdered! Then I read book XVII, the story about Argus. He was described as lying in a pile of filth and left for dead. The dog sees Odysseus; it whimpers and dies. Odysseus cries, which he never didfor his crew. In is ironic how the human race will cry more for a pet or an animal more than they will for another member of their own race.There are many similarities between our society and that of the Iliad and the Odyssey, but there are some major difference. One of the biggest differences is the portrayal and role of women. In the last century, the traditional role of women is no longer the way it is. Women are independent, they can vote, run for president, and can make their own decisions; the exact opposite of the way women were depicted in the Iliad and Odyssey. Women were considered to be property. They were the prizes of war.The women who were awarded to Achilles and Agememnon: Chryseis and Briseis. They were treated like property; women could be traded or sold. After the Fall of Troy, the captured women were given to the men of the Greek leaders. In the Odyssey, the wife of Odysseus, Penelope, was treated like the prize in a lottery. The suitors did not want her they wanted the estate of Odysseus. Penelope was never asked what she wanted. In fact, it was the law that Penelope had to select a new spouse.The role of women was to cook, look good, keep quiet, and have children. Women had no rights, no dignity, and were controlled by men. The treatment of women in ancient Greek society resembles the way women were treated in the era cave the cave men. Today, it is the exact opposite.
In todays society almost every religion is monotheistic. No major religion believes in more than one God. Islam, Hindu, Buddhism, Christianity, and Judaism all have one divine ruler. In the society of the Iliad and the Odyssey, the religion is a type of Greek Mythology; which is a polytheistic religion. There are gods representing every object. If you want love you pray to Venus, if you want help in war you pray to Mars, it is quite different from any religion found today. You are considered a heretic if you pray to more than one god. Please correct me if I am wrong, but did not Moses smash the Ten Commandments because people were worshipping idols? There were not as many religions in the era of Ancient Greece, either. Religion is constantly changing. In our overpopulated society, would you allow an absolute stranger to stay in your home? Absolutely not!! In the Greek culture, hospitably was very important. The ultimate example of hospitality was shown by Princess Nausicaa and King Alcinous. They found Odysseus washed up on shore and invited him into their home. They feed, cloth, and wash him. They give him a bed and a spot at their table. Their generosity came without hesitation and they did not expect anything in return. The Ancient Greeks would bathe you, feed you, and let you rest before they even knew your name. There are so many stories that display acts of excellent hospitality. Book IV and V display a case in which a “person” was too hospitable. Hospitality was so important to the Ancient Greeks because there were no hotels. People realized that someday they would be traveling and would need a place to stay. They would expect to receive the same hospitality that they had given. Today there are hotels, motels, and camping grounds. There is no reason why we should allow a stranger into our home. There are certain characteristics that are common within every society; including those found within literature and cinema.Our society is constantly changing. The United States society, least resembles the society of the Iliad and Odyssey. The reason for the is simple: technology.Our governments, laws, and values are advanced. Our beliefs in the supernatural are different to; this is due to advancements in science. We do not believe in Cyclopes, Nymphs, Witches, and other unreal creatures. The one thing that will always exist in every society is will to survive and the need to improve the quality of life.