The Ancient World (HUM 124 - UNC Asheville)/Texts/Odyssey/Book 18
Summary of book[edit | edit source]
This book begins describing Arnaeus, also called Irus. He is a beggar known throughout Ithaca who is greedy and arrogant. He disrespects Odysseus, chasing him from his own home. He challenges Odysseus in disguise to a fight, getting the suitors rallied, and when the two men begin to fight, Athena provides Odysseus extra strength and he is able to defeat Iris. Following the fight, the men ate and while eating, Odysseus warns Anmphinomus, one of the suitors who Odysseus takes a liking to, of his eventual return that he must leave before this return.
Penelope wishes to taunt the suitors and to reestablish good morals within her son. She focuses on her beauty, with the help of Athena, and goes before her suitors, warning her son that he has turned towards bad influences. Telemachus agrees with his mother and prays to the Gods for his father’s return, for the banishment of the greedy arrogant suitors, and laments his sadness with his mother.
To further anger Odysseus, Athena places more conflict between him and the suitors. They disrespect him, throwing objects at him, and jeering.
Characters[edit | edit source]
Arnaeus/Irus: beggar living in Ithaca. Well known for his greed/unearned arrogance. Fights with Odysseus in this book
Odysseus: the main character of epic
Telemachus: son of Odysseus.
Antinous: one of Penelope’s suitors. Arrogant.
Athena: Daughter of Zeus, assists Odysseus in the fight with Irus
Zeus: King of the Gods
Echetus: "King Echetus in mainland Greece, the lord of cruelty and pain.", where they threaten to send send Irus after he loses his fight with Odysseus
Amphinomus: one of the suitors, Odysseus warns him of Odysseus' return. He believes him to be one of the better suitors. Son of Nisus and grandson of Lord Aretias.
Nisus of Dulichium: father to Amphinomus
Lord Aretias: Grandfather of Amphinomus
Penelope: wife of Odysseus
Eurynome: one of Penelope’s servants. Helps to clean up her appearance before going to taunt the suitors waiting for her.
Hippodameia: another of Penelope’s servants
Aphrodite: goddess of love
Artemis: Goddess of the hunt
Apollo: god of the son
Eurymachus: one of the suitors, sleeping with Melantho; gifts her a necklace
Melantho: one of the servants, child of Dolius. Brought up by Penelope.
Echetus: king of mass destruction
Autonoe: one of Penelope's servants
Eurydamas: one of the suitors; gifts Penelope earrings
Pisander: one of the suitors; gifts Penelope a choker
Moulis: slave of Amphinomus
Ancient worldview[edit | edit source]
Viewpoints of Masculinity[edit | edit source]
Men are intended to be brave, cunning, and confident. However when taken to an extreme this is viewed as arrogance. Through the inclusion of minor character development within the suitors, Odysseus’ concept of masculinity is compared with those of the greedy and disrespectful suitors. This reinforces the bravery of Odysseus and various gender roles of the ancient worldview.
- “In my heart I do know right and wrong… Those evil suitors keep distracting me”
- “I see how wickedly the suitors are behavioring-wasting wheat and failing to respect the wife of one who soon will come back to his family and homeland.”
- "You act aggressive, and you think you are a big strong man, because you spend your time among this tiny group of lowborn louts."
Inclusion of Divine Beings in Human Existence[edit | edit source]
Gods throughout the epic are responsible for helping characters along with their journeys. Characters pray and experience divine help throughout, and this ties into the ancient worldview of the divine power of Gods and that they can either help or inhibit humans.
- “Athena stood near him and increased his strength, to suit the shepherd of the people.”
- “Our mood depends on what Zeus sends each day”
- “Athena’s eyes were bright with plans. She poured sweet sleep onto Penelope... gave her gifts of godlike power...she also made her shapelier and taller, and made her skin more white than ivory”
- “When the gods bestow on us good fortune, and our legs are spry and limber, we think that nothing can ever go wrong: but when the gods bring misery and pain, we have to bear our suffering with calm"
- "He poured an offering of sweet wine to the gods" 
- "But he was not fated to live; Athena had condemned him to be defeated by Telemachus with his strong spear"
- "If only Artemis would bring me gentle death right now to end my misery." 
- "Father Zeus! Apollo! Athena! May the suitors in our house be beaten and bow down their heads, some in the house, and some outside."
- "I am cursed! Zeus took away my happiness!"
- "Gods give all mortals blessings."
- "When the gods bestow on us good fortune, and our legs are spry and limber, we think that nothing can ever go wrong."
Societal Concepts[edit | edit source]
Wealth was a key driving factor for societal status. It formed a strict social pyramid, both between humans and between mortals and divine beings. It was a leading force in determining the morality of the society as well, dictating what was viewed as negative and the role that each individual assumed in society.
Consequences for Negative Actions
This is a key principle of society. There are always consequences for actions, and this can be tied into the spiritual viewpoints towards the underworld. Those sent there are intended to experience negative things as a consequence for negative actions. These negative actions are deemed negative by society, such as greed. This can also be related to the power of divine existence, as the humans are servants to God’s wishes and right and wrong. The gods are the administers of consequences.
- “That Irus was sponging everywhere, the greedy pig. You put a stop to him, and we will send him to Echetus, the king of mass destruction.”
- “No one should turn away from what is right; a man should quietly accept whatever the gods may give.”
- "..but when the gods bring misery and pain, we have to bear our suffering with calm."
- "What happened, that you allowed a guest to be insulted? If strangers in our house are so abused, what then? You will be shamed! Your reputation will be destroyed!
- "You nasty hobo! I will make you pay for showing off in front of all of us. You should be scared!"
Wealth and Gifts
Wealth was important in the society and could be used for several different things. Wealth brings power, and those who aren't wealthy can be seen as less important and weaker than others. Wealth and gifts can be used to assert power over another, or can be used as a sign of respect depending on the context. Wealth (or a lack of) can also lead to greed. Gods also offer gifts to the mortals, while mortals offer gifts to the gods.
- "Do not hog all the wealth; it is not yours. You seem to be a homeless man, like me. Gods give all mortals blessings."
- "Listen suitors! Goat stomachs stuffed with fat and blood are roasting over the fire for dinner. Let the beggar who wins the fight choose one of these and take it; and he can always eat with us in the future, and we will let no other beggar come to share our company."
- "I see how wickedly the suitors are behaving — wasting wealth and failing to respect the wife of one who soon will come back to his family and homeland."
- "Wise Penelope, take all the presents that any of the Greeks would like to bring. Refusing gifts is not polite."
- "Poor old stranger! You are insane! You did not want to sleep out in the smithy or public shelter; instead you come here talking high and mighty among this crowd of men."
- "Stranger, if I was hiring, would you like to labor on a distant farm for me? You would be paid for sure, if you could plant tall trees, and build stone walls, and I would give you your meals all year and clothes, including footwear. But you are only skilled at wickedness. You have no wish to work. You like to beg, traipsing around to stuff your greedy belly."