The Ancient World (HUM 124 - UNC Asheville)/Texts/Odyssey/Book 24

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Summary: Book 24 - Peace[edit | edit source]

The very title of this book is "Peace", so here is our foreshadowing for what is to come by the end, but it is a long time coming. The opening of this starts off with the ghosts of the slayed suitors following Hermes into the Underworld where conversations are held amongst the dead of their memories, but more importantly of their deaths. Even here there is an undertone of animosity, as Penelope is blamed for their demise and the ghost of Amphimedon seems especially slighted as at this point his body hasn't even been recovered and cleaned up yet. He is telling all of this to Agamemnon, who upon hearing of Penelope's actions, commends her for being more loyal than his own wife, and says the gods will praise her for having good sense and self-restraint. Fast forward a bit to Odysseus, in life, approaching his father, Laertes. He doesn't out himself right away, as he even feels the need to test his own fathers loyalty. But upon hearing his sons name, Laertes breaks down in tears and his grief is real enough to have Odysseus reveal himself to him. He proves to his father that it is indeed him by showing his distinct scar and reminiscing on shared memories from his childhood. From here, the goddess Rumor spreads word around the town of the suitors deaths, and as the family members arrive to gather their loved ones corpses, some of their family members are calling for retaliation, Antinous' Father, Eupithes being the main one, but he is warned against it as it seems obvious to others that the gods are on Odysseus' side. Even upon hearing this though, some still prepare for a battle. It is at this point where Athena approaches Zeus, asking what he wants of this situation. He asks for Peace. So Athena disguises herself, aiding Laertes with strength and he kills Eupithes, at which point Athena then reveals herself as well and orders Peace from the townspeople.

Characters[edit | edit source]

Odysseus - The central figure in the epic

Penelope - Wife of Odysseus and mother of their son, Telemachus

Telemachus - Son of Odysseus and Penelope

Laertes - Odysseus' father

Agamemnon - King of Mycenae and commander of the Greek expedition to Troy, he was assassinated by his wife and her lover upon his return home.

Eumaeus and Philoetius - Odysseus' loyal swineherd and cowherd, they assist him in his return to Ithaca and stand with the king and prince against the suitors.

Eupithes - Father of Antinous, he leads the suitors' families and friends who seek revenge for the slaughter and is killed by Laertes.

Zeus - King of the gods

Athena - goddess daughter of Zeus. She frequently intervenes on Odysseus' or Telemachus' behalf, often in disguise and sometimes as Mentor, the prince's adviser.

Suitors (ghosts - including Antinous) - Ghosts of the suitors who were slain by Odysseus and his son in their palace.

Ancient Worldview[edit | edit source]

Anger/Revenge[edit | edit source]

This worldview is apparent throughout the entirety of the Odyssey, but is specifically seen in book 24 on page 481. The goddess Rumor has spread word of the ill fated suitors, and their kinsmen mourn and wail as they gather to retrieve their dead. They take their own and clean and mourn and bury them. And once all is done, the families of the slain all gather together, form an assembly of sorts. Eupithes stands among them here, calling them to take up arms and claim their revenge, angry as Odysseus took so many young men with him to fight alongside him many years ago and none returned with him, and once he returned he murdered all the great princes of the area. This is Eupithes view, and understandable as he's angry and mourning the loss of his own son. Some urge the other's to not take heed to this call to action, as they will on bring the wrath of the lighting upon their own necks. This last part in reference to Zeus' favor over Odysseus. Many still gather and prepare for what could be a war against Odysseus and his home for the death of their kinsmen, but here Athena intervenes and gives Laertes the strength and he slays Eupithes instead. It's this whole ideal of customs and what is fair and just, as many value the idea of law and order in Inthica, whether it be from the gods or their own men.

Legacy[edit | edit source]

In book 24 of the Odyssey, the opening scene that the reader is introduced to is that of the ghosts of the slain suitors being led into the underworld. Once there they find the ghosts of fallen mortal men, including those of "fearless Antilochus and Great Ajax too", according to page 469. Even their titles show that they were greatly valued in life and in death, even possibly as hero's of their time. This thought seems to be proven just a bit further down the page as the gathered ghosts begin reminiscing of their past lives on earth and recounting their own deaths. Many could be described of being proud of how they met death. Achilles was among those who had meaningful deaths in a sense. As Agamemnon recalls, " died on the fields of Troy, a world away from home, and the best of Trojan and Argive champions died around you, fighting for your corpse..." He continues on to recount how they finally recovered and cleaned his body and mourned for many days. Giving the reader the impression that he was a respected man in life and in death. His death held meaning, and showed strength and courage. He faced a hero's death on the battlefield. This is in stark contrast to Agamemnon's death at the hands of his own wife and her lover upon his return from war, even Achilles called it a "wretched death" on page 468. Even worse though is the death and ruined legacy of the suitors, a recount from the ghost of Amphimedon let's the reader know how he feels of dying in the manner he did. He's angered, nearly embarrassed even. He can't seem to take blame for his own death either even in the least as a result of some of his own poor choices, and blames Penelope entirely, but is even more distraught as his body even then still lies where it fell in Odysseus' palace. He finds this the most disrespectful of it all, as his family haven't even been able to collect his body to clean it and mourn him properly, as it is "the solemn honors owed the dead". The point in adding these stories from the ghost is to highlight the emphasis I gained from it concerning how these men value their own image and reputation in life and even more so in death. Their legacy is affected most (and in how affects their families reputations) by how they died and in how they are mourned.

Belief systems (i.e. the Greek gods)[edit | edit source]

In this section of ancient worldviews I wanted to, even if only slightly, address the influence of the gods in the Odyssey. First it's important to point out that there obviously is a hierarchy even among the gods that then translates down to the mortals and their class standards and importance. At the top of the gods list is Zeus. And throughout the entirety of the Epic of Odysseus, we see Zeus and Athena (his daughter, goddess of war) paying a huge part in all of the character's fate. They do seem to favor Odysseus the most though, whether it be for some perceived valor or merely just his social standing. Athena is doing whatever she can to appease Zeus and his desires for Odysseus. She goes as far to disguise herself multiple times throughout to aid in Odysseus' journey, and even influences Telemachus on his own journey. In book 24 specifically, she disguises herself as Mentor, pleading with people to not seek revenge against Odysseus and his house for the death of the suitors. She asks Zeus what it is he wants from all of the happenings, and he gives the call for Peace. In which case is why Athena gives Laertes the strength to kill Eupithes and then reveals herself, demanding that the rest of the men who came to fight leave seek peace, and she then instructs Odysseus to do so as well. Without this interference, it would be fair to say that a war would have broken out instead and led to a vert different ending for everyone involved. I'll also note that while those in Inthica have respect for the gods and follow certain customs, that even if/when they pray or plead or call out to the gods, they only seem to listen and intervene when convenient or even dare I say, entertaining, for them.