The Ancient Greek Epic Essay

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The Ancient Greek epic is in part defined by the way it depicts the relationship between the gods and humanity, focusing on men made great by their connection to the divine, either by birth or virtue and merit. Heroes are heroes not only because of their strengths but because of that connection. The Ancient Greeks expected their heroes to be the favored of the gods and their tragic heroes to have fallen out of that favor because that was how their world worked; things happened because the gods wanted them to. Some heroes are born with that connection, having been the children of gods, but others, like Odysseus, are chosen for their bravery, wisdom, cunning, or other traits. Those who are chosen already have heroic aspects, but are made true heroes by having been deemed worthy by a god or goddess. While Odysseus is the “Son of Laërtês and the gods of old” (XXIV:606), Odysseus is not chosen by Athena for his claims to divinity but for his wit, cunning, cleverness, and strength, characteristics she, as the goddess of wisdom, admires. In this way, as a chosen hero, his power is amplified by his connection to the divine, even though it originates from his own inner fortitude.
Gods are picky when they chose their heroes. Being picked by a god puts you in a more elite group of people prized for their abilities and strengths. Being worthy of a god’s attention is a high honor, one not to be taken lightly. Athena picks Odysseus for skills he already has, not ones she has to give him.
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