The Underworld as the Key to Living the Greek Life Essay

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The Underworld as the Key to Living the Greek Life

Beyond relaying a fantastic journey, featuring a glorified hero who embodies to perfection Greek ideals, Homer uses the epic books of The Odyssey to explore all the nuances of Greek culture. Each part of The Odyssey possesses a purpose beyond detailing popular mythology. Book Eleven’s Underworld becomes the culmination of all the values and ideals that Homer touches on in prior books. Homer uses the underworld as a catchall to reinforce societal protocol and religion among other things. Specifically, by focusing on the reason for Odysseus’ journey, the journey itself, the scenery of the Underworld and its occupants, Homer reveals and reinforces views on kleos, the role men and women
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Homer’s deliberate inclusion of the gods in every step of Odysseus’ journey reinforces Greek ideas that the gods play a great part in life, which people must be attentive to, and reflects on the import of their wishes. Odysseus has wandered for years, but eventually the need for him to return home grows as the suitors violate the host-guest relationship in his kingdom, a state the gods find extremely displeasing.

Immediately undertaking his journey, Odysseus follows Circe’s directive,just step your mast and spread your white sail wide—sit back and the North Wind will speed you on your way.

But once your vessel has cut across the Ocean River you will raise a desolate coast and Persephone’s Grove(10:556-559).

Oddly, Odysseus must sail to the end of the world, before ascending into the Underworld. Known by many names like Erebus, the World of the Dead, and Hades, the Underworld is a desolate place where nothing loves. Why must Odysseus visit the Underworld? Beyond the obvious directive, this opportunity allows Homer to create a unique hero who braves all odds. Odysseus, obviously distraught at the thought of such an undertaking, cries to Circe, “Circe, Circe/ who can pilot us on that journey? Who has ever reached the House of Death in a black ship?” (10:550-552). Odysseus is not the only one daunted by the Underworld. According to Jasper Griffin, Greek audiences “hate to look at Hades and the realm of

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