Quora answer: Where is revenge in the Odyssey?

Apr 08 2013

Sean D. Kelly contrasts Homer and Aeschylus in his reading of the Oresteia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oresteia] which is in his seminar at http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~sdkelly/. The contrast comes up between Homer who mentions the Furies only five times (by his count) and Aeschylus who centers his whole play on attempting to reconcile them with the “new” Olympian gods. However, what Prof. Kelly misses is that revenge is a key part of the Odyssey, in the revenge that Poseidon is taking against Odysseus for the harm he did to the Cyclops Polyphemus [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyphemus], who was a blood relative. It is Poseidon who is putting all the barriers in the way of Odysseus returning home. Athena and Poseidon were the two major Gods of Athens [http://www.greek-gods.info/greek-gods/athena/stories/athena-poseidon-contest]. And after all the Odyssey was basically an Athenian epic See http://books.google.com/books?id=NpIjr5U4kocC. Poseidon was the “old god” of Athens who through him over for Athena. Poseidon cursed Athens with a shortage of water for that. So in many ways the rivalry over Odysseus can be seen as a rivalry over Athens. But the motivation in the case of the Odyssey is revenge for Odysseus putting out the single eye of Polyphemus who calls on Poseidon to wreak revenge on Odysseus. However, Poseidon does not completely concentrate on this effort, and so Odysseus manages to escape with the help of a nymph no less, i.e. a being from the realm of Poseidon who lends Odysseus a magic scarf to buoy him.

Poseidon is the only one of the Greek gods with a clear Indo-European origin. The rest of the greek gods trace their heritage back to semitic roots and eventually to the Sumerians. Poseidon is the god of horses, and he is transferred into a god of the sea by the Greeks who mostly ride ships instead of horses.

So my conclusion is that revenge is just as big a deal for Homer as Aeschylus. It is just that Homer is not trying to resolve the conflict but merely avoid it in order to get Odysseus back home. But revenge is the context that produces the interference to that goal.



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