Iliad-Odyssey Paper
Hate to Love
“I lie upon my bed with my afflicted heart, besieged by tears so stubborn and so sharp that, even as I mourn, tear me
apart” (Odyssey 19.610-13).
The preceding quote made by the heartbroken and devoted Penelope in Homer’s the Odyssey shows an intensity of
feeling that is lacking within his earlier work, the Iliad. It is amid the latter epic that the female roles are able to step
into the limelight and express the befitting emotion that give the Odyssey a philanthropic feel. Therefore it is the
female characters within the Odyssey that incorporate attention to compassion because they demonstrate greater
altruistic expression than men especially here when compared with the Iliad.
In the Iliad the dominant role is played by men hence women had to wait backstage to prove their own complexity
of character. The highly regarded ancient Greek society was overseen by the males, that is, the women weren’t
involved unless they had permission by the men. Women were valued -- the Iliad opens with the Achaian army’s
capturing of two beautiful enemy maidens, Chryseis and Briseis, who are then awarded as prizes to Agamemnon --
but, in comparison to men, their concerns weren’t as proclaimed in early epic poetry. In the Iliad, for example,
Hektor orders Andromache back into the house during the ensuing Trojan War:
Go home, attend to your own handiwork at the loom and
spindle, and command the maids to busy themselves, too. As for the war, that is for the men, all who were born at
Ilion, to put their minds on -- most of all for me (Iliad 6.436- 40).
Hektor also desires his own baby son to be a great warrior rather than being active in domestic affairs as he prays:
O Zeus and all immortals, may this child, my son, become like me a prince among the Trojans. Let him be strong
and brave and rule in power at Ilion; then someday men will say ‘this fellow is far better than his father!’ seeing him
home from war, and in his arms the bloodstained gear of some tall warrior slain -- making his mother proud (Iliad
(Ironically, just before Hektor made this plea to the gods his baby “squirmed round...and began to wail, terrified by
his father’s great war helm” and thereafter was comforted by his mother’s “fragrant breast” as she “held and
cherished” her small son.) Later when Hektor becomes frightened of the realness of encountering Achilles he says,
“Aye, then and there he’ll kill me, unprotected as I am, my gear laid by, defenseless as a woman” (Iliad 22.149-51).
However, it’s in the Odyssey that a man puts his trust -- his own life’s safety -- in a woman to direct and protect him
on his arduous journey.
The men of the Iliad are incredibly jealous creatures whereas in the Odyssey they show sensitivity that rivals that of
the women who have enhanced their shrewdness. Achilles gets angry because Agamemnon acquires the “best” war
prizes without fairly earning them:
You [Agamemnon] thick-skinned, shameless, greedy fool!.. . . Never have I had a plunder like your own from any
Trojan stronghold battered down by the Akhaians. I have seen more action hand to hand in those assaults than you
have, but when the time for sharing comes, the greater share is always yours. Worn out with battle I carry off some
trifle to my ships (Iliad 1.175-196).
Achilles later sits and weeps childishly to his mother, Thetis, over his prize being rewarded to his adversary. Thetis
actually feels responsible for her son’s misery as she declares, “Oh early death! Oh broken heart! No destiny so
cruel! And I bore you to this evil!” (Iliad 1.481-2). The mother never scolds her son. In contrast, Odysseus becomes
more empathetic throughout the Odyssey because Athena brings out a new humaneness within the hero. Odysseus
refrains from gloating after he kills the suitors that have overtaken his palace and scolds his maid for rejoicing: “Old
woman, check yourself; you must restrain your joy -- don’t shout aloud. It is profane to let your voice exult when
men are slain” (Odyssey 22.480-83). His selfless attitude gives the poem passion, warmth, and balance all of which
set it apart from