Iliad v. Odyssey


I forget now where I first heard this pointed out, but in keeping with the warlike theme of the Iliad the gatherings in it are almost all about war and planning destruction of the enemy–even if the enemy is another Greek.  All the councils have to with war or adjudicating grievances.  It’s conflict and rage all the way down.  The one glaring exception is the heartbreaking scene with Hector, his wife Andromache (ironically “man of battle”) and their son, a domestic scene of people caught up in a conflict they don’t


Odysseus encounters Circe. Krater from the Metropolitan Museum, New York.

understand and don’t really support, but which duty compels them to fulfill.


The Odyssey on the other hand, even though it has its share of conflict and bloodshed, has much more to do with social gatherings, feasts, and xenia–even when it turns out badly.  The Odyssey is more about teaching us how to be human, to be welcoming, and ultimately how to be more than human; how to be divine, our true Self.

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