“Don’t kill the man, don’t touch his wife, or face a reckoning with Orestes the day he comes of age and wants his patrimony. Now he has paid his reckoning in full.” Homer (2) Theses words spoken by Zeus portray his feeling how mortals reproach everything on the gods although absent minded of their own greed and folly. Homer, in his epic poem The Odyssey, uses imagery to show how essential it was in ancient Greece to uphold the social order. The three most consequential examples of Greek social order are the interference of gods in the affaires of mortals, rules of hospitality for strangers, and showing respect for the gods.
It is outrageous on how many accounts the gods have managed to intermingle as far as mortal business. An example of such an account is shown in book V when Calypso tells Odysseus she will help him return to Ithica. Poseidon unknowing of all the actions present is returning from Ethiopia, when he sees Odysseus sailing along. His anger is aroused and he raises his trident and stirs up a savage storm with the aide of Athena and Leucothie, he manages, despite great danger and suffering, to reach land on the island of Scheria.
They stood up now, and called to one another
To go back. Quite soon they led Odysseus
Under the river bank, as they were bidden;
And there laid out a tunic, and a cloak,
And gave him olive oil in the golden flask.
“Here,” they said, ” go bathe in the in the flowing water.’
But heard now from that kingly man, Odysseus:
” Maids,” he said, ” keep away a little; let me
wash the brine from my own back, and rub on
plenty of oil. It is long since my anointing.
I take no bath, however, where you can see me-
Naked before young girls with pretty braids.” (104)
Here imagery is used to describe the “golden” flask given to Odysseus filled with olive oil, and told to go bathe in the ” flowing” water. Slowly Odysseus is lavished by Athena as her hair “crisping” in curls ” like petals of wild hyacinth.” Athena, began to take a liking in Odysseus when he received that look from her interfering in his journey home when he went to plead the help of Alcinous hoping that he would be less likely to be turned down.
He pushed aside the bushes, breaking off
with his great hand a single branch of olive,
whose leaves might shield him in his nakedness;
so came out rustling, like mountain lion,
rain-drenched, wind-buffeted, but in his might at ease,
with burning eyes- who prowls among the herds
or flocks, or after game, his hungry belly
taking him near stout homestead for his prey.
Odysseus had this look, in his rough skin
Advancing on the girls with pretty braids;
And he was driven on by hunger, too
Streaked with brine, and swollen, he terrified them,
So than they fled, this way and that. Only
Alcinous’s daughter stood her ground, being given
A bold heart by Athena, and steady Knees. (103)
Here imagery is used as Odysseus shielded himself of his nakedness and so came out “rustling” like “mountain lion,” “rain-drenched,” “wind-buffeted,” but in his might at ease, with “burning” eyes- who prowled among the “herds” or “flocks,” Homer intrigues the reader by such visceral imagery found in this quote. Although Odysseus scared the poor young girl to expiration she lead him to Athena where he finds himself extravagantly placed among such elegance and welcomed with olive oil and a bath in the flowing river.
The most astounding example of Greek social order lies solely
in the treatment of all Greek guests. In tradition all guests are treated as though they were gods because one may never know whether a beggar could be just that, or really a god in disguise. One will find such treatment in Book VII when Odysseus goes to the palace of King Alcinous and Queen Arete, where he is received with great kindness and generosity. The royal couple greets Odysseus while promising to help him make his way home to Ithica.
Alcinous, calm in power, heard him out,
Then took the great adventure by the hand
And lead him from the fire. Nearest his throne
the son whom he loved best, Laodamas,
has long held place; now the king bade him rise
and gave his shining chair to Lord Odysseus.
A serving maid poured water for his hands
From a gold pitcher into a silver bowl,
And spread a polished table at his side;
The mistress of provisions came with bread
And other victuals, generous with her store.
So Lord Odysseus drank, and taster supper. (116)
Homer uses imagery when descriptively showing the reader the “shining” chair Alcinous gave up to the guest Odysseus, as the water that was so eloquently poured from a “gold pitcher” and into a “silver bowl,” and the “polished table” that was brought to Odysseus which was soon to be brimming with food. This technique was used by Homer to show the reader how exorbitantly guests should be treated, and welcomed by the Greeks. Even in the case of Odysseus and Alcinous, who had met jus that day, Alcinous removed his own son from the shining chair to place a stranger in the seat of honor, and then offering them a free ride home with enough riches to last ten generations.
Now, by the gods, I drove my big hand spike
Deep in the embers, charring it again,
And cheered my men along with battle talk
To keep their courage up: no quitting now.
The pike of olive. Green though it had been,
Reddened and glowed as if about to catch.
I drew it from the coals and my four fellows
Gave me a hand, lugging it near the Kyklops
As more than natural force nerved then; straight
Forward they sprinted, lifted it, and rammed it
Deep in his crater eye, and I leaned on it
turning it as a ship Wright turns a drill
in planking, having men below to swing
the two handled strap that spins it in the groove.
So with our brand we bored that great eye socket
While blood ran out around the red hot bar
Eyelid and lash were seared; the pierced ball
Hissed broiling, and the roots popped. (156)
Homer employs the visceral imagery of Polyphemos’ “eyeball” “hissing,” “broiling,” and “popping,” from the big hand spike emerged in the eye socket of Kyklops after being ” rammed” and “turned” by Odysseus and his four fellows. This revolting, and descriptive scene was intended to sicken the readers and dramatically imprint in the readers minds the torturous fate of the Kyklops. Although Polyphemos displayed inhospitality and disrespect for Zeus, it is clearly his disrespect for the king of the gods that earned him this fitting punishment.
The most quintessential law for upholding social order in Greek mythology demands everyone respect the gods. This law applies to all living creations in this world including: Humans, Kyklopes, and especially the Titans. One of the most dramatic and breathtaking examples of such punishment in store for one who disobeys such a quintessential law is found in Book IX when Polyphemos’ guests are being eaten and leaves Odysseus and his four fellows not much choice but to blind him.
One sees a white-hot axehead or an adze
Plunged and wrung in a cold tub, screeching steam-
The was they make soft iron hale and hard-;
Dust so that eyeball hissed around the spike.
The Kyklops bellowed and the rock roared round him,
And we fell back in fear. (156)
‘O Kylops! Would you feast on my companions?
Puny, am I, In a caveman’s hands”
How do you like the beating that we gave you,
You damned cannibal? Eater of guests
Under your roof! Zeus and the gods have paid you!” (159)
The imagery in this quote helps the reader picture the fierceness surrounding them as the eyeball “hissed” around the spike. The Kyklops bellowed and the rock roared round him, and they fell back in fear. As one may notice in the quote above his punishment was well approved by the god and Zeus because of his disrespect.
“Oh you vile gods, in jealousy supernal!
You hate it when we choose to lie with men —
Immortal flesh by some dear mortal side.
So radiant Dawn once took to bed Orion
Until you easeful gods grew peevish at it,
And holy Artemis, Artemis throned in gold,
Hunted him down in Delos with her arrows.
The Demeter of the tasseled tresses yielded
To Iasion, mingling and making love
In furrow three times; but Zeus found out
And killed him with a white hot thunderbolt.” (85)
The imagery used here is describing Artemis throned in “gold” and as Demeter of the tasseled tresses yielded to Iasion “mingling” and making “love” In furrow three times. In this quote one will visualize Artemis throned in gold, while hunting Delos down with her arrows and Demeter making love with Iasion. Disrespect was put forth to the gods by such dishonesty and Zeus felt intrigued and found those of disrespect and placed a white thunderbolt through them.
Homer in his epic poem the Odyssey uses different forms of language to portray how essential Greek Social order during this time period really was. Throughout the book The Odyssey, Odysseus faces many misfortunes and learns to be a better man, and became able to regain his place in his homeland of Ithica. During his journeys Odysseus often makes the mistakes of staying to boast to his enemies but learns that doing so gives his opposition a chance to seek retribution against him.