In the Greek language, Odysseus’ name means, “full of wrath.” Interestingly, his cunning, wit, and hubris are most often discussed, and very rarely do we find mention of his anger. Poseidon, on the other hand, rages against Odysseus because he blinded Poseidon’s son, Polyphemus. This deed and similar feats raise Odysseus in the esteem of the listeners during Homer’s time period. Applying this epic to today’s standards, however, brings new issues. Early Christian faith classified sins into seven different categories*, and this view has perpetuated throughout the following centuries until it is so ingrained in our culture that it becomes a shock to read through an open and sensual society such as the Greeks’. Looking at these characters through the lens of modern day ethics becomes a breathtaking view into ancient Greek society’s moral standards. How much have societal morals truly changed in light of right vs. wrong?
Let’s take the Cyclops instance, for example: a man-eating beast with one eye is an unacceptable personage under any circumstances, and to either audience, today or ancient Greece, it’s an abominable image. Hence, when Odysseus, in desperation, skewers and blinds Polyphemus, setting up an almost-comical scene with this great oaf that “fuddle[s]” and “flush[es],” and whose “‘Nohbdy, Nohbdy’s tricked me, Nohbdy’s ruined me!’” draws laughter from both Odysseus and any audience. Consider, though, if Odysseus’ actions are justifiable, and if so, by what morals? Continue reading