Homer's Honor Culture Essay

1423 words - 6 pages

Honor or having an honor culture is a hallmark trait of many cultures both ancient and modern. While many would go to Homer’s The Iliad for clear indications of honor culture within Ancient Greek culture, The Odyssey also provides clear indications of an honor culture. Before honor culture within The Odyssey can be explored, honor and honor culture must first be defined. The most common and relatable explanation for honor culture in our modern day world is a prevailing culture in the southern United States of America especially within the Appalachian communities. This culture and the Ancient Greek culture share simple hallmarks. Honor culture is about neither committing transgressions against another, nor tolerating them when they are done to you. It is about the value of your “good name” and reputation for being honorable. This means that slights not only against you but against your name are taken very seriously. These things are generally held throughout all cultures of honor. Some of the specifics of honor are defined by each individual culture; these specifics along with the general state of an honor culture are shown in three events within The Odyssey. The culture of honor is shown in through Odysseus in his encounter with the Cyclops, the exchange with the Phaeacian man at the games, and in the slaughter of the suitors.
One of the clearest points of honor and honor culture within The Odyssey is found in the encounter of Odysseus and the Cyclops. While the punishment that Poseidon rains down on Odysseus may be seen to stem from his arrogance in announcing his name to the Cyclops on his escape, “I called back with another burst of anger ‘Cyclops-/ if any man on the face of the earth should ask you/ who blinded you, shamed you so- say Odysseus,/ raider of cities, he gouged out your eye,/ Laertes’ son who makes his home in Ithaca!’” (Homer, Fagles, & MacGregor, 1997 p. 227 line 558-562). However, this is a simplification of the transgression that Odysseus has made. The beginning of his transgression is in his hiding his name from the Cyclops and in not facing him head on but through trickery. There is a clear violation of honor in both of these things and in his choice to be arrogant upon escape. If your name is held as something almost sacred, then to give a false name is a transgression against the honor code and against your own name. It is also a transgression against the honor of the person that you lie to as it is almost as though you do not see them as worthy to know your real name. While it is his arrogance that allows the Cyclops to pray to Poseidon and ask for him to be punished, it is in fact his transgression against the honor of the Cyclops that makes him worthy of punishment. Often we believe that it is shouting his name that causes the punishment, it however simply enables the punishment to be sought while not being the exact thing which he is being punished for. This is not the only place in The Odyssey that the honor...

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