The Glory Of Greece Vs. The Glory Of Rome

1373 words - 5 pages

"I am Odysseus, Laertes' son. The whole world talks of my stratagems, and my fame has reached the heavens. My home is under the clear skies of Ithaca" (Book IX l. 19-21). This quote comes from Odysseus introducing himself to King Alcinous, and, in turn, he announces the goal and purpose of his quest: to go home. In the same way, in the film Gladiator, the hero introduces himself to his enemy saying, "My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius...Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next." This is the response Maximus gives to the Caesar Commodus as he removes his helmet and announces his goal and purpose: gaining peace and restitution through the vengeance of his family. These works demonstrate two similar stories arranged in different narrative planes. The Odyssey operates as a quest, whereas the Gladiator operates within the plane of restitution. When compared, these two works are similar, yet they attain their respective purposes in two opposite trajectories.

There have been speculations against The Odyssey as a quest because of Odysseus' willingness to be delayed. Yet, there is plenty of evidence proving that Odysseus' struggle is a true quest, as is reflected in is his role on the island of Calypso. In book five, "Homer" uses words like "imprisonment" and "misfortune" to describe Odysseus' time on the island of Calypso. Not to mention the fact that when Odysseus was finally released, he delivers a speech to Calypso in which he acknowledges her beauty but states, "Nevertheless I long to reach my home and see the day of my return. It is my never-failing wish" (Book IV l. 216-221), confirming that the deterrents of Odysseus are not of his own choosing.

Yet, the most convincing evidence of The Odyssey as a quest is the resounding motif of the goal. In every new adventure that Odysseus confronts, he states and keeps his goal in front of him. In his first announcement to King Alcinous he tells him his exact purpose when he says, "My home is under the clear skies of Ithaca...So true it is that a man's fatherland and his parents are what he holds sweetest, even though he has settled far away from his people in some rich home in foreign lands" (Book IX l. 19-36). Even in the halls of splendor Odysseus declares the goal of his quest as his only intention and implies that he does not plan to be delayed any longer.

Yet, nowhere is the quest narrative more realized than when Odysseus finally arrives in Ithaca. Instead of rushing straight home to Penelope he still follows the wisdom of Athena in order to set everything back to the way it was when he left. Had he rushed home as expected, he would have been overwhelmed by the suitors. Yet, he followed reason and planned out his attack and reclaimed his home for himself in order to attain the goal that he had sought since he left for Troy: to be back at home with Penelope and Telemachus as King of Ithaca. This was Odysseus' quest.


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