When we study ancient Greek and Roman literature, we realize that the world perception in those times, among people, was much different from what it is now. It is especially obvious when we begin to analyze the role of mythical and religious elements in ancient literature. According to the classical Christian theological theory, people’s need for believing in supernatural beings is caused by their fear of nature. This concept strikingly resembles the Marxist explanation - it also names fear as the main factor.
If one reads Homer’s “Iliad” and “Odyssey,” and Virgil’s “Aeneid”, he gets to realize that the ancient concept of people’s interaction with Gods is totally deprived of fear in any form. In all three masterpieces, Gods are basically described as humans, with all their strengths and weaknesses, although being immortal. Humans often revere Gods, but not out of fear – they simply respect their superiority. Many historians suggest that one of the main reasons, which enabled Greek and Roman civilizations to reach extraordinary heights in the fields of culture and science, is the fact of their religious liberalism.
Let us to take a closer look at all three poems, so it’ll be easier for us to find common religious motives in all of them. Homer’s “Odyssey” is one of the finest examples of ancient Greek literature. Along with “Iliad” it represents an ultimate expression of ancient spirit, which we still use as a standard while assessing the cultural legacy of our own Western civilization.
Modern historians doubt whether the same author wrote these two epic masterpieces. The main reason for this is that “Odyssey”, stylistically and conceptually, is much different from “Iliad”. First one is a high tragedy, its storyline based on the events of Trojan War. The style of this poem is very noble and there is no place for petty human weaknesses.
The action takes place at the time when city of Troy was being besieged by Achaeans. Achaean leader Agamemnon takes Chrysies as his prize. She prays Apollo, who sends a plague on Achaeans. Achaean hero Achilles asks his mother sea-nymph Thetis to ask Zeus to punish Achaeans for being ignorant towards Achilles:
“God of the silver bow, thy ear incline,
Whose power encircles Cilla the divine;
Whose sacred eye thy Tenedos surveys,
And gilds fair Chrysa with distinguished rays!
If, fired to vengeance at thy priest's request,
Thy direful darts inflict the raging pest:
Once more attend! Avert the wasteful woe,
And smile propitious, and unbend thy bow” (The Iliad, Book 1, 27)
Homer makes it clear that the only reason for Achaeans to suffer great losses is the fact that Gods turned away from them. One of the most important motives of “Iliad” is fatalism. Yet, poem’s mortal characters do not simply accept that they can’t really oppose to the will of Gods. They exploit the fact that there is no unity among Olympians to their own advantage.
In the end, the situation returns to a status quo, when both parties agree to sign a...