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Varying Cultural Structures In Homer's The Illiad And The Odyssey

1180 words - 5 pages

Greek mythology deals significantly with culture and its factors, as they describe the societies and the people inhabiting it by depicting their everyday life and the state of their land. Both Hephaestus, in Homer’s Iliad, and Odysseus, in Homer’s The Odyssey, set out to portray the cultures that they saw, yet the cultures and societies varied greatly, from Hephaestus illustrating the highly developed societies of the Greek and their culture; while on the other hand, Odysseus seems baffled by how underdeveloped the Cyclopes land and culture is. Hephaestus and Odysseus seem to have the same understanding what is normal of a culture, society, and their factors; however, there are noteworthy ...view middle of the document...

105) this account foreshadows one of the aspects of the Cyclops culture, which is the lack of laws. Therefore, this lack of laws indicates the absence of an ordered structure of the culture, unlike the city displayed on Hephaestus’ shield. Odysseus continues to elaborate, “These people have no institutions, no meetings for council…each one is the law for his wives and children.” (Odyssey 9.112, 114) Hence, the absence of laws leads to the lack of a structured society, where there were no mediators, no law to abide by to and dictate what is right or wrong. Such difference was dire enough for Odysseus to use to describe the new land that he reached, as this state of chaos and lack of laws was one of the primary shortcomings of the Cyclops culture, and could be the reason why the Cyclops’ culture was primitive.
The major difference between the two cultures, Hephaestus’ culture on the shield and the Cyclops culture, is in their approach to agriculture and the economical basis of the culture. Hephaestus described the agriculture aspect using many images, starting with “He made upon it a soft field, the pride of the tilled land, wide and triple-ploughed.” (Iliad 18.541, 542) Here he vividly displayed the image of the ploughed field; also, Hephaestus continues to elaborate on agriculture, as it is the economic basis and structure of the culture on the shield. Ensuing Hephaestus proceeds to describe a harvesting scene with the harvesters working, the king pleased with the harvest and the women preparing food for the workers while the heralds preparing a feast; thus showing the society members and the role of each one and the cooperation among them to create a highly functioning and ordered society. Moreover, he transitions to another scene of harvest, where a vineyard was described. The dynamic of the harvesting of the grapes Young girls and young men, in all their light-hearted innocence, carried the kind, sweet fruit away” (Iliad 18.567) along with the vivid depiction of the fruit allowed to represent the satisfaction obtained from being an active member and having a role in society .
These economic aspects and structure of the culture on the shield are countered and contrasted in Odysseus account of the land of the Cyclops in the Odyssey. Odysseus announces another peculiarity about the Cyclops culture in addition to the lack of laws and a structured society, which is that the Cyclops’ culture lacks an agricultural aspect in its’ economic make up. After Odysseus...

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