The Threat of Divine Intervention As An Aid to the Greek Value System
In every society there are laws determined by the governing body that tell citizens what they can and cannot do, and that set punishments for those who choose not to abide by them. However, what many people do not realize is that in every society there also a set of laws that are not made by the government, but by society itself; these are the society’s values. People who belong to a society are expected to live within the parameters of its values, and are taught them from childhood. In Ancient Greece, it was no different. The Greek culture had very strong values, and these values stemmed from their religious system, with the gods playing a large role in what the Greeks believed was right and wrong. Furthermore, through reading Homer’s The Odyssey and Sophocles’ Antigone and Oedipus Rex, it becomes strikingly apparent that the values of the Greeks were enforced by the looming threat of divine intervention if the value system was ignored, as the plights of the characters in these texts would have sent a message to the Greek citizens that to go against the value system was to doom themselves with the gods.
Xenia, or being hospitable and welcoming strangers into one’s own home, was a value that was extremely important in Ancient Greek society. It was expected that whenever an individual arrived at a Greek’s house they were given every amenity available. The Greeks believed that there was a distinct possibility that the stranger may be a god in disguise, and that if they did not treat the stranger well they could be punished by the Gods. And, the threat of Gods coming unexpectedly is one that is supported in The Odyssey. When Odysseus returns home, even disguised as a filthy beggar, Telemakhos approaches the nurse saying, “how did you treat our guest?/Had he a supper and a good bed? Has he lain uncared for still?” (Odyssey XX.146-148). Telemakhos is a model for the right thing to do for a...
Cited: Homer. The Odyssey. Translated by Robert Fitzgerald. Farrar, Straus and Girroux. New York, New York. 1998.
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