Destiny, Fate and Free Will in Homer's Odyssey Essay
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Destiny, Fate and Free Will in Homer's Odyssey
Fate seems to defy humanity at every turn. A man may have his life planned out to the last second, but then some random force intervenes and he dies the second after he has completed his life plan. Some believe in fate, believing that our lives are predetermined from the moment we are born. Other people believe that everything is random, the result of some god rolling the dice in a universal poker game. Still other people believe that each and every person is in total control of his or her destiny, every step of the way. Who is to say which viewpoint is false? Every culture has a unique perception of the role of fate in our lives, and no group has the "right answer," simply a…show more content…
In this essay, I will examine popular Greek ideas concerning fate and their relationship to characters in Homer's Odyssey.
Greek culture's ideas on fate manifested themselves largely through their mythology. The length of a person's life, they believed, was determined by the three Fates, Clotho (spinner), Lachesus (Apportioner), and the fearsome Atropos (Inflexible). These aged children of Zeus and Themis-- know to the Greeks at the Moirai--would unscrupulously spin out, measure, and cut the thread of one's life. The balance of power between these three women and their father Zeus is difficult to understand. In Book XXVI of The Iliad, we see the king of the gods fretting over the impending death of his mortal son Sarpedon. Unable to cope with the idea of his noble child's death, Zeus inquires of Hera "Shall I pluck [Sarpedon] up, now, while he's still alive... or beat him down at Patroclus' hands at last" (Iliad 16.519-21). In the end, Zeus allows Sarpedon to be slain as the Fates have willed. Though Zeus has the power to override his daughters, the great orderer of the cosmos sees that doing so in this case would be beyond reason.
Other Greek traditions hold that there was once a Golden Age during which men knew their fate and lived free from want. This dream world was crushed, however, when Prometheus gave fire to man and
Show MoreOne of the most compelling topics The Iliad raises is that of the intricate affiliations between fate, man and the gods. Many events related by Homer in his epic poem exhibit how these three connections interweave and eventually determine the very lives of the men and women involved in the war. Homer leaves these complex relationships slightly unclear throughout the epic, never spelling out the exact bonds connecting men's fate to the gods and what can be considered the power of fate. The motivation for the ambiguousness present in The Iliad is not easily understood, but it is a question that enriches and helps weave an even greater significance of the results into Homer's masterpiece. I feel that the interaction between man, god, and…show more content…
The beings who decided fate, if there were any, are never shown in any type of actual interaction with any character of the epic poem. In actual Greek mythology, three sisters, dubbed the Fates, decided the destiny of man. One spun the thread, beginning life, one held it while the man was alive, and the last cut the string, ending his life (Moirai). Nevertheless, the only physical representation present in the work is the scale used by Zeus to weigh the fate of the armies and those of Hector and Achilles (8:85-86, 22:249-254). Thus, it is hard to determine whether Homer saw fate as an actual deity or as a higher force above all.
The basic evidence in The Iliad suggests that there is a power, never heard from, to control what will occur in a man's life; the relationship between this force and the gods is one that shows the gods' obedience and also how they are used to ensure that fate is kept intact. Zeus often takes it upon himself to carry out the will of a fate he feels he must conform to. It is alluded to many times in the course of the work that Troy is fated to fall. As the men are posed to run to their ships and return home after Agamemnon has declared defeat, Odysseus reminds them of a prophecy sent by Zeus, in which a serpent devoured a nest of nine sparrows. It was interpreted by Calchas to mean that "As the snake ate the sparrow with her