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Monday, July 9, 2018

M³ Greek Civilization

            I have to go meta on Perseus one more time. We tie Perseus, Hestia, and Prometheus together one more time, and connect them all to Odysseus. I know, I know, it doesn’t seem like a good fit. Odysseus is not exactly known for restraint and wisdom, especially after mouthing off to Polyphemus. And it’s not like he was the poster child of monogamy when he’s shtupping Circe and Calypso.

            Nevertheless, he did do a couple of things very right when it comes to this whole thing. One, Penelope is very much the epitome of what a Greek woman should be. Not just feminine, but she runs the entire kingdom and raises her son during the 20 years that Odysseus is gone. Odysseus loves and trusts her enough to be that center of the household while he’s gone. Warfare to the ancient Greeks was similar to going off to work. Sure, it’s extended, but part of defending your way of life is attacking those who don’t have the same values (at least it was justification enough in the Ancient world).
            Next, we see Odysseus as the instrument for taking down that godless Polyphemus. He is in a cave, with no hearth, and has no respect for any of the gods, including (and especially) Hestia. Again, that’s a no-no. You don’t do that. No, he doesn’t mention her by name, but the refusal to be civilized in a house with a proper hearth is a slap in her face, and a slap to all the other gods.
            To be civilized, people needed to live in a proper home with a hearth and to worship the gods in the proper, respectful way. To not do these things was to be a barbarian, like the cyclopes that Odysseus confronts.
            If Perseus is the example of a defender of women and the Greek way of life, Odysseus is the example of what happens to those who reject that way of life. Odysseus himself was in danger of that because he was gone too long, the house was left without its defender. Yes, he schooled people on what it was to defy Greek civilization, but the extent to which he did so almost undid his own house.
            In the end, Odysseus is restored to his home and pursues a life similar to that of Perseus. Odysseus no longer went off adventuring and to war. He remained on Ithaca to pursue a quiet life with his wife and son, completing a restoration of family values.
            I don’t think it’s an accident that Perseus and Odysseus are two examples of Greek heroes who get to keep the girl and live happily ever after. A perusal of all the other Greek heroes who met bad ends tells us that they pursued something different than these values, many of them disrespecting their wives, especially in their own homes.

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