Aphorisms in the Odyssey

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By Definition, an aphorism is a terse saying embodying a general truth or astute observation. It is derived from the Greek word aphorismos, meaning to delimit or define, and was first made popular in Aphorisms by Hippocrates.

Throughout The Odyssey, Homer sprinkles in these axioms with the intent of encapsulating his themes. One example being, “It’s bad either way, spurring the stranger home who wants to linger, holding the one who longs to leave-you know, ‘Welcome the Coming, speed the parting guest’.”( Book 15, Lines 78-81) In Greek culture, hospitality was a common principle. They believed that everyone should demonstrate bonhomie to everyone else, from the lowliest of beggars to the most unusual of strangers. In many cases it was believed that strangers were sent from Zeus himself and that to reject those strangers would be to disobey the gods. And so to reject hospitality and amiability from anyone was regarded as unwise and loutish. Homer had written this aphorism with the intention of promoting hospitality and edifying the general public.

Another example of an aphorism that Homer includes is, “Ah how shameless-the way these mortals blame the gods. From us alone, they say, come all their miseries, yes, but they themselves, with their own reckless ways, compound their pains beyond their proper share.” (Book 1, Line 37-40) As a result of being mortal humans are fated to be tested and to be put through terrible suffering. Pain is derived in a variety of manners in this epic, from physical pain to loneliness, and even the emotional despair of not knowing whether loved ones are alive or dead. In more ways than Odysseus or any other Greek would like to admit, a majority of their turmoil had been a result of their own mistakes and daftness and so to blame the gods for that trouble just would not be right. The point of this aphorism was to teach people to take responsibility for their own actions rather than blaming it on the gods and to promote submission...
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