October 16, 2012
HUM 102W, Dr. Brook Pearson
Homer and Sophocles: The Question of Human Free Will
Greek authors, when one considers the time period in which they lived, are relatively simple to distinguish from one another, particularly in how they treat Greek myth in relation to the message they aim to convey to their audience. Homer and Sophocles use myth to reflect their different perspectives on human nature, which coincides with their audience’s previously held perceptions of the myths they are dealing with. Homer’s Odyssey suggests that humans need not search for meaning in their lives, as it is administered and controlled by the gods; Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex offers a completely different standpoint, in which humans, for all their worldly knowledge, can still be held blind to the truth of their existence and origins. Odyssey primarily deals with a world of immanent meaning; that is to say, divine presence is everywhere, and everything is subject to the will of the divine, or in the case of the Greeks, several godly figures. Nearly all of the instances in which Homer allows Odysseus to escape whatever situation he is in, is due to a combination of his own cunning and divine intervention. He makes a point of asserting the god’s continual presence in Odysseus’ responses to his adventures. Poseidon is seen to be pulling the majority of the strings that work against Odysseus, being the one to bestow the curse on him to wander for ten years (Odyssey 9. 584-96). However, there is a collection of gods and powerful god-like figures that make it possible for him to overcome Poseidon’s challenges; perhaps the most potent example of this is the instance upon which Calypso, who has fallen deeply in love with Odysseus and has persuaded him to stay with her, must set him free. Athena was able to persuade Zeus to send Hermes to Calypso, who is then told that she must let Odysseus go on his way (5. 108-28). Homer makes it abundantly clear...