Odysseus in Hades

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Odysseus’ adventures in Hades

Few characters in literature have ever ventured into the underworld and returned back to earth. Odysseus’ trip to the underworld offers the reader an insight into Ancient Greek society and religion. The advice and requests made by the people he encounters show us how the people of the time viewed the afterlife

Circe directed Odysseus to the kingdom of the dead in book 11 after he had spent a full year in her kingdom. Upon arriving to the underworld, Odysseus makes a blood sacrifice to the gods by ordering his men to flay sheep and then say prayers to the gods. Odysseus then draws his sword and sat alert protecting the blood. The first man that he converses with is Elpenor. Elpenor was a member of Odysseus’ crew that had died in the kingdom of Circe after falling from her roof. When Odysseus first sees Elpenor in Hades, he cries and asks him how he arrived there and if there is anything he can do to avenge his death. Elpenor says that the only thing he asks is that Odysseus return to the house of Circe and burn his body in full armor, perform the rites on his body and place the oar that he rowed with his comrades on the tomb. This section of Odysseus’ trip to the underworld reveals to the reader the funeral rituals that the ancient Greeks performed and their beliefs on how one’s body should be treated after death. The next person Odysseus speaks with in the kingdom of the dead is the Theban prophet, Tiresias. Tiresias is the man that Odysseus came to Hades to speak to. Circe tells Odysseus that he must first speak to Tiresias before he can go home. The first prophecy that Tiresias makes is that Odysseus will have his journey made difficult by the god that shakes the earth because he blinded his son, the Cyclops. The god that shakes the earth, Poseidon, is the god of the sea in ancient Greek mythology. When Odysseus was in the land of the Cyclops, he blinded Polyphemus, the son of Poseidon. At first...
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