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The Suitors and Disloyal Servants in the Odyssey Get What They Deserve

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The Suitors and Disloyal Servants in the Odyssey Get What They Deserve

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  • April 19, 2011
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‘The Suitors and the disloyal servants get what they deserve.’ How far do you agree with this statement?

In the closing passages of the Odyssey, the suitors and disloyal servants are punished for their crimes against Odysseus, and it does indeed seem that the death penalty doled out by Odysseus is harsh. However, at this particular period of Greek history, it was expected that each man take his own vengeance against his trespassers as there was no judicial system in place to deal with these problems at the time, therefore it seems justified that as their crimes stretched over a period of nearly 20 years and were directly against xenia, the law of Zeus, that Odysseus take his revenge as he wishes.

Indeed in the Odyssey, there are examples of people breaking the law of the Gods, for example Tityus in Book 11. He was left with vultures ‘plucking at his liver [...] whilst his hands were powerless to drive them off.’ This was due to the fact that he had assaulted one of Zeus’ partners; therefore it seems fair that Odysseus takes revenge in a similar fitting manner. Indeed, for at least some of the suitors, the punishment seems to fit the crime. Rather fittingly, the first to be killed was the leader of the suitors, Antinous. He was killed in a manner which does seem appropriate, as he reached ‘for his fine cup to take a draught of wine’, he was killed with a spear by Odysseus. As Antinous had broken the rules of xenia and lived a lavish lifestyle from Odysseus’ keep, it seems fair that he be killed. As well as this, the third suitor, Amphinomus, is killed when ‘Telemachus hit[s] him from behind, midway between the shoulders, with a spear.’ As this was a prophecy by Athene, it certainly does seem fitting that this prophecy be fulfilled by Odysseus. Prior to this, the second suitor to be killed was the right hand man of Antinous, Eurymachus. He attempts to talk his way out of death, which is ironic as he often used his cunning tongue to escape from situations and...