The Use of Epic Conventions in the Odyssey

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Many writers have different and unique ways to describe characters and events throughout their story. They use these ways to help further develop the reader’s view of the character or event, and to create a mental picture in their mind. Also, using different ways to describe a character makes it easy to relate the character to the reader’s own life. In The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Robert Fagles, Homer uses an immense amount of epic conventions to illustrate an epic hero. Homer’s use of epic conventions help enrich characters and events that take place throughout the epic.

Homer uses epic epithets, which helps makes a character or object more relatable. The same character is often given several different epithets. Multiple times, Homer describes Athena as “clear eyed Athena” (1.79.53). He uses this description to describe Athena as being alert and wise. This epic epithet helps create a deeper understanding of Athena and how she appears to have nothing to hide. Homer’s epic epithet for Athena helps create a mental picture of how Homer wants readers to see her. Another epic epithet that Homer uses fairly often is “earth-shaking Poseidon” (5.161.309). This epithet is used to show his power from being a god. Poseidon is the god of earthquakes, which is another reason for his epithet. Throughout the epic, Poseidon is a constant problem and obstacle that Odysseus must face on his journey home. The epic epithets that Homer uses throughout the epic helps the reader further develop the idea of the character.

Homer uses customs, also known as xenia, to show respect for everyone, especially complete strangers. The concept of guest hospitality, described in Homer’s epic, played a large part in ancient Greece. It was believed that when a stranger arrives at your door, you are supposed to invite them in, allow them to dine with you, and only then ask him who he is. When he is ready to leave, many believe that a gift should be given to the stranger. Telemachus and...
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