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Essay/Term paper: How is the greek idea of a sound mind and body essential for the successful characters of the odyssey?

Essay, term paper, research paper:  The Odyssey

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How Is The Greek Idea of a Sound Mind and Body Essential for The Successful
Characters of The Odyssey?


If one were to only have a very fit and strong body, lacking mental ability,
to the Greeks it would not suffice. If a man were merely smart and intelligent,
without much physical capability, the Greeks would feel that he is not complete.
They believed an individual must have have both, a well developed mind and a fit
body, not only one or the other, to be ideal. This is the Greek concept of a
sound mind and body. In Homer's Odyssey, Odysseus and Telemachos, had to have
and/or achieve a sound mind and body, to be the successful and outstanding
characters of the epic. The ones who lacked these quality suffered and paid for
it in the end.
In Books one and two, Telemachos acts immaturely and lacks mental
prowess. For this reason he makes his life difficult. Yet, Later on he matures
and gains a sound mind. Telemachos certainly has a sound body. Menelaos says of
how "...it amazes me quite, how this young man(Telemachos) looks exactly like
Odysseus, strong and mighty"{page 47}. Yet, he is criticized by others, for the
reason that he does not have a sound mind. In an attempt to stand his ground, in
front of the council he breaks down into tears. Antinoos says "Telemachos you
are a boaster, and you don't know how to keep your temper!"{page 24}. Telemachos
made an attempt to express his valid point of view, and does so, but fails to
convince the council. He breaks down in tears, showing how immature he really is.
He does not have a sound mind. The council basked in this weakness and was even
more critical of him at that point. Later on, he is told of how "(Telemachos),
you speak like a man of sense, you are older than your years, your father is
just the same, you get it from him."{page 48} As his adventure progresses he
grows to be a more complete man, to eventually fighting along side his father
against the "hangers-on"{page 17} that are "tormenting Penelope"{page 16}, to
rid them from his home once and for all.
Odysseus was triumphant in The Odyssey for the reason that he was a man
who was astute and very clever, at the same time strong and robust. Odysseus,
the man who is never at a loss, was so because he had a sound mind and body.
Odysseus was so ingenious that "he pretended to be a beggar, and entered the
city of Troy and [The Trojans] where all taken in"{page 49}. He was so powerful
that "he leaned hard on (the pole) from above and turned it round and round
(into the eye of the mighty giant Cyclops, blinding him)." He was so quick with
his words, that he could "Appeal to Nausicaa, (so) she brought him to her
father's house"{page 73}, when he was washed up onto shore naked and bruised,
and after swimming for two days. Time and time again, through the many obstacles
he encounters, he is successful, because he has a sound mind and body. The poet,
shows through all Odysseus encounters, that he must utilize both his strength
and wit to surpass them.
If a man does not have both a sound mind and body, he will suffer. So is
the case with Achilles. The conceited Achilles, one of the greatest fighters of
the Trojan War, now lays in the underworld and says "I would rather be plowman
to a yeoman farmer on a small holding than lord Paramount in the kingdom of the
Dead."In the Trojan war he had refused to fight, and now he has to pay for his
mistakes. He begged Odysseus, never at a fault, to tell him of his son
Neoptolemos, who in fact is a coward and a weakling, but Odysseus, taking pity
on his former comrade, says "I can tell you about your beloved son Neoptolemos,
and there is nothing to hide. In fact I brought him in my own ship from Scryros
to join the Achaian army. When we held a council of war, he was always the first
to speak, and always found the right thing to say. Only Nestor and I were
superior. When we met our enemies in battle, he did not lag among the crowd or
in the scrimmage, but showed himself well in the front, the bravest of the
brave: many a man killed in fair fight." {page 134}. Achilles was strong and a
great warrior once, but now, because he did not possess a sound mind, he lost
the one real thing that meant anything; life.
The ones that suffer most for the flaw of missing a sound mind and a
sound body, are the suitors. The suitors are greedy, selfish, wretched and
scheming men, who have tormented Penelope for three years. The suitors were
slowly eating Penelope, Odysseus and Telemachos out of house and home. They took
all the food and board they pleased, in a home that did not belong to them.
Penelope hated them very much as did the gods. "Bright-Eyed" Athena tells
Telemachos to "collect your wits and make a good plan to kill these hangers-
on(suitors), either by craft or open fight"{page 17}. In the end this is exactly
what Telemachos and Odysseus do. They struck down the "Dogs!Who never thought
that (Odysseus) would return from Troy."{page 243}. The "Poor fools! they did
not know that the cords of death were made fast about them all,"{page 245} now
were in their rightful place, in the land of the dead. They trespassed into
another man's home, all the time being absent of a sound mind and body, and now
had to pay with their lives. Odysseus returns to the Underworld where he is
confronted by Antinoos, the leader of the suitors, who says "My friends, here is
a monstrous thing this man (Odysseus) has done against our nation!"{page 269} to
invoke pity from Odysseus and others. Sorrow is felt for Antinoos, but all knew
that "(Antinoos') own faults have brought this (punishment) about"{page 270} and
his punishment is fitting.
All in all, one cannot help but note that the idea of a sound mind and
body is blended into The Odyssey. The Characters that possessed this trait,
obtained their goal in the end. On the other-hand, the ones that lacked either a
sound mind or body, failed. Odysseus and Telemachos were able to find each other
and win back their home, while the suitors and even Achilles were robbed of
their lives. It is a fact that a sound mind and body were an essential ideal in
the ancient Greek society and The Odyssey. How would today's society differ if
these values held true?

 

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