Ethics of Greek Life

Ethics of Greek Life - "The Sources and Characteristics of...

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“The Sources and Characteristics of Greek Ethics” From The Odyssey to Aristotle’s Ethics , the ancient Greek views on what is morally acceptable, the goals for the individual and the common moral values inherent in humans have changed drastically. The sources of those ethics range from what is viewed as punishable or permissible by the Gods in the earlier texts to what will create lasting happiness and virtue. Throughout the texts read in class, the moral structure and the moral perspective of the ancient Greeks has evolved drastically, going from one which is based upon the Gods and heroes to one which has a foundation of logic and of the “greater good” for oneself and society. Beginning in The Odyssey the gods take a large part in the lives of humans, but it is more of a parent’s role, punishing when a human does something out of turn, as is apparent when Odysseus’ crew slaughters the cattle of Helios and are subsequently slaughtered themselves. Odysseus’ exploits and adventures lead the reader to understand that the moral system of ancient Greece was one of learning from the Gods, what they thought acceptable as what humans should strive to accomplish and reversely, what actions the Gods punished as what humans should definitely refrain from doing. It was also a culture of appeasing the Gods, because as is apparent throughout The Odyssey , whoever doesn’t listen to the Gods suffers the consequences. The choices that Odysseus made during the epic give insight into what was acceptable in society and for the individual. Also, Odysseus’ crew exemplifies actions that should be abstained from, such as gluttony and greed, by their immoral actions and the penalties. In The Odyssey , the hero Odysseus and his crew venture on a ten year long expedition throughout the Mediterranean, in an attempt to return home after the Trojan War. During their voyage they encounter numerous obstacles, experiencing many deaths
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but also leading the reader to learn a form of ethics from each trial. Many values of the society and morals of the individual in ancient Greece can be comprehended from the difficulties they face, such as when the crew goes to the Island of the Lotus-Eaters and eats the lotus plant, causing them to “forget/(As all men else that did but taste their feast)/ Both countrymen and country…Made fixed abode there…and eat that food ever.” (9. 150-155). This event teaches the affects of laziness, gluttony, and addiction on individuals and on groups, because the reader sees how Odysseus able-bodied group becomes a bunch of slobs from this drug-like plant. It teaches the ancient Greeks listening to the epic what they should avoid in life to be successful, specifically in the Island of the Lotus-Eaters: sloth, excess, and dependence. This isn’t the only occurrence that imparts wisdom to the listener; many of Odysseus’ trials teach some universal truth. After Odysseus blinds the Cyclops and escapes, he shouts out “Cyclops! If any ask thee,
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Ethics of Greek Life - "The Sources and Characteristics of...

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