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The Odyssey | Quotes

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1.

Ah, how shameless—the way these mortals blame the gods./... they themselves, with their own reckless ways,/compound their pains beyond their proper share.


Zeus , Book 1

Zeus, king of the gods, speaks to the theme of fate. He says that mortals don't take responsibility for their own lives and that they do, in fact, have much more freedom of choice than they'd like to believe. Zeus believes that the mortals actually make their own lives worse because they are "reckless" and prone to temptation.

2.

Fear the gods' wrath—before they wheel in outrage/and make these crimes recoil on your heads.


Telemachus , Book 2

Telemachus berates the suitors for their bad behavior and threatens them with the justice of the gods. The suitors have taken advantage of Penelope's hospitality, an action that the gods wouldn't approve of. Telemachus is warning the suitors that, because they have not displayed sufficient piety, the gods will punish them.

3.

But here's an unlucky wanderer strayed our way,/and we must tend him well. Every stranger and beggar/ comes from Zeus.


Nausicaa , Book 6

Nausicaa mentions that every wanderer comes from Zeus. He is the god not only of wanderers but also of hospitality, and this is why Nausicaa mentions that they must "tend [Odysseus] well." To not offer hospitality to a stranger would be a grievous offense in ancient Greece and would likely anger the gods.

4.

Zeus of the Strangers guards all guests and suppliants:/strangers are sacred—Zeus will avenge their rights!


Odysseus , Book 9

Odysseus pleads with Polyphemus, the one-eyed Cyclops and son of Poseidon. The Cyclopes are a "lawless" people, and the way Polyphemus treats Odysseus and his men is cruel—he even eats six of the men. Here, Odysseus is appealing to the custom of hospitality that was so important to ancient Greeks and their gods—particularly Zeus, the god of strangers and hospitality.

5.

Even so, you and your crew may still reach home,/suffering all the way, if you only have the power/to curb their wild desire and curb your own.


Tiresias , Book 11

Tiresias the blind prophet foretells the outcome of Odysseus's journey but warns him that succumbing to temptation will cause Odysseus and his men suffering. His prophecy touches on the theme of fate: how much control does Odysseus really have over himself and his men if the gods are calling the shots? Or are they?

6.

You terrible man,/foxy, ingenious, never tired of twists and tricks.


Athena , Book 13

Athena is praising Odysseus for his cunning and cleverness, qualities she prides herself on possessing as well. She's saying that he may very well be the craftiest man among mortals and even challenges the gods; her use of the word terrible is actually a compliment, although it suggests that Odysseus is not entirely admirable either.

7.

Trust me, the blessed gods have no love for crime./They honor justice.


Eumaeus , Book 14

Eumaeus, Odysseus's trusty swineherd, is reassuring Odysseus that the suitors will be punished for their bad behavior, because the gods frown upon mortals who flout the kindness of hospitality. Justice is a big theme in The Odyssey, both among gods and mortals. Often mortals will turn to the gods to help them achieve justice, and fear of divine retribution persuades many to follow the moral code.

8.

Should he wheel with his staff and beat the scoundrel senseless?/... He steeled himself instead, his mind in full control.


Narrator , Book 17

Odysseus practices self-restraint—he's come a long way from his days of being tied to a ship mast because he wanted to hear the Sirens' song. His impulse is to hurt the other beggar, whom the suitors have goaded him (in disguise) to fight. Yet Odysseus knows that, in order for his plan of vengeance to work, he will need to keep "his mind in full control."

9.

A wild wicked swath I cut, indulged my lust for violence/... Look at me now./And so, I say, let no man ever be lawless all his life,/just take in peace what gifts the gods will send.


Odysseus , Book 18

Odysseus shows remarkable growth and self-reflection here, toward the end of his epic. His journey has been inward as much as it has been outward. He looks back on all the pain he caused and the risks he took during his life and realizes it was not worth the peace he now craves. Here he is showing a sense of piety and respect toward the gods, hoping to be rewarded for what he's learned.

10.

No fear of the gods who rule the skies up there,/... Now all your necks are in the noose—your doom is sealed!


Odysseus , Book 22

Odysseus is addressing the suitors in the climactic moments before their slaughter. He warns them that, by not fearing the wrath of the gods who frown upon bad moral behavior, their punishment is ordained and inevitable. And he's right—Athena has arranged and orchestrated much of what follows.

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