The Odyssey Principles Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
(Odysseus:) ‘I wish that I were truly as young as I am in spirit, or a son of stately Odysseus were here, or he himself might come in from his wandering. There is time still for hope. If such things could be, another could strike my head from my shoulders if I did not come as an evil thing to all those people as I entered the palace of Odysseus, the son of Laertes. And if I, fighting alone, were subdued by all their number, then I would rather die, cut down in my own palace, than to have to go on watching forever these shameful activities, guests being battered about, or to see them rudely mishandling the serving women all about the beautiful palace, to see them drawing the wine and eating up food in this utterly reckless way, without end, forever and always at it.’ (16.99-111)
Odysseus advises Telemachos that it is more honorable to die fighting on one’s feet than to live tolerating such behavior from the suitors. Honor, then, is valued above life in the Odyssey.
(Penelope:) 'But tell Autonoë and Hippodameia to come, so that they can stand at my side in the great hall. I will not go alone among men. I think that immodest.' (18.182-184)
Women can live up to their principles by being good hostesses, but most of their honorable actions seem to consist in not doing: not remarrying, not killing their husbands, not appearing in front of a crowd of men. Sounds pretty dull, if you ask us.
(Penelope:) 'Human beings live for only a short time, and when a man is harsh himself, and his mind knows harsh thoughts, all men pray that sufferings will befall him hereafter while he lives; and when he is dead all men make fun of him. But when a man is blameless himself, and his thoughts are blameless, the friends he has entertained carry his fame widely to all mankind, and many are they who call him excellent.' (19.328-334)
What's the point of living a totally dull, blameless life? Everyone will say nice things about you. Okay, so it's not exactly champagne and limo rides, but "fame"—what people said about you—was super important to the Greeks. Having a good reputation was just as important as it was to any 13-year-old.