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Themes

Little Words, Big Ideas

Fate and Free Will

The characters in the Odyssey are definitely not free to be you and me. Their destinies are just that: destiny, and there's not much room to change what's going to happen. Still, there is a way to...

Piety

In The Odyssey, piety involves way more than going to church on Sundays, and it has a lot more to do with your day-to-day actions than how you feel in your heart. Want to prove your piety to the go...

Justice

There may be a lot of justice in The Odyssey, but there isn't a court of law to be found. Justice seems to be based around some divine sense of cause-and-effect: there's a certain order and balance...

Pride

Fair enough: Odysseus has a lot to be proud of. He's smart, strong, brave, and good-looking; he's married to a hot, loyal wife; and did we mention his pecs? Because he did. Yeah. He's kind of that...

Lies and Deceit

In the Odyssey, honesty is most definitely not the best policy. In fact—as we learn when Odysseus idiotically tells Polyphemos his name and address—it's usually a pretty bad policy. All the goo...

Tradition and Custom

In an accurate reflection of ancient Greek culture, rules of hospitality are among the most revered social and religious laws in the Odyssey. Men are measured by the way they play host or guest, an...

Suffering

It's not surprising that the Odyssey is full of suffering: its characters live in a world without antibiotics, painkillers, and iTunes. (They actually have to get in a car and drive to a store to b...

Principles

Frankly, trying to keep up with the list of dos and don'ts in ancient Greece is enough to make us want to lie down with an US Weekly and a can of Diet Coke. Whether you're fighting your enemies, ho...

Loyalty

No one told him life was going to be this way—but if he has to spend ten years heading home from a decade-long war, at least Odysseus gets to do it with a boatful of loyal companions and a loving...

Perseverance

First, Odysseus fights a 10-year-long war. Then, he almost loses his men to a bunch of druggies, is captured by a Cyclops, wins Poseidon's wrath, gets blown years off course, encounters an island f...

Family

In the Odyssey, blood is most definitely thicker than water. Your deeds (or misdeed) don't just reflect on you; they reflect on the honor and reputation (kleos, if you want to be fancy) of your ent...

Hospitality

In Ancient Greece, hospitality meant a lot more than giving your guest the most crumb-free seat on the Ikea couch. They had a whole word for the relationship between guest and host: xenia. Zeus was...
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