The Odyssey The Role Of Prophe


When one ponders the Greek mythology and literature, powerful images invariably come to mind. One relives the heroes’ struggles against innumerable odds, their battles against magical monsters, and the gods’ periodic intervention in mortal affairs. Yet, a common and often essential portion of a heroic epic is the hero’s consultation with an oracle or divinity. This prophecy is usually critical to the plot line, and also to the well being of the main characters. Could Priam have survived in the Achaean camp if not at the gods’ instruction (200-201)? Could the Argos have run the gauntlet of the Prowling Rocks if not for the gods’ advice of using a sacrificial ...

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important role in the whole of Greek folklore. Something this ever-present bears further examination.
In The Odyssey, prophecy in its myriad forms affects nearly every aspect of the epic. Prophecies are seen in the forms of omens, signs, strict prediction of the future, divine condemnation, and divine instruction. Though conceptually these forms are hard to distinguish, they are clearly separate in the Odyssey. Moreover, prophecies can be interpreted not only on the "plot device" level, but also on the level of characterization. Whether a character accepts or denies the gods’ prophecies tells the reader something about the character himself.
Omens are brief prophecies intimately connected to the action at hand, which must be interpreted in terms of that action. Halitherses comments on the eagle attack after Telemakhos condemns the suitors (463-464); he correctly interests it to mean that if the suitors keep feeding off Odysseus’s possessions they will be destroyed. Yet ...

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actually signals for the precise time to strike. Signs are helpful devices; they allow not only a rationalization for when an event occurs but also shows the approval of the gods on such an action.
Not only are signs and omens plentiful in the Odyssey, but also the type one usually associates with prophesying, strict prediction of the future, abounds as well. Penelope states that she will marry the man who can string Odysseus’s bow and perform his famous feat (469). Since Odysseus is the only one to do so, the prophecy is fulfilled. This "prophesy" is just a statement of the future; it contains no judgmental quality whatsoever. Theoklymenos’s prophesies to Penelope that ...

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Added: 8/27/2008 03:34:23 PM
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