The Body And The Body In Homer's Iliad And Odyssey

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Written in the archaic period, around three-hundred years prior to Plato and Diogenes, Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey provide substantial evidence to support that the body and the soul both play major roles in forming the concept of self. The emphasis placed on the body through the Homeric lens is evident in the dialogue Hector and Achilles have in The Iliad before their duel. Hector, aware that his chances of victory against Achilles are grim, pleads to Achilles, “Once I’ve stripped your glorious armor, Achilles, I will give your body back to your loyal comrades. Swear you’ll do the same” (Homer 550). Not only is burial a method of honoring the body, but also through Homer’s works, it is apparent that the dead cannot enter the afterlife without …show more content…
In another one of Homer’s revered works, The Odyssey, Homeric views on the importance of the soul’s dependence on and relationship with the body are further supported. When Odysseus recalls visiting his late mother in the underworld, his attempts to embrace her are in vain because she lacks physical form and has lost her identity. She clarifies that “no flesh and bone are here, non bound by sinew, since the bright-hearted pyre consumed them down—the white bones long exanimate—to ash; dreamlike the soul flies, insubstantial” (“The Odyssey” 10.204). Without a body, the soul in the underworld exists in a limbo state described by Odysseus’ mother as “dreamlike.” Furthermore, Odysseus’ mother states that without “flesh and bone,” the soul is “insubstantial.” In both The Iliad and The Odyssey, the soul is highly dependent on the body; in the former, the soul depends on the body in order to enter the underworld and in the latter to maintain its personality and sense of …show more content…
In Timaeus, Plato remarks that the head “is most divine and dominates all the parts within us. To it the gods also handed over all the body, which they assembled to be its servant” (“Timaeus” 76). Plato repeats this claim by stating that the gods simply gave the body to the head “as a chariot for easy travel” (“Timaeus” 76). Both quotes substantiate that Plato viewed the human body as unimportant and inessential in in the body/soul dichotomy. While Homer’s epic poems, a soul without a body was simply a ghost in limbo, Plato seemingly asserts that the body plays no role in forming the identity of an individual. To add to Plato’s dismissive attitude towards the body, Plato notes that “as long as we possess the body and our soul is contaminated by such an evil, we’ll surely never adequately gain what we desire-and that we say, is truth” (“Phaedo” 12). So Plato does not simply dismiss the body, but he also thinks of the body as a contaminant that prevents the soul from purity. Moreover, parallel with the idea that the body is a vehicle for the soul, Plato communicates that “among those who were born men, all that were cowardly and lived an unjust life were, according to the likely account, transplanted in their second birth as women” (“Timaeus” 130). One can see Plato’s belief in transmigration as parallel to his critical view towards the body

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