The Finality Of Death In Homer's Odyssey

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Death is often viewed as a tragic, terrible event, yet it it also often romanticized. Despite the horror that was World War I, emphasis is often placed on the heroic bravery of the soldiers. Likewise, the ancient Greeks glorified death, especially death in battle. Kleos, a word which roughly translates as “glory” or “reputation,” perfectly represents the Greek desire to be remembered as a hero. The Odyssey, written by Homer, critiques this desire by showing how the pursuit of kleos inevitably leads to needless cruelty or one’s own death and is ultimately pointless due to the finality of death.
Kleos causes a person to make bad, even self-destructive choices that often end up killing that person along with everyone else. This can be seen when Odysseus and his men are starving on the Island of Helios. While there are cattle on the island, it is sacred to the gods and cannot be eaten. Eurymachos, unable to tolerate his condition, decides to slaughter one of the cows anyways and justifies it by proclaiming, “the most pitiable death of all is to starve . . . I
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This is shown during the meeting between Odysseus and Achilles in the Underworld. Odysseus says to Achilles that he is remembered by all and that he was blessed in life and still is, even in death, however, Achilles takes offense to this statement, and replies, “Don’t bepraise death to me, Odysseus. I would rather be a plowman to a yeoman farmer on a small holding than lord Paramount in the kingdom of the dead” (134). Achilles achieves the ultimate goal of kleos, immortality through fame, yet he is unhappy and wishes he could simply live again, even if his life would be completely insignificant. Here, kleos is shown to be a meaningless goal as while one might be remembered by history, such a legacy doesn’t confer any lasting benefit to

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