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How Fate is Preserved in Greek Mythology

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In Greek mythology, Moiras or Parcas are symbolic representations of Fate. Originally there were three sisters. They were responsible for enforcing the fate of men following the orders, specifically, of the god who reveals his name, Moors “fate”. Thus, they were assigned very specific tasks that could represent each of the parts of life. Being represented in the field of death, the Moiras reside in the kingdom of Hades, where they are attracted, through the Styx, the victims of their wheel. Their field of action has also been affected many times so that they could come to represent themselves, the force of fate. Furthermore, the other name that receives the Roman Parcas is known as Fata, or in other words, ‘destinies’. The three old women share a single eye, which they arrive to preview the fate, a characteristic of their own. The purpose of this essay is to discuss how Odysseus and Achilles view fate. All in all, this research shall compare and contrast the two viewpoints in addition to discussing how they may have similarities.

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The Homeric poems had great religious values since the text was very sacreid and filled with confusion. This confusion was due to migrations and wars and the fact that in the greek era each city and its corresponding royal house had their own gods and heroes they worshipped. The Iliad established the standard of the family of twelve gods that ruled the destiny of the world since it takes place in Olympus. Although this is usually identified with the homonymous mountain, the mythology is not clear about it, as it sometimes appears as a region of the sky. It would take eight centuries until the emergence of the first texts that gathered the poetic oral tradition of Greek myths, the Iliad and the Odysseus. Authorship is attributed to Homer, although it remains unknown who he was or if the poems were written by the same person or by several people. To clarify it has not helped that during the Hellenistic period circulate all kinds of biographies about the poet. In any case, it is placed in the eighth century BC. time when the Greek writing adopts a stable alphabetic form and is assumed, by the linguistic features and the scenarios of his work, its Ionic origin.

In the Iliad, Homer establishes the product of a long and diverse tradition, that continued over the centuries according to which the destiny of Tethys, created by Zeus and Poseidon, would be to have a son of a mortal (Peleo) in exchange for that one. However, their view on fate is that the best of the Achaeans would perish in war . However, the irreversible path to its untimely end begins in the inability and awkwardness of Agamemnon to lead the contest, whose lack of authorities Achilles hates and whose offense causes him to withdraw from the war. Although, the Achaean army fought under poor leadership and wanted to return home. It is at least an incredible way to start a great war. Funeral matches in honor of Patroclus, which serve as another example of the Iliad providing another point of view of fate. The meeting between Priam, in search of the insecure corpse of his son Hector, and Achilles, both in the very twilight of their lives, gives way to the speeches of Andromeda and the king who announce the imminent destruction of Ilion, of Troy as their fate . The Iliad describes the destiny of the city of Ilion that will soon be destroyed. In addition, Homer summons up the individual destruction that will come with the devastating fall of Troy.

Achilles is portrayed in the odyssey as a very human character who prefers to live even in poverty rather than being king in the world of the dead. Achilles in his character of the hero, adopts for himself the ideal death of heroic life, brief life, during combat and eternal glory. It can be said that Achilles is an epic hero and a tragic victim of his destiny. On the other hand, Ulysses presents himself almost as the opposite of Achilles, he is a very different hero who predominates in the Iliad, showing himself constantly worried about his companions and trying uselessly to save them from the dangers that lurk. He represents the new type of hero in front of the noble Achilles of the Iliad, he is not the strong warrior who seeks death on the battlefield, but the man who pursues survival as a goal and does everything possible to achieve goals, whatever that may be. Furthermore, Achilles in the Iliad is a hero based on forceful and a tragic death; instead Ulysses, in The Odyssey, is a shrewd hero who is prepared with tools.

In ancient Greece, religion was an integrating agent of the Polis. Citizens showed their commitment to the city by participating in many civic ceremonies. On the other hand, common beliefs and PanHellenic sanctuaries functioned as elements of identity for all Greeks. The Olympic pantheon was made up of gods with specific powers. These gods starred in myths that allowed explaining the world. They were not almighty divinities: each had specific gifts recognized by its faithfuls. This specialization in divine powers facilitated in Greece the assimilation of new gods from other peoples and cultures. Religiosity was not based on a feeling of faith, nor on the exclusion of some gods to assume others. The alternative to the different divinities that could be recognized depend on the circumstances and tendencies of the faithful. Although gifted with immortality and other special attributes, the gods had personality and human defects. Their weaknesses led to conflicting relationships and even arguments between each other.

Achilles’ story found in the Homeric poem is full of incredible achievements of Hector and leaves proof of the nobility and intelligence of the Trojan prince. In the first stories, Hector is described as recriminates of his brother Alexander for having brought so many tragedies to his homeland, Troy. It is well known that Prince Alexander (or Paris) abducted the wife of Menelaus, king of Sparta and brother of Agamemnon, both known for being extremely powerful and bellicose (Slater, 2014). This act resulted in a series of unfortunate events that would terminate the destruction of Troy ‘the one with wide streets,” as Homer calls it. In another story, Hector’s last battle would be the most remembered and moving in history, perhaps more moving than that of Patroclus, Achilles’ lover and best friend. The Pelida had not ceased the anger he felt since he fought with Agamemnon for the concise Briseida, since then he did not appear on the battlefield (Lyons, 2014). Patroclus tried to persuade him to inspire the other warriors, instead, Achilles let him borrow his armor to Patroclus to replace him and the Achaeans fight. Hector confused Achilles with Patroclus and murdered him. When the news reached Achilles, a wave of new uncontrollable anger seized him and he never threw himself into war with such courage until that time. Death would not be an obstacle to avenge Patroclus’s death, neither his nor his enemies’.

The Greeks were not only the inventors of democracy, theater, pure mathematics, and many other things but also of a new type of thinking that today we call ‘philosophical.’ The gods in which the Greeks believed were immortal, violent, horny and politically incorrect. They often recommended their mortal subjects to go to war (Lyons, 2014). They fell in love over and over again and kept fighting each other. They seduced and fertilized humans, often in very strange circumstances and alternating with their appearance. For philosophical like Socrates, the gods must have been very unsuitable as moral models. Thus, although most Greek intellectuals like Socrates respected, by word, the usual religious ceremonies, they did not take religion very seriously. Some philosophers, such as the sophist Prótágoras (490-420 BC) said that he could not know for sure if the gods existed or what form they had (Slater, 2014). On the other hand, the philosopher Jenófanes (575-475 a.C.) affirmed that if horses, lions, and oxen had had hands to draw and create works of art like men, when drawing and shaping the bodies of the gods, horses would represent them like horses and oxen like oxen, in each case with the same form (Slater, 2014). These ideas of the Greek philosophers suggested and tried to state that ethics had to be sought outside of religion.

In conclusion, the situation that the Iliad goes through Achilles knows from his teens that he can choose between a brief and glorious life to be remembered and admired forever and ever or a long life but without glory or fame. The human self Achilles never doubted that the best death was the one that left behind a heroic trail that would impress future generations. Now, once dead, he sees things differently. He questions why wouldn’t he have chosen to live as long as possible, start a family, grow old with a wife, be honored by the children themselves. It is a brutal honest confession. But the living has to continue with what the dead just lack, their life. Whether or not these characters are destined for greatness or death there is no stopping fate. All in all, fate is sacred within Greek culture and no matter what their fate may be it is uncontrollable.  

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