Reunion and Reconciliation; a Quest to Restore the Home
The Odyssey and the Iliad are often compared as they share many similar themes and motifs revolving around two warriors in a pursuit of rising to heroic wrath. Book 24 of the Iliad and 23 of the Odyssey parallel with overarching themes regarding divine intervention, anger, and family with each of these themes encompassing a degree of irony that is crucial in contrasting both epics. As visitors to unwelcoming homes, Priam and Odysseus must work to infiltrate a very protected inner circle and the outcomes are ironically foreshadowed by the climatic battles that led them there—hector begs to be granted his honor from Achilles and the suitors beg for forgiveness. The final chapters reflect on how these last wishes have transferred over to Priam and Odysseus. As they struggle to make amends with Achilles and Penelope, they are reminded that they must also fight for honor and forgiveness.
Priam and Odysseus both look to the gods, hoping that they can aid them in their quest for reconciliation. For Priam, this assistance highlights the abilities of his mortal strength. In his quest to retrieve his son’s corpse, he is supported by the gods on Mount Olympus as they have watched in horror while Hectors body has been dragged each day only to be left face down in the dust (Il. 24.21). With great pity for a prince, Apollo sways the other gods to grasp the misfortune that have brought upon the city of Troy by choosing to help Achilles who in their view outranks Hector. However, the “almighty” Achilles has brought shame to the Divine world with such childish actions that the gods cannot help but pity hector. Apollo exposes him for who he really is, “a man without a shred of decency in his heart…his temper can never bend and change,” equaling him to the barbaric ways of a lion—his wild temper overpowering his grasp on humanity (Il.24.46). Once a prince, Hector has now been mistreated and stripped of his honor, therefore, the gods band together to grant Priam of his final wish—to hold his son once more and weep his fill (Il.24.271). First visited by Iris, followed by Hermes, the gods have come down to earth to reassure Priam of their intentions and more essentially their knowledge of Priam’s ability to stir Achilles’ heart; forcing or merely tricking him into emitting kindness.
Help is given to Odysseus by the goddess Athena, however, instead of leading him down a road towards triumph she helps more clearly define his limitations as a mortal man. Odysseus has become a master of trickery by the end of his journey and as he prepares to face Penelope—a woman who knows him better than he knows himself—he still falls back on an attempt to mislead her because it is all he has known for the last 20 years. He is foolish to believe that he can deceive everyone in Ithaka because even the maid Eurykleia could recognize him by his scar—a stark imperfection setting any mortal apart from the gods (Od.23.74). Athena...