The Let's Play Archive

God of War

by kalonZombie

Part 10: Some bits about Poseidon and Odysseus from thread MVP Sleep of Bronze.

D.O.G.O.G.B.Y.N. posted:

I'm not sure if it was a-OK back then to essentially impose divine blackmail upon others, but Odysseus's first words with Polyphemos struck me as somewhat crass when I read the Cyclop(e)s chapter in the Odyssey. Their exchange goes a little bit like this:

POLYPHEMOS: Who are you people? Are you here on your way to some business or are you here to rob me?

ODYSSEUS: We've just returned from Troy; the winds of wrongness and whatnot misled us here, but it is Zeus's will that we came upon your island. We beg you for gifts, for it is the will of the gods - Zeus, the guest god, helps all those who are visitors and he avenges any slight toward them.

[Polyphemos gets pissed off at this, saying something like "fuck you and fuck your god. ...which god was it, BTW?", and Odysseus answers "Poseidon", and that angers the cyclops even further ('cause he's related to Poseidon), thus stirring the following in-cave shitstorm]

Guess being caught with his pants down threw him off balance.

This actually is one of the occasions that Odysseus is almot unambiguously in the right in the Odyssey. He approaches with very little deception, is as honest and forthright as he ever gets, and it totally screws him over. The 'blackmail' is set in this context: Odysseus and his crew happen upon Polyphemos' cave, overflowing with all his stored food. The crew want to steal it all and fuck off, but Odysseus tells them that they're going to do this properly. They'll wait for whoever lives here, and act as guests should. They'll trade stories of where they've been (this is partly why Odysseus introduces himself with a little summary of the Trojan War, to whet the host's appetite) and the wine they've brought along for this very purpose, in exchange the host's food and welcome. This relationship of host and guest, xenia, is very important in Odysseus' society, so sacred that Zeus himself is the god in charge of it. There's a scene in Iliad 6 where Diomedes and Glaucis discover that their grandfathers shared hospitality, and they swap armour in the middle of the battle and promise not to fight each other. It's a really really really big deal. Odysseus tells his crew they're not going to fuck with that, putting him very much ahead in the 'decent person' stakes.

It's a pretty comedic moment from Homer, actually, when Odysseus starts noticing that his introduction has had no impact and he resorts to babbling "Zeus! Gods! Guests! Hospitality! All the Xen- words that mean you shouldn't kill us!" in the hopes that Polyphemos might just think again about fucking up a holy custom. (It's not easy to get that across in translation, so I did that more naturally and just bolded it all in the Greek.)

ἡμεῖς δ᾽ αὖτε κιχανόμενοι τὰ σὰ γοῦνα
ἱκόμεθ᾽, εἴ τι πόροις ξεινήιον ἠὲ καὶ ἄλλως
δοίης δωτίνην, ἥ τε ξείνων θέμις ἐστίν.
ἀλλ᾽ αἰδεῖο, φέριστε, θεούς: ἱκέται δέ τοί εἰμεν,
Ζεὺς δ᾽ ἐπιτιμήτωρ ἱκετάων τε ξείνων τε,
ξείνιος, ὃς ξείνοισιν ἅμ᾽ αἰδοίοισιν ὀπηδεῖ.

[Blah, we were part of the glorious Greek army, blah ...]
Though my own crew now comes to you down on their
knees, and we beg that you either give us some hospitality or
instead present us a gift, which is the tradition for guests.
But, mightiest of men, respect the gods: we throw ourselves on your mercy,
and Zeus is the avenger of both those who seek mercy and of guests -
the god of hospitality, who watches over respected guests.

He even gives Polyphemos an out by saying "Look, you don't have to host us properly, just give us a bit of food and we'll bugger off, k?"
Odysseus has come begging to Polyphemos, flattered him, brought appropriate gifts, reminded him clearly and loudly of his duty, and Polyphemos just goes "Lol, fuck you, fuck tradition, fuck the gods, I eat you all."

E: Oh, Poseidon only comes into it when Odysseus has to lie about them being shipwrecked instead of telling Polyphemos where to find and eat all the rest of his crew. The cyclops doesn't answer or react, just goes about eating people.