The Tale Of Eumaios Essay Research Paper

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The Tale Of Eumaios Essay, Research Paper The Tale of Eumaios The ancient Greek society was a culture where the Fates and immortal gods hold reign over a man’s life. One’s personal characteristics, including occupation, were as mutable as one’s lineage. For this reason noble Eumaios, leader of men, the swineherd, stands out in the Odyssey as a character who exists above his place as a humble servant. He is conspicuous from his first appearance when Homer applies to him the epitaph “leader of men” (Od. 15: 23) and continues as Homer refers to him as noble and addresses him in the first person, a kind of apostrophe usually reserved for gods and heros. The oddity of such reference is somewhat relieved when Eumaios’ actions are seen to be on the level of nobility in

his treatment of Odysseus as a stranger and general adherence to good xenia. Not until we hear his story can we fully understand the basis of this esteem or how complex and important a character he is and the role he plays. To be brief, the story tells the reader Eumaios is a prince. His rightful place in society was stolen by fate and replaced by one of servitude. Certain questions are raised by this fact as to how a man of time and arete could so retrogress and what his motivations for complacency are. These can be answered by considering his self-identity as both royalty and servant. It is a kind of catch-22. He identifies himself with royalty, obviously, otherwise his narrative would not be told. In doing so he takes on the honor befitting one of his birth, thus preventing

him from running away from the good household of Odysseus, who raised him as one of its own and “paid a fair price for him.” So he also identifies himself with the lot fate has drawn for him, a swineherd, and fulfills his duties with reverence and love for his masters. Eumaios’ ancestry is almost necessary, for such devotion would not be expected from one born to be a commonplace swineherd, and therefore he would not be in a position to aid Odysseus is the manner he does. The proximity of one of Odysseus’ Cretan tales to Eumaios’ account raises the point that his was a true story. Had Eumaios been lying, his inherent honor as royalty would not exist, allowing him to employ the treachery available to one of more meager conception. An opposite paradigm for Eumaios would

be the son of Dolios, Melanthios, one of Odysseus’ goatherds. Insulting and kicking Odysseus with the suitors and siding with them in battle against his master, he exemplified the lack of honor befitting one of his class. Had Eumaios’ personal narrative been a false one it would have seemed likely that he would also attempt to use the suitors in an endeavor for personal gain rather than side with Odysseus against overwhelming odds.. Another aspect of Eumaios’ tale is his attitude toward those who bought and raised him, Laertes and his wife, and those who later became his masters; Penelope, Telemachos, and Odysseus. For one so ripped from his homeland and country and sold into slavery a not uncommon response would be, no matter how kind his new masters, some degree of anger

and resentment. Quite to the contrary, Eumaios proclaims nothing but affection for them (Od. 15: 351-79). With such affection comes resentment toward the destruction wreaked by the suitors on the household, resentment which he relates the disguised Odysseus. From the perspective of Odysseus, one looking for allies in the murder of the vilified suitors, Eumaios shines like a beacon. With the creation of such a perfectly suited character for his role, it is only appropriate that Telemachos’ and Odysseus’ next ally to be described in the same terms. And so he is. When the loyal oxherd is first introduced (Od. 20: 185) he is referred to as Philoitios, leader of people, directly referring to Eumaios’ own epitaph, leader of men, given no less than seven times in books fourteen