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Homeric Ethics

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Chapter Summary

This chapter begins to study Homeric value-terms. It surveys first some scattered passages which employ the words agathos, esthlos, arete, and their contraries kakos, deilos, and kakotes. These words, like most Greek value-terms, are untranslatable. In the Odyssey, the misdeed of the suitors is not simply that they have wooed Penelope while her husband was still alive, but that they have devoured the substance (time) of the oikos of Odysseus (or Telemachus); and this they have done deliberately. The contribution of the well-armed head of oikos was equally relevant in peace. Consider the plight of the household of Odysseus in the absence of its master at the beginning of the Odyssey. The usage of a group of related words indicates the pre-eminent position of time in Homeric values. The chapter turns to two important terms which are usually translated by 'friendship:' philotes and xenie.

Keywords: Homeric values; Odyssey; Penelope; Telemachus



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