Fighting Injustice In Ancient Greece Essay

1516 words - 6 pages

The use of violence as the answer to injustice is addressed in both the Odyssey and the Agamemnon. Violent revenge as a form of punishment was commonplace in Greek culture, but its effectiveness varies between these works. Odysseus' violent retribution against the suitors in his house proved to be successful in ending the injustice that was created by the suitors. On the other hand, the violence used by Clytaemnestra against Agamemnon and Cassandra in retaliation for Agamemnon's killing of their daughter just caused more violence, as Orestes avenged Agamemnon's death by killing Clytaemnestra and Aegisthus. The two different views of violence as the answer to injustice given by Homer and Aeschylus reveal a contradiction in how appropriate violence is in resolving injustice. While Homer's story depicts a situation in which all is well after Odysseus uses violence to combat the injustice taking place in his house, Aeschylus shows that acts of violence simply inspire more acts of violence in the form of revenge. The contradiction in the effectiveness of the violence reflects a problem still seen in today's society - whether vengeful violence cures injustice or just incites more violence. Though Homer and Aeschylus each use their literary works to offer their ideas about justice, the use of violence as a solution to injustice used by Homer is old-fashioned and inhumane compared to Aeschylus method of reasoning and consideration.

Both Odysseus and Clytaemnestra attempt to bring a final peace to their houses by exacting revenge on those who have brought trouble to their respective houses. In the Odyssey, Odysseus' revenge is repeatedly referred to as the "purge of his house." He is essentially wiping out an infection that is the suitors who have taken over his house and wish to take his wife. Similarly, Clytaemnestra wanted to rid her house of the man who unjustly killed her daughter, Iphigenia. She believes justice should follow an eye for an eye, therefore believes she is just in killing Agamemnon because he killed Iphigenia. There are two sides for each case of whether or not the characters were right in their violent acts of retribution. In the case of Odysseus, Athene believes he is doing the right thing, and goes on to encourage him to do it. However, the people of Ithaka are not content with Odysseus' violent actions. They attempt to kill Odysseus and Telemachos before Athene arrives. Conversely, Clytaemnestra believes Zeus compelled her to kill Agamemnon, but the chorus greatly disapproves and Apollo convinces Orestes that the murder was unjust and must be avenged. Although each character was simply trying to rid their houses of what they believed to be injustice, the results from the two acts of violent justice were very different. After the battle of Odysseus and Telemachos against the families, Homer portrays a happy ending for Odysseus and Penelope as the killing of the suitors solves the injustice of the house and allows for peace. In...

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