epic poem;Free Will and Fate

Everything in life happens for a reason, may it be the choices made or the destiny fulfilled. Along the way though many people offer advice that affect choices made, was it fate that they gave their input? Is it free will to take or not to take that advice? Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey demonstrates that despite warning, characters often use their free will to make choices that in the end actually fulfill their fate. Primarily Aegisthus’s refusal to acknowledge the gods warning, serves as the first example of mankind using her own free will to bring her destiny to fruition.

Hermes tells Aegisthus not to sleep with Clytemnestra and not to kill Agamemnon, but he does so anyway, and so Orestes kills Aegisthus as revenge. Aegisthus received warning from the gods, they told him “far in advance…’don’t murder the man… don’t court his wife… revenge will come from Orestes’” (Homer 1. 45-48) and the predicted outcome came true –Aegisthus was killed. The Gods warned Aegisthus of what his fate held, and in utilizing his free will he chose to ignore this advice and his fate became reality. It is “with [each characters] own reckless ways… heir pains [are compounded] beyond their proper share” (Homer 1. 39-40); meaning that committing reckless actions will result in possible calamitous outcomes.

Aegisthus chose to kill Agamemnon, he chose to court Clytemnestra, he chose to ignore the advice from the gods, and so he ended up destroyed fulfilling the fate of receiving pain thanks to his own reckless behavior. Likewise, Homer clearly comments on the tendency of humans disregarding warnings of potential hazards, through his inclusion of The Phaecians’ decision to ignore their prophecy and aid travelers resulting in fate fulfillment.

The Phaecians’ were forewarned in a prophecy that “Poseidon was vexed with [them] because/ [they] escorted all mankind and never came to grief / [and]… one day a well built ship of [theirs]… [would be crushed]” (Homer 13. 196-200); Alcinous’s father received this prophecy years ago and gave no acknowledgement of the prophecy when time came to ship Odysseus back to Ithaca. As a result of The Phaecians’ seeing blind of the prophecy and escorting Odysseus back to Ithaca, their ship got crushed and mountains surrounded the port.

When Odysseus determined that it was time for him to sail back to Ithaca, Alcinous had no hesitation in assisting him. Alcinous “knew [that Odysseus] wouldn’t be driven /off…course, [that] nothing could hold [him] back” (Homer 13. 5-7), but what he knew and ignored was the free will choice he made to neglect the prophecy and allow the fate of himself and his fellow Phaecians to end in destruction just as it was destined to be. Similarly, Amphinomus reflects the human quality of free will leading to fate as he acquired purposeful advice from Odysseus (the beggar), yet he continued his pursuit of Penelope, and ended up dead.

Amphinomus received potentially life saving advice from the one that ended up killing him, Odysseus, but his ignorance of the ‘vagabond’ and how insightful he was made him assume that he would “never suffer affliction down the years… affronting the loyal wife of a man who won’t be gone…long” (Homer 18. 153-168) and so in the spirit of free will he continued to attempt to court Penelope all under the nose of Odysseus. Therefore, as Odysseus began his revenge Amphinomus was “fraught with grave forebodings…. /but not even so could he escape his fate…

Athena had bound him fast to death /at the hands of Prince Telemachus and his spear” (Homer 18. 77-179) as it had been destined to be. Cause: Amphinomus ignoring advice given to him that would potentially save his life – Free Will… Effect: Amphinomus is killed – Fate. All in all, Homer’s The Odyssey display’s the idea that regardless of warning fate is decided by free will and vice versa. Aegisthus, The Phaecians, and Amphinomus all received warning, and utilizing their free will they all chose to take a separate path one that led to ultimate fate. ‘Fate leads him who follows it, and drags him who resists. ’