Essay on 2. What are the three most important issues of contemporary life? How does ancient literature relate to them?

Today it is rather difficult to define the three most important issues of contemporary life because different people have different world perception and different values. However, there are three issues that are very important for all people in this world. They are love, justice and morality, and life and death. Ancient literature relates to the above mentioned issues in its own way. The theme of love can be found practically in all works of ancient epic. Such literary works that belong to Greek and Roman mythology as Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad, Hesiod’s Theogony, Argonautica by Apollonius of Rhodes, Aeneid by Virgil, and some other works of ancient literature. In Greek mythology, the theme of love, both emotional and physical can be found The Theogony written by Hesiod. This is an interesting story which portrays human love as “an enormous egg formed within Chaos” that broke, “releasing Love, and the two halves of the egg became Heaven and Earth” (Hesiod 8). Eros is one of the goddesses represented as “fairest among the deathless gods, who unnerves the limbs and overcomes the mind and wise counsels of all gods and all men within them” (Hesiod 8). This story shows the relation of the Greeks to love, beauty, and wisdom. In addition, the mythology of Greece has many stories of love where Aphrodite is represented as the goddess of love and beauty and each of the gods is joined in love with goddesses or human beings. Throughout Hesiod’s The Theogony, the king of all gods and men Zeus whose wife is Hera, falls in love with both the humans and the goddesses who bore children and continue their love affairs. Although Hera was against it, her opinion was not heard by the king of all gods. It means that in ancient Greece, people considered that love was something exiting and spontaneous, but with serious consequences that resulted from emotions and feelings.  In Homer’s The Iliad  and The Odyssey, the theme of love is also revealed by the author. Although  it is a story of Odysseus, one of the brave warriors at Troy, who after ten years at war, spent another ten years sailing back home to his wife Penelope and his family, the theme of love can be found in all parts of these epic poems. Odyssey loves his wife and Penelope loves her husband. Their love is so strong and fair that it deserves admiration of the readers. During ten-year voyage, Odyssey loses all his ships and comrades, but returns home and meets his wife who remained faithful to him (Powel 15).

The second issue that is of great importance in contemporary life is the issue of morality and justice that is focused on the continual struggle of good against evil. It is known that the virtues of justice and morality are considered to be the key themes in such works of ancient Greek and Roman literature as Homer’s The Odyssey, Plato’s Republic, Plutarch’s Life of Aristides, Sophocles’ Antigone and some other literary works.  The authors of the above mentioned works refer to distributive justice when a decision is just and all the parties get what they need or deserve, and procedural justice when executing decisions provide fair treatment (Foley 43). The works of ancient writers illustrate how the Greeks and the Romans viewed justice and morality and how they applied them to the individuals and the society. In Sophocles’ Antigone, there are several conflicts that are focused on justice and morality. Sophocles represents a conflict between the power of the state and the individual. Antigone is described as a threat to the so-called status quo as she tries to invoke divine law to defend her actions. Antigone makes a decision to sacrifice her life out of her devotion to those principles that are much higher than human law. However, Creon makes a serious mistake when he sentences Antigone. Creon wants to establish his authority, but he forgets about morality and justice (Foley 82).  In Plato’s Republic, a well-known Socratic dialogue written in 380 BC, the author defines justice and its application to the society members.  In this literary work, Socrates and other Athenians discuss the meaning of justice and investigate the issue concerning happiness of the just men. They discuss if the just men are happier than the unjust men. They refer to different cities and discuss the nature of regimes, the morality and immorality of human souls, and the role of philosophical ideas in the life of individuals. For example, Socrates says, “while a just man is alive, these are the sorts of prizes, wages and gifts he receives from gods and human beings, in addition to those good things that justice itself provides” (Plato 319). The central question of the literary work is: “What is justice, and why should we be just, especially when the wicked often seem happier and more successful?” (Plato 3). Plato states that the answer to this question in concluded in the ways people, societies and institutions are organized and behave.

The third significant issue is the meaning of life and death. Today, it is necessary to conclude that life and death coexist together in our society. The views concerning life and death are changing. The changes are connected with the religious views of individuals and their personal relation to the issue. Some historians state that our views reflect the views of past generations. The Greeks and Romans had different relation to life and death. In Homer’s The Odyssey, the ancient author discusses the views of ancient civilizations to life and death. In the ancient epic poem, Homer tells the readers through the blind prophet Teiresias, the results of the so called “life journey” of Odysseus. The scene at the entrance to the land of death helps the readers to see and feel the atmosphere of that place: “the realm and region of the Men of Winter, hidden in mist and cloud” (Homer 136). It means that the land of death is a small island which is situated in the middle of nowhere and which is surrounded by darkness and fog, and it reflect the coldness of the “dead”. It is a place where there is no the shining sun in the sky: “Never the flaming eye of Helios lights on those men at morning”(Homer 137). When Odyssey comes to the land of death, he starts the rituals and communicates with death. Odysseus should sacrifice some animals in order to take their blood for the dead. He communicated with the death: “With my drawn blade I spaded up the votite pit, and poured libations round it to the unnumbered dead: sweet milk and honey, then sweet wine, and last clear water”¦” (Homer 138). Odysseus meets the shades of different dead women and famous heroes. It means that in Ancient Greece, hell stands for death, while heaven stands for life. There is no afterlife in the views of the ancient Greek. No matter how rich a person was in life, he will become “a shade” after his death. This view differs from the present day views about life and death that are written in the Bible.

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