The Concepts of Families in ancient Greek Literature
The concept of the family as described in Ancient Greek Literature.
What is so special about the concept of family in Ancient Greece?
In what way do Ancient Greek writers Plato and Homer portray the role of the family in the life of a man?
How is Ancient Greek notion of a family different from the contemporary notion of a family?
The concept of a family has always been one of the most important and often found topics throughout the literature works of all times.
The Concepts of Families in ancient Greek Literature
Ancient Greek Literature:
1. Plato- The last days of Socrates Analysis
2. Heidel, Alexander. The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Analysis Parallels: A translation and interpretation of the Gilgamesh Epic and related Babylonian and Assyrian documents
3. Homer – The Odyssey Analysis
Introduction: The concept of a family has always been one of the most important and often found topics throughout the literature works of all times. The question does not lie in – why is this theme so important to people? – Because family is of an unmeasured value for them, but it lies in –what can a family be for a person inside it, how can it possible change him and his ways? If we take three books and compare the visions of the families in them we can see a lot of in common generally because family is always about love, dedication, loosing something for the other person’s well being and at the same moment gaining so much from the happiness it brings to the one that does it. Though sometimes it is very closely connected with pain and even death. The "Epic of Gilgamesh" and the "Last Days of Socrates" are books that do contain a certain message concerning the family issue. They give a deeper understanding of what can a family be or not be for a person. “The Epic of Gilgamesh” is a story of a person that is conceited, masterful that thinks that the main goal of his life is to glorify his own power throughout other people. Gilgamesh was a man of great power and lived his life to enjoy the earthly boons. We can see how his heart is closed for the troubles of his own people, how blind he is in his believes and deeds. Nothing really seems to be able to change him and his ways. Only the birth of Enkidu, his beloved brother, makes him opens a place in his heart for someone else except himself. Love made him start changing his selfish ways. It is a story of a person that lived not a very decent life, was changed by the only person he loved and then this dearly beloved person was taken away from him. The grief of this powerful person cleared his heart even more. This love made him change and save his own people in the name of love and in memory of Enkidu for he was his “family”. This story shows that family-like love is a powerful bond, that can change the hearts even of people that have done indecent things in their past. It can purify one’s soul, clear one’s thoughts and make a person do significant kind and loving deeds not only to the person he loves but to the world around. Do it because the world around should be better for the sake of this family-love. This kind of devotion is the main family-message in the “Epic of Gilgamesh” and it inspires the hearts of the reader powerfully.
“Last days of Socrates” is story of a different kind written by Plato using Socrates voice. Socrates lives his life and dies because of the believes he tried to spread among people. He is accused of impiety and corruption of youth, defends himself but accepts the ruling of death from the court, then stays in prison and dies. Socrates main thoughts were: the necessity of doing what one thinks is right even in the face of universal opposition, and the need to pursue knowledge even when opposed. His main idea concerning the family was to love and to gain self-knowledge throughout the loving family relations. It is seen in the book that what he tries to say is that if a person knows what good is – he will do it, if he does not – he can’t be trusted to do the right thing. But where does the person learn about what is good and what is wrong? From the family. One learns about virtue, morality, love and other things from the family. And if one will truly learn what they are, then he will know what is good and will do so. So family in this book is shown as a source of knowledge that gives directivity to the thoughts of people. So it is obvious that Socrates considers the family to be the teacher of love, dignity, kindness, virtue and devotion.These two books have a common love message. According to them family -love is a strength that can teach people how to do meritorious actions or even change their old ways. For family gives love for the people and love shows them what is good and what is wrong.
Conclusion: If we take “Odyssey” and analyze it from the sense of family we can see that the family concept is handled through the ideas of selfless love to home and family, returning to the native land and pardon of sins. Wee see Penelope waiting for her only love for years and her children growing up without a father and all the suitor that try to marry her. Her strong belief that her husband was still alive was the only support she had throughout all those years. Only this belief and her love for him kept her alive. Odyssey after all his adventures and affairs still comes back home to his roots and wants to be happy there. Homer gives us the message of the eternal value of family. His concept of family differs from the two books analyzed above, for he sees the family as a shelter where you can always come back even having bad things behind shoulders. He sees it as a place where someone is always waiting for you and believing in you. But what has Odyssey done to deserve this love? This is a point of controversy of this book.All these three books show the family from different sides and have some differences depicted above but all of them have one thing in common: family is above everything, above all the things that a man has done, above time and above all the other people.
1. Plato-The last days of Socrates / Penguin Books, 1993.
2. Heidel, Alexander. The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels: A translation and interpretation of the Gilgamesh Epic and related Babylonian and Assyrian documents, Phoenix 1991.
3. Homer – The Odyssey, translated by W.H.D. house-Signent classic, 1999 .