Greek Code of Conduct
Rules to Live By
Rule # 1: Citizens must keep their promises.
Do: Agree and plan to keep a promise
After Odysseus meets his companion Elpenor in the underworld, he listens to his request for being buried in the honorable way. He then replies, “Unhappy man, I’ll do this, complete it all (185).”
Do not: Go back on your word
Even after making a promise to Odysseus, his men killed Helios cattle on page 217. “So come, let’s drive away the best of Helios’ cattle, and then we’ll sacrifice to the immortal gods who hold wide heaven.”
Rule # 2: Citizens must welcome anyone that comes to their door
Do: Treat one’s guest as heroes
Follow the footsteps of Penelope when she greets Odysseus who was disguised as a beggar on page 325. “But come, women, wash the stranger and make his bed, with bedding, blankets and lustrous spreads to keep him warm till Dawn comes up and takes her golden throne.”
Do not: Eat one’s guest
In Book 9, Polyphemus greeted Odysseus’s men by eating them when they showed up in his cave as wandering heroes.
Rule # 3: Citizens must do whatever they can to protect themselves and others
Do: Protect others and yourself
In Book 9, in order for Odysseus to keep his men safe form Polyphemus the man eater, he drank wine with the Cyclopes until he was drunk enough for him and his men to escape.
Do not: Lead others into danger
“We soon reached his cave but didn’t find him. He was pasturing his rich flocks in the fields. We went inside the cave and looked around (152).”
Rule # 4: One Should Remain Humble Throughout Any Situation
Do: Remain Humble Even When Praised by Others for Being a Hero
Odysseus realizes that men find his victory in the Trojan War to be heroic. “Men hold [him] formidable for guile in peace and war” (Book 9). Odysseus does not become overzealous when men mention his victory, but instead he credits the gods for his victory. Odysseus’s actions result in extra protection from the gods. Goddesses, such as Athena and Circe, also reward Odysseus by giving him information about his journey and what is to come. Greek citizens rely on being humble because it shows respect towards others and that they do not find themselves to be prestigious when they commit a remarkable action.
Do Not: Overuse Heroism
After Odysseus and his crew win the Trojan War, instead of starting to return to their home of Ithaca, Odysseus decides to lead his crew to the Cicones where they, “raid the Cicones, [rob] and [kill] people, until the Ciconian army kills 72 of Odysseus’s men and drives the rest out to sea” (Book 9). Odysseus is living off his status of being the winner of the Trojan War. Instead of recognizing his victory and being thankful for the win, Odysseus abuses his heroic status by killing a town of innocent people. Odysseus’s actions result in the death of 72 of his men.
Rule # 5: One Should Entrust in Higher Beings
Do: Have Trust in the Gods
When leaving Circe’s Island, Odysseus decides, “to tell the men...of Circe’s warnings about the Sirens, whom they will soon encounter” (Book 12). Odysseus trusts what Circe has to say and believes that what she is saying is beneficial towards the success of the men on the their journey. Odysseus’s reward from following this rule is that instead of losing all of his men from going through the Charybdis, Circe’s information only allows for Odysseus to lose six of his men. Greek citizens value higher beings because their information can be detrimental through times of crisis.
Do Not: Doubt the Work of the Gods
When Penelope is faced with seeing Odysseus again, Penelope is scared that the gods are playing a trick on her (Book 23). Penelope’s fear shows that she does not fully trust the gods. She thinks the gods would play with her emotions when it comes to confirming if the man in front of her is truly her husband. The consequence of Penelope’s doubt in the gods is that she is forced to have to test Odysseus to find out if he is truly her husband. This leads Odysseus to feel offended by the fact that Penelope finds it necessary to have to test him in order to learn if he is who he says he is.
Rule # 6: One Should Find Happiness or Loves with Others
Do: Enjoy The Company of Friends
As Odysseus and his crew travels towards Ithaca, Odysseus becomes friendly with the women around him. “We two shall mingle and make love upon our bed” (Book 10) is what Odysseus says to Circe’s one he arrives on her island. The Greeks value the company of a woman. They find it necessary for a man to not be alone and to be able to cure their loneliness with another woman. Odysseus’s action of sleeping with Circe’s allows for him to become closer with Circe on a deeper level and for him to not feel as homesick. Greek citizens find that companionship allow for them to learn more about themselves and to be happier.
Do Not: Commit to Marriage with a Partner Who Would Make One Unhappy
Penelope does not have a connection with the suitors so she refuses to marry them. She makes a promise to agree to marry a suitor if they are able to complete a challenge, but she makes the challenge so difficult that none of them can do it. Also, Penelope models her challenge after what Odysseus could do which shows that she still loves him. Greek citizens value companionship when it is with someone who will make them happy. However, they find it unnecessary to waste their time with someone who would they would resent. Penelope does not want to seem rude so she only agrees to marry a suitor if a they can complete a challenge.