Thursday, May 19, 2011

Is the Slaughter Justified?

In Book 22 Odysseus with the aid of his son and loyal servants slaughters all the suitors (despite the pleas of mercy from some of them), all the maids, and even the priest Leodes. Are these killings justified? Could he have punished them without killing them? Could he have driven them from the house. Are some of the killings justified, but others not? What about the people they spared (Phemius and Medon) -- what was Telemachus' reasoning? Was it wise or prudent to kill them all?


  1. I believe that the slaughter of many of the suitors may have been brutal, but I feel like it was necessary. First, Odysseus could not have just sent the suitors away or punished them verbally, because I feel like the suitors would come back to kill Odysseus when not expecting it. The suitors could also still try to marry her if Odysseus is gone. The suitors would do whatever they could to try to marry Penelope, as they have waited 20 years waiting for her to chose someone to marry. As a beggar, he figured out which suitors were loyal and which suitors were disloyal, which justifies his slaughter of some suitors but not other. Some suitors tried fighting him, threw things at him, yelled at him, insulted him, etc, while other suitors helped him and did not insult him at all. I believe that every killing was justified, and although may have been brutal and a some unfair fighting ethics, the killings were necessary and there was no way to punish them without having the suitors still persuade Penelope to marry them or the suitors who waited 20 long years would kill the only obstacle in their way, Odysseus.
    I feel that when Telemachus told Odysseus to save Phemius and Medon, he had a specific reason to. Although there was no reason that was said in the epic, I feel like the reason that Telemachus told Odysseus to save these people is that they were much more innocent than the others and they were forced into helping the suitors. Medon even said, “They were too strong, too many-/they forced me to come and sing-I had no choice!” (22.372-3). This quote shows that he had no choice in helping the suitors, and Telemachus saw this in both people, and therefore, let them live.

  2. I agree with Henry. I think most of the slaughter was justified even if it was a brutal massacre. If the suitors had not been killed, they would have come back to challenge Odysseus later and possibly kill him, like they were planning to do to Telemachus. The only way Odysseus could prevent that from happening was to kill all the suitors, there was no other way. There was also good reason to spare Phemius and Medon because they were forced to entertain the suitors.

    But I think it was not at all justified to kill all the disloyal servants. They might have had no choice in what they did, like the two Telemachus spared, Phemius and Medon. The servants could have been forced, like Medon said, “They were too strong, too many-/they forced me to come and sing-I had no choice!” (22.372-3). The servants might have done it out of fear of being hurt if they did not. And even if the servants betrayed Odysseus willingly, Odysseus did not have to slaughter them like he did the suitors. The suitors could have threatened him later, but the servant would not have. They did not have the ambitions the suitors did. Odysseus could have just fired them and they could have found a job somewhere else, there was no need for the murder. Also the servants were not trained how to fight and would not fight back if they could, like the suitors did. So killing them was completely unnecessary and there was no reason to justify it.

  3. I agree with both Daniel and Henry. I feel that the slaughter was completely justified and the brutality of it was very necessary. Even though Odysseus is the suitors’ host, the suitors have acted outrageously in Odysseus’s home and he has a right to kill them. The suitors, while at Odysseus’s home while he was away, frustrated Telemachus so much that he said, “You suitors who plague my mother, you, you insolent, overweening…for this evening let us dine and take our pleasure, no more shouting now, What a fine thing it is to listen so such a bard as we have there- the man sings like a god,” (1.422-427). This quotation shows how the suitors have abused Penelope and also have been disrupting the lives of everyone living in Odysseus’s house. The suitors have been so loud that Telemachus has come to begging them for one night of quiet. Moreover, they even plotted to kill Odysseus as soon as he came home. Of course he has a right to brutally murder the suitors.
    As for not killing the bard and the herald, I disagree with Henry. Even though Telemachus had good reason to keep them alive, keeping the herald alive ended up being a mistake. Once Odysseus killed the suitors and fled to his father’s house, the herald ended up running through the city gathering people to go kill Odysseus. They would have been better off killing the herald and the bard just for safety reasons.

  4. I agree with Henry. In the Odyssey when Odysseus slaughtered all of the suitors with revenge, even though it was a chaotic outrage of a massacre I believe all of the suitors, maids, and traitors deserved it. Even though Odysseus could have just showed up in Ithaca and possibly told the suitors verbally to get out and if physical aggressiveness was needed then yes he should have abused them and kill them. But I believe if the suitors weren’t eliminated from Odysseus’ home then I believe they would have set a challenge for Odysseus himself because the suitors might try to kill him or marry Penelope or eat all of his food and make him less wealthy. So even if many are in disbelief that it was necessary for Odysseus to kill all the suitors I feel it was the only possible way for him to take care of the suitors. I believe that killing the maids and servants that it was also necessary because they are just as bad as the suitors because they helped the suitors and betrayed him. So yes I feel that the slaughter was justified. Even though the way how Odysseus took care of the suitors by brutally massacring them all when they were defenseless. Also killing the maids and servants I believed were justified even though they were also defenseless but I believe it was the right thing to do because they turned on Odysseus.

  5. The mutilation of the suitors and other suspected conspirators at the end of the epic was quite brutal. Odysseus’ conscience claimed everyone to be guilty; therefore, he stormed back into his palace for the first time in twenty years and killed them all without remorse. In Odysseus’ mind, the killings were justified but I believe that most of them were not. Odysseus had not been present in Ithica for twenty years and he was, for the most part, ignorant of what was actually going on in his castle. In my opinion, he didn’t have the rights to pursue his ambitions with as little knowledge as he had. Therefore, I believe that only some of his killings were justified.
    I further believe that killing Antinous and Eurymachus and other rebellious suitors was fair. Antinous and Eurymachus were the prominent suitors of Penelope, and were both significantly disrespectful, arrogant, and they had no regards toward Penelope’s hospitality. As for the rest of the suitors, they were trapped in Antinous and Eurymachus’ regime and they fought back against Odysseus therefore supporting the suitors’ cause. Thus, I believe that the brutal death of the suitors was justified. However, the dismemberment of the maids and also the others that were unwilling and just under Antinous and Eurymachus regime was not justified. Odysseus spoke with Eurycleia, his most faithful maid, and somehow came under the impression that she was assisting the suitors with their tasks. He automatically assumed that the rest of the maids were doing the same and ordered their execution. I believe that this is unfair to the maids, and unjust of Odysseus to do. He wasn’t aware of those who were unwilling, except for Phemius and Medon, because Telemachus caught Odysseus right in the beam of time and stopped him. Therefore, there could have been many other innocent people that Odysseus slaughtered. Odysseus came upon the situation too abruptly and selfishly. He could have only killed the ones that he knew were conspirators and work from then on, but he was only thinking about himself and his vengeance which is not very wise, and then finally he was left with no one except Telemachus, Penelope, and a few of his faithful friends.

  6. LIke many others I also agree with that the slaughter was justified. I believe the way in which the killings happened may have been a bit extreme however I do feel that it did have to be done. I believe this because the suitors were very stubborn and it would have been very difficult for Odysseus to get rid of them in any other way other then to outright kill them. Lastly the suitors were also very caught up with trying to marry Penelope. Odysseus new this and the only way he could keep the suitors away from Penelope was to kill them. Also I believe the killing was in a sense for revenge against the suitors. Odysseus had a strong hatred towards the suitors and this was his one chance to get revenge on them and he took it. Overall whichever reason you look at I believe the slaughter is justified because it had to be done sooner the later.

  7. I think both slaughters (that of the suitors and maids) were justified. As others have said, Odysseus had to kill the suitors, otherwise they might return and kill him. After all, they planned to kill Telemakhus and fought back against Odysseus, so they were certainly capable of causing him harm.
    As for the maids, he did not kill them all -- he asked Eurycleia who of the maids had turned bad. He knew some had become spies, because Penelope had told him a maid revealed her weaving ruse. Eurycleia had plenty of experience working in the house, and knew who to target.
    Finally, the story has to come to a logical end. Odysseus spent twenty years away from home, wanting to be back. He needs a home to go back to -- and if his home is overrun with traitors (remember, the maids slept willingly with the suitors), he cannot truly have a homecoming.