Poseidon vs. Odysseus

Odysseus and his men blinding Polyphemus, Laco...
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“We Cyclops care not a jot for…the blessed gods, since we are much stronger than they.”

“For I am [Poseidon’s] son, and he is not ashamed to call himself my father. He is the one who will heal me if he’s willing–a thing no other blessed god or man could do.”

–Polyphemus the Cyclops, The Odyssey

The Cyclops were cannibals. They ignored the laws of hospitality. They did not care about nor fear the gods. In Greek culture, you couldn’t get much more depraved than that.

PoseidonPoseidon was a god. He was also father to the Cyclops. The contrast between Odysseus and Poseidon as fathers is striking. Odysseus was forced from his home to fight a war, and left his infant son at home with his wife. However, the memory of him was enough of an example that his son chose to be virtuous and obedient in his absence. Poseidon, on the other hand, left the Cyclops to their own devices with no excuse, and they grew up to be god-hating cannibals. However, he claimed not to hate the Cyclops. As Polyphemus said, “he [was] not ashamed to call himself [their] father.” He avenged Polyphemus’s eye on Odysseus a hundredfold, going far beyond justice into petty hatred on behalf of a child who boasted about not fearing him. By way of contrast, Telemachus, Odysseus’s son, searched for him and fought alongside him, and Odysseus had no need to avenge him, because Telemachus could take care of himself.

It is no wonder that the Greeks were so suspicious of their gods. The gods were hypocrites, through and through. They commended Odysseus’s piety and devotion to his family, but allowed Poseidon to run rampant for the sake of his inimical son. This is folly.

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