The Odyssey

Birds of Prey in the Odyssey

The eagle's eyes roam the landscape from its perch, searching for its quarry from above. Suddenly a rustle of movement captures its full attention: a dove, perching lightly on the branch of an olive tree. Immediately, the eagle rises from its own branch and dives below, wings folded back as it soars toward the oblivious little bird. Flaring its feathers as it braces for impact, the eagle snatches the dove in its talons and flaps off, victorious.

Such scenes appeared frequently in Homer's Odyssey, and without fail a character witnessing the event would declare it to be a foreboding sign from the gods. The bird of prey omens in the Odyssey represent the relationship between gods and men. The delicate balance of predator and prey symbolize the essence of the power held by gods over mortals.

Birds of prey possess unimaginable might over their victims: the power over life and death. With natural ease they take the lives of their prey, pitiless and unsympathetic. Similarly, the gods arbitrarily play favorites: whom they reward and whom they punish, whose lives they destroy and whom they raise to higher status-- all depends solely on innate whim. Like predators, the gods have the power to radically change the quality of life for...

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