The Odyssey and Dante’s Inferno Assignment Example


Topic: The Odyssey and Dante’s Inferno



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Odyssey means trouble: giving and receiving in kind while inferno is symbolic for hell. This paper reviews the two poems, written centuries apart. The Odyssey and Inferno are about the journey of two men. In the two poems, the main character was given guidance by another character aiding them in their travel. Athena is the protector of Odysseus on his journey back from the Trojan War to his family in Ithaca. On the other hand, Dante was led by Virgil through hell to save his soul. In Dante’s Inferno, there is a struggle between good and evil setting up the theme of the poem. The journey through hell is symbolic; the presentation of the soul towards God. The two characters, Athena and Virgil, can be perceived as escorts in the journeys, both leading Odysseus and Dante into different endings.

Athena is regarded as a goddess of wisdom in the Greek mythologies. She uses her wisdom to guide Odysseus from Calypsos Island. Enraged by her acts, Poseidon sends a wave to wreck the ship, but she helps him survive. “But Zeus’s daughter Athena countered him at once. / The rest of the winds she stopped right in their tracks, /commanding them all to hush now, go to sleep./ All but the boisterous North-she whipped him up/ and the goddess beat the breakers flat before Odysseus,/ dear to Zeus, so he could reach the Phaeacians,/ mingle with men who love their long oars/ and escape his death at last. Virgil’s wisdom in The Inferno was demonstrated by his role as a rescuer, source of knowledge, and the company which enabled Dante to go through the nine rings of hell.

The theme of maturation usually is reserved for young people maturing into adults. Odysseus and Dante are adults already, but the son to Odysseus, Telemachus, is coming of age. Athena also guides Telemachus on his journey to find his father. Giving him wisdom and hope helps him become a mature young man. She helps Telemachus find himself as Virgil helps Dante’s. Both Athena and Virgil are mentors as they also let Telemachus and Dante find themselves.

Dante’s journey through hell represents the different evils that identify with humanity. Each sinner will be punished in capacity befitting their crimes: the chief sin committed is endowed for eternity.  All sins are represented in nine circles in the Inferno. Dante’s poem was written at a time when the earth was undergoing a revolution of Christian majority. The Inferno is therefore symbolic of a Christian hell. Perceived religion interpretation is what has shaped the morals and cultures of the people on earth.

One important difference that cannot be overlooked is the religious differences of the time in the two poems. Ancient Greece belief at the time was polytheism; the existence of different gods for different aspects of nature and humanity.  These gods affected the livelihood of people on earth. Dante’s inferno was written when the world was approaching a Christian majority. He therefore observes that each sinner will be punished in a capacity befitting their crimes. Sin as shown here is categorical according to Dante’s Inferno.

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The roles of the women in both epics are notable elements in the influence they have on the event’s occurrence.  The main reason why they took the journey was based on a longing for love from the past. Odysseus longed to see his family while Dante longed for his love Beatrice. Odysseus seeks news about his wife from the underworld:  “Still with her child indeed she is, poor heart, /still in your palace hall. Forlorn her nights/and days go by, her life used up in weeping”. Both Homer and Dante include the thought that women play a submissive role in life, focally varying the degree of subservience. The roles of the women in both epics are notable elements in the influence they have on the event’s occurrence.

Odysseus is a hero who represents strength, courage and empathy while Dante’s heroism is manifest in testing his inner strength, courage and the suffering that he likens to humans. Their journeys and heroism come in the form of humanity; they face challenges that all humans undergo. Dante’s courage was tested through his travel in the nine rings of hell. Unlike Odysseus, Dante’s courage does not include physical fights; he exudes his strength by testing his inner strength.  Dante writes, “Therefore look carefully; you will see such things/as would deprive my speech of all belief”

As much as the Odyssey was mostly about physical strength and courage, the use of words and literal speech cannot be overlooked. While fighting off his wife’s suitors, for example, Odysseus was quoted saying, “You yellow dogs, you thought I’d never make it home from the land of Troy. You took my house to plunder, twisted my maids to serve your beds. You dared bid for my wife while I was still alive”. Dante in The Inferno does not quote lingering speeches at least as grand as those in Homer’s Odyssey.

Both poems can be reviewed to correspond to the challenges that mortals undergo in the modern world. They choose to believe in anything that mimics the true power of God, thus falling prey to evil according to Dante. Caution, however, is given to sinners since the intensity of the punishment is a true representation of their sins while they were living. The Odyssey is characteristic of the human element; humans are identified to be quite prone to deceptions and misguided truths. Humans should stand for something in their lifetime as seen by the struggles of the two characters. Christianity also does not change; it is the people themselves who like to twist the message to serve their purpose.


Homer, 2009. The Odyssey. 800 B.C.E. Books 9, 10.Retrieved from

Mandelbaum, Allen (1980). Dante’s Inferno, The World of Dante, retrieved on June 29th 2023 from

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