David Fernández Puyana
Ambassador and Permanent Observer of UPEACE

The Ulysses message throughout the history

Ulysses and the Sirens, Pablo Picasso, 1946
Ulysses and the Sirens, Pablo Picasso, 1946 (Source: Wikiart, Visual Art Encyclopedia)

The dominant culture in the Homeric Greece corresponded to a warrior society, whose highest praise was linked to the man of fortune and position that exhibited his value in defending the interests of his home both in war and peace.

The Homeric noble possessed the fortune that allowed them to use costly and effectively weapons to protect their own property or relatives. The Homeric hero could perform actions that demonstrated clearly that he was not a prudent, fair or temperate man. In this way, the Iliad takes us back to an era fundamentally dominated by the heroic ideal and, by its own theme. It offers us an image of the hero whose exclusive framework is the battlefield.

According to the Iliad, the price of victory is public fame and the charismatic prestige of the victor. It is necessary that honor be trumpeted by others, and once he won, it must be preserved. Then the fame of the warrior reaches the sky, like the walls of the Achaeans, the shield of Nestor or what Athena wants for Telemachus.

Ulysses, one of the heroes featured in the Iliad and the Odyssey, is not brave like the typical warrior, but is rather thoughtful and cultivated. This places him outside the context of the typical Iliadic hero. In this way, Ulysses embodies, better than any other hero of the Iliad, the spiritual evolvement which exists between the Iliad and the Odyssey.

As one of these nobles, whose main occupation is war, Ulysses describes himself once again as a respectful man. However, the challenge to Eurymachus, which we find in the Odyssey, reveals us a Ulysses who not only knows how to skew lives on the battlefield, but who has learned to plow the fertile land and to reap the peaceful ears of wheat. In art man shows the power of his intelligence, and Ulysses is intelligence.

The old commentators saw in Ulysses the most pious hero of the poems. Many details of his behavior in the Odyssey document reveal his piety. Even when he suffers, he really refrains from reproaching the gods. He never accuses them of envy, as the others do in the Odyssey.

Much closer to us than the heroes of the Iliad is Ulysses, for being the eternal ideal of Humanity, one of the few enduring Myths of the human spirit. From Homer to our days, the universal literature and philosophical tradition has been discovering in Ulysses the reflection of very diverse ideals.

In the famous dialogue between the goddess and Ulysses, when he finally reaches the shores of Ithaca, the goddess notes: “This is why I cannot abandon you in your misfortunes, because you are civilized, intelligent and you know how to control you”. Therefore, Ulysses represents the pious justice, intelligence and temperance, overcoming in this way the narrow ethical molds of a certain social class, which is linked to the noble warrior.

In the famous Platonic myth of the choice of destiny by souls, which is included in the Republic, the Aedo chooses the existence of the swan, the warrior the lion; Thersites prefer to be incarnated in a monkey and King Agamemnon in an eagle. On the other hand, Ulysses prefers to live the life, humble and modest, of a man.

In the new millennium, the Homeric character of Ulysses still represents the embodiment of the values of humanity, work, peace and piety. Throughout our long history of wars and conflicts, these ideals have continued to be transmitted from generation to generation through the eternal demigod Ulysses. Today more than ever, Homeric Greece is still engraved in the memory of our humankind.

About the Author
Dr. David Fernández Puyana was born in Spain and is a practitioner and international lawyer specialized in international human rights law, international relations, peace studies, United Nations and civil society movements. He earned a Phd with European Mention and he has also a Degree on Law & Philosophy, as well as, some Masters on Human Rights (Essex, Alcala de Henares and Barcelona Universities). He served as adviser at the UNESCO Liaison Office and the Permanent Mission of Costa Rica to the UN in Geneva. As a legal assistant of the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the UN Intergovernmental Working Group on the right to peace, he was one of the architects of the Declaration on the Right to Peace adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2016. He advises Paz sin Fronteras and is Professor of Public International Law at Abat Oliba University CEU. Since June 2018, he serves as Ambassador and Permanent Observer of the University for Peace established by the UN General Assembly to the UN and UNESCO. He is also nominated Gender Champion.
Related Topics
Related Posts