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Each culture and each epoch has its own system of beliefs, which establishes relationship between people and the supernatural. Dante’s Inferno, Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex and Homer’s The Iliad reveal the values that dominated in a certain time period permeated human existence. While Dante’s poem suggests the medieval Christian concept of God-centrism with the claim of people’s sinfulness, Sophocles deals with the issues of fate that is determined by gods and cannot be avoided. In his turn, Homer suggests that while humans are dependent on gods and can be easily destroyed by them, the spirit and honor is what matters most, and they cannot be conquered in this aspect.
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Thus, Dante’s Inferno is a poem that is understandable to today’s readers in terms of its religious content, because it is the latest one in terms of chronology and the only Christian one in the discussed list. Middle Ages are known as an epoch when the church was extremely influential, so this institution ruled human consciousness at the time. Compared to later Renaissance-type Christianity, medieval religion was the most severe one in terms of its attitude to humans. While God was omnipotent, he was presented as the one who was angry with people and was willing to punish them for their sins. The role of human in God-centered Universe was very small, and one had to be humble to meet the expectations of the church about one’s piety. Although it is clear today that this was a perfect way to manipulate people, it is impossible to deny the fact tha this type of beliefs was quite popular. In his works, Dante is more inspired about describing the Hell than the Paradise. Inferno is the place where sinners are tortured in different ways depending on severity of their sins. It is remarkable that the medieval God is rarely loyal or merciful to humans but is severe about their sins. In Inferno, the concept of justice is emphasized in the context of religion. Compared to early days of Christianity when beliefs were heterogeneous and chaotic, it became clear in the Middle Ages that religion can keep society in balance. These aspects of the epoch’s beliefs are reflected in Dante’s Inferno.
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Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex is a pre-Christian work, but it has a number of other deities who participate in people’s lives. Based on an ancient myth of Oedipus, whose fate was to kill his father and marry his mother, the tragedy traces the characters’ futile attempts to avoid their fortune. The author demonstrates how blind people are about their own lives, so they should not be vain about being their own masters. However hard the characters try to change their fate, it appears to be impossible, because gods decide on it. Sophocles believes that there is not higher wisdom or reason about gods’ will, or at least it is not open to humans. The fate of Oedipus looks unfair, there is no justice about it, but, according to Sophocles, fortune is immoral and does not take one’s merits into account. Blinding himself is a symbolic way to give in to the divine fatum and take one’s blindness.
Finally,, Homer’s Iliad is the earliest of the mentioned works, so this is why it is the closest one to mythology and the most authentic one. Background in myths is what unites Homer with Sophocles, though the two books have different attitude to beliefs. While Sophocles suggests being unpretentious and take one’s fate as it is, Homer believes that humanity is not so small compared to gods. It is true that gods interfere all the time while the characters are on their journey, but they are not just toys in their hands. The poem suggests that dignity is more important than staying alive, so it is worth fighting with gods if necessary. People are to be good warriors and loyal to each other, then they will be remembered well after their death. Such behavior makes them stoic and full of self-respect, no matter how mighty gods can be. So, the beliefs reveal the aspects of an epoch in the context of religion, and a great share of freedom is present in the attitude.
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In conclusion, it is worth saying that the three works are typical examples of their epoch art, and so they reflect the main beliefs, too. Dante’s Inferno deals with the philosophy which focuses on human sins’ and the punishment that should be expected from God, which clearly served to rule people. Oedipus Rex is a story that contemplates on personal will and destiny and gives a clear answer that destiny is higher and that a person should obey its will. Finally, Homer’s Iliad dwells on the idea of honor in relation with gods and the necessity to struggle, because fighting with stronger competitors brings honor.
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