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Odyssey and Hercules: Comparative Analysis

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Anthropology is the scientific study of human beings, how they behave, and their societies, both in the past and the present. There are three categories of anthropology, that is, social anthropology, linguistic anthropology, and cultural anthropology. Social anthropology studies the behavioral patterns of human beings, linguistic anthropology studies what influences language has on the social life of human beings. In contrast, cultural anthropology studies their culture, values, and norms. Anthropology is built upon knowledge from natural sciences, which includes the evolution and the development of the Homo sapiens. This trait has made anthropology the center of attraction in the development of the late 20th century related fields such as ethnic studies, cognitive studies, and global studies of human beings.

Various scholars and schools have defined anthropology differently. According to (What is Anthropology? — Anthropology, 2020), ‘Anthropology is the systematic study of humanity, with the goal of understanding our evolutionary origins, our distinctiveness as a species, and the great diversity in our forms of social existence across the world and through time.’ Understanding the human origin and their development over time enables us to know how certain factors affect their behavior, how they socialize, and why different cultural practices evolved. All three categories of anthropology have distinctive features and affect human behavior, social life, and cultural practices.

Social Anthropology:

This is the branch of anthropology that deals with the study of human behaviors, their social life, and how they have developed over time. This branch of anthropology helps anthropologists to study and understand how human beings lived and what they did to make their lives meaningful. However, many people have confused social anthropology with sociology. Both disciplines base their focus on studying how human beings behave within their societies; however, there is a slight difference between the two disciplines. Social anthropology focuses on the culture of human beings, whereas sociology is the science that bases its concentration on human beings’ societies.

Linguistic Anthropology:

This branch of anthropology deals with how language affects the social life of human beings. Furthermore, this discipline explores how language forms social identity, improves communication, categorizes cultural beliefs, and presents a common cultural representation.

Cultural anthropology:

Unlike all the two branches of anthropology, this branch deals with the study of human culture, societies, and how they have developed over time. Cultural anthropology helps anthropologists to study how and why different cultures have different practices.

Background of 2001: A Space Odyssey:

A hero myth is a term that is used to refer to a hero, who goes out on an adventure, and wins victory in a decisive war and then comes back home when he is changed or transformed into a completely different person than he was before going to war. 2001: A Space Odyssey is a science fiction film, which tries to explain that an early alien race influenced the evolution of the human species. Directed by Stanley Kubrick, the film tried to portray his meditation on what age the space flight could mean to the evolution of human beings. In this film, we learn that during the creation of the universe, there was a group of beings who came into existence. They were known as the ‘firstborns,’ and their main purpose on earth was to act as caretakers of the universe, by controlling issues before they become worse, and to encourage the development of new species throughout the universe. Moreover, the ‘firstborns’ invented a mysterious stone-like structure, which human beings commonly referred to as ‘monoliths,’ which can advance into species.

Around the year 4,000,000 BCE, four monoliths were positioned in the universe. One was placed on earth in prehistoric Africa, near the tribe of apes, the second was placed below the moon surface, the third around Jupiter, and the last monolith was in a third-dimensional construct. The film 2001: A Space Odyssey opens up on the earth, in prehistoric Africa, where the first monolith was placed. It is evident that the apes are sharing, but have also built territories within their species. After that, a monolith is shown appearing near the apes, and the apes are filled with fear. They then manage to stay calm, and out of curiosity, they all touch the surface of the monolith, and the ape leader leads this act. When an ape from the enemy tribe reaches out to drink water from their water hole, the leader ape attacks the enemy ape.

Themes in 2001: A Space Odyssey:

A theme is a bigger idea or picture that an author is trying to convey in his film. It is the beliefs about life that the author is trying to put forward and is usually universal. Some of the themes that have been depicted in this film include;

• Evolution:

The evolution of humanity is the first them that is addressed in this film. At the beginning of the film, human beings are represented by apes, which mostly lived in caves, and are not that intelligent. However, the apes are inspired when a monolith appears, and they begin to hunt using stones. The apes are now able to provide for themselves because of their hunting tool.

• Conflict of Human Evolution:

Later, in the film, Dr. Floyd is called to the base of the moon to see a monolith, which looked like the one the apes found and has disappeared from the surface of the earth. Floyd becomes the center of attention in this phase of evolution. Humankind had now evolved from apes to human beings.

Higher Intelligence in Human Development:

Human development began the moment the apes discovered the monolith. The first monolith was discovered on earth, and the second monolith, which appeared under the surface of the moon, wanted to determine the ability of humankind to reach beyond the surface of the earth. This marked the first step to human development.

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Background to Hercules:

Hercules is a Roman hero and God, who is well known for his strength and wild adventures. The Romans adapted the myths that were revolving around Hercules for use in their literature and artwork under the name of Hercules. Hercules had many conflicting characters, which made writers and artists think deeply about how they want to represent him. Hercules is portrayed as the champion of the weak, but his problems started right after birth when Hera sent two witches to kill him, and when they did not succeed, a serpent was sent to kill him. Hercules was born of Jupiter and Alcmene, and in another myth, it is said that Alcmene hid his son in the woods to prevent the wrath of Hera. Then coincidentally, the goddess Athena found Hercules and brought him to Hera, claiming that he was abandoned in the bush.

Hera, then suckled Hercules from her breast until one day, Hercules bit her nipple, and Hera pushed him away, in turn spilling breast milk across the night sky. This is how the Milky Way was formed. Hera then gave back Hercules to Athena and told her to look after the infant and nourish her by herself. When Hera suckled the child from her breasts, she did not know that she has added him more power and strength. Hercules was raised in a family where he learned about wrestling, horse riding, and singing, among others. Later on, he was married to Megara, had three sons, and when Hera found out about this, she was not pleased. She struck Hercules with madness, which led him to kill his wife and children.

Themes in Hercules:

• Strength and Skill:

This is the main theme that keeps appearing throughout the life of Hercules. In almost every story, Hercules performs a superhero act. For instance, the twelve labors showed how skillful and strong Hercules was in accomplishing his tasks. His strength is depicted when he holds up the sky for Atlas.

• Jealousy:

This theme revolves around the queen of gods, Hera. Hera portrays her jealously almost throughout the entire life of Hercules. Being that Hercules was among Zeus many illegitimate kids, his sight constantly reminded Hera of her husband’s cheating habits. Hera’s jealously becomes extreme when she strikes Hercules with madness and makes him kill his whole family.

• Perseverance:

No normal human being could have accomplished the twelve labors, in the same way, Hercules did. However, strong Hercules was, he needed the perseverance to accomplish all the tasks.

Similarities between 2001: A Space Odyssey and Hercules:

• Both have similar character traits:

Odysseus and Hercules are both strong and heroic. This is seen from the tasks that they must accomplish.

• They both share almost the same death experience:

The wrath of the gods triggered Odysseus’s death experience, and the same happened with Hercules, only that he almost dies from accomplishing the twelve labors.

Differences between 2001: A Space Odyssey and Hercules:

  • Odysseus struggles to stay alive because he wants to reunite with his wife, whereas Hercules stays alive to live with his people peacefully and win their hearts.
  • Odysseus is proud of himself and has a thirst for greed, whereas Hercules is courageous, strong, and brave.

Heroic myths in relation to Anthropology:

In both A Space Odyssey and Hercules, the heroes have played different roles, which have influenced the societies in which they live. For instance, in the Odyssey, the first incident of social anthropology is seen when the apes are sharing. This shows the behavioral characteristics of human beings and how it has developed over time. Secondly, leadership traits also emerge from the film. This is seen when the apes are curious to touch the monolith, and the ape leader leads them. Leading is a human trait that shows the interrelationship between those in top positions and their juniors. Anthropologists can tell that leadership role begun long before the evolution proves to take place.

Thirdly, the theme of conflict between societies is a clear indicator to anthropologists that conflicts between societies lead to the progress of different societies. Conflict can lead to disputes at first, but later, peace reigns, and societies start progressing. In Hercules, the theme of perseverance shows anthropologists how perseverance has enabled people to achieve many positive things.

Linguistic anthropology also occurs when Dr. Floyd is called to see the monolith that has disappeared from the surface of the earth. The fact that communication was enacted shows how the role of higher intelligence has impacted language. Anthropologists now know how language has evolved over the years, and how human beings have improved their social lives through communication.

When Athena picked Hercules from the bush and thought he was an orphan, it shows how caring she was. She then took the child to Hera, who suckled Hercules until he bit her nipple. Maybe it was in their cultural practice to be nice and caring to other people, and that is why Athena took care of Hercules for some time. The theme of strength and skill shows how skillful Hercules is. He possesses various skills, which allowed him to accomplish his tasks. There is a similarity with the modern world, in that most people or companies who become successful possess various skills, which help the company is growing.

In conclusion, Odyssey and Hercules both played the same roles; in that, they were both strong and were heroes to their community. In addition to that, both fought for their societies, and this shows how cultural anthropology started in the early times. Hercules and Odysseus believed that they had to protect their society from living peacefully. Human beings also evolved from apes, who could not communicate effectively and in an intelligent way, to people who can socialize with other people and communicate perfectly.

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Odyssey and Hercules: Comparative Analysis. (2022, July 14). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 4, 2022, from
“Odyssey and Hercules: Comparative Analysis.” Edubirdie, 14 Jul. 2022,
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