All incoming freshman at OSU should read all of the works mentioned in the question. The works of Homer, Hesiod, and Plato provide a great deal of insight not just into the Ancient Greeks but also about the development of Western civilization. Theogeny and Works & Days and Symposium are all considered essential texts when it comes to the study of literature, history, and philosophy. However, if only one can be chosen, all incoming freshmen should read Homer’s The Odyssey. There are several reasons why all freshmen should read The Odyssey which this paper will explore. These include its prestige in the overall canon of Western literature and the variety of topics it covers.
The first reason Homer’s The Odyssey should be read is its prestige. It is one of the oldest existing pieces of literature in the world, making it extremely important to the literary canon of Western literature. It has become a serious source of literary allusion throughout literature. It has inspired countless other works of literature, maybe most famously James Joyce’s Ulysses. Both Hesiod and Plato have also made many contributions to literature. Symposium offers a great deal of insight into Western philosophy, particularly on the topic of love. Both Theogeny and Works & Days have provided a lot of information regarding the daily lives and beliefs of the Ancient Greeks, including about how the Greeks viewed their gods and their religious rituals and agricultural practices. But it seems that none of those have had the impact of The Odyssey.
The second reason Homer should be chosen is the variety of topics The Odyssey covers. Symposium focuses on love from a variety of viewpoints, but it mainly focuses only on that topic. Theogeny focuses on the gods and their origins which provides an understanding of religion and ritual. Works & Days is basically a farmer’s almanac and focuses only on agricultural topics. But The Odyssey covers so much more: love, loyalty, and fidelity via Penelope; problem-solving, as shown with the Cyclops and the Sirens (and many of the other troubles Odysseus and his companions find themselves in), the consequences of one’s actions – for example, the bag of winds from Aeolus and the greedy sailors, and faith/piety, as shown when Odysseus was praying but his men killed the cattle of Helios. There are many other topics (and lessons) contained in The Odyssey that they can’t be covered in one paper! That so many topics are covered in one work is very useful and beneficial. Theogeny, Works & Days, and Symposium all seem very focused or single-tracked when compared to the many tracks traced in The Odyssey.