The Differences in Greek & Japanese cultures Through Homer’s “Iliad” and Chushingura Essay

Greek and Japanese cultures are totally different. In this regard, the key issues related to the development of cultural values and norms of the ancient Greek society and Japanese society developed in a different way because of the different environment in which they emerged and different traditions which Greeks and Japanese people had. At this point, it is possible to refer to Homer’s Iliad and Chushingura: Hana no Maki, where the authors reveal the authentic vulture of ancient Greece and Japan respectively. These two works help to understand substantial difference between Greece and Japan and their cultural norms and traditions. In this respect, the theme of honor and shame is apparently central to both Iliad and Chushingura: Hana no Maki but they depict this theme in different ways and show substantial differences in views of ancient Greeks and Japanese on honor and shame. On the one hand, ancient Greeks believed committing heroic acts was honorable for true men and warriors, while, on the other hand, Chushingura: Hana no Maki reveals the original concept of honor for Japanese Samurai for whom honor equals to their devotion to the clan and clan’s leader.

The difference in Greek and Japanese culture becomes obvious, when key messages of Homer’s Iliad and Inagaki’s Chushingura: Hana no Maki are analyzed in details. In this regard, the main theme of both books is the honor and shame of the main characters with the shame coming first and the honor second to show that Greeks and Japanese were ready to revenge for the shame caused to them and that was the great honor to revenge on those, who have caused sham either to Greeks or Japanese. In this regard, the two works seem to be similar because both ancient Greeks and Japanese Samurais cannot afford shame and revenge on those people, who have caused the shame and that was the matter of their honor.

However, the similarity between Greeks and Japanese Samurais ends when the behavior and way of thinking of the main characters of Iliad and Chushingura: Hana no Maki is taken into consideration. To put it more precisely, ancient Greeks stand for their honor and each of them wants to prove that he is the most honorable warrior and the leader of his people. In such a way, they are highly individualistic and they are concerned with their personal shame and honor above all. For instance, Melenaus is apparently offended by the kidnapping of Helen and it is the matter of his honor to revenge on Trojans for the kidnapping of his wife. Agamemnon views his leadership in the Greek army as the honorable task and he wants to prove that he is honorable enough to be worth of leading the Greek army against Trojans. Agamemnon wants to show that he is the best leader. Indeed, he is wise, powerful and honorable. This is why Greeks agree to obey him as a leader. However, Agamemnon is just an equal among equals compared to other Greek leaders with each of them concerned with their own honor and public image. In this regard, their personal honor is their private, individual matter but not the matter of the army or their community.

The similar trend may be traced in the Greek perception of shame. For instance, Menelaus is ashamed of losing his wife. This is the disgrace for him to have his wife kidnapped by Trojan. This is the personal offense against him and the shame makes him wanting to revenge on Trojan for the disgrace. At the same time, this is his personal matter above all because it was his wife, who was kidnapped and it was him, who was ashamed by this offense. Other Greeks also are vulnerable to shame but their shame relates rather to their fear of the failure or their inability to become brave enough in the course of the war. Their shame is closely intertwined with their fear of losing the war or manifesting their cowardice. If they retreated or manifested the slightest sign of cowardice, it would be a shame on them. This is why Greeks are so fierce in their struggle against Trojans. They are fearful and bold. They do not really appreciate their life and they are ready to die in the battle but this self-sacrifice is their personal concern above all. What is meant here is the fact that ancient Greeks were concerned with their personal honor, with their public image.

In this respect, Japanese Samurais depicted in Chushingura: Hana no Maki were totally different. To put it more precisely, Samurais depicted in the film do not care about their personal honor or about how heroically they act. Instead, they are concerned with the shame on their clan which actually forced their leader to commit a ritual suicide. They cannot stand the disgrace and want to revenge on the death of their leader to make the clan honorable again. Unlike Greeks, Japanese Samurais cannot be honorable, unless their clan is honorable. In this regard, Greeks can be honorable even if their army manifests shameful acts. For instance, even if the Greek army retreats the hero will be honorable, if he stays on the battlefield and keeps fighting. In such a way, ancient Greeks distinguished clearly their personal actions and image from that of their community or clan as was the case of Japanese Samurais. The same may be said about their shame, which was also the personal matter of each group, regardless of their community, while for Japanese Samurais the shame was the collective matter because the shame of the clan was the shame of each warrior.

In such a way, Japanese Samurais viewed honor and shame as concepts determined by their clan and its public perception. For instance, the shame of the leader of the clan, who was forced to commit a ritual suicide was imposed on the entire clan and all Samurais. In case of Greeks, they would consider the shame of the leader to be irrelevant for them and the suicide would clean the public image of the leader. In such a way, the disgrace of the leader could be compensated by his suicide but neither shame nor the act of suicide would not affect the honor of other Greeks. In stark contrast, Japanese Samurais perceive the shame of the leader and the clan as their personal shame and this is the matter of each of the Samurais’ honor to revenge on those, who caused the shame. Therefore, Japanese Samurais are ready to commit suicide following the lead of their leader, if they cannot revenge and restore the honor of the clan.

The difference in views of ancient Greeks and Japanese Samurais on honor and shame were apparently determined by the difference in the culture of Greece and Japan. They had totally different values and the lifestyle of ancient Greeks was absolutely different from the lifestyle of Japanese Samurais. They would hardly be able to understand each other’s values, if they came across each other. For instance, the strife for heroism is absolutely natural for Greeks and committing heroic acts is one of the primary life goals of ancient Greeks. In stark contrast, Japanese Samurais would commit heroic acts to glorify their clan and to show how honorable their clan was, while their personal success and benefits were unimportant for them.

Thus, Iliad and Chushingura: Hana no Maki show substantial differences in views of Greeks and Japanese Samurais on honor and shame. This difference reveals the substantial difference in Greek and Japanese culture. Greeks were more concerned with their personal, private honor and shame, while Japanese Samurais were concerned with honor and shame of their clan. The orientation of Japanese Samurais on the honor of their clan was the distinct feature of Japanese culture, whereas the strife for committing heroic acts to become an honorable person is one of the main trends in ancient Greek culture.


Works Cited:

Fox, R.L. Travelling Heroes: Greeks and their myths in the epic age of Homer. New York: Allen Lane, 2008.

Homer. Iliad. New York: Penguin Classics, 2012.

Inagaki, H. Chushingura: Hana no Maki. Toho, 1962.

West, Martin (1999). “The Invention of Homer”. Classical Quarterly 49(364).

The terms offer and acceptance. (2016, May 17). Retrieved from

[Accessed: November 26, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016.

[Accessed: November 26, 2021] (2016) The terms offer and acceptance [Online].
Available at:

[Accessed: November 26, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: November 26, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: November 26, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: November 26, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: November 26, 2021]
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