Alan Jacobs, digging deeply into the meaning of Odyssey’s late encounter with Argos, his faithful hunting dog, left to wither away to nothing by the suitors infesting his house:
Which brings us back to Argos. Here is a great hunting dog — in his own way a triumph of civilization, the product of careful breeding and thoughtful training — who is left to die miserably by the suitors who now run the house of Odysseus. They have no need for a great hound, because they don’t hunt, just as they don’t farm or even make music: they don’t produce but rather only consume. They eat Odysseus out of house and home, and never think to train or cultivate or make anything at all. They even despise storytelling — they can’t bear to listen to the “beggar” who charms everyone else with his compelling anecdotes — and they pay no attention to the bard, the singer of tales, who graces the house with the sound of his harp. They are, therefore, as uncivilized as any Cyclops; for Homer, they are not in any meaningful sense human. They deserve only death. And they get it.
A hunting dog is a perfect illustration of one of the most powerful recurrent themes in the Homeric poems: civilization as the disciplining of nature.
What, then, have we become?