Odysseus: A Greek Epic Hero
When you think about Greek Epic heroes, Odysseus will most
likely come to mind. Odysseus is the main character in
Homer's poem "The Odyssey." "The Odyssey" is a narrative
poem that describes Odysseus' adventures and obstacles in
his quest to return home to Ithaca, where he is king, from
the Trojan war. Odysseus has been gone for two decades. All
the other chieftains have returned home, however, Odysseus'
whereabouts are unknown.
One of the things that makes Odysseus a Greek hero is that
he is favored by the gods. In the Odyssey the gods help
Odysseus many times. When Poseidon struck Odysseus' ship
with lightning, Odysseus was able to survive because a
goddess named Ino gave him a magical cloak. The cloak
prevents Odysseus from drowning. When Odysseus' men are
turned into swine by Circe, Hermes the messenger god gives
Odysseus a magical herb that prevents Circe from using her
spells on him. Due to this Odysseus was able to gain favor
in Circe's eyes and he convinced her to turn his men back
to normal. Towards the end of the book, when Odysseus
returns to Ithica, Athena disguises him as a beggar. The
disguise was to fool the suitors, who are eating Odysseus
out of his home and are harassing his wife Penelope, and to
get Odysseus access to the palace.
The ancient Greeks used to say that a true hero must show
respect to the gods by giving them sacrifices and praying
to them. Odysseus gives sacrifices to the gods in many
instances in "The Odyssey." When Odysseus goes to Hades ,
the underworld, he sacrifices a ram and an ewe to the gods.
When Odysseus defeats Polyphemus, the Cyclops, who is the
son of Poseidon the god of the sea, Odysseus gives
sacrifices to the gods. Lastly when Odysseus defeats those
horrible suitors that outnumbered him by so much Odysseus
realizes that it was the gods who helped him do this. The
feats of strength and the ability to overcome
insurmountable odds could not be performed by a mere mortal
without help from the gods. Therefore he makes sacrifices
to the gods. When Odysseus is in trouble he always shows
that he is depending on the gods by praying to them. The
fact that the gods usually listen to him shows that he is
well liked by the gods. In order to be a Greek hero you had
to be liked by the gods since religion was such a big part
in their lives.
Odysseus, with the help of the gods, can survive adventures
that kill most other men. Odysseus travels to the island of
the Cyclopians. The Cyclopians are giants that have one
eye, they don't fear the gods because they believe that
they are better than the gods and they eat people. They
represent the opposite of what Greek men should be.
Odysseus and his men meet Polyphemus the cyclops.
Polyphemus being a cyclops eats some of Odysseus' men.
Odysseus with the help of the gods figures out a plan to
escape and he does. Scylla is a ferocious monster with six
heads that kills most men that pass by her island. She
kills six of Odysseus' men. Odysseus prevents her from
killing himself and more men . There is another ferocious
monster named Charybdis. Charybdis sucks in water from the
sea and creates a whirlpool that kills any ship that passes
by. Odysseus passes by her. His crew is killed and his ship
is destroyed in the whirlpool but Odysseus alone survives.
There is an island that Odysseus passes by with monsters
called Sirens on it. The Sirens sing beautiful songs that
lure ships toward them. The ships then crash into the
island and the people are killed. Nobody has heard the song
of the Sirens and survived. Odysseus is warned of this
island by a god. He then puts plugs in his men's ears
because Odysseus wants to hear the song, he ties himself to
the front of the boat and tells his men to tighten his
ropes if he tries to get away. Odysseus and his men survive
and Odysseus is the only mortal to hear the song of the
Sirens and live to tell it.
The pictures and sculptures of the ancient Greeks showed
only men with perfect bodies and men in battle. Therefore
in order to be a true Greek epic hero you had to be both
strong and good in battle. Odysseus showed both of these
signs. Odysseus travels to the land of the Phaeacians. The
Phaeacians have many games such as the discus throw and a
javelin throw. Odysseus wins all of these events. When
Odysseus gets back to Ithica Penelope, thinking that
Odysseus her husband is dead, has a contest in which she
will marry the winner. The winner must string a bow and
shoot an arrow through twelve axes on the floor. All of the
mighty suitors try, but none of them come even close to
triumph. Odysseus, being dressed up as a beggar, tries it
and succeeds. The suitors were all mighty men but Odysseus
was the only one to triumph. This shows his greatness.
After this a war breaks out and Odysseus befriended only by
Eumaeus the swineherd and Malanthius the goatherd defeats
all of the suitors. The fact that Odysseus was able to
defeat the suitors definitely shows that Odysseus is truly
a great warrior.
Odysseus is a true Greek epic hero . When he is able to use
power given to him by the gods, he does so willingly.
However this alone would not make him a hero. This would
only make him a servant of the gods. Odysseus uses his
intellect, farsightedness, and insight to control his fate
as best as he can. For example, when he returns home,
rather then revealing his true identity Odysseus uses
patience and caution to devise and execute a plan that will
defeat the suitors. Odysseus is now acting independently of
the gods and his heroic personality triumphs.
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