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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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