Moses Versus Odysseus

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Odysseus and Moses represent the standard hero, which is one scarred with imperfections—a hero that commits crimes, lies, deceives, is in some sense immoral. Moses as an adolescent murdered an Egyptian who was pestering a Hebrew man (Exodus, 45) whereas, Odysseus betrays his faithful wife by having affairs with several women, such as Calypso and Circe. Odysseus’s crave for adventure and Moses’ violence show that both Hebrew culture and Greek culture are accepting of a tarnished hero only because their gods ordained it. The fact that the hero was an instrument of the gods was equally important to both cultures. Moses was picked to be the savior of Jews by God. He was to be the one who would free the Jews and take them across the desert to a safe haven. He spoke directly with God, via the burning bush and various angels and, was given specific instructions on what to do and how to do it leading the Jews out of Egypt. Similarly, Athena visited Odysseus frequently under Zeus' consent and different disguises. She freed Odysseus from the obsessive love of calypso by sending Hermes as a messenger, to warn calypso. She also approached others, indirectly aiding Odysseus. As a disguised mentor, she encouraged Telemachus to take a stand to the suitors and to take a journey of his own in search of his father, restoring his hope. She sent the Phaencian Princess Nassiuca done to water to wash her clothes resultantly finding Odysseus. Both Hebrew and Greek culture value the idea of their god or gods choosing devotees for particular tasks.

No matter when or where in the world these heroes were destined for greatness, they all had to go on a quest or journey with various trials and obstacles to overcome. Odysseus's voyage had to be completed before saving his people, while Moses' exodus and his people's salvation were one in the same. Either way, the journey is vital to the hero in order for him to undergo a personal transformation, and become greater then themselves.

Moses fought a Pharaoh, the desert, his own people and himself during his long journey home. Odysseus also took a long journey home, and battled Poseidon, the sea, his own people and himself en route. Not only are the stories Odyssey and Exodus similar, their hero's share many of the same attributes and behaviors. Both, despite having murderous pasts, were chosen by their God or gods to be the savior of their people. Each had a specific limitation that directly interfered with the completion of their mission. And since they were helped by the god/s along the way, Moses and Odysseus ultimately had faith that they would be successful, regardless of the obstacles ahead. Which is even today a true measure of a hero, and that is to never give up. Their similarities exist on a personal level as well. Both heroes had to make great sacrifices for the good of the whole. They each underwent a personal transformation as a result of the trials they faced. And each learned a lesson that they passed on as a message for their people. In this respect, Hebrews would recognize Odysseus as a hero and the Greeks the same of Moses heroes indeed, but not their hero. This is where the differences lie or is it just where religions separate?


Both cultures depict their heroes as an ideal realized, a personification of their people as a whole. Since Greeks and Hebrews have different histories, their heroes have to fit their own cultural self-image and concept of "home."

The Greeks have lived in a firmly established home state from which they traveled outward. Their ideal society has been to get away from foreign conquests and return their emphasis to domestic affairs, and that was why an adventurer like Odysseus was needed. Odysseus, per the Iliad, did not want to go to Troy in the first place. However, he struggled with his desire for adventure before he finally returned to prevent a civil war from wrecking his home state. Odysseus's story...
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