Odysseus as an Epic Hero

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Marissa Mechling
Mrs. Kehl
Western Classics
Literary Analysis 1
Due: 22 March 2012

Odysseus: Epic Hero or Not?

What is a hero you may ask? Merriam-Webster states that a hero is a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability; an illustrious warrior; a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities; one who shows great courage; the principal male character in a literary or dramatic work; the central figure in an event, period, or movement. I could support Merriam and say that Odysseus fits many of these descriptions and characteristics. In the words of Margalit Finkelberg: Six times in the Odyssey the life-experience of Odysseus is defined by the word aethlos. Both in Homer and in Greek in general this word (athlos after Homer) and its cognates have two meanings: of 'athletic contest' and of 'labour', the latter being best exemplified by the labours of Heracles. (Finkelberg) Odysseus is known worldwide from his undertakings and his courage, he is surprisingly favored by some of the gods, and he defeats many monsters throughout his journey. Odysseus is the only Homeric hero who, in both the Iliad and the Odyssey, bears the epithet polutlas, 'much-enduring', and who is systematically described (in the Odyssey only) as passing through compromise and humiliation: his three adventures in beggar's disguise, for instance, and his ignominious escape from the Cyclops' cave by hanging under a ram's belly.(Finkelberg) These specific traits are ones that set him apart from the rest of the characters in the plot or in any epic story.

Being a hero or a character that is known throughout the land was one of Odysseus’s epic hero qualities. He was the King of Ithaca, but his friends, family, and strangers knew him as so much more, and with so many heroic and brave traits. In book nine, Polyphemus mentions that he imagined Odysseus as a strong, giant man. I find Polyphemus to believe that Odysseus is some...
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