In The Odyssey, Odysseus breaks Homers’ rule of characters not changing by going from a glory-seeking leader with a big mouth, to being a home-seeking leader that is patient. Odysseus has all the Homeric characteristics that define a leader. He has nobility, strength, courage, and a sharp intellect. Odysseus, along with every other hero, also has a few bad traits. He likes to linger around in one place for too long, his pride and ego are too big, and he wants glory so much he loses sight of returning home. Odysseus’ ability to learn and adapt help him greatly on his journey home to his kingdom in Ithaca.
Odysseus, the king of Ithaca, fought along side the Greeks in the Trojan War. He was a leader of Greek forces and was known for having clever strategies and being a wise counsel. The Greeks defeat the Trojans by giving them a big Trojan horse full of soldiers that ambushed Troy from the inside while they were asleep. Thus, beginning Odysseus’ journey back to Ithaca. In The Odyssey, the epic starts ten years after the Trojan war and Odysseus is on the island of Ogygia, where Calypso has fallen in love with Odysseus and wont let him or his men leave. After being trapped on the island for seven years by Calypso, he can finally leave thanks to Zeus. Before Odysseus leaves, Calypso makes one last attempt to get him to stay by confessing her love for him and by warning him about the hardships ahead. “But if you only knew, down deep, what pains
are fated to fill your cup before you reach that shore,
you’d stay right here, preside in our house with me
and be immortal.” (Homer 5.228-5.231)
Odysseus then sets sail again for another island called, Scheria, his next destination. He sails for eighteen days when a storm blows up, wrecks his ship, and almost kills Odysseus. The storm was caused by Poseidon once he realized that the other gods allowed Odysseus to leave Ogygia. The goddesses, Ino and Athena, come to Odysseus’s rescue and help him to shore.
Odysseus and his men travel to the land of the Cyclopes. There they wonder into a cave and find it full of sheep, milk and cheese. Odysseus’s men try and warn him to get what they need and get out but he decides to take his time. The giant Cyclopes Polyphemus, son of Poseidon, returns home. Polyphemus eats two of the men and imprisons the others. Odysseus comes up with a plan to get the Cyclopes drunk off of wine. While Polyphemus is drunk he asks Odysseus what his name is and he replies “nobody” (Homer 9.410). When he passed out Odysseus ran a wooden stake through the Cyclopes eye. Polyphemus screamed out and the other Cyclopes on the island asked what was wrong and Polyphemus replied “Nobody is killing me” (Homer 9.455). As Odysseus and his men were sailing away, Odysseus did another thing he shouldn’t have and told the Cyclopes his real name. Polyphemus, in anger, sent a prayer to his father Poseidon to get vengeance on Odysseus. Odysseus didn’t show that he was a good leader there by getting his men killed and letting his pride and ego get in the way.
Odysseus then travels to Aeaea, where the goddess, Circes, lives. She drugs some of Odysseus’s men and turns them into pigs. In order for Odysseus to save them he has to take a herb called moly so that Circe’s drug wont effect him. Odysseus uses his strength to overpower her and he makes her free his men. But instead of leaving and heading back to Ithaca he decides to stay and linger. He becomes her lover for a year before his men finally convince him to continue the journey.
When Odysseus and Circes spend their last night together she tells him of the obstacles that he is going to face. Odysseus is headed home and this time he doesn’t plan on getting distracted anymore. First he had to go through the Sirens where his men put beeswax in their ears and tied Odysseus down to the front of the ship so that they couldn’t hear the Sirens sing. Next, Odysseus had to choose between Scylla and Charybdis. Scylla was a six-headed creature that would eat one man per head and Charybdis was a giant whirlpool that would destroy everything. Odysseus didn’t let the men know this because it would have caused a panic. He chose to take the Scylla path and only lose six men. Then they headed to Thrinacia, where they were told not to eat the cattle. But one day while Odysseus was asleep, his men disobeyed him. When they left the island Zeus brought a storm down on them that wiped out all of the men except Odysseus and swept him back to Calypso.
Odysseus makes it home but he is disguised as a beggar so know one will recognize him. The suitors abuse him and he just remains calm waiting for his plan to fall into place. Odysseus’s wife, Penelope, is putting on a contest to see who can string Odysseus’s bow and shoot it through twelve axe handles. People try and string it but they can’t, only Odysseus can. Odysseus goes up to the bow, strings it, and shoots his first arrow through all twelve handles. He then takes another arrow and shoots it through the neck of a suitor. Odysseus reveals himself and then takes back his kingdom.
Odysseus had a long and difficult journey going home after the Trojan war. Although he didn’t show the best of judgment all the time like when he told the Cyclopes his real name and when he stayed with Circes and Calypso for so long. But he showed strength, courage, nobility and his wits by saving his crew from the Sirens, Circes drugs, the more dangerous Charybdis, and figuring out a way to escape from the Cyclopes. Towards the end of this epic you can see how Odysseus is becoming a better and more focused leader. He shows that you learn from experience and past mistake and that’s what leads to the examined life. Taking the things that are important and realizing that those are the important things like Odysseus did shows that he lives an examined life.