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Odysseus, an Epic Hero

By haleymeade Feb 17, 2013 713 Words
Odysseus is a character that embodies both strengths and weaknesses, which makes him an epic hero. The Odyssey, by Homer is the epic story of Odysseus’ adventures from The Trojan War to Ithaca. For ten years he endures human weakness, battling with the gods and a number of obstacles in order to reclaim his kingdom. It is Odysseus’ epic heroic traits that enable him to be successful. The three traits that Odysseus displays to make him an epic hero are leadership, balance of reason over emotion, and hubris.

Odysseus has the quality of leadership as one of his strengths. In “The Sirens”, Odysseus and his men encounter the Sirens, which are creatures that lure sailors to their death with their beautiful voices. Odysseus is prepared for this situation, as he devises a plan to resist his temptation and make sure his men are safe. Odysseus’ speech to his men is a prime example of his leadership; “Dear friends, more than one man, or two, should know those things. Circe foresaw for us and shared with me, so let me tell her forecast: then we die with our eyes open, if we are going to die or know what death we battle if we can.” This quotation exemplifies his leadership because he takes charge of the situation to ensure his success with this challenge. Also, referring to his men as “friends” is making them feel safer in what is to come. His speech shows how well he prepares for difficult situations and acts as a true leader. An additional strength Odysseus demonstrates is his balance of reason over emotion. When Odysseus returns home, he realizes that revealing his true identity will create complete chaos since everyone thinks he is dead. Instead, with the help of the Goddesses Athena, he disguises as a beggar and waits for the right time to reveal his identity. In “The Suitors”, the haughty suitor Antinous confronts Odysseus as the beggar in a rude manner. Antinous makes very vulgar remarks towards the beggar, saying “God! What evil wind blew in this pest?” With guile Odysseus draws away from the nonsense and says: “A pity that you have more looks than heart. You’d grudge a pinch of salt from your own larder to your own handyman. You sit here, fat on others’ meats and cannot bring yourself to rummage out a crust of bread for me!” This makes Antinous reacts in anger by throwing a stool at Odysseus. Odysseus just shakes his head ignoring the rude suitor knowing if he were to react badly he may give away his identity. This act shows his balance of reason over emotion, as he successfully kills off Antinous as well as the other suitors.

Although Odysseus possesses many strengths, he also has weaknesses. One of them being hubris. In some parts of his journey, Odysseus possesses too much of it, resulting in both him and his men being put in danger. In “The Cyclops”, Odysseus and his men are trying to escape from the Cyclops Polyphemus. They drug the monster until it passes out, and then stab him in his single eye with a timber. Polyphemus, now blinded, removes the gigantic boulder blocking Odysseus’ escape, and waits for the men to move so he can kill them. Rather than making a silent escape, Odysseus, now proud after beating the giant, starts to yell at him. Odysseus screams if they were to ever meet again, Odysseus would “take your life” and “hurl you down to hell!” Revealing his name, as well as his position in Ithaca and location, is not a clever thing to do. Polyphemus, now extremely angry with Odysseus, prays to his father, Poseidon, to make sure Odysseus “never see his home” again. Poseidon grants the prayer, which results in Odysseus returning home twenty years later and losing all his men. Having this quality of hubris, leads Odysseus to encounter hazardous but avoidable situations.

Odysseus has strengths and weaknesses, which makes him an epic hero. Leadership and balance of reason over emotion are great qualities in being successful. Although, hubris delays Odysseus’ journey, he learns from his experiences, which helps him grow into a strong successful leader. Without these traits, Odysseus may not have been able to successfully return home to Ithaca.

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