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Odysseus as an Epic Hero

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Epic Hero Essay

What is an epic hero? Homers’ “Odyssey” is about an epic hero named Odysseus and his quest home. “The Odyssey” begins after the Trojan war had left Odysseus trapped, pointlessly seafaring for 10 years after angering Poseidon, the god of the sea. He tries desperately to return home to Ithaka and his wife, Penelope, and newborn son, Telemachus. Odysseus then has many hardships upon which he overcomes through his intelligence and wit. Odysseus is an epic hero because he is intelligent, he listens to the god’s advice, and he is witty; able to think on his feet. With the help of the gods he can survive things most men couldn’t.

First, nearing the end of the Epic, Odysseus continues to use his intelligence to overcome obstacles and hardships. Upon one attempt to return home, Odysseus must pass the island of the Sirens. He has his men plug their ears with beeswax but not before he tells them his place in the plan: “Take me and bind me to the crosspiece half way up the mast; bind me as I stand upright, with a bond so fast that I cannot possibly break away, and lash the rope's ends to the mast itself. If I beg and pray you to set me free, then bind me more tightly still.” Even though Odysseus gives into the weakness of the sirens’ song, he is unable to escape from the bonds of the rope and his previous intelligence saves him. Once he arrives in Ithaca, Odysseus once again uses his intelligence to overcome his suitors and reclaim his estate. When he first encounters the people of his land, he wisely chooses to remain anonymous, avoiding an unplanned struggle or fight. Odysseus then reveals himself to his son and few servants to plan an attack on the suitors. At a contest to see if anyone can string Odysseus’s bow, the hero plans his attack after stringing the bow and firing on the suitors. His son and servants have the other arms and they massacre the entire group of suitors. This was one of Odysseus’s final acts of brilliance to conclude the epic.

 Furthermore, there are many instances throughout the epic where Odysseus takes the advice of the gods to overcome the obstacles he is faced with. One of the first events is when Odysseus encounters Aeolus, the god of winds. Many men would not trust this god and not accept his secret bag of wind, believing it would be a plague of some sort. But, Odysseus accepts Aeolus’ bag of winds and treats him with hospitality. Another instance where Odysseus accepts the gods’ guidance is when the hero listens to Hermes on how to overcome Circe: “But Hermes met me, with his golden wand, barring the way-a boy whose lip was downy in the first bloom of mankind, so he seemed. He took my hand and spoke as though he knew me.” By Hermes insight, Odysseus eats the food that is given to him and patiently waits for the right time to strike. Odysseus subdues Circe and forces her to free his men from the bondage of swine. After living in luxury with Circe for a year, he listens to her advice on how to return to his homeland of Ithaca.

Finally, one of the first obstacles Odysseus conquers is the defeat of the Cyclops. Once trapped in the cave of the one-eyed monster, Odysseus must devise a plan and fast, the giant had taken to consuming his men. This is where Odysseus’ wit comes into play. Cunningly, Odysseus gets the Cyclops drunk and allows him to fall into slumber. He then blinds the Cyclops with a red-hot spear, knowing intelligently enough that if he kills the Cyclops they will be trapped forever. Searching for help, the giant opens the cave. Earlier, Odysseus says: “My name is Nobody: mother, father, and friends, everybody calls me Nobody.” When the blinded giant is seeking help from his brothers, he proclaims that, “Nobody” blinded him. Therefore, Odysseus and his men escape with their lives by the means of this hero’s wit.
 In conclusion, through this intelligence and wit with advice from the gods, Odysseus overcomes all of his obstacles against all odds. Being a true hero, the Achaeans look up to Odysseus as a role model with his intelligence, wit, and godly insight. It is because of these three traits that Odysseus is considered an epic hero and is never to be forgotten.

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