Odysseus Leadership

Topics: Homer, Odyssey, Hero Pages: 5 (1738 words) Published: March 23, 2014
Odysseus: The Definition of a Leader
When considering the impact of ancient Greek literature, it is imperative to acknowledge the importance of The Odyssey and The Iliad, both created by the poet Homer. The Odyssey is centered on the character Odysseus as he returns from war and journeys back to his home in Ithaca. The Iliad focuses on the Trojan War and is largely centered on the fearless warrior Achilles. However, Odysseus plays an important role in both pieces of literature and leads the reader to believe that he truly personifies the image of a Greek hero. With his countless victories and cunning abilities it is no surprise that Odysseus is described as an epic hero. Defining the word epic in its self possesses a challenge because of the widespread interpretation that includes numerous characteristics and traits. Heroes participate in long journeys and face multiple enemies that try to defeat them along the way, which eventually ends unsuccessfully and results in the heroes returning home to their families and communities. An epic hero illustrates certain traits, and exemplifies certain morals that are valued by the hero’s society. Odysseus possesses many of these ideal traits that make him a true representation of a Greek hero. When comparing him to heroes such as Achilles, Odysseus shows his charisma, intelligence, and reputation is far more favorable. Though at times Odysseus’ judgment and morals may be questioned; his quick thinking, self-mastery, versatility and intelligence make him the ideal representation of an epic hero.

In her article “Quests for Immortality and Identity...” author Katherine King defines a leader as a “versatile man” (King 105). She expands on this definition and directly relates it to the actions of Odysseus. One example is his keen ability to devise new plans and strategies as a situation demands. This is obviously a key to his success; along with the ability to endure “woes” and other hardships that might disrupt one’s ego. These are both leadership traits that are essential for anyone, including Odysseus, to maintain success (King 105). Ancient Greek writings demonstrate leadership importance through the traits of the heroes. (Madrid 7) In another examination of Odysseus’s leadership, author Patrick Dobel states “A leader’s presence enables people to achieve what they would not have without the leader present” (Dobel 216). Therefore, a leader is someone who is motivated but still allows their ethics to play a part in their decision making. A leader’s identity is determined by his achievements and his community is dependent upon his success. Odysseus’ men are constantly looking to him for guidance and this is something he wisely provides. His men rely on his decisions completely, and are even willing to risk their lives for him. A leader must act in such a way that if they do end up dying, their actions and achievements make their life honorable rather than being a disgrace to their community. This is something Odysseus both understands and personifies throughout both works of literature. Another trait that Dobel associates with a leadership is the importance of self-mastery (Dobel 219). Self-mastery or self-control is one of the foundations of leadership that the other traits and characteristics are built upon. To excel in the Ancient Greek world, self-control is something a leader must master in order to maintain control over his men. An example of self-control can be found in Book IX of The Odyssey. During this part of the adventure, Odysseus and his men wash ashore of the land of the Land of the Lotus Eaters. Here Odysseus’ men are baited into eating the lotus fruit and “lost the will to report back” and instead preferred to “stay there, munching lotus, oblivious of home” (The Odyssey, Book IX 94-96). With his self-mastery, Odysseus was able to refuse the fruit and regain control of his men and drag them back to the ship and continue back on their way to Ithaca. Finally two of...


Cited: Bloom, Harold. Homer 's Iliad. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1996. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 1 Dec. 2013.
Caulfield, Joseph. "ASSUAGING THE RAGE OF ACHILLES: Athena, Aikido and Marital Mediation." New Hampshire Bar Journal 51.2 (2010): 28-33. Academic Search Complete. Web. 5 Dec. 2013.
Dobel, J. Patrick. “Mortal Leadership in Homer’s Odyssey.” Public Integrity 8.3 (2006): 215-231. Academic Search Complete. Web. 25 Nov. 2013
Giesecke, Annette Lucia. "Mapping Utopia: Homer 's Politics And The Birth Of The Polls." College Literature 34.2 (2007): 194-214. Academic Search Complete. Web. 30 Nov. 2013
Homer. The Odyssey. The Norton Anthology of World Literature. Shorter 3rd ed. Vol. 1. Ed. Sarah Lawall. New York: Norton, 2013 178-466. Print.
King, Katherine C. “Quests For Immortality And Identity: The Epic Of Gilgamesh and The Odyssey.” Critical Insights: Hero’s Quest (2012): 99-114. Literary Reference Center Plus. Web. 29 Nov. 2013.
Madrid, Richardd, and Tammy Ton. “Political Leadership in Ancient Greece.” Conference Papers - - Western Political Science Association (2006) 1-28. Academic Search Complete. Web. 29 Nov. 2013
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