Is Odysseus a Hero Essay Example

During the Trojan war, Odysseus, a great hero, considers the war and how it is impacting him, his life, and his family. As stated in Homer's Odyssey, Odysseus is one of the most cunning and imaginative warriors that the Greeks have, and he knows that any decision he makes will impact how he is perceived as a hero. All of his motivations and decisions are carefully scrutinized by his comrades, and any decision or action that he takes could have a direct affect on the outcome of the war. He also knows that he is a great Greek hero and that the Greeks hold value in their heroes, so he doesn't want to disappoint them. Odysseus experiences first hand what it means to be a hero and how his motivations and decisions affect his role as a great Greek hero. Throughout the epic, Odysseus faces many challenges, but he eventually prevails and returns to his home in Ithaka. He also has a direct impact on how the Greeks perceive heroes and what they value in a hero. In Odyssey this can be seen many times. So, when analyzing the decisions that Odysseus made, it can be seen that his motivations and decisions affected his role as a hero and impacted the Greek view on heroism.

One way that Odysseus' role as a hero was impacted is through Odysseus' motivations when acting upon a problem. One example of this can be seen when Odysseus wants to go to the Kyklops' island. He wanted to investigate out of curiosity and he is motivated to do so through his need to discover who or what lives on the island and what goods they have to offer to him. Odysseus states, "...and find out what the mainland natives are -/ for they they may be wild savages, and lawless, or hospitable and god fearing men'" (Homer 9.187-189). He also states that he will bring only his own crew with him, and that the rest of the men will stay behind (Homer 9.184-186). Unfortunately, this adventure led to catastrophe, and Odysseus lost four of his men (Homer 9.313-337). As Odysseus is expressing his need to go to the Kyklopses' island to find out who inhabits it, he is affecting his role as a hero through his motivations. By deciding to venture out, Odysseus is putting not only his own life in jeopardy, but he is risking the lives of his men, too. After this adventure, Odysseus ends up losing four of his men. Their deaths in particular had a direct impact on Odysseus' heroic role in Odyssey. Odysseus was motivated to embark on the journey to the Kyklopses' island solely out of curiosity and arrogance. This ultimately led to the adventure having been pointless and having the death of his men hold no purpose whatsoever. A hero should know that the lives of his men are held in his hand and should not be willing to compromise their safety for a journey that was fueled by an emotion such as curiosity. In the case of Journeying to the Kyklopses' island, it can be seen that Odysseus' motivations to embark on this journey ultimately led to his role as a hero being impacted in a negative way. Although this had a negative impact on how Odysseus is perceived, the Greeks still viewed him as a hero due to his other heroic qualities. Another example of Odysseus' motivations impacting his role as a hero can be seen in the ways in which Odysseus attempted to gather information from the Trojans during the Trojan War. During this time, Odysseus was greatly motivated to collect information from the Trojans regarding their battle strategies and plans. To do this, he decided to dress up as a household slave and attempt to slip unnoticed into the Trojan base. He did this and went unnoticed by all except for Meleláos who took him to his home and promised not to tell the Trojans that he was there. Odysseus then left the city, but was able to find out information about the Trojans that he was able to share with his army (Homer 4.252-285). Odysseus' motivation to gather information from the Trojans led him to risk his life for a cause that he believed in. By doing this, he impacted his role as a hero in a very positive way. Only a true and devoted hero would have been willing to risk his life in order to serve his cause. When going in the city to spy and try to discover the Trojan's plans, Odysseus did not falter, and he was ultimately successful. In this example, it can be seen that Odysseus' motivations had the ability to impact his role as a hero in a very positive way. So, through this evidence, it can be seen that Odysseus' motivations when deciding to embark on an adventure can truly affect his role as a hero.

Odysseus' Decisions And Their Impact

Besides being impacted by Odysseus' motivations when completing a task, in Homer's Odyssey, Odysseus' decisions also impact his role as a hero throughout the epic. An example of Odysseus' decisions impacting his role as a hero can be seen when Odysseus decided to raid the land of Ísmaros, but was unable to control his men after the raid. After the raid, Odysseus stated that he told his crew, "'Back, and quickly! Out to sea again'" (Homer 9.50-51). Before he told his men that they needed to retreat, he had landed on Ísmaros, but had abused their hospitality by raiding their city and enslaving their women (Homer 9.44-49). At first, Odysseus and his men caught the citizens by surprise, but they soon realized that they needed to gather an army. At this point, Odysseus realized that he and his men needed to leave before the citizens could arrange an attack back on them, but Odysseus was unable to command his men to leave. This ultimately resulted in a battle in which the lives of many of his men were lost (Homer 9.42-73). Due to Odysseus' decision to raid the island of Ísmaros, many of his men lost their lives. As their leader, Odysseus was responsible for the lives of these men, and they trusted him to guide them home with their lives intact. When Odysseus decided to raid Ísmaros without a cause, he was putting the lives of his men at risk unnecessarily. This decision affected the way that Odysseus was perceived as a hero. Losing men always impacts the way that people feel about their heroes, and this unnecessary loss of life impacted Odysseus. It made Odysseus look like a bit of a weak hero. If he could have been able to control his men, Odysseus would have been able to prevent their untimely deaths. So, because he was unable to control his men, Odysseus' decision to act and invade Ísmaros affected how he is perceived as a hero. Another example of Odysseus' decisions impacting how he is viewed as a hero can be seen when Odysseus protects his men from Helen of Troy's teasing and calling when they are hiding inside the Trojan Horse while waiting to strike. By preventing the men from leaving the horse, Odysseus saves their lives. When Meneláos tells Telémakhos about Odysseus' adventures; one of the stories that he tells him is this story. Meneláos states that, "'inside a hollow horse, where we were waiting... three times you [Helen] walked around it [the horse], patting it everywhere, and called the name of our fighters... Odysseus fought us down, despite our craving'" (Homer 293-306). From this, it can be seen that Helen knew that the men were in the horse and that she was trying to lure them out to their deaths. If Odysseus had not acted upon the situation and physically held the men back, their entire plan would have been ruined and many lives would have been lost. So, in this case, Odysseus' decisions impacted his role as a hero in a very positive way due to the fact that his witt and quick thinking saved the lives of him and his men. Overall, it can be seen that Odysseus' decisions, both negatively and positively affected his role as a hero as he is considered by the Greek people.

Odysseus' Motivations and Decisions

Besides impacting Odysseus' role as a hero, Odysseus' motivations and decisions also had an effect on the Greek view of heroism. When considering heroes, the Greeks greatly valued skills such as bravery, strength, and valor. Odysseus was a great Greek hero, but he was very intelligent and cunning. Since Odysseus had traits that were not usually seen as heroic at that time, all of his motivations and the decisions that he made had an impact on the Greek view on heroism and allowed the Greeks to consider the meaning of heroism in a new way. One example of Odysseus' motivations impacting how the Greeks viewed heroism can be found when looking at how the minstrel Demódokos sang about and praised Odysseus. In his song, he told of how Odysseus came up with the idea of the Trojan Horse and how many men are in awe of his greatness and consider him to be an almighty hero. The minstrel also sang about how Odysseus was a fierce fighter and seemed almost to fight like Arês, the War God himself (Homer 8.533-558). From this, it can be seen how highly the Greeks revered Odysseus, so much so that they even considered him to be godlike in some aspects. In Demódokos' song, he sings mainly about one of Odysseus' major accomplishments, the creation and success of the Trojan Horse. At that time, this was one of the greatest accomplishments, and it really affected how people viewed heroism. From this incident, they realized that cunning and skill were just as important, if not more important than bravery and strength. This realization brought about by Odysseus had an extreme impact on the Greek view on heroism. An example of Odysseus' decisions impacting the Greek view on heroism can be found when Odysseus and his men land on the island of the Lotus Eaters. While they are on this island, Odysseus sent three men to investigate the island. While they were investigating, the Lotus Eaters gave them the Lotus flower. This made them want to stay on the island forever and lose themselves there. Once Odysseus found out what had happened, he immediately went to rescue his men (Homer 9.86-112). He stated, "I drove them, all three wailing, to the ships, / tied them down under their rowing benches, / and called to the rest" (Homer 9.105-107). After finding out what had happened to his men, Odysseus could have just left them on the island where they would have been under a spell, but content, for the rest of their lives. Instead, Odysseus acted upon the problem and physically dragged them back to the ship and tied them down in order to rescue them from the enchanting island. By doing this, Odysseus clearly embodied the theme of loyalty that can be found in Odyssey. In this epic, loyalty is a main theme and the Greeks greatly value loyalty. Odysseus showed loyalty to his men by rescuing them even though they didn't want to be rescued. From this encounter, the Greeks saw that Odysseus greatly valued loyalty, so they began to see loyalty as a characteristic that a great hero would exhibit. So, it can be seen that Odysseus' decisions and motivations impacted the Greek view on heroism, specifically allowing them to see more value in traits such as intelligence and loyalty.


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