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How is Odysseus an Epic Hero?

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The hero of Homer’s poems, Odysseus, is the Ithaca king. He is an epic hero. Odysseus possesses most of the general qualities of this literary character type. He is a noble, courageous, smart warrior and a traveler. He faces mighty and unnatural enemies on a dangerous adventure.

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The epic hero is a term used to describe the main character of an epic poem. It is a lengthy narrative featuring deeds of people and gods and focusing on its protagonist. Usually, epic heroes possess a particular set of qualities. They typically belong to a princely class. Also, they transcend ordinary men in skill, strength, and courage and prove themselves in wars and adventures. They receive help from gods, loved by the people, and are deemed as models for others.

Odysseus fits this profile. He was the king of Ithaca, who departed for the Trojan War and proved himself a brave warrior. He was loved by soldiers and successfully tackled various challenges on his way home after the war ended. By successfully overcoming challenges, he demonstrated outstanding heroic qualities.

Throughout the whole poem, Odysseus is portrayed as a man of multiple virtues. He is a smart leader, skillful sailor, loving husband, and father. On numerous occasions, he receives help and advice from Athena. She is Zeus’ daughter and the goddess of wisdom. The patroness admired Odysseus for his quick thinking and intelligence.

Odysseus demonstrates these traits numerous times throughout The Odyssey. His courage, ingenuity, and wittiness help him and his men go through various obstacles. He gets past Scylla and Charybdis monsters, as well as escapes Sirens’ luring singing. Also, he even goes to the land of the dead.

Another illustration of his intelligence occurs when Polyphemus captures him and his men. He is a son of Poseidon and a cyclops living on an island. Polyphemus shows no hospitality. He eats several of Odysseus’ men and captures the rest. Using his eloquence and quick thinking, Odysseus creates a plan. He starts a conversation with Polyphemus. Then, he gets the cyclops drunk, blinds him, and escapes with his crew.

However, despite being quite smart, brave, and skillful, Odysseus makes mistakes and shows multiple flaws. Among them are arrogance, pride, quick temper, and stubbornness. For instance, the episode with the cyclops reveals his vanity. Odysseus makes Polyphemus believe that it was a man named “Nobody” who tricked him. However, the king cannot allow his deed to stay anonymous. That is why he reveals his actual name. His act causes Poseidon’s rage, who wants to avenge his blinded son. His anger became the main reason for Odysseus’ return to Ithaca to last ten years.

Odysseus portrays the combination of outstanding qualities and human weaknesses. These make him one of world literature’s most significant characters. He is an epic hero, battling gods and monsters. But at the same time, he is just a mere mortal. Thus, The Odyssey becomes an epic narrative. It is a story about a man’s quest to get home to his wife and son after a long and bloody war.

Homer’s poem and its protagonist have given inspiration to dozens of artists. They wanted to interpret The Odyssey‘s plot, themes, and Odysseus’ character. The Odyssey has been the basis for various musical, film, and literary adaptations. Multiple authors reflected on the famous epic hero’s figure and his adventures. Among them are Dante, Lord Alfred Tennyson, James Joyce, Robert Graves, and Margaret Atwood.

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