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Ruthless monsters, powerful gods, and intriguing creatures. The epic hero, Odysseus, spent years on a journey where he faced all of these. Odysseus, the king of Ithaca, had been away from home for 20 years before he returned to his city. Along the way, there were many challenges that he faced. However, through it all, he managed to stay true to the values of Greek culture in the ways of his bravery, wit, and loyalty.
Odysseus displayed great bravery throughout his travels.
His whole journey began with him leaving to fight in the war, which was seen as a brave and noble thing to do in Ancient Greek culture. However, his journey home was even harder than that. Odysseus showed a lot of bravery in his attitude about the voyage. There were many unknown monsters and beings that Odysseus was not even sure were safe, but he faced them anyway. An example of this were the Cyclopes.
Odysseus came to the island of the Cyclopes.
He knew nothing about the creatures, if they were violent, or if it was safe to enter their island. However, he still told his crew, “I’ll make the crossing … and find out what the mainland natives are–for they may be wild savages, and lawless, or hospitable and god fearing men.” (1213) He could have easily left the island and gone on without fear of injury or death, but Odysseus showed bravery when he instead decided to enter the mainland and meet the Cyclopes. Some people may have seen Odysseus’s bravery as reckless or detrimental, but he could get away with it because of his intelligence and wit.
Odysseus showed remarkable intelligence during his journey. His cunning wit could get him out of nearly any situation. He created ingenious solutions to the problems that he faced on his journey. This was displayed when he was sailing past the sirens. The sirens were 3 nymphs whose beautiful song enchanted men, causing them to jump from their ships to get closer to it.
Odysseus knew about this, and instead of trying to escape the island, he created a solution. He put beeswax in his crew’s ears, and instructed them to tie him to the ship’s mast. Then, when they sailed by the island, Odysseus heard the song and begged for his crew to release him. He said, “The lovely voices in ardor appealing over the water made me crave to listen, and I tried to say ‘Untie me!’ to the crew … but they bent steady to the oars.” (1234) This scene showed his intelligence because not only did him and his crew escape the island unscathed, but he also created a solution for the future. Legend said that when a man heard the sirens’ song and escaped unharmed, they became so depressed that they killed themselves. Odysseus did just that, and because of using his wit, he saved the explorers of the future. By having Odysseus himself listen to the song himself, unaware of if there would be consequences, Odysseus was putting himself on the line to protect his crew. He could have forced one of his crew members to listen, but he risked his own life before he risked his crew’s. This showed great loyalty on Odysseus’s part, which was another value that the Greeks honored.
Odysseus acted loyal towards his crew throughout his travels. He went to very desperate measures to protect his crew. During the journey, Odysseus had to choose between two paths. He could either sail past Scylla, which would mean that he would have to give up a number of his men, or he could sail past Charybdis, where he ran the chance of losing his whole ship. Odysseus demonstrated great loyalty in the fact that he was having a hard time deciding. He couldn’t see how it could be possible to just send his own men to die. He tried to look for a solution, asking Circe for advice on how to escape one of them. She tells him to yield to the will of the gods, so he chose to try to pass Scylla. His men didn’t make it, and Odysseus described the pity that he felt as “far the worst [he] ever suffered” (1236). This is evidence of how after his men died, he still felt bad about their deaths instead of just regarding them as a dispensable crew member. This showed loyalty, because he still was respectful towards his crew, even after they were gone. This was a value that was very highly regarded in Greek culture.
Odysseus possessed all of the characteristics of an epic hero, including bravery, wit, and loyalty. These heroes were prime examples of the ways that Greek culture saw heroes. Odysseus always showed these traits, even when he was away from home. This was likely just habit for him, but it also could have been a way for him to stay connected to his roots. He still held Greek values and traditions close to him, even when he didn’t have to, and it benefited him throughout his journey.
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