Odysseus vs. Achilles - Great Greek Heroes

Categories: Epic Poetry Odyssey

Achilles and Odysseus are the two great Greek heroes of the Odyssey and the Iliad. Odysseus faces a tough ten year journey filled with mystical creatures and the wrath of the Gods. He never gives up, and eventually arrives back home to his wife and son. Achilles is the almost undefeatable Achean warrior in the battle against the Trojans, who died by an arrow in the heel. They both had a special ability, with Odysseus being exceptionally clever and Achilles having super strength.

Although they are both considered heroes by Ancient Greek standards, one is clearly better, more developed man. Odysseus is compassionate and patient with strong morals, while Achilles acts on impulse, is selfish and uses his fleeting emotions instead of reason.

His willingness to save and defend his people is a noble quality about Odysseus. His natural ability is cleverness, so he wants to advise his men on how to survive. He says to one of his men, “I am one against all- the upper hand is yours.

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But swear me a binding oath, all here, that if we come on a heard of cattle or fine flock of sheep, not one man among us-bind in his reckless ways-will slaughter an ox or ram” He knows they have free will, but knows that if they do not follow his orders, they will die. They do not follow his orders and slaughter the cattle of Helios, and anger the Gods. After Briseis is stolen from Achilles, he states, “And now my prize you threaten in person to strip from me, for whom I labored much, the gift of the sons of the Achaians.

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Never, when the Achaians sack some well-founded citadel of the Trojans, do I have a prize that is equal to your prize…Now I am returning to Phthia, since it is much better to go home again with my curved ships, and I am minded no longer to stay here dishonoured and pile up your wealth and your luxury.”Even though their well being do not affect him, he cares enough to warn them. Achilles does not demonstrate compassion when he refuses to fight in the war because Agamemnon took Briseis. His personal grudges cause him to make a decision that will negatively affect everyone around him. He is more worried about his honor and his prize, rather than the lives of others in this high stakes war. Odysseus, the superior hero, would have considered how his actions affect others, and would care about his fellow warriors who relied on his superhuman strength.

Another defining characteristic of both Achilles and Odysseus is their levels of patience. Odysseus knows he must wait in order to have the best outcome, but Achilles rarely waits before making decisions, acting on impulse. Odysseus had so much anger towards the suitors for ransacking his home and attempting to marry his wife Penelope for the throne. He says to his son Telemachus,. “I would rather die by the sword in my own house than witness the perpetual repetition of these outrages, the brutal treatment of visitors, men hauling the maids about for their foul purposes … wine running like water, and those rascals gorging themselves, just for the sport of the thing, with no excuse, no rational end in sight.” It would be easy for him to brazenly attack, fueled by passion. But he is patient and waits until he comes up with a solid plan before taking action. He consults with Athena and takes her advice. When Patroclus is killed by Hector, Achilles’ immediate response is to battle with Hector. His impulsivity leads to the death of Hector, which only caused more loss in a tragic war. Achilles shows regret for his impulsive action, when he meets Hector’s father. “[Achilles] took the old man’s hand and pushed him gently away, and the two remembered, as Priam sat huddled at the feet of Achilles and wept close for manslaughtering Hector and Achilles wept now for his own father, now again for Patroclus. The sound of their mourning moved in the house.” Killing without thinking have caused him and others great sorrow. This is a major character flaw that makes it clear that Odysseus is the better hero.

With the two heroes, Homer illustrated the importance of using reason over passions. This is not a decision founded in reason. Achilles lets his passions rule over him, so he often loses control of himself. His pride keeps him from thinking about others, and how his lack of self control could negatively affect them. In the Iliad there are countless examples of this, such as when he withdraws in a fit of anger from the battle, knowing this will have very dire consequences for the Achaeans. On the other hand, Odysseus regulates his emotions and is guided by reason. As when the stunning Calypso offered to make him her immortal husband, he replies, “don’t be angry with me, please. All that you say is true, how well I know. Look at my wise Penelope, she falls short of you, your beauty, your stature. She is mortal after all…Nevertheless I long- I pine, all my days- to travel home and see the dawn of my return.” he does not give into temptation. He knows that he has a duty to his home and family, and as tempting as it sounds, and that immortality would not make him happy. He would be without the woman he loved and away from his home. He plans ahead and thinks of the consequences of his actions instead of getting caught up in the moment.

Additionally, the two heroes’ goals are vastly different. Odysseus wants honor for his great accomplishments as a warrior, but more importantly, he wants to be a good husband, king, and father. He never lost sight of what truly mattered, and remained patient for ten years. Achilles seeks glory, shown when he says, “Let me not die ingloriously and without struggle, but let me first do some great thing that shall be told among men thereafter.” He seeks glory, war prizes, revenge, blood. He earns all of those things, demonstrating great bravery and ruthlessness, but is never truly happy because of all the destruction and tragedy his actions have caused. His goals are centered around himself, which make him a deeply flawed character.
Achilles is the traditional hero; he has super strength, dipped in the magical River Styx as a baby.

Odysseus was a mortal, the king of an island. He was not in pursuit of much glory. He just wanted to survive and get back home to his wife and son. He is the wiser hero, and it is no coincidence that he gets a happy ending. He is more relatable to the average man, he is a regular mortal who was put in difficult situations and survived to tell the tale. Achilles and Odysseus were the two great Greek heroes, with contrasting personalities. Odysseus is a more admirable hero, loyal to his wife and his morals, using reason and never forgetting where he came from, while Achilles was the young and brash antihero who caused more harm than good.

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Odysseus vs. Achilles - Great Greek Heroes. (2020, Sep 02). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/odysseus-vs-achilles-great-greek-heroes-essay

Odysseus vs. Achilles - Great Greek Heroes

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