The Heroic Traits of Odysseus

Categories: Odyssey

In the eyes of a regular day civilian, a hero is someone who is untouchable, one who doesn’t doubt their virtues and morals, and one who, faced against all odds will prevail undoubtedly with a heart of gold.

Odysseus was someone who was celebrated by the people of his time for his heroic endeavors and was placed on a pedestal for him to be seen as an example for all future heroes to fall in pursuit. But looking through the modern-day lenses, we can note that Odysseus was not one filled with valor and courage, he isn’t someone who necessarily was a hero of all heroes.

He had quite the blunders that are often sugar-coated-in history but have created quite the downfalls throughout his time.

But in many cases Odysseus has failed to fit into the hero criterion, specifically, putting the lives of others before oneself. He was quite selfish throughout his journey thinking of ways to save himself from situations rather than for others.

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Let's consider Thor as our example of a hero. He is one of the most human of all heroes. Many of us can relate to him, especially during his earlier years, even with the mistakes he makes are ones that are seen to be understandable and relatable. Many heroic journeys begin in such a manner, beginning their story through humble means. Though Thor is a God and is not necessarily the part we relate to his role initially plays out in the manner of familial statuses, simply him fulfilling or at least trying to fulfill his duty as a God, a son and a brother.

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Thor throughout his epic was one who always kept in mind the people, he put others before himself and every action he took was with how will the others survive or how will they be safe. His decisions were carefully thought out with others in mind.

When looking at Odysseus he was one who failed to protect his comrades and one who sacrificed his friends and family throughout his journey. Many of his shipmates died on the way back home to Ithaca – were eaten by monsters or fell into the trap at Helios’ cattle-packed island – mainly as a result of Odysseus’ inability to convince them to do the intelligent thing, or otherwise, the fact that he didn’t really try in the first place. He also sends many of his men out “exploring” on potentially dangerous islands and most of them do not come back. A modern hero would take the risk upon his own shoulders and be more willing to sacrifice his life for his comrades rather than the other way around. Odysseus also makes many rash decisions that are often not well thought out. He almost gave himself away while disguised as a beggar multiple times, which threatened both his life, the life of his son, and the lives of his loyal friends.

Finally, it is quite evident that Odysseus relies on other people’s help a lot throughout The Odyssey. He does not escape from Calypso’s island until the gods themselves convince Calypso to let him go home. Even then, she helps him build a raft and gives him food for the journey. He then lands on Scheria where Alcinous’ hospitality gets him to the next place, and so on. He requires Hermes’ flower to avoid getting turned into a pig by Circe. The only time he really solves a problem is when he is able to escape from the Cyclop’s cave by his own wit. Aside from that instance, however, he is constantly under the watchful eye of Athena who keeps him out of too much trouble and makes sure he doesn’t stray from his path home. She makes him “beautiful” and “strong” when he needs it and makes him look like a beggar when it is necessary as well. There is simply too much “god-power” helping him out, whereas we appreciate the strength that comes from within in a modern hero.

Updated: Nov 01, 2022

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The Heroic Traits of Odysseus. (2020, Oct 01). Retrieved from

The Heroic Traits of Odysseus essay
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