Is Odysseus the Ideal Greek Hero?

 
This is a painting of Odysseus that represents
his muscular strength and power, which
makes him an ideal Greek hero.
http://www.paleothea.com/Pictures/Odysseus.jpg


Following the previous topic, we now touch on one of the most controversial questions that the Odyssey leaves its readers with.  Is the man Odysseus, the hero of this poem, actually the ideal of the Greek hero in the ancient world?  Certainly, people can argue both ways and support their arguments from evidence in the reading.  According to our views, Odysseus is definitely one of, if not the one, ideal hero of the ancient Greek world.

There are quite a lot of reasons why this is so.  Firstly, Odysseus is an ideal hero in both the physical and the spiritual sense.  In the physical sense he is a great hero, because he overcomes all these extreme dangers; he comes out alive after wondering for ten years and facing the most extremely dangerous creatures and people.  Why would Homer set up this whole fantastic voyage with all the strange encounters that Odysseus has to go through, if it was not to show that this man is a great hero of the Greek world?  In order to put it more simply, if Odysseus was not one of the greatest heroes, he would not be able to accomplish this voyage.

In the spiritual sense Odysseus is a hero, because he remains faithful and loyal to his wife and household.  Although he has been wandering away from home for almost twenty years, the only thing that keeps him alive is the thought of his wife and son that are back at home waiting for him.  Odysseus defies immortality twice in his journey; he embraces his mortality and that is what gives him the strength to withstand all the difficulties he faces.  In addition, he is unbelievably clever and witty.  We find out through the Odyssey that Odysseus was the man that saved the Greeks in the Trojan War and helped them win this terrible war.  He came up with the idea of the Trojan horse.   That is how they won after ten years of fighting.  Also, we see Odysseus various times in the Odyssey making his way through the most difficult situations by using his wits and cleverness: “Odysseus, the man of many wiles”.

Another important point which proves that Odysseus was the ideal hero, is the fact that at the end of the story he is able to reach Ithaca and establish peace on the island with the help of Athena.  Furthermore, at the end he has no conflicts with any of the gods.  Even Poseidon is no longer angry with him, something that raises Odysseus in the rankings of the ancient Greek heroes.  This man after going through all those ordeals is finally reunited with his family in his house, which was his ultimate goal from the beginning of his long and tedious journey.

Perhaps the most striking of the arguments in favor of Odysseus being the ideal Greek hero, is the encounter he has with Hercules in the Underworld.  Hercules says to Odysseus that the two of them are very similar.  We know that Hercules was the greatest Greek hero that ever existed; his legend still goes on today.  Certainly, listening to this man saying that Odysseus is similar to him once again proves our argument.  At the same time, Odysseus is shown by Homer as belonging to the very highest respectable heroes.  Just the fact that Odysseus accomplishes the trip to Hades and comes back on earth alive is something that proves Odysseus to be exceptionally heroic.

However, the fact that Odysseus does have some flaws cannot be rejected.  These flaws include the fact that he loses his men and the fact that he boasts about himself and commits blasphemy toward Poseidon when he says, "I am sure that even great Poseidon will never give you back the eye you lost" (Odyssey, Book IX, page 185).  Nevertheless, this does nothing but adds to the idea of Odysseus being the ideal hero in the ancient Greek society.  He is a mortal hero, a human, and humans have flaws.  This again goes back to where we talk about the transition in the Greek society.  The Greeks now embrace their mortality, they are not afraid of it.  Even with his flaws, Odysseus achieves his goals and he is definitely the ideal hero for many generations to follow.  The people can look to Odysseus as being a hero that they can relate to; unlike the previous perfect and unrealistic heroes, such as Hercules, that could only be admired. 

Closing up this analysis, we would like to say that all these issues that we talked about are open to debate.  However, after examining them closely we reached these conclusions and we feel strongly about what we have argued.  Nevertheless, we greatly welcome any opposition to our arguments and please feel free to respond to this analysis.

To learn more about Odysseus as an epic hero and to view other peoples' thought of what makes him an ideal hero, click here .  

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