Odysseus, Favored By Gods Essay, Research Paper
November 16, 2000
Odysseus a Strong Man or Just Supported by Gods
Odysseus is the main character in an epic poem called the Odyssey. In the poem Odysseus has had some bad luck getting home, with some of the gods helping him and some hindering him his journey towards home is a constant struggle. In this poem we see a man being broke and rebuilt, through constant irony his faith was damaged and without the help of Athena he probably would have given up on his journey. Through his hard work and wise spirit he finally does achieve his goal.
Odysseus must journey from Troy to his homeland of Ithaca. Throughout this journey Odysseus experiences a lot of inconsistent emotions. A lot of this is attributed to the physical and mental hell he goes through on this remarkable journey. With the help of the Gods he finally does return to Ithaca.
Odysseus arrives on the shore of Phaecia, in Book VI of the Odyssey. His most helpful and favorable goddess has sent Nausicaa a dream compelling her to wash clothes in preparation for an upcoming marriage. Athena makes Nausicaa brave and Odysseus handsome bringing them together in order to assist Odysseus to the house of the king. Athena said “ How so remiss, and yet thy mothers daughter? Leaving thy clothes uncared for, Nausikaa, when thou must have store a marriage linen, and put thy minstresly in wedding dress” (Book 6). In this book is an example of the gods assisting Odysseus, which compels me to question how great Odysseus really was? A god can make even a coward a hero (not saying Odysseus was a coward). Almost everything is done to help Odysseus and so he is fortunate to have the support of the gods especially in this book.
“But Athena poured a sea of fog around him as he went her loves expedient, that no jeering sailor should halt the man or exchange him for luck.” (Book 7). Here Odysseus speaks to Athena indirectly as she has disguised herself as a little girl. In this book the little girl who we all know as Athena even gives Odysseus advice, “A cheerful man does best in every enterprise, even a stranger” (Book 7). The interference by Athena shows how much she likes Odysseus and how much she wants him to make it home to the suitors.
In Book VIII, King Alkinoos is intent on helping Odysseus on his journey, so he holds a special meeting. During this meeting there is competition to entertain Odysseus. After Odysseus declines competition, as he is maturer in his older years, he is insulted by one of the king’s men. “”The reason being, as I see it, friend, you never learned a sport, and have no skill in any of the contests of fighting men” (Book 8). Odysseus then steps up and breaks the record for throwing a disc. “Anyone else for an edge for competition try me now” (Book 8). This shows a common characteristic of men today, we just can’t turn down a challenge. Although I cannot blame him there are only so many ways he can show and prove his greatness to others.
In Book 9, Odysseus does battle with a popular Greek Mythology creature the Cyclopes. Here Odysseus shows us how cunning he can be. While trapped Odysseus really fears that he will never see that homeland of Ithaca ever again. He is very mournful and we see just how much he misses home. He finally realizes how to escape from the Cyclops. He stabs the Cyclops in his only eye blinding him. He then tells the monster his name is Nobody. When all the Cyclopes friends here him screaming they open his door to see what happened, then Odysseus and his men escape. The Cyclops yells to his friends, “Nohbdy, Nohbdy tricked me, Nohbdy’s ruined me” (Book 9). With this, he gets no help and Odysseus is free. Upon leaving the island Odysseus can’t help but to rub in the fact that a mere mortal conquered a Cyclopes. He yells to the creature his name. Obviously Odysseus did not know that Poseidon was the Cyclopes father. This now will hurt Odysseus, as Poseidon will seek revenge.
Odysseus is again close to his arriving home when one of his crew members betrays his wishes. Odysseus received a bag of wind, which would help him if the wind were to die while they were at sea (Book 10). Odysseus instructs his crew to not open the bag. This is where Odysseus could have prevented a mishap. Instead of explaining to his crew the dangers of the bag and its purpose he just orders them to stay away from it. This causes the crew to become curious and suspicious. When Odysseus is asleep his crew opens the bag and Odysseus is now farther from home. This is one of the instances that probably came close to breaking the great ruler. Being so close to home and then being thrown off course by your own crew probably does some psychological damage.
In Book 13 Odysseus describes his seven years interment on Ogygia. The peachiness are very moved and promise him a safe return to Ithaca. They also promise an assortment of treasures for his bravery. This is where it pays to be brave and honorable. Poseidon here’s that t
he Phacienes helped Odysseus and turns one of their ships to stone. Odysseus is lucky that Athena wanted to help him more than Poseidon wanted to hurt him.
Odysseus finally makes it to his homeland of Ithaca. Athena once again helps him out by disguising him as a mere beggar. This is very helpful because it allows for Odysseus to survey his castle and find out who has been faithful and who has not. Without this favor it would have been hard for the king to plan an attack. This is one of the reasons I think Odysseus was perceived as being so great.
Odysseus first encounters a great man Eumaeus. This is the most faithful servant of the king’s father. Eumaeus shows that Odysseus had to be a good ruler. Eumaeus said “not even my parents at home, where I was born and bred. I miss them less than I do him” (Book 14). Staying faithful beyond the expectations of his king ever returning is one of the highest forms of loyalty in all of literature. Also Eumaeus show his disgust for the evil suitors, which really impresses Odysseus.
Athena helps Odysseus in more ways than one. She even gives him advice on how to address his own son Telemakhos. She makes Odysseus appear larger and stronger than he actually is just to impress Telemakhos. This is a great gesture by Athena because it doesn’t seem to pose any great benefit to her.
Another token of Odysseus greatness comes from an old dog. Argos who was only a pup when Odysseus left was now an old dog who was laying on a pile of his own waste (Book 17). Odysseus sheds a silent tear for he cannot express his love for his old dog as he is in the presence of others (Book 17). The dog recognizes his old ruler wags his tale and then dies (Book 17).
Through more of Athena’s advice Odysseus moves around the castle begging from each suitor (Book 17). Antinous the most evil of all the suitors is rude and hurls a chair at him. It takes a lot of restraint from both Odysseus and Telemakhos to not react (Book 17).
Odysseus shows his great strength in book 18 when a dumb suitor that the other suitors like to tease shows up. The suitors talk Iros into fighting Odysseus. Odysseus without the help of any gods effortlessly breaks the poor man’s jaw. This point in the story I respect Odysseus strength because he destroys this man effortlessly on his own.
In Book 21, we see another example of Odysseus strength. A contest is held to see who can string Odysseus bow. While the suitors are unsuccessfully trying to string the bow Odysseus is recruiting some loyal servants. Odysseus then enters the room still disguised and strings the bow. After all those years he is still stronger than all of the younger suitors.
Now comes the gruesome battle between the suitors and Odysseus. In the end all of the suitors meet their fate and Odysseus claims his castle back. By using his wit he instructs that all the weapons be hidden before battle. It is this wisdom that helps him defeat the suitors.
Finally Odysseus obeys the gods commands and travels inward till no man has seen the ocean. Carrying his large oar across his back and placing it in the dirt where a man asks him if the oar is a widowing fan. Odysseus is very wise. It would have been easy to have stayed at home and rested, but he knew what happened to people who did not obey the gods.
In Conclusion, I have laid out some evidence showing Odysseus’s strength’s, Bravery, and faith. Also I have given examples of his dependency of the gods. I don’t believe anyone would argue that Odysseus was not a great man. Although I argue that he was still only a man. Between all of his hardships and troubles I will grant that he never lost faith and never chose a fate other than home.
Homer. “The Odyssey,” World Masterpieces: Expanded Edition. Maynard Mack ed. Ed. Coptic St.: Prentice, 1995. 219-503.