Heroism In Terms Of Oedipus Odysseus

Heroism In Terms Of Oedipus, Odysseus & Catullus Essay, Research Paper

Heroism: boldness, bravery, courage, daring, fearlessness, fortitude, gallantry, prowess, spirit, valor.

This is how the term is described by practically any dictionary or thesaurus accessible by us today. But when we refer it to the three heroes’ we have studied about during the last two months, it is evident that the word holds a different meaning for each one of them. It’s not simply a matter that the hero is very successful or that he carries out deeds which no one else can carry out. The hero is more likely to be someone who confronts fate in a very personal manner and whose reactions to that encounter serve to enlighten us in more ways than one. A hero by contrast is someone who faces issues beyond the social rules and who encounters the fundamental conditions of life.

Oedipus the king:

The confidence in Oedipus and his strong sense of his own worth are something both derived from past experience. Oedipus has saved the city before, at a time when many others had tried. And he did it with his mind, his intellect: he solved the riddle of the Sphinx. So thus establishing a harmonious relationship between ruler and ruled. Oedipus’s confidence is not merely an illusion. He has an exemplary record, the people have come to him because of that quality, and he fully intends to live up to that standard. He has a high regard for himself, but it is quite deserved and shared by those over whom he rules. He is taking on the task as a personal challenge to be dealt with in his terms, not by delegating it to someone else. And the more we learn about the ironic net of facts which he is uncovering about the murder, the more we see his determination grow. Even as he becomes increasingly aware about his own possible implication in the death of Laius, his commitment to finding an answer by himself remains strong.

The Odyssey:

At the start of his adventures Odysseus is a warrior king, committed to the world in which the overwhelming value of life is military fame. That is the reason the warriors, including Odysseus, left their homes and went to Troy. That first adventure is a standard act of military aggression. And for the next events in the series we follow Odysseus as the self-assertive, aggressive, always curious adventurer, taking himself and his men through a series of events in which he has to confront the Cyclops, the King of the Winds and the Underworld. As these adventures progress Odysseus loses more and more of his men, more and more of his ships, so that those things which make up his warrior identity are stripped away. The difficulties he faces are of two sorts. First, there are the direct threats and obstacles. These he must confront and overcome, often not directly but rather by using duplicity, wit and resourcefulness. Odysseus has an incurable capacity for getting himself into difficult situations, generally because he has an insatiable desire for self-assertion, for imposing throughout the world the knowledge of himself and his reputation, and these situations call from him a wide range of resources like courage, wit, deceit, invention, an ability to manipulate language to his advantage. Through this story we get a chance to witness the full range of capabilities human beings have to confront and overcome bad luck. The second group of difficulties is the temptations to give up. The recurring desire to stop and surrender to temptation, for example: his time on the island of Calypso. To survive these temptations, Odysseus has to discover and hang onto his desire to return home.

The story of Joseph:

Joseph was a hero quite different from the likes of Oedipus and Odysseus. Unlike the former he did not have an over enlarged ego and unlike the latter he wasn’t warrior material, he also lacked Odysseus’s amazing string of bad luck. He was a man with hardly any sense of his own magnificence, a man who saw himself first and foremost as a servant of God charged with bringing religious and political discipline to his community. And maybe for these reasons he was given the uncanny knack to turn every bad situation into one that he could use to his advantage.


Catullus was the greatest Roman lyrical poet. Most of his poems were for a married woman whom he called Lesbia. His poems represent heroism in the form of love and pain. He does not speak of heroism in terms of overcoming the pain caused by love but withstanding the difficulties it throws in the faces of those who have been hurt by love. To him love was the most demolishing emotion of all time. It made its victims irrational and powerless. He believed that those who win in love remain deliriously happy for the rest of their lives. But those who witness unrequited love are permanently wounded by its force of rejection.

Be it Greek, Roman or Jewish. At the end of the day no matter how strong each individual hero was at some stage in his life he required the assistance of the Gods. Oedipus proves this true by showing his need for consulting the oracle before every major decision. Joseph proves this true at practically every point in his life, for he feels that he was put on the earth to serve God, and hence used God as the greatest influence for all his actions. Although Odysseus believed to an extent that mortals were no less than the Gods and that he could succeed without them, he also contradicted his beliefs by taking their advice when it was offered to him.

Greek Mythology takes you through a wonderful journey and lets you interpret it in ways symbolical of your own point of view. That’s the beauty of the above mentioned pieces of work and that’s the reason that they will be appreciated till the end of time.


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