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Odysseus' Character Traits

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12/19/06 Odyssey Essay Homer's Odyssey is a vivid illustration of the values and traditions of the ancient Greeks. By reading these stories of the ancients, we "live" what they lived, and experience what they experienced. Our culture gains a more profound understanding of their culture and what their lives were like. Through the ordeals of Odysseus, Telemachus and Penelope, Homer captures the essence of Greek culture. The ancient Greek culture, similar to many other ancient cultures, carefully constructed a hero, Odysseus, and imbued him with the ideal traits of their own society. Male heroes typically displayed traits such as strength, honor and mental prowess. In The Odyssey, the hero Odysseus epitomizes the esteemed traits of the ancient Greeks by exemplifying the characteristics of cunning and physical fitness. Homer gives the reader a sense that of all the traits admired by the Greeks, a person's mental prowess and cunning is the most valued. ...read more.


Odysseus possesses the mental ability that Achilles lacks. His cunning is mentioned numerous times, a testimony to the esteem in which the Greeks held this trait. Perhaps Odysseus' cleverest ploy is on the island of the Cyclops, in the cave of Poseidon's son, Polyphemus. When rudely asked his name, Odysseus cleverly responds; "Nobody - that's my name. Nobody - / so my mother and father call me, all my friends'" (9.410-411). Cunningly using deceit to deceive the one-eyed giant, Odysseus manages to escape the Cyclops' lair without incurring the wrath of the entire island. Odysseus' clever mind plays on the weaknesses of others and, rather than his physical strength, it is the tool that he draws upon to assist him. He is greatly admired for this trait, and is often called "the man of twists and turns" (1.1). In the story, the goddess of wisdom, Athena, chose to bestow her attention on Odysseus as his patron. ...read more.


In The Odyssey, Odysseus participates in a mini-Olympics at the palace of Alcinous, King of the Phaecians. After hurling a discus further than all others, Odysseus crows "I'll take on all contenders, gladly /...I'm no disgrace in the world of games" (8.244-245). Odysseus is a match for any man in the world of physical strength, and Homer demonstrates this numerous times, showing again the esteem that the Greeks placed on the physical strength of men. Our hero Odysseus is not a perfect man. He has faults which become apparent in The Odyssey. His faults however are perhaps emphasized to illustrate another belief of the ancient Greeks, that men are not perfect. The traits that Odysseus does possess are ones that were highly valued by the ancient Greek culture - strength of mind combined with physical prowess. Thus, The Odyssey can be read not only as a great work of literature but also as a lesson in the morals and values honored by the peoples of Homer's age. ...read more.

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