The Odyssey

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The Odyssey

Throughout vast journeys of many heroes, no other hero had a more complex journey than Odysseus. This journey is called The Odyssey, written by Homer. It is an epic poem or story told of a hero name Odysseus on a 20-year voyage trying to get back home from the Trojan War. The great epic poem known as The Odyssey and attributed to Homer was probably first written down around the eighth century BC, but the origins of the ancient story in myth, legend, and folklore and art appear to be much older. Greek Epic Hero When you think about Greek Epic heroes, Odysseus will most likely come to mind. Odysseus is the main character in Homer’s poem “The Odyssey.” “The Odyssey” is a narrative poem that describes Odysseus’ adventures and obstacles in his quest to return home to Ithaca, where he is king, from the Trojan War. Odysseus has been gone for two decades. All the other chieftains have returned home. However, Odysseus’ whereabouts are unknown. One of the things that make Odysseus a Greek hero is that the gods favor him. In the Odyssey the gods help Odysseus many times. When Poseidon struck Odysseus’ ship with lightning, Odysseus was able to survive because a goddess named Ino gave him a magical cloak. The cloak prevents Odysseus from drowning. When Circe turns Odysseus men into swine, Hermes the messenger god gives Odysseus a magical herb that prevents Circe from using her spells on him. Due to this Odysseus was able to gain favor in Circe’s eyes and he convinced her to turn his men back to normal. Towards the end of the book, when Odysseus returns to Ithaca, Athena disguises him as a beggar. The disguise was to fool the suitors, who are eating Odysseus out of his home and are harassing his wife Penelope, and to get Odysseus access to the palace. The ancient Greeks used to say that a true hero must show respect to the gods by giving them sacrifices and praying to them. Odysseus gives sacrifices to the gods in many instances in The Odyssey.” When Odysseus goes to Hades, the underworld, he sacrifices a ram and an ewe to the gods. When Odysseus defeats Polyphemus the Cyclops who is the son of Poseidon the god of the sea, Odysseus gives sacrifices to the gods. Lastly when Odysseus defeats those horrible suitors that outnumbered him by so much Odysseus realizes that it was the gods who helped him do this. A mere mortal could not perform the feats of strength and the ability to overcome insurmountable odds without help from the gods. Therefore he makes sacrifices to the gods. When Odysseus is in trouble he always shows that he is depending on the gods by praying to them. The fact that the gods usually listen to him shows that he is well liked by the gods. In order to be a Greek hero you had to be liked by the gods since religion was such a big part in their lives. Odysseus, with the help of the gods, can survive adventures that kill most other men. Odysseus travels to the island of the Cyclopians. The Cyclopians are giants that have one eye, they don’t fear the gods because they believe that they are better than the gods and they eat people. They represent the opposite of what Greek men should be. Odysseus and his men meet Polyphemus the Cyclops. Polyphemus being a Cyclops eats some of Odysseus’ men. Odysseus with the help of the gods figures out a plan to escape and he does. Scylla is a ferocious monster with six heads that kills most men that pass by her island. She kills six of Odysseus’ men. Odysseus prevents her from killing himself and more men. There is another ferocious monster named Charybdis. Charybdis sucks in water from the sea and creates a whirlpool that kills any ship that passes by. Odysseus passes by her. His crew is killed and his ship is destroyed in the whirlpool but Odysseus alone survives. There is an island that Odysseus passes by with monsters called Sirens on it. The Sirens sing beautiful songs that lure ships toward them. The ships then crash into the island and the people are killed. Nobody has heard the song of the Sirens and survived. Odysseus is warned of this island by a god. He then puts plugs in his men’s ears because Odysseus wants to hear the song; he ties himself to the front of the boat and tells his men to tighten his ropes if he tries to get away. Odysseus and his men survive and Odysseus is the only mortal to hear the song of the Sirens and live to tell it. The pictures and sculptures of the ancient Greeks showed only men with perfect bodies and men in battle. Therefore in order to be a true Greek epic hero you had to be both strong and good in battle. Odysseus showed both of these signs. Odysseus travels to the land of the Phaeacians. The Phaeacians have many games such as the discus throw and a javelin throw. Odysseus wins all of these events. When Odysseus gets back to Ithaca Penelope, thinking that Odysseus her husband is dead, has a contest in which she will marry the winner. The winner must string a bow and shoot an arrow through twelve axes on the floor. All of the mighty suitors try, but none of them come even close to triumph. Odysseus, being dressed up as a beggar, tries it and succeeds. The suitors were all mighty men but Odysseus was the only one to triumph. This shows his greatness. After this a war breaks out and Odysseus befriended only by Eumaeus the swineherd and Malanthius the goatherd defeats all of the suitors. The fact that Odysseus was able to defeat the suitors definitely shows that Odysseus is truly a great warrior. Odysseus is a true Greek epic hero. When he is able to use power given to him by the gods, he does so willingly. However this alone would not make him a hero. This would only make him a servant of the gods. Odysseus uses his intellect, farsightedness, and insight to control his fate as best as he can. For example, when he returns home, rather then revealing his true identity Odysseus uses patience and caution to devise and execute a plan that will defeat the suitors. Odysseus is now acting independently of the gods and his heroic personality triumphsthere are a lot of comparison between the book, article, and film. For instance, Odysseus becomes the wise and gentle King of Ithaca and marries Penelope, daughter of the Spartan King Icarius; He builds their bedroom and constructs a bed around the bole of an olive-tree that symbolize their love for one another. It is said in The Odyssey, that if the tree falls dead or rot out, that Odysseus and Penelopes love will died like the oak tree. One of the last scenes in the movie The Odyssey, you can see the same oak tree bloom and expands more when he return form his journeys. Also in the book, film, and movie Penelope was making a blanket to stall some time from her suitors and waited for Telepaths to return with some news of Odysseus. Some of the main points that the movie focuses on are a more complex form of summary. It tells about the journeys of Odysseus and how he fought to get back to his homeland. As every move proceeds, it doesnt tell the whole truth but only have that would fit the viewer. The book is more in depth and it tells the whole story of the character and doesnt leave out any details because it comes straight from the author. The article is just a review of the book and the movie. It will tell you if the book is true or not. In reality, The Odyssey is true in some fashion because some of the places and wars are true. Lets take Ithaca for instances, is a real landmass in the Ionians Islands of the western part of Greece. Through the Trojan War, there is some truth to that because researches have found some parts and signs that deal with a war that took place a great time ago. They found that Troy is in what we call present-day Turkey. It is very hard to understand the book because of the depth it goes into. The translator E. V. Rieu said that The Odyssey was one the hardest books to translate mainly because Homer writes with emphasis on his works. But in the movie, the director Andrei Kanchalovsky said the movie was hard to make because it was to many books that translated The Odyssey in many different ways. In actuality, the article was the best summary of the book and half as good as the movie.

Fayetteville State University
By: Adrian Williams
History 110
Homer. The Odyssey. 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York10014, USA. Penguin Books Inc, 1946.

The Odyssey. Directed by Andrei Kanchalovsky. Starring Armand Assante, Vanessa L. Williams, and Eric Roberts. 1997.

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