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Analysis of Strengths and Weaknesses of Odysseus

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Odysseus is considered of the greatest of the Greek heroes who fought during the Trojan War known for his cunning intellect, Odysseus designed the plan that sacked the city of Troy and brought Greek’s victory in the Trojan War. The story of Odysseus begins in Homer’s epic poem The Iliad, but his second poem, The Odyssey, relates the story of Odysseus wandering the seas for ten years as he struggled to return to Ithaca, where his wife and son were waiting. Throughout the poem, Odysseus demonstrates various characteristics of heroism which are unequal to The Iliad’s Achilles. While Achilles’ heroism is shown from his warrior abilities, Odysseus’ stands on his stratagems such as mêtis “cunning intelligence” and his dolos “trickery.” The passage Od. Abri. 10.284-309 exhibits Odysseus’ heroism and extraordinary deeds but it also shows that he is an average person with strengths and weaknesses. By analyzing this passage, we will see how Odysseus although being gifted with cunning intelligent and the ability of trickery he can fall into his temptations and pleasure along his nostos “return home” Odysseus’s mêtis, his cunning and wit, which are unique to him, represents the foundation and the main undermining quality of his heroism. 

His mêtis in the passage starts by demonstrating his loyalty and motivation to save his people. Not by saving them all but rescuing as many as he can is one of his best accomplishments in the journey. It is a leadership skill to judge necessary sacrifices and assume the consequences that come with it, and Odysseus repeatedly does this. When he and his comrades arrived in Aenea, Goddess’ Circe home, and Circe turns Odysseus comrades into pigs. Eurylochus, one of the Odysseus’ companions, runs back to the ship and tells Odysseus what had happened. Although he knew that going to the palace was a risky decision, he still wanted to rescue them. When he arrives in the palace, Circe shows surprise as her spell did not work on Odysseus showing that he is a man with extraordinary deeds. Subsequently, she asks him to go to bed with her after he threatens her with his sword. While he could have just agreed to Circe’s proposal because of her extraordinary beauty, Odysseus showed sophrosunê “self-control”, which is Ancient Greece it is an ideal of excellence of character and soundness of mind as opposed to hubris. He recognizes that she would harm him and treat him in the same way she treated his comrades unless he convinces her and to vow by the names of the gods that she will not. He decided to confront her and use his persuasive speech and said: “I won’t agree to climb into your bed, unless, you’ll agree to swear a solemn oath.” 

In most epics, it is clear that the main hero wants everyone to remember his name and the incredible feats. In the Odyssey, kleos “honour” is achieved though dolos “trickery.” On the way to saving his men, Odysseus is visited by the god Hermes who gives a magical herb called “Moly.” The Moly served to protect him from Circe’s wizardry. In this case, Odysseus was able to use his disguise and deception for Circe to think that Odysseus was very powerful that even not even her powers could work against him. The honour he is achieving following his dolos is to be recognized as the saviour of his people and have a goddess as his lover. Another example of the use of trickery is the way Circe attracted Odysseus’ men to her palace. Odysseus had in mind xenia to be respected universally, but this time again, he confronted with cultures that do not function as he thought. In the case of Circe, she was not only tricking his crew with her beauty but also her luring voice. She welcomed them to her palace, disguised a host, but she mixed a potion into their food that turned them into pigs. This also shows how Odysseus’ trickery was able to reverse Circe’s role from an enemy to a host who offered them xenia which was part of Odysseus’ kleos. Many parts of the poem show Odysseus as more godlike than human. Homer, however, in the passage analyzed, is methodically expressing how he is not a god but more human. 

Odysseus like any mortal has flaws and Circe’s hospitality turns into Odysseus’ fall into temptation, which betrays his intelligence heroic instinct. In fact, many of the obstacles of their journey were usually due to their failure to resist the temptations they faced. After sleeping with the goddess, Odysseus returned to his ship to hide his cargo. Eurylochus warned the crew that returning to the palace might be a trap and suggested to depart right away, however, Odysseus insisted on staying. They spent one year in Aenea living in luxury and pleasure to the point where Odysseus has almost forgotten about his nostos while his wife was still waiting faithfully in Ithaca after almost twenty years. It was Odysseus’ men who reminded and convinced him that it was time to leave. Although the only harm in this situation was the time wasted, it shows clearly how Odysseus’s poor judgments and temptations could have caused their death. 

On the whole, Odysseus, renowned by his epithet the cunning, demonstrates heroism by conveying many qualities such as his powers of metis and dolos which are formidable and essential to his survival during his journey. His metis is demonstrated through his persuasive speech, determination, leadership and sophrosunê. He achieves kleos though dolos by deceiving and confronting goddess Circe, saving his friends and having her as his lover. However, Odysseus’ temptations, which make him a human, can be proving to be dangerous and almost made him forget about his ultimate target which was his return to Ithaca.

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