Odysseus: Epic Hero?


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Odysseus: Epic Hero?

The question has been raised as to whether or not Odysseus, the hero of Homers The Odyssey, is an epic hero. An epic Hero portrays many classic properties, including being very strong and courageous. Odysseus is an epic hero, because he portrays many of these and other traits, such as having a goal that is foremost in his mind, and having descended into the underworld.

An epic hero is almost overwhelmed with difficulty, often beyond that which a normal man could withstand. Not only is he confronted occasionally by danger or hopelessness; it is the entire premise of the poem. “Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns driven time and again off course, once he had plundered the hallowed heights of Troy” (Fagles 77). This it the first line of the whole poem, summing up what is going to happen as the speaker prays to the Muses, goddesses of stories. There is in fact, no other person, fictional or otherwise, in all of history, ever so besieged with difficulty, as Odysseus. Women and goddesses often tempt epic heroes, and Odysseus is tempted too. The goddess Circe is one of the many people who tempt him, “Come, sheath your sword, lets go to bed together, mount my bed and mix in the magic work of love-we’ll breed deep trust between us” (Fagles 240). Though Odysseus does bed with her, he never loses sight of his hope of coming home to his wife, Penelope.

A female character always aids an epic hero, and Odysseus is no exception. Near the end of his travels, Athena feels sorry for him and decides to assist him and let him go home, and once he arrives, she helps him kill the suitors that plague his house. “That left the great Odysseus waiting in his hall as Athena helped him plot the slaughter of the suitors” (Fagles 390). Not only is this assistance by a woman, and a sure sign of an epic hero, but also a goddess assists him, and only those worthy enough can be helped by the Immortal. Odysseus is also aided and told how to get home by the Goddess Circe. “You must travel down to the House Of The Dead and the awesome one, Persephone, there to consult the ghost of Tiresias, seer of Thebes” (Fagles 245). This is the same person who tried to tempt him, but she realizes he wont stay and decides to help him instead.

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The only question that can be raised about whether Odysseus is an epic hero is that he does not have a mysterious lineage. However, even though this is the case, he is mysterious, rarely letting anyone know what he is thinking or doing. “I alone was to hear the voices, [of the sirens] so she said” (Fagles 276). This is not true, he claims that he needs to hear in order to know when to take out the beeswax in his men’s ears, but really it is simply because he wants to hear it, but of course, that is not very heroic. So He will lie in order to appear braver and stronger, emphasizing yet again that he is a hero, because a hero is not modest and will try to prove how daring and valiant he is. Odysseus also comes close to death on Calypso’s island, when all his men are dead, and his boat has sunk. “The queen nymph sought out the great Odysseus… and found him there on the headlands, sitting, still, weeping, his eyes never dry” (Fagles 157). However when he learns that he can get home, he springs to life, and is reborn, a better man.

Odysseus is an epic hero, no doubt about it. He’s almost overwhelmed with difficulty, Women and goddesses often tempt him, he is aided by a female, he is mysterious, and he dies and is reborn, (figuratively). There is no question that Odysseus is an epic hero, the only question, is how stubborn you are.


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