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The Dishonest Odysseus of Odyssey

Once he returns to Ithaca, Odysseus displays dishonest behavior and does not once tell a person who he actually is when first meeting him. Odysseus hides his identity at first, whether by actively lying or passively not correcting their erroneous beliefs.

He tells Pallas Athena, first, that he is from Crete, had killed a man there, and had gotten a ride with some Phoenicians to Ithaca. He tells Eumaios that he grew up in Crete, went to Troy for the Trojan War, returned to Crete afterward and traveled to raid Egypt, where he was captured by Egyptians. Odysseus (as the beggar) says that he grew wealthy in Egypt, but was taken in by a man who meant to sell him as a slave. He tells that he escaped, and found refuge in Thesprotia. Then on his way back home to Crete, people tried to make him a slave again, he escaped again (although in a different fashion), and he ended up in Ithaca. Except for the fact that it’s the story of a hard life, this bears absolutely no relation to the actual story of Odysseus. He tells everyone (or lets them believe) nearly the same tale to everyone else that he meets in Ithaca before he kills the suitors. There are a few noticeable differences that we will get to, but one must be consistent in one’s lies, after all, in enemy-held territory. After killing the suitors, he tells Laertes a completely different lie, mostly centering around him (Odysseus as the stranger) having seen Odysseus alive after the Trojan War.

Odysseus lies to his enemies for obvious reasons; he doesn’t want them to know that Odysseus has returned. He starts off lying to his allies and friends for similar reasons. The only people who he can allow to know his identity are those he has te...

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...and has to fight down his emotions, so we can relate to him. Ultimately, though, he keeps his self-control and wins out in the end, making him a true hero and a fine character.

Works Cited and Consulted

Bloom, Harold , Homer's Odyssey: Edited and with an Introduction, NY, Chelsea House 1988

Crane, Gregory , Calypso: Backgrounds and Conventions of the Odyssey, Frankfurt, Athenaeum 1988

Heubeck, Alfred, J.B. Hainsworth, et al. A commentary on Homer's Odyssey. 3 Vols. Oxford PA4167 .H4813 1988

Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Vintage Books, 1989.

Rengakos, Antonios. Homertext und die Hellenistichen Dichter. Hermes. Einzelschriften, Heft 64. Stuttgart, F. Steiner, 1993.

Tracy, Stephen V. ,The Story of the Odyssey Princeton UP 1990

Van der Valk, Marchinus. Textual Criticism of the Odyssey. Leiden: A.W. Sijthoff, 1949.
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