How do the ancient Greeks perceive brute strength in the Odyssey?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Clearly, Odysseus, the hero of the Odyssey, does not simply represent brute strength. Rather, he represents cunning and mental toughness. Throughout the Odyssey, he overcomes brute strength by using his wiles. Perhaps the most obvious example is when he and a handful of his men escape the Cyclops in Book IX, using his wits to blind the creature and escape by clinging to the underbellies of his sheep. Had Odysseus lashed out blindly against the Cyclops, killing him while he slept, he would have been trapped in the cave by the huge stone he used to seal up the exit. So he was required to use his wits. Indeed, Odysseus is proudest of his wits, referring to himself as "crafty" and laughing "inwardly at my clever strategem." It is this pride in his wits that lands him in trouble, as he unwisely tells the Cyclops, who happens to by the son of Poseidon, his name as they escape. Odysseus's wits are on display elsewhere, as well, as he overcomes the suitors and determines his wife and son's loyalty by adopting a convincing disguise with the help of Athena. So clearly the Odyssey is intended to show how wit and cunning, when combined with physical strength and courage, are superior to brute force alone.


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