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In Homer's Odyssey what is the importance of Heracles (also known as Hercules) in the...

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esquivel96 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 16, 2010 at 10:20 AM via web

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In Homer's Odyssey what is the importance of Heracles (also known as Hercules) in the story?

This is for an English project about the Greek gods and I need to know what he has to do with in the Odyssey. Please help.

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noahvox2 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted November 11, 2011 at 3:02 AM (Answer #1)

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Yes, Heracles (The Romans called him Hercules) does not really play a significant role in Homer's Odyssey. Odysseus does encounter the phantom of Heracles when Odysseus conjures up the spirits of the dead from the underworld in Odyssey 11.

It is perhaps noteworthy that Heracles is the last phantom with whom Odysseus speaks. Heracles' phantom draws a comparison between himself and Odysseus when he compares Odysseus' struggles with his own fate to his own struggles. Like Odysseus, Heracles suffered signficant misery in his life; and, like Odysseus, Heracles encountered beings from the underworld while he was still alive.

Also of note is the weapon that the phantom of Heracles carries: "his bow unsheathed and an arrow strung, glared round fiercely as if about to shoot" (A.S. Kline translation). Many artistic and literary representations of Heracles depict him with a club; in this case, however, Homer chooses to represent him as carrying a bow, which may foreshadow Odysseus' actions at the end of the epic as he destroys his wife's suitors with his own famous bow.

Interestingly, Odysseus' bow and arrows, which he will use to destroy the suitors, was given to him by a Greek named Iphitus, whom, ironically, Heracles later killed while Iphitus was a guest in Heracles' house. Similarly, Odysseus will kill the guests who have been preying upon his house. Whereas Heracles' killing of Iphitus was unjust, Odysseus' killing of the suitors in his house will have the full backing of the gods.


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hatshepsut | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted November 20, 2010 at 9:34 AM (Answer #2)

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He doesn't have an important role in Odyssey.

After Odysseus goes to underworld, he sees a lot of familiar dead people and talks to them. Like Agamemnon, Achilles etc. from 'Iliad' and he sees Heracles as well in one scene. He is feasting i think and when he sees Odysseus, he shows respect to him in book 11.

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