What is more important to Odysseus, personal glory or family?

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alanrice's profile pic

alanrice | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

This question could provoke considerable discussion. Odysseus was a reluctant combattant in the Trojan War; he pretended to be mad in order to avoid his sworn service bo Menelaus. (Note that this story is not told in The Odyssey!) The goddesses Circe and Calypso never won his heart - though he shared their beds without much apparent reluctance. Even when Calypso offers to make him immortal he politely declines (V.228-248 - Fagles' translation). And consider the touching reunion between Odysseus and his son. On the other hand, he delays his return home to raid Ismaros (IX.44 ff) and brags to Polyphemus about his name, lineage, and reputation. His vengaence on the suitors exceeds a love of hearth and home; he does it for glory as well as for revenge. It's a question you could argue compelling either way!

gbeatty's profile pic

gbeatty | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Great question! I'll start my answer with another one, or rather, two: when, and who is defining these choices?

By that I mean, earlier in his travels, personal glory is clearly more important, or rather, personal glory and adventure. Whether risking the sirens or going off to war, Odysseus made choices that kept him away from home for years! This is clearly a man who puts his own honor first.
And the reason I ask who is defining this choice is, keeping what one had was part of maintaining one's honor in classical Greek society. (Think of how Achilles pouted in The Iliad when his prize was taken away.) Therefore, Odysseus had to keep the suitors from his wife to keep his honor: at that point, the two became the same.


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