How do Odysseus's Epic Epithets tell a tale in Homer's Odyssey?

Expert Answers
mattbuckley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

An epithet is a word or phrase that describes a person or things qualities or attributes. Homer uses many of these phrases to describe the many attributes of Odysseus throughout the epic tale. Each one of them speaks to a specific attribute that he has shown or proven in his past exploits. He is referred to as "the man of many resources" which tells of his ability to use his brain and intellect to figure out problems by using what is available. He is referred to as "the man skilled in all ways of contending" which points to his past proven abilities in all forms of competition and contest. He is also called "the wanderer" which refers to the tales of Homer's Odysseywhere he attempts to make it home to Ithaca from Troy. He is also referred to as the "the strategist" which illuminates the past tales of his intellect and cunning. These epithets all serve to illustrate the past accomplishments of this great hero.

slauritzen | Student

Epithets are descriptive phrases used in place of a name or place, most commonly, and often are metaphors.  Homer uses stock epithet's meaning that he refers to the same person over and over again with a phrase that made sense the first time he introduced it, but does not necessarily anymore.  Hector is the "breaker of horses" throughout the Iliad even though the reference to horses only applies early on; it just becomes who he is. 

These should not be confused with epic or Homeric similes, which are long and involved similes.  Homer often creates a simile that is quite complex and can go on for 10-15 lines. 

Although both can be metaphors, epithets are used in place of a name and are only a few words, while epic similes add to the poetry of the piece.