Illustration of Odysseus tied to a ship's mast

The Odyssey

by Homer
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How does Odysseus in the Odyssey by Homer show examples of honor?

Odysseus shows honor numerous times in Homer's Odyssey. He shows it by giving wise counsel when he comes up with the idea of the Trojan Horse. His honor also gets him in trouble when it compels him to tell the Cyclops his real name. Odysseus honors the gods as well and orders his men not to kill Helios' cattle. Honor also compels Odysseus to kill the suitors in Ithaka.

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There are numerous instances in the Odyssey in which Odysseus shows his honor. Keep in mind that Odysseus is a proud man. This pride often gets him into trouble. However, it is also a common source of his honor. To the Greeks of Homer 's time, the honor came from...

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There are numerous instances in the Odyssey in which Odysseus shows his honor. Keep in mind that Odysseus is a proud man. This pride often gets him into trouble. However, it is also a common source of his honor. To the Greeks of Homer's time, the honor came from accomplishing great and noteworthy feats. This could be achieved on the battlefield, in counsel, or in being gracious to others.

Odysseus shows his honor in his plan to use a wooden horse to infiltrate Troy. Menelaus tells Telemachus that it was Odysseus who came up with this risky but ultimately successful plan. By devising a way to win the war, Odysseus rises in honor among the Greeks.

Odysseus is a wise and thoughtful man. He is also boastful. After he outsmarts the Cyclops, his honor and pride compel him to reveal his true identity. He wants all to know how he was victorious. Unfortunately, this act condemns his crew to death and Odysseus to a long and turbulent journey home.

Odysseus's honor of the gods is strong. Whenever he encounters one of them, he treats them with respect and reverence. Even though they are on the verge of starvation, Odysseus orders his men not to harm Helios's cattle. He would rather honor the god and go hungry than risk his wrath. Unfortunately, his orders are ignored, and Helios calls on Zeus to punish them.

By his journey's end, Odysseus's notion of honor has been somewhat tempered. While he would have liked to attack the suitors outright to defend the honor of his wife and household, he waits and is humiliated in the meantime. Disguised as an old beggar, he even tells one of the suitors that he regrets his old ways.

I, too, seemed destined to be a man of fortune once
and a wild wicked swath I cut, indulged my lust for violence,
staking all on my father and my brothers.
Look at me now.
And so, I say, let no man be lawless all his life,
just take in peace what gifts the gods will send. (18.158–63)

When he eventually does kill the suitors, it is not an act of heroism meant to satisfy his pride. Rather, it is an act of honor.

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