One of the most understated, but important, examples of Odysseus's intelligence (metis, a combination of cunning and intelligence) is in book 3 when Nestor, known in The Iliad as the wisest of Agamemnon's counselors, tells Odysseus's son, Telemachus, about the Achaeans' disagreement over when to sail from Troy...
One of the most understated, but important, examples of Odysseus's intelligence (metis, a combination of cunning and intelligence) is in book 3 when Nestor, known in The Iliad as the wisest of Agamemnon's counselors, tells Odysseus's son, Telemachus, about the Achaeans' disagreement over when to sail from Troy after Troy's destruction:
And all the time we were there, / not once did Odysseus and I, in assembly or council, / speak on opposite sides. We were both of one mind, / and we always agreed about how to advise the Achaeans. (3: 109–12)
That Nestor and Odysseus are always of one mind in matters of strategy speaks to Odysseus's intelligence in all matters requiring a strategic decision. Nestor, whose counsel Agamemnon relies upon completely, relies on the confirming counsel of Odysseus, a clear indication that the wisest among the Achaeans looks to Odysseus for intelligent counsel.
When, in book 6, Odysseus is washed up on the shore of the Phaeacians and encounters Nausicaa, the daughter of King Alcinous, he is covered with branches to hide his nakedness. After having frightened her attendants, he must decide whether to approach her and supplicate himself to her mercy—that is, bow before her, get on his knees, and grasp her knees, a sign of abject distress:
In the end, it seemed to him better to stay where he was / and speak to her from a distance, because she might take / offence if he clasped her knees. (6: 145–47)
He then asks her if she is a goddess or a woman and praises her for her beauty and bearing, comparing Nausicaa to Zeus's daughter Artemis. He ends this long, flattering speech by asking for her help. Nausicaa is suitably impressed and replies:
Stranger, your manners are proof/that you are neither a man of low birth nor a fool...since you have come to our country, you shall not lack clothing or anything else a supplicant needs...(6: 190–96)
Odysseus's intelligent decision not to appear initially as a supplicant has given him the opportunity to use his words as a way to both introduce himself as a high-born person and also to express his admiration for Nausicaa in courtly language, going so far as to pretend to mistake her for a goddess. He recognizes that he looks like a wild man, but, through his words, he is able to change that impression and put Nausicaa at ease.
Perhaps the quintessential example of Odysseus's intelligence—although many scholars call this his "cunning intelligence," his cleverness—is in book 9 when Odysseus and his men have put out one of the Cyclopes' eyes, and, hearing Polyphemus's screams of agony, Cyclopes who live nearby ask him why he is screaming, to which he answers:
"Noman, my friends, has tricked me and tried to kill me." / And they said to him, "Well, if no man is trying to hurt you, / obviously some illness that comes from Zeus / is causing your pain..." (9: 404–07)
Odysseus has created perhaps the world's first "Who's on first" trope, and he congratulates himself for having frustrated Polyphemus's attempts to get help. Later, of course, Odysseus comes up with an ingenious way of escaping from Polyphemus—strapping his men to the underside of large sheep who are taken out of the cave to pasture by Polyphemus. In this case, unfortunately, Odysseus's love of kleos (fame) is stronger than his common sense, and he tells Polyphemus his real name, which dooms him to another few years of voyaging.