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The Odyssey

by Homer
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The first word of The Odyssey in Greek is andra, derived from the word andros and aner, which means a certain type of “man”; What is the meaning and significance of this word and the various associations it calls to mind? 

The word "ᾰ̓νήρ" means "man." Odysseus is a man, as opposed to a boy, a woman, or a god. The word also means "husband." These meanings are all important in defining Odysseus as an epic hero.

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The Greek word "ᾰ̓νήρ" means "man." This, at its simplest, refers to an adult male, and it is of some significance to oppose "man" to the words "boy" and "woman." Odysseus was well into adulthood when he went to Troy. He fought there for ten years and took ten years to return. His son, Telemachus, is already fully grown. He has not been a boy for a long time. A man is also opposed to a woman in Greek culture by his duties and by the virtues he is expected to display. In fact, the very word "virtue" derives from "vir," the Latin equivalent of "ᾰ̓νήρ." A man must show traditionally manly qualities by being brave and responsible.

The word "ᾰ̓νήρ," like "vir," also means "husband." There were very few bachelors in Ancient Greece, and it was taken for granted that a man would be married. This, of course, is important in the Odyssey since Odysseus is returning to his wife, though he occasionally appears to forget this. Finally, the word "ᾰ̓νήρ" conveys the idea of "man" as opposed to "god." Odysseus is sometimes described as godlike, and he enjoys the patronage of the goddess Athena, but he suffers and strives as a mortal. The Homeric poems ultimately portray at least some of the mortals as more admirable than the gods, since they are on a similar moral level but have to cope with adversity, as the gods do not. The word "ᾰ̓νήρ," therefore, encompasses many of the qualities that define an epic hero.

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