The Odyssey by Homer

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Was Odysseus a good or a bad man?

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Domenick Franecki eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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According to Greek ideals, Odysseus is a good man. Athena, the goddess of wisdom and warfare, favors him and intervenes with her father, Zeus, to bring him home. Athena implores her father, "But my heart breaks for Odysseus, that seasoned veteran cursed by fate so long—" in the first book of The Odyssey. She claims that he is ill-favored by the fates and that his misfortunes have not been his doing but have instead been caused by factors beyond his control.

The narrative in the first book also emphasizes that Odysseus's men were killed by their own heedless ways and that their commander, Odysseus, was not to blame. In addition, the narrative stresses that Odysseus has his heart set on going home and reuniting with his wife and son. For these reasons, he is an ideal Greek hero and king. It is true that he is dallying with the nymph Calypso as the epic opens, but the narrative in the first book also emphasizes that Calypso is holding him against his will. In short, it is the fates who have cursed the hero, and his delay in returning home is not a result of his own failings.

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samson98 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Like all humans, Odysseus (as portrayed in Homer's Iliad and Odyssey) exhibited both positive and negative qualities. On the positive side, Odysseus was a pious man who respected and honored the gods. He was also brave and cunning; his idea for the Trojan Horse assured the Greeks victory in the Trojan War. Finally, he loved his family and risked his life to return home to them. 

Nevertheless, Odysseus had some negative character traits. His cunning at times made him arrogant. One example of this is when he could not resist taunting Polyphemus the cyclops. Moreover, Odysseus cheated on his wife, Penelope, with the goddesses Calypso and Circe. His affair with Circe delayed him from returning home for an entire year.

As you can see, Odysseus is a dynamic character, which is part of what makes him such a great hero. I, personally, would consider him a good man, but--based on the information above--you may judge him differently.

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