The Odyssey by Homer

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What are 3 examples of times when Odysseus demonstrated epic hero/god like qualities in The Odyssey?

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Odysseus demonstrates heroic, god-like qualities throughout The Odyssey. In one instance, he cleverly tricks and blinds the Cyclops Polyphemus, saving his crew from certain death. Odysseus also bravely travels to Hades to learn his fate. Upon reaching Ithaca, Odysseus takes on all of Penelope’s suitors, defeating them to reclaim his rightful place.


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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Odysseus demonstrates heroic qualities in book eight when he attends the Phaeacian assembly at Alcinous's court. The finest Phaeacian young men display their athletic abilities, and Odysseus enjoys watching them race, wrestle, and leap. When Laodamas asks Odysseus to participate, Odysseus initially declines the offer, but Euryalus proceeds to taunt him. Odysseus then demonstrates his god-like qualities by picking up the heaviest discuss and throwing it beyond the marks of all the other men. Odysseus's display of strength is extremely impressive, and Euryalus apologizes for his comments before presenting Odysseus with a gift.

Odysseus also displays heroic qualities on the island of Circe. In book ten, Odysseus sends a party to investigate Circe's home, and the goddess proceeds to turn the men into swine. After Eurylochus informs Odysseus of the shocking events and Circe's magical powers, Odysseus courageously travels to Circe's home to save his men. With the help of Hermes's magic potion, Odysseus is able to defeat Circe's spell and forces her to transform the pigs back into men. Odysseus's cunning, bold behavior demonstrates his heroic nature as he successfully rescues his crew from the powerful goddess.

Odysseus once again displays his heroic, god-like nature towards the end of the epic by disguising himself as a beggar and winning Penelope's archery contest. Once Eumaeus hands the bow to Odysseus, Eurycleia locks the doors and Philoetius closes the courtyard gates while Odysseus inspects the bow. He then displays his power and accuracy by shooting the arrow through the holes in the aligned ax heads. Telemachus then arms himself, and they proceed to slaughter the unscrupulous suitors. Despite being outnumbered, Odysseus reclaims his estate by ruthlessly murdering each suitor with Athena's help.

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Odysseus' encounter with and escape from the Cyclops, Polyphemus, in Book 9 is considered to be his most significant achievement because he not only saves himself but also a number of his men through his cunning and intelligence--with one exception. Initially, he tells Polyphemus that his name is Nobody or Noman because he needs to remain anonymous in order not to evoke any retribution from any of the gods, like Poseidon, who are already trying to destroy the man known as Odysseus. When he finally tricks Polyphemus into letting him and his men, disguised as sheep, escape from Polyphemus's cave, Odysseus cannot keep from telling Polyphemus who has actually defeated him:

'Cyclops, if any one asks you who it was that put your eye out and spoiled your beauty, say it was the valiant warrior Ulysses, son of Laertes, who lives in Ithaca.' (Book IX)

This disclosure has been roundly criticized by readers and critics as an example of Odysseus' pride, and it is surely an instance in which Odysseus' pride overcomes common sense. As several critics have pointed out, however, disclosing his real name is an act of heroism...

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