Illustration of Odysseus tied to a ship's mast

The Odyssey

by Homer

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What are some heroic qualities of Odysseus? What are some weaknesses of Odysseus?

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In the Homeric epics, Odysseus is portrayed somewhat ambivalently. One the one hand, he has many of the common characteristics of the epic hero, but on the other hand, he does not quite fit the traditional mold.

First, Odysseus had the heroic quality of being descended from a noble lineage, and according to most accounts being the great-grandson of the god Hermes. He was the hereditary ruler of Ithaca. Also on the side of showing him heroic is his prowess with weapons; he was a strong warrior and showed good leadership abilities in being able to hold his men together under trying circumstances.

The way in which he departs from the traditional heroic mode is his tendency towards guile. He often solves problems by means of trickery, and deceives both his opponents and his friends with his stratagems. At times, his curiosity can get him in trouble, as can his boasting (he should not have revealed his real name to Polyphemus after defeating him.)

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