Illustration of Odysseus tied to a ship's mast

The Odyssey

by Homer
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What are some tests of honor shown by Odysseus?

Unlike some other Greek heroes, Odysseus must face numerous tests of honor as he struggles to return home. His men disobey his instructions and offend the Sun God by slaughtering his cattle. The foolish act leads to their deaths, but Odysseus does not succumb to their example.

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Throughout the epic, Odysseus is repeatedly tested. As a leader, he is responsible for guiding his men, who often do not behave as scrupulously as he might have wished. Not only must he exhibit heroism and valor but also exercise good judgment, especially in tempting situations. Honor and pride often...

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Throughout the epic, Odysseus is repeatedly tested. As a leader, he is responsible for guiding his men, who often do not behave as scrupulously as he might have wished. Not only must he exhibit heroism and valor but also exercise good judgment, especially in tempting situations. Honor and pride often go hand in hand, and the line between them can be blurred.

One test that Odysseus faces is his ability to rescue his men and himself from Polyphemus. Although he successfully tricks the Cyclops by lying and bending the truth, which may not seem honorable: Odysseus first tells the blinded giant that he was defeated by “Nobody.” At the last minute, however, he decides to own his action, and reveals his actual name. In this regard, Odysseus set himself the test of acting with honor rather than hiding behind a half-truth.

Another honor-related test came when his men disregarded his instruction and ate the Sun God’s cattle. Faced with starvation, they thought with their bellies and, although Odysseus had specifically told them not to do it: the cows belonged to Helios, who would severely punish them. Still, they killed and ate the sacred cows. After they left the island, many of the men perished in a storm at sea. Odysseus, however, did not succumb. He adhered to the gods’ injunction so they spared his life.

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Well, this is a rather difficult question because honor for a Homeric Greek and honor for a modern American are two different things.

For a Homeric Greek, honor is acquired by achieving glorious deeds in battle and by speaking wise words in council. Odysseus had acquired plenty of honor in battle as someone who fought and survived the Trojan War. Another way that a Homeric Greek could gain honor was by being given gifts by their hosts. The people of Phaeacia, for example, give Odysseus lots of valuable gifts as a token of remembrance for his visit to their land.

As for tests of honor shown by Odysseus, it's not really clear what is meant by this question. Does Odysseus test other people's honor? That does seem to occur at various points in the epic.

In Odyssey 9, for example, Odysseus tests the Cyclops to see if the creature will behave respectably towards strangers (namely, he and his men).

Likewise, once Odysseus returns to his native land, he tests both the members of his household and the suitors to see if they will behave in an honorable fashion. He tests the swineherd Eumaeus to see if he remains loyal to Odysseus. Eumaeus proves himself as honorable by almost literally giving Odysseus the shirt off his back.

Odysseus also tests the suitors to see if anyone honorable exists among them. Unfortunately for the suitors, none of them were found honorable and so Odysseus ends up killing them all.

 

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