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The Odyssey

by Homer

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Examples of Odysseus' heroism in Homer's The Odyssey


Examples of Odysseus' heroism in The Odyssey include his cleverness, bravery, and leadership. He devises the plan of the Trojan Horse, demonstrating his strategic mind. His bravery is evident when he confronts the Cyclops, Polyphemus, and his leadership shines as he guides his men through numerous trials, always striving to return home to Ithaca.

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What virtues of a hero does Odysseus portray in Homer's The Odyssey?

Homer defined the idea of the Greek hero in both of his epic poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey.  Odysseus definitely fits the mold of a Greek hero.

A Greek hero needed to be strong and brave; willing to die in battle for a just cause; should have above-average intelligence, strength, and beauty; and would have had the gods and goddesses helping him out a great deal, as they wouldn't have bothered with humans who weren't worthy of their help.  Odysseus fits the mold perfectly.  He is actually known more for his intelligence and craftiness due to his brilliant Trojan Horse idea that made it possible for the Greeks to finally defeat the Trojans.  But he needed that same intelligence to finally make it home, having to escape from numerous enemies and creatures that wanted to delay him for a variety of reasons.

In addition to his intelligence, Odysseus proves his bravery time after time in his many battles and fights.  He also shows himself to be loyal not just to his men, but also to his family, Penelope and Telemachus.  And finally, Odysseus is one of Athena's most favored humans.  She goes to great lengths to help him in his quest to return home.  Athena would not have wasted her time on someone less than a hero.

If you haven't done so, I recommend that you read the Iliad to get a broader picture of Odysseus.  Also check the links below for more information!  Good luck!

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Which quotes from The Odyssey show Odysseus as a hero?

What makes someone heroic? There are a few definitions of hero, so I will pull quotes that help provide an excellent idea of how Odysseus fits the concept. Odysseus is clearly the hero of the story, though he has flaws like all Greek heroes. He fits the ancient Greek definition of a hero, and his story follows the hero’s journey framework set out in The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

Ancient Greek Definition

The ancient Greeks had a clear definition of Hero. They should be high-born, a warrior, loyal, and favored by the gods. Nearly all Greek heroes suffer from a flaw. Odysseus is a hero by that definition.

Odysseus is high-born, meaning he is a man of high station or class. Nearly every Greek hero is a demigod, prince, or king. Although he is not the son of a god, Odysseus is the great-grandson of the god Hermes. He is also the king of Ithaca. The island is not doing well in his absence, proving how important he is as a ruler. At the final confrontation, Odysseus’s status as king becomes essential when he justifies the defense of his house,

You yellow dogs, you thought I’d never make it home from the land of Troy. You took my house to plunder, twisted my maids to serve your beds. You dared bid for my wife while I was still alive. Contempt was all you had for the gods who rule wide heaven, contempt for what men say of you hereafter. Your last hour has come. You die in blood. (Book 22)

Odysseus is not only the rightful king and ruler of Ithica, but he is of more noble blood than any of the men who attempted to marry his wife. He slaughters the suitors, but he is justified in doing so as part of his high-born status—as it is a defense of his home and kingdom.

Odysseus is loyal, as he spends ten years attempting to get home to Ithaca. His wife and son are always on his mind, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t make mistakes along the way. One other sure sign of a classic Greek hero is their flaw. Odysseus’s flaw is hubris or excessive pride. He is a cunning and crafty man, tricking the cyclops Polyphemus early in the journey. He manages to escape without letting the monster know his name, but as he is escaping he feels the need to gloat and says,


If ever mortal man inquire

How you were put to shame and blinded, tell him

Odysseus, raider of cities, took your eye:

Laertes’ son, whose home’s on Ithaka! (Book 9)

All the trouble that Odysseus faces later in the journey stems from his pride in this interaction. If he had sailed away, without asking for credit for fooling the cyclops, he would have gotten home without incurring the wrath of Poseidon. However, because Odysseus claims responsibility for the attack, he is then saddled with the blame, and Poseidon curses him with rough sailing and makes his journey much longer than it should have been. Odysseus suffering from a flaw is traditional for a Greek hero, they are strong and mighty, but they cannot be perfect, so the flaw stands in to show that some part of them is still human.

Joseph Campbell’s Definition

In The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell laid out his theory of the “monomyth” or hero’s journey. The journey is described as a process that most heroes go through in the course of their adventures. Odysseus fits with many of the structures established in the hero’s journey system.

Odysseus’s journey is not just encapsulated in The Odyssey, but also The Illiad, so I will provide a few examples from The Odyssey that show how his story fits into the monomyth. For instance, stage five of the monomyth is “crossing the threshold,” which means the hero crosses from the ordinary world into the magical world. This happens when Odysseus leaves Troy after the war is over. He and his men set sail and encounter the island of the lotus-eaters. This is Odysseus’s first encounter with a supernatural challenge when his men become addicted to the lotus,

But those who ate this honeyed plant, the Lotus,

Never cared to report, nor to return:

They longed to stay forever, browsing on

That native bloom, forgetful of their homeland. (Book 9)

In Campbell’s estimation, a hero must face challenges that pull him out of the real-world. These challenges are what allow him to grow and show himself to be heroic. For example, Odysseus, in encountering the lotus-eaters, shows his resolve and leadership. He forces his men back on their boat and ties them to the benches so that he can return them to their homes.

In the magical-world, the hero has many chances to show his skill or ability to overcome challenges. One occurrence of this is when Odysseus overcomes the challenge of Circe and forces her to free his men, who she has turned into pigs. Odysseus, using his cunning, manages to eat the molu plant that makes him immune to Circe’s potion. He then bests her with his sword,

Without a word, I drew my sharpened sword

And in one bound held it against her throat.

She cried out, then slid under to take my knees. (Book 10)

Odysseus shows the ability to overcome his challenges by guile and strength, which is part of Campbell’s “tests, allies, and enemies” section of the hero’s journey. Circe nearly tricks Odysseus because she acts like a friend, but she is exposed as being an enemy before Odysseus can be overcome.

The clear connection between Odysseus’s journey and the hero’s journey shows that he is a hero, not necessarily because of any single action but because his story matches up with the journey of all other traditional heroes. In overcoming challenges and traveling home, Odysseus fits into Campbell’s theory and is a mythological hero.

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Which quotes from The Odyssey show Odysseus as a hero?

TELL ME, O MUSE, of that ingenious hero who traveled far and wide after he had sacked the famous town of Troy. Many cities did he visit, and many were the nations with whose manners and customs he was acquainted; . . .

As The Odyssey opens, it is clear that it is a tale of Odysseus' heroism. Whereas The Iliad focused on a range of characters brought together by the Trojan War, the Odyssey is, as the name suggests, Odysseus' story. The mere fact that an epic poem is centered on Odysseus suggests he is truly exceptional. As one of the oldest remaining works of Western literature, the Odyssey's portrayal of heroism is highly influential

"Now I say by hook or crook this peril too shall be something that we remember. Heads up, lads! We must obey the orders as I give them. Get the oarshafts in your hands, and lay back hard on your benches . . . taken in all that I say . . ." That was all, and it brought them round to action.

This quote displays Odysseus' abilities as a leader. While some of his heroic qualities are individual, much of Odysseus' heroism is tied in with his ability to lead his men through supernatural perils.

And Zeus said, “My child, what are you talking about? How can I forget Odysseus than whom there is no more capable man on earth, nor more liberal in his offerings to the immortal gods that live in heaven? Bear in mind, however, that Poseidon is still furious with Odysseus for having blinded an eye of Polyphemus king of the Cyclopes.

Here we see Zeus himself praise Odysseus' heroism in some of the strongest words possible. This praise paired with the reference to Odysseus heroic defeat of Polyphemus makes clear that Odysseus is exceptional among men.

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Which quotes from The Odyssey show Odysseus as a hero?

Odysseus, the protagonist in Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey, displays the traits of a hero—a Homeric hero—throughout the tale. Zeus speaks with Athena at the start of the epic and extols the heroic virtues of Odysseus:

Could I forget that kingly man Odysseus? There is no mortal half so wise; no mortal gave so much to the lords of the open sky." Book One lines 84-86

Odysseus goes on to fulfill his role as a hero during the many adventures of the poem.

Rag of man that I am, is this the end of me? I fear the goddess told it all too well, predicting great adversity at sea and far from home. Book Five, lines 309-312

A Homeric hero understands his destiny and is prepared to suffer and die to fulfill it.

We beached there, and I told the crew to stand by and keep watch over the ship: as for myself I took my twelve best fighters and went ahead. Book Nine, lines 134-137

Odysseus is leading from the front here. He displays courage and teamwork, two traits of a hero.

My name is Nohbdy: mother father and friends, everyone calls me Nohbdy. Book Nine, lines 394 – 399

Here, Odysseus shows his cunning and intellect in tricking the Cyclops. A hero is intelligent; his greatest weapon is his mind.

We would entreat you, great Sir, have a care for the gods' courtesy; Zeus will avenge the unoffending guest. Book Nine, Lines 82-84

Respect for the gods is a trait of heroes. Invoking Zeus’s name here is Odysseus’ way of trying to talk his way out of trouble with Polyphemus.

I am Odysseus son of Laertes, known before all men for the study of crafty designs, and my fame goes up to the heavens. Book Nine, lines 19-20

The ultimate trait of a Homeric hero is Kleos, or fame upon others’ lips. Here, Odysseus says he is known and revered by all.

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What quotes in the beginning of the Odyssey prove that Odysseus can overcome obstacles to reach his goal?

From the very opening of Homer's Odyssey, the epic poet indicates that the title character has the ability to reach his ultimate goal of returning to his native land of Ithaca.

The first line of Homer's Greek text contains the word polytropon, which means "versatile." A.S. Kline translates the word as having "many resources." Line 21 of Book 1 also describes Odysseus as antitheos, whcih means "equal to the gods" or "godlike".

So, within the first 21 lines of Homer's epic, we have two significant indications that Odysseus has the skills necessary to overcome any obstacles in his path. He is a versatile person of many resources and he exhibits qualities comparable to the gods.

Thus, from the very first line of the poem, Homer gives us a major hint that Odysseus has what it takes to survive:

Tell me, Muse, of that man of many resources, who wandered far and wide, after sacking the holy citadel of Troy. (A.S. Kline translation)

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What quotes show that Odysseus uses what he has learned in order to reach his goal?

I would say that in the course of the epic Odysseus learns that there is a right time to reveal who he is. If we untangle Homer's chronology, we see that after Odysseus leaves Troy (see Book 9), one of his first critical encounters results in him revealing his true identity to the Cyclops:

“Cyclops, if any man asks how you came by your blindness, say that Odysseus, sacker of cities, Laertes' son, a native of Ithaca, maimed you.” (A.S. Kline translation)

This revelation causes Odysseus great difficulty after this point because Polyphemus is able to identify Odysseus to his father Poseidon, who then assails Odysseus while he is on the open seas.

Thus, when Odysseus returns to Ithaca, he is very careful not to reveal who he is until the right moment. He keeps his identity from Athena in Book 13; he conceals his identity from the swineherd Eumaeus until just the right moment. He makes sure that his old servant Eurycleia remains quiet after she discovers his identity in Odyssey 19:

but now a god has inspired you and you have found me out be quiet and keep it from all the rest of the house. (A.S. Kline translation)

And, of course, Odysseus does not reveal his identity to the suitors until he has collected enough evidence against them to justify slaughtering them:

‘The guest in your hall has not disgraced you. I have not missed the target, nor did it take me long to string the bow. My strength is undiminished, not lessened as the Suitors’ taunts implied. Well now it is time for the Achaeans to eat, while there is light, and afterwards we shall have different entertainment, with song and lyre, fitting for a celebration.’ (A.S. Kline translation)

Odysseus even hides his identity from his wife and father until he believes that the time is right.

In sum, I would say the key to Odysseus' success is knowing when to reveal his true identity to people.

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What are some quotes about heroism from the Odyssey?

In one quote, in book 2, Athena comes to Telemachus disguised as Mentor as he is preparing to sail in search of his father. She encourages him by saying:

Telemachus, you are to be no thoughtless man, no coward, if truly the strong force of your father is instilled in you; such a man he was for accomplishing word and action.

Athena defines courage as being thoughtful rather than rash. She also depicts Odysseus as a man of courage, defining it as "a strong force" but also noting that courage involves the power of speech ("words") as well as action.

In book 9, Odysseus shows what Athena means when she says he courageously uses both words and actions. Here, he helps his companions to be courageous in facing the fearsome Polyphemus through his words:

Then I shoved the beam underneath a deep bed of cinders, waiting for it to heat, and I spoke to all my companions in words of courage, so none should be in a panic, and back out.

Odysseus, by encouraging his men, shows that courage is collective as well as individual. He knows they all need to back each other up and be brave together.

Odysseus also shows his courage in the Cyclops episode when he tells Polyphemus that it was he who blinded him:

Cyclops, if any mortal man ever asks you who it was that inflicted upon your eye this shameful blinding, tell him that you were blinded by Odysseus, sacker of cities.

The quote shows that courage to Odysseus (who Athena has already identified as a model of courage) involves owning up to and taking responsibility for your actions. If Odysseus were more cowardly, he might sneak off and leave Polyphemus wondering who had blinded him, as that would be the safer route. But Odysseus is not afraid to risk Polyphemus's revenge or the revenge of the gods who side with him.

All three quotes show that heroism involves both words and action. Courage is more than simply being a bold warrior, willing to violently face down a powerful opponent, though it is that too (Odysseus does remind us that he is "sacker of cities").

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What are important quotes in The Odyssey?

"Important quotes usually depend on the context of what kind of things your are looking for. Most teachers have students read The Odyssey so they can recognize how the main characteristics of our current idea of a hero were outlined in the Greek epic three thousand years ago.


Epithets- these are short phrases that describe a character, place, or object as they name them. Odysseus' heoric traits are often stated in these epithets, and they have helped his name live on. Just a few examples,

"master of of land ways and sea ways" (book 8)

"that man skilled in ways of contending" (book 1)

"the great tatician" (book 7)

Quotes showing god and goddesses interests in Odysseus. This is a requirement to be considered an epic hero.

"Sing in me muse..." (book 1) This is Athena asking for the help of her sister(s) the Muse in order to tell the inspiring story of Odysseus. Athena takes the most interest on the side of Odysseus.

" ‘O hear me, lord, blue girdler of the islands..." (book 9). This is the cyclops Polyphemus praying to his father, the Olympic god Poseidon. This shows two things. One, that another Olympic god is going to play a part in the story, and two, it shows the reader that Odysseus just defeated the son of a great god through brute strength and cunning.

Quote showing the importance of home.

"’d stay right here, preside in our house with me
and be immortal. Much as you long to see your wife,
the one you pine for all your days . . . (book 5). This quote is from the minor nature goddess Calyspo. She is obsessed with Odysseus and offers him paradise and immortatlity. Instead, Odysseus wants nothing more than to return home. For the Greeks who often traveled abroad for trade and war, home had to remain the most important. 

Quote showing a visit to the underworld and loyalty.

"I lay down on the roof of Circe’s palace, and never thought, when I went down, to go by way of the long ladder, but blundered straight off the edge of the roof" (Book 11). This quote comes from Odyssues man Elpenor in the Land of the Dead. Elpenor's story always makes me laugh, but I don't think it is supposed to. He explains to Odysseus that he passed out on Circe's roof and then feel to his death when he tried to get down. He needs to be buried in order for his soul to be released to the heavenly Elysium fields. This shows Odysseus has traveled through the underworld as is required by epic heroes and that he is loyal to his men, as he promises to stop and bury (burn) Elpenor's body (which he does). 

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What three instances from book 12 of The Odyssey prove Odysseus is a hero?

Heroes, in the Ancient Greek context, were defined in terms of their accomplishments, as people who achieved extraordinary deeds well beyond the capabilities of normal human beings. Odysseus, in book 12, achieves feats which more than qualify him as one of the great heroes of Ancient Greece.

Indeed, one of his most extraordinary accomplishments can be found in the very beginning of book 12, continuing from book 11 (when Odysseus traveled to the Underworld), with Odysseus's return to Aeaea. For a mortal man to have traveled to and interacted with the realm of the dead (as he did in book 11) and then to successfully return to the realm of the living is an exceptional achievement, even by heroic standards. From Aeaea, he will proceed to set off on the next leg of his journey.

A second example of Odysseus's heroism can be found with the Sirens, whose singing has an enthralling effect on those who hear it, with lethal results. Before he leaves Aeaea, Circe advises Odysseus to have his crew clog their ears with beeswax so that they will not be able hear the Sirens. However, she offers Odysseus an option by which he could safely listen to the Sirens and survive the experience. Thus, Odysseus has his men tie him up to the mast so that he can listen to the Sirens' singing without meeting disaster.

As one last example, there is Odysseus's survival of the destruction of his ship (after his men have killed Helios's cattle). After sailing away from the island, his ship is destroyed by a storm. Odysseus is the lone survivor and improvises a raft before being driven back into Charybdis. He survives the experience, only to be left adrift for nine days, ending up on Calypso's island. In this sequence, he shows superhuman physical abilities in surviving those impossible conditions.

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What three instances from book 12 of The Odyssey prove Odysseus is a hero?

Odysseus lives to hear the song of the sirens and tell of it, as no other mortal has done before him. He is wise enough to obey the advice of Circe, an immortal goddess, who has offered him instructions (and many tragic Greeks were not wise enough to listen to their betters). The sirens sing to him, "Never has any sailor passed our shores in his black craft / until he has heard the honeyed voices pouring from our lips [...]." All the other men who have heard the sirens sing have perished on the rocky shores of their island. Odysseus's obedience and bravery here render him heroic and able to do something never done before.

When it comes time to pass Scylla, Odysseus could hide below decks and keep himself safe from her jaws. However, he instead "don[s] [his] heroic armor, seized long spears / in both [his] hands and marched out on the half-deck," hoping to see and slay the monster before she has a chance to devour his men. He could protect himself and stay hidden, but he takes his chances with everyone else. This is heroic.

Despite how difficult it is, how tired he and his crew are, Odysseus advises his men to sail past the island of Thrinacia because he was warned against it. Eurylochus says to him, "Your fighting spirit's / stronger than ours, your stamina never fails. / You must be made of iron head to foot." In other words, even Odysseus's crew recognizes that he is more heroic than they are, and they want to go to Thrinacia despite him (and Tiresias and Circe's warnings).

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What three instances from book 12 of The Odyssey prove Odysseus is a hero?

There are many instances throughout The Odyssey where Odysseus acts heroically. A hero, according to Cambridge Dictionaries Online, is "a ​person ​admired for ​bravery, ​great ​achievements, or good ​qualities." In Book 12, we can find three such examples of Odysseus acting as a hero.

The first example of Odysseus being a hero is when he and his men face the Sirens. Circe told Odysseus that he must be the only one to listen to the Sirens, so Odysseus melts wax for all the men to plug their ears, and then he orders his men to tie him up to the mast and not release him under any circumstances until they are safely past the Sirens. This is heroic because Odysseus acts bravely; the Sirens tempt Odysseus to go to them and leave his ship and it is far from easy to resist, even while tied, but he does.

A second example where Odysseus acts as a hero is when he boosts the morale of his men throughout the difficulties they face on the ship. Odysseus "went through the ship, cheering up the crew, standing beside each man and speaking words of reassurance." This is heroic because Odysseus cares for his crew, not just himself, and it is far from easy to be a leader, but Odysseus successfully leads his men. It is an example of a good quality, as we see in the definition above.

A third example of Odysseus as a hero in Book 12 is when he survives, even after all his men are killed. The men angered the gods when they killed and ate the cattle of Helios, and after they set sail, their ship is attacked. He makes it once again through Scylla and Charybdis and then floats for nine days until he reaches land. The fact that he survives on his own for so long and through such perils is a great achievement and therefore certainly heroic, according to our definition above. (Also, it is important to note that Odysseus tried to warn his men and told them not to eat the cattle, but the men did not listen, so it is not Odysseus' fault when they die because of the wrath of the gods.)

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