Homeric Heroes In The Iliad And The Odyssey

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In Homeric culture, a hero’s honor and reputation was imperative; their ultimate priority was to fight and protect their communities, and their strength and heroic actions displayed on the battlefield are what presented them with glory and immortality. Homeric heroes believed in the importance of loyalty and honor, not only to their friends, families, and cities, but to the men fighting besides them as well. They believed in dignity and reputation, and refrained from unnecessary cruelty and injustice. In Homer’s epic poems, The Iliad and The Odyssey, our heroes, Achilles and Odysseus, display all of the typical attributes of a classic homeric hero, however, both heroes tend to stray from the heroic norms at times due to their hubrises and…show more content…
One situation in which Odysseus’ cleverness and heroism shines through is during his confrontation with the cyclops, Polyphemus. Odysseus tells Polyphemus that his name is “Nobody,” therefore when they attacked him, his cries for help when he exclaims, “Nobody’s killing me” (9.455), no one would come to his rescue because they thought no one was really attacking Polyphemus. Yet instead of making a clean break from the blinded cyclops, once again, Odysseus’ hubris gets in the way. Once safe aboard his ship, Odysseus reveals his true identity to the cyclops, which causes Polyphemus to curse him. This act of hubris ensures that Odysseus, as a result, will undoubtably suffer grave consequences for not only him but his men later in their journey. Another example where Odysseus’ egocentric and selfish personality make him appear as unheroic is in Book 12, when Odysseus is stuck between Charybdis and Scylla. He had chosen to withhold information from his men about the impending danger ahead, because he believed that they would react in a way that could potentially put the entire crew and the ship in danger, so instead, he continued on allowing six of his men to be swallowed up by Scylla. Erwin Cook, a classical studies professor at Trinity University,…show more content…
In the very first lines of the poem, Achilles is described as “murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaens countless losses” (1,2). It is believed that Achilles’ anger and short temper is the very thing that causes his unheroic nature. Nonetheless, Achilles transformation throughout the story proves to be the most heroic act of all. In the beginning of the epic, humiliation of losing his bride leaves Achilles enraged, which causes him to withdraw from the war, leaving his city to potentially fall. He then begins question his involvement in the war and the value of honor. Then the death of his friend causes yet another fit of rage, which causes him to inhumanely mutilate the man responsible for the murder of Patroclus. When his rage subsides, he rediscovers his humanity and begins to empathize with Hector’s father. Achilles’ ability to overcome his rage and hubris was a true heroic act. However, does his ability to realize and defeat the very flaws that led to his unheroic behavior negate all the
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