Most individuals have a conceived concept of the ideals in which one highlyvalues or desires to acquire. These ideals generally make up the mannerisms of aperson one considers a true champion, whom can be existent or imaginary. Thisrelatively immaculate code of ethics is also accompanied by achievements onefinds admirable.
This person is usually goes through a series of tests orhardships that prove their importance. This is what one considers a hero. Givingthe term hero such a definition, one’s idea of a hero may completely differ withanother’s concept of such a person worthy of praise. In today’s eclecticsociety, everybody’s heroes are different. One’s hero may be a character in anaction movie, surviving against all odds to finally get the bad-guy in the end.It may be a character with superhuman strength with no concern of death like thehero in the epic Beowulf.
Others may desire more intellectual heroes such as theWright Brothers, devoting years of effort to create a machine to make man fly,or Thomas Jefferson, risking his life by writing the Declaration ofIndependence. Some may call one with great moral value a hero such as MotherTeresa, Pope John Paul II, or even Jesus Christ who suffered and died so wehumanity could enter the Kingdom of God. During the era of Homer’s, The Odyssey,the majority of the population in ancient Greece had the same basic ideas of thequalities a hero should have. Espino 2 The Greeks valued a warrior with greatphysical strength as well as shrewdness. The emphasis on strength was based onthe fact that battles were frequent from city-state to other city-states. A herofor those times would need to have a strategic way of thinking and wisdom to aidin achieving the numerous tasks placed before him.
Heroes should also beeloquent in their manner of speaking, for it was a tool necessary so otherscould easily be convinced by the hero’s speech. All the values necessary for ahero are portrayed in The Odyssey. These are told through the stories andexploits of the main hero, Odysseus. In Book IV of the Odyssey, Menelaos and hiswife Helen, both tell a story of one of Odysseus’ accomplishments during theAkhaian war against the Trojans. Helen tells of how Odysseus ingeniously had”given himself an outrageous beating and thrown some rags on” todisguise himself as a beggar and slip into the impenetrable city of Troy. Onceinside, he was unrecognized by the Trojans by merging with the townspeople.
Odysseus found Helen and told her of the Akhaian plans to conquer Troy. OnceOdysseus had learned of the Trojan’s war strategy, he left the city and killedmany Trojans on his way out with his sword. Many examples of the concept of ahero can be seen in this tale. Odysseus used his wits to think of a plan, whichwould be useful in accomplishing two goals: to tell Helen of the Akhaian’s plansof rescuing her while taking over Troy. The other goal was to find out hisopponent’s stratagem.
Helen describes the shrewdness of Odysseus in makinghimself pass for a Espino 3 beggar, and allowing himself to be humiliated by hisenemies, but without revealing his true identity. He then makes his exit whilekilling some Trojans along the way, illustrating his strength. Helen’s taleportrays some qualities of Homer’s concept of heroism: ingenuity, sagacity andbravery. Menelaos tells another of Odysseus’ feats after his wife is done withher tale. He tells of how Odysseus’ will power and leadership saved all of thefighters inside the hollow horse. He tells of how Helen approached the horsewith Deiphobos and called each of the warrior’s names as she walked around it.
Her voice sounded like each of the fighter’s wives and caused the warriors greatlonging to go or to call out to the voice. Odysseus fought down Menelaos,Diomedes and held his hands over Antiklos’ mouth to prevent him from callingout. Odysseus thus saved the warriors from being discovered.
Menelaos’ taledepicts Odysseus as a man with patience and strong will-power. Menelaos himselfnames Odysseus’ characteristics when he says “never have I seen one likeOdysseus for steadiness and a stout heart.” It can also be understood thatOdysseus is a leader that protects the lives of others as well as his own. Thiscan be seen when he prevents the soldiers from calling out to Helen. Aside fromthe qualities mentioned, Homer also adds another concept to heroism which is theelement of altruism. This is clearly evident because most of Odysseus’ actionsare for the for the benefit and well-being of others.
For Espino 4 example, thereason why he is fighting the in the Trojan War in the first place is to helphis friend Menelaos rescue his wife Helen from the Trojans. Aside from these twostories painting a picture of Homer’s idea of a hero, they also predict some ofthe latter events in the epic. These stories give the reader a hint about someof the tasks Odysseus will encounter since they are similar to each other. Thisis especially evident in Helen’s tale of Odysseus because he uses the sametactic of disguising himself as a beggar back home at Ithaka. With the help ofPallas Athena, she disguises Odysseus into looking like a beggar so he can studyhis enemies without being seen. This can be seen in many of Odysseus’ remarks,like in Book XVI Odysseus states, “I alone must learn how far the women arecorrupted; we should know how to locate good men among our hands.
.” Also inBook XVII, Athena also tells Odysseus to study his enemies closely while underthe transformation by saying, “learn who are the descent lads, and who arevicious..” Odysseus is once again ridiculed, in his own home this time, butmanages to compose himself and keeps his identity a secret until no longernecessary.
This further expands on Homer’s concept of a hero by also showingthat patience and ability to maintain one’s composure under any circumstance isa virtue that a hero should have. There are many instances where Odysseus mustwatch over his crew to prevent them from being killed or hurt. This is seen inMenelaos’ story of the wooden horse and how Odysseus fought down three membersof his crew to Espino 5 prevent them from going or calling out to Helen’s voice.If they had been discovered, the Trojans would’ve killed them.
Menelaos’ storyalso has many similarities with events that happen to Odysseus later on. In theevent of the Lotus Eaters, three men had eaten the Lotus plant and thus longedto stay forever on the island to die. Odysseus forcefully brought all three backto the ship and tied them under their rowing benches to protect them. Odysseusalso risks his life to save his crew in Book X. The goddess Kirke had turned agroup of Odysseus’ men into swine by giving them food, tainted with a potion.
Odysseus became worried after they had not returned and went to find them. Heencountered Kirke and had them changed back into men. This shows the importanceof loyalty and care that Homer’s idea of a hero should have for his friends.These were the values the people of Homer’s time favored in a hero.
Even thoughOdysseus comes from a vastly different century than other heroes, most of thequalities that make them heroes are the same: bravery, intelligence, patience,and loyalty. It seems as if the basic virtues of a hero have remained unchangedover thousands of years. Odysseus is still one of the great heroes that we have.This is why The Odyssey has been studied for thousands of years, and people inthe future will continue to read about great heroic deeds of Odysseus due to thetimelessness of this story.Mythology