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The Education Of Odysseus In Books 9 12

3196 words - 13 pages

    Books 9-12 are a tale of a journey in which the protagonist does not remain the same throughout. He changes due to the places he has been, people he has met and things he has done. These four books are almost entirely spoken by Odysseus and thus we are able to receive a first hand report.

 

            At the start his wanderings, Odysseus leaves Troy with his Ithacan fleet and in a short time they come to Ismarus, the city of the Cicones. Odysseus states simply that he "sacked this place" and there they took "vast plunder". Here we see the hero of the Iliad doing what a hero does. At the end of this book, Odysseus declares his identity to Polyphemus, in which he describes himself as a "sacker of cities". This is because he is only a short time into his travels and only recently he has sacked Troy and Ismarus. However, when Odysseus tells the Phaeacians who he is, he attributes his 'kleos' (everlasting fame on the lips of men) to his "stratagems". In Book 8, Odysseus asked the bard Demodocus to sing of "the stratagem of the Wooden Horse", which he considers to be his most memorable and greatest feat - not the sacking of the city but the inventiveness of his idea. This is because, in Scherie and at the near end of his journey, Odysseus has just come through his adventures and he now considers his 'metis' (cunning) to be his greatest quality, and he also has not fought anyone for a long time.

 

            It is also at Ismarus that we see Odysseus' first conflict with his men, as he is unable to convince his men to leave ("my fools"). Thus we also see the first superficial contradiction by Homer of Odysseus as a Greek hero. When we define a Greek hero we would expect certain qualities to apparent. A hero would be a good speaker, leader of men, fighter, strong, talk with and/or protected by the gods (i.e. separated from ordinary mortals, excellent, 'aristos'), concerned about kleos, have high principles, and usually an early death is in store for them. However, though these may have been the definitions of an Iliadic hero like Achilles, these qualities are not all attributed to heroism in the Odyssey. Indeed in the Iliad, Odysseus was renowned for his frequent arguments with Achilles due to their different natures.

 

            Odysseus does not seem to be able to control his men. This is shown time and again as he argues with them. Here at Ismarus is an example, and then he has to force some onto the boat at the land of the Lotus-Eaters. In the cave of Polyphemus, Odysseus ignores his men's sound advice to leave. After Aeolia, it is the mistrusting crewmembers that open Aeolus' bag and cause disaster. At the Laestrygonian land, Odysseus lands away from the rest of his men and makes no attempt to save their lives, fleeing for safety. On Aeaea, Odysseus even contemplates "lopping" Eurylochus's "head off". The worse conflict between Odysseus and his men eventually comes off the shores of Thrinacie, when Odysseus is...

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