Throughout history, religion has been a pivotal turning point and a significant factor that dictates the ways of life. Greek mythology is no different in this regard; which entail stories that concern and detail the origin and nature of the world. The origins and significance of shedding light on the religious and political institutions of ancient Greece showcase how deeply rooted the desire to enlist in the aid and placate the anger of the gods.
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In an Analysis of The Odyssey, we follow the unchronological/multiperspective following the return of Odysseus to his homeland of Ithaca, where he will defeat inhospitable suitors camped in his palace and reunite with his loyal wife, Penelope. As we analyze the Odysseus, we come to realize that the story is a showcase of a form of a rebirth of the mind and body.
Before diving into the breakdown and character analysis of Odysseus, we must dive into the understanding of Greek culture and mythology so that we may begin to understand the mindset and reasoning behind specific choices between the characters. In Greek culture and society, their belief system and ideology followed them into every aspect into every form of their daily life.
In Greek culture and society, it was one’s duty to constantly find ways to advance and enhance oneself mentally and physically. When men were not training in the military or conversing in political discussions or debates; they often went to the theatre for entertainment. It was very common for men to watch a wide variety of themes, ranging from dramas, tragedies, and comedies. These often involved the portrayal of current politics and gods-like elements in some form.
Now that we’ve allowed ourselves to formulate an understanding of Greek ideology, we can understand and focus on Odysseus and his journey to return home to Ithaca; folljourneyowing the twists and turns that will continuously set him back. As a man and legend, Odysseus is known as the man who defeated the Trojan War with his mind alone. Develop the image of a man who meticulous and sagacious, an individual who values knowledge above all else and views his mind as his muscle and means to advance against others. Odysseus is one of the most influential Greek champions during the Trojan War. When regarding Odysseus, he is frequently viewed as a man of means, a voice of reason, renowned for his self-restraint and diplomatic skills. He not only is Odysseus considered to be ingenious due to his concept of the Trojan Horse, but he is regarded as an eloquent speaker, a skill that perhaps is best demonstrated in the embassy to Achilles in book 9 of the Iliad. Where the two are often opposed in practice since they have many duels and run-ins.
The book picks up on the events that take place shortly after the Trojan War, where Odysseus earns the wrath of the gods due to forgetting to leave offerings/blessings to the Gods in order to seek safe passage on his return to Ithaca. Odysseus is stranded on the remote island called Ogygia with a goddess named Calypso, who has fallen in love with him and refuses to let him leave. He remains with Calypso on the island for eight years trapped in an erotic affair, where we gradually reduce himself to a mere slab of meat. At this moment we can no longer recognize the man that was previously described as ingenious and meticulous; he is reduced to basic animalistic instinct. We can ask ourselves how he came to be in this position and the answer isn’t far behind. When the gods finally decide that Odysseus may return home to Ithaca, he is alone; his crew and the other boats in his force all laid destroyed from his journeys. And despite Calypso’s displeasure and unwillingness to let Odysseus go; she helps him build a new boat and stocks it with provisions from her island, allowing him to leave.
Despite being allowed to leave, once he sets foot off the Island; Poseidon stirs up a storm, which nearly drowns Odysseus. Odysseus’ prays is was spare his life, and his body finds itself safely washed ashore on yet another island. Odysseus wakes in the forest and encounters Phaeacian princess Nausicaa. At this moment he is naked and bare, and this is the moment where he must humbly yet witty pleads for their assistance, and never reveal his identity. It’s a very significant moment due to the fact that this is the first time in a very long time that Odysseus must his true muscle, his mind. For the past several years he’s been using his physical muscle to fulfill the willful sexcapades of a lustful goddess Calypso, not having to put much effort into any form of thought. Not only did Odysseus have to find a way to beseech princess Nausicaa, but he also had to use his mind to meticulously plan out how he would address and approach her in a manner in which was befitting her station.
As we’ve previously explained, Odysseus is a very calculated and meticulous individual; and this moment is where he beings to truly showcase and shine that skill set that he has been unable for so long. In Odysseus’ former glory, he was very cunning and deliberative. When faced with Nausicaa, the weight of every decision pains him; he becomes undecided and torn between whether to try landing against the rocky coast of Scheria; whether to rest by the river or in the shelter of the woods; or whether to embrace Nausicaa’s knees (the customary gesture of supplication) or address her from afar. The measure and calculation of approach showcase that these instances demonstrate balances Odysseus’s warrior mentality. Despite his aggressive and determined viewpoints, he is far from irrational. Instead, the characteristics he begins to demonstrate can be seen as shrewd, cautious, and extremely self-confident.
In order to gain further aid to return to his homeland, Odysseus must conduct himself as a man. Something that he had forgotten to do while he was with Calypso. After he manages to disguise himself with appropriate attire; Princess Nausicaa and Odysseus venture inland. As soon as he sees the queen, he throws himself at her feet ( As is the custom, when an individual requires help; they must throw themselves at the feet of the lady of the household). At first, the king almost mistakes Odysseus for a god, due to the nature that they had received him without revealing his identity, Odysseus puts the king’s suspicions to rest by declaring that he is a mere mortal. The irony in this and that Odysseus impresses the King so much that he then offers Odysseus his daughter’s hand in marriage.
As Odysseus reminisces on the journey that led him to the point where he was at, sitting before the King, Queen, and court of Phaeacian. Odysseus retells the stories of his adventures and journey; conveniently leaving out specific details that showcased his poor judgment and downfall of his most precious muscle; that being his mind. In one of his stories that take place shortly after the Trojan war, he recalls how his men advise him to snatch some of the food and hurry off, but, to his and his crew’s detriment, he decides to linger. The cave’s inhabitant soon returns and it is revealed to be the Cyclops Polyphemus, the son of Poseidon. In this retelling we see how Odysseus begins to lose himself after cleverly tricking and blinding Polyphemus; he decides to without his name which protects him from Poseidon’s wrath. Despite having secured himself a safe way to escape, out of Odysseus’ own hubris and the begin of his own downfall; he unnecessarily begins taunting Polyphemus which results in him mistakenly giving his name.
After Odysseus’s eventual revelation of his identity to Polyphemus; an avoidable error in judgment proves to be beyond foolish, and showcases a lack of foresight. A clear contrast to the cunning prudence that Odysseus had displayed moments prior when executing his plan to escape from the cave.
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