The treacherous journey home from the Trojan war brought many challenges to Odysseus and his men, often forcing them to endure great suffering and hardship. Many of the predicaments they found themselves entangled in may have been due in part to the disobedience and foolishness of Odysseus’ men. However, Odysseus’ ego and often hasty, miscalculated judgment assuredly played a substantial role in their collective plight, which is why I believe Odysseus is ultimately responsible for the suffering of his men.
On several occasions, Odysseus’ men exhibited gross episodes of disobedience or idiocy which led them into trying circumstances, and it may be easy to absolve Odysseus from blame in these scenarios. The most glaring examples of disobedience were when the men slaughtered the Sun God’s cattle against Odysseus’ orders and when they opened Odysseus’ bag of winds. When examining these events, a pattern in weak leadership emerges. I believe Odysseus’ inadequate supervision was a root cause in his men’s shortcomings. If Odysseus hadn’t fallen asleep, his men would have been unable to slaughter the Sun God’s cows, and they would have avoided the tireless wrath of Zeus (Homer, 12.137-144). Likewise, if Odysseus hadn’t dozed off nearing Ithaca, his men would have been unable to open his bag of winds, and they wouldn’t have blown far away from their home (Homer, 9.46-50). If either of these events hadn't occurred, Odysseus and his men might have been able to return home to Ithaca. Odysseus’ dereliction of duty led and inattentiveness contributed significantly to his crews suffering and demise.
During their travels, there was also a plethora of scenarios where Odysseus’ ego and his quest for fame directly led to the death and suffering of his men. From his taunting of the cyclops, Polyphemus, to the decision to sail by Scylla. Odysseus refused to listen to his men when approaching the cave of Polyphemus and this resulted in the capture and brutal murder of six of Odysseus’ men (Homer, 9.221-230). Even after having escaped the clutches of Polyphemus, Odysseus saw it necessary to boast and taunt the cyclops, further endangering his men, despite their pleas for him to stop (Homer, 9.94-99). Even after having caused much suffering and lost many men, Odysseus knowingly chose to sail a route which he knew would result in the death of at least six of his men (Homer, 12.119-123). It was nearly a routine for Odysseus to risk not only his life but that of his crew in his crusade for fame and recognition.
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