Ancient Greek Heroes: The Clever Odysseus

Ancient Greek Heroes: The Clever Odysseus

Tired of the fighting, Odysseus suggested to the other Greek heroes that a fake retreat by sea should be tried. On the beaches outside of Troy they would leave a large, hollow, wooden horse, for the horse was sacred to the Trojans, filled with some 30 (some say 50) warriors. After the Trojans had had their celebration and slept, the Greeks hidden in the horse would get out and open the gates of the city to the others, who had returned in their ships. The city would then fall. It happened just as Odysseus planned and Troy was sacked and burn to the ground

This was not the first time Odysseus had proven his cunning. When Paris, prince of Troy, stole Helen, wife of Mycenaean king Menelaus, precipitating the Trojan War, an oracle told Odysseus not to join for he would not return home for a long time. Odysseus then faked madness, until Palamedes, who had been sent to fetch him, placed Odysseus’s son, Telemachus, in front of the plow he was using making him stop and proving Odysseus was not mad.

Then, when it was foretold the Greeks would not win the Trojan War without the help of Achilles, Odysseus was sent to find him. Trying to protect him, Achilles’ mother had disguised him as a girl. Odysseus blew a trumpet and Achilles’ martial spirit responded, thus revealing himself.

After the war, Odysseus would have to rely on his cunning to eventually make it back home to his wife, Penelope, a cousin of Helen.

First Odysseus and his men easily took and plundered the city of Cicons. But, when the Ciconians decided to retake the city, the overconfident Greeks were almost routed when Odysseus got them out.

Then a storm that lasted two days blew them to Cythera, the land of the lotus tree. The fruit of such tree makes men forget everything. When many of his crew disregarded everything but eating the fruit, Odysseus had them tied up and brought back to the ships.

Like all of the Greek heroes, Odysseus also had weaknesses. His flaws were pride and sensualness. They would delay his return home.

Odysseus next stop was on the island of [wiki title=”Polyphemus ,”]Polyphemus[/wiki] the Cyclops. Polyphemus, son of the sea god Poseidon, captures most of the Greeks and uses them as part of his diet. Clever Odysseus, tells Polyphemus that his name is “Nobody.” One night he gets the Cyclops drunk and when the monster is sleep, Odysseus and his men stab him in the eye with a large pole. Blinded, Polyphemus can’t find the Greeks hiding under his sheep and they escape. When the other Cyclops hear Polyphemus screams they ask him what is the matter. He answers “Nobody blinded me.” Since nobody harmed him the other Cyclops go to sleep. However, as the Greeks sail away and Polyphemus throws large boulders at their ships, almost sinking some of them, Odysseus shouts his real name bragging about hurting the Cyclops. Polyphemus then calls on his father, Poseidon, to grant him revenge. From then on, Poseidon will call up winds, currents and even a maelstrom to keep the hero from reaching home.

His predilection for female company also delayed his return home. First it was Circe, th nymph. She turned a few of Odysseus’ men into pigs. When he went to get them, Hermes, the messenger of the gods, gave him an antidote for the spell. The poison had been sent by Athena, goddess of civilization, wisdom, craft and justice, Odysseus’ patron. After his men were restored, the hero stayed with Circe for a year.

After leaving Circe’s island, Odysseus and his men traveled to the land of everlasting night, Cimmeria. There, the hero met his deceased mother as well as the spirits of Agamemnon and Achilles. Back at Circe’s island, the nymph warned him about the sirens, who would try to enchant him. Upon returning to the ships, Odysseus filled the ears of his men with wax and had they tied him to the mast so he could hear the beautiful songs of the sirens.

Following many other adventures, he reached Ogygia, the island where Calypso lived.

The beautiful nymph falls for Odysseus and, even though he wanted to return home, could not break her spell. He stayed with her for seven years.

Odysseus finally reaches home where he finds over 100 suitors to his wife. Disguised as a beggar, he enlists the help of Telemachus and two servants and proceeds to kill all of Penelope’s suitors.

The story of the king of Ithaca has become the classical tale of the yearning for home and the company of loved ones.

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