"Odysseus: The Anti-Hero"

Is Odysseus really an "epic hero"? Scholars have spent centuries arguing over whether or not Odysseus is an "epic hero". Odysseus is not an "epic hero" because of his lack of ability to keep his three hundred men alive, his disloyalty to his wife, and extreme pride and arrogance which ends up getting him into heaps of trouble on numerous occasions. Sure, he goes through a majority of the hero cycle and Odysseus certainly faces a number of trials and tribulations as well. In reality, he caused all his problems though. They could have avoided very simply if he had gone home to Ithaka after the Trojan War ended as the rest of the heroes and warriors did.

Odysseus departs from Troy with exactly three hundred men but when he finally gets back to Ithaka, ten years later, there isn't a single man still living. An epic hero's job is to protect his men, even with his own life. For example, Odysseus leaves Troy with one thing in mind. More. He wants more riches, more glory, and more battles. He doesn't consider his men who have been away from their families for ten years. Odysseus and his crew sail to the land of Ismarus to plunder and pillage the city of Cicones because of their loyalty to the Trojans (The Odyssey, Book 9). "Odysseus and his crew raid the Cicones, robbing and killing them, until the Ciconian army kills seventy-two of Odysseus's men and drives the rest out to sea"(The Odyssey, Book 9, pg 1112). Years later, with the crews numbers dwindled, they make a last stop on the island of Thrinacia, despite Circe's warning not to. Odysseus stops and warns them not to touch Helios's cattle (The Odyssey, Book 12). "Driven by hunger, they ignore Odysseus's warning not to feast on Helios's cattle. This disobedience angers the sun god, who threatens to stop shining if payment is not made for the loss of his cattle. To appease Helios, Zeus sends down a thunderbolt to sink Odysseus's ship. Odysseus alone survives" (The Odyssey, Book 12, pg.1136). Odysseus knew this would be the fate of his men if he allowed them to stop there yet he still did. Odysseus shows a lack of loyalty and care for his men by failing to keep them safe.

Odysseus exhibits a lack of loyalty to his wife and son. If Odysseus was a true epic hero, Odysseus would have remained faithful to his wife no matter how long he was away as she did to him. Odysseus was unfaithful to Penelope twice. The first time he was disloyal to Penelope was at Circe's hall. "They stayed for one year, until Odysseus finally begged her to let him go home"(The Odyssey, Book 10, pg. 1125) While it was noble of him to stay in order to get his best men back, Odysseus should have kept his promise to Penelope and found another way to get the men back. The second affair he had lasted a whole seven years. "The nymph Calypso lies and sings there, in her beauty, and she received me, loved me" (The Odyssey, Book 9, see last page). Eventually, Odysseus got tired of Calypso and her island though. He begged to go home but he had no way to leave with his ship destroyed. Hermes was sent and instructed him to build a raft. Yet, all these long years Odysseus has been gone "his son, Telemachus, has grown into manhood and his wife, Penelope, has been besieged by suitors wishing to marry her and gain Odysseus's wealth" (The Odyssey, Book 1, pg. 1104). Odysseus is unfaithful and disloyal to his wife and son.

Odysseus's extreme pride and arrogance seems to cause trouble for him on many occasions throughout the book. Epic heroes ought to be proud of their accomplishments but they should not brag or expect things from people because of it. Odysseus's pride and arrogance show up throughout the book. However, one occasion seems to stick out best. In book 9 of The Odyssey, Odysseus lands on an island bordering the land of Cyclops. He watches their brutish ways for days yet he still decides to pay them a visit. His men suggest taking the cheeses and animals but Odysseus refused (The Odyssey, Book 9). "It was our luck to come here; here we stand, beholden for your help, or any gifts you give-as custom is to honor strangers. We would entreat you, great sir, have a care for the gods' courtesy; Zeus will avenge the unoffending guest" (The Odyssey, Book 9, pg. 1115). Odysseus and his men end up trapped in the Cyclops cave for days before they finally escape by blinding the Cyclops. He loses many men though and it all could have been avoided if he had taken the stuff and left. Yet his pride and arrogance compelled him to demand to be treated and welcomed as a guest (The Odyssey, Book 9). This is Odysseus's greatest flaw and many times the downfall of him and his men.

Homer's epic poem, The Odyssey tells the story of a man whose foolish decisions cause him to face many struggles on his way home to Ithaka. Odysseus is not worthy of the title "epic hero" because he allowed all three hundred of his men to die, is unfaithful to his wife, and displays pride and arrogance. Odysseus isn't a good role model for children or adult and calling him a hero wouldn't be fitting.