The Courage of Odysseus

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Heroism and Skills of Odysseus

Heroism, as demonstrated countless times by Odysseus entails much more than the possession of supernatural ability. Indeed, Odysseus is as ordinary a man as any other is and yet several times, he manages to extricate his men from seemingly impossible situations when the odds seem stacked against them. Through a combination of physical strength, tact, patience, and courage, Odysseus manages to outsmart opponents far larger and stronger than him and ultimately overcome any challenge the gods lay in his path as he journeys home from Troy. Perhaps the best such demonstration of this unique skillset comes in Odysseus’s second adventure, where he outsmarts the Cyclops and subsequently escapes from what appears to be an inevitable demise.

The Encounter with the Cyclops

Odysseus and his men, after fleeing the Lotus-Eaters, dock ashore on the land of the Cyclops and Odysseus leads a small party to explore the island. They soon come across Polyphemus' cave and let themselves in but the giant does not take kindly to the intrusion (Homer 221). Trapped in the Cyclops' cave and with his men being eaten one by one, it is upon Odysseus to keep a calm head and devise a way out of the precarious situation without losing any more men. Odysseus’ initial thought is to sneak up on the sleeping giant and stab him with his sword, but he recognizes that it is unlikely to work. Thus, although his frightened men continue to be eaten alive, Odysseus demonstrates great patience and restraint by not attempting a suicidal plan.

Outwitting the Cyclops

Realizing that he cannot match the giant for strength, Odysseus strategizes on how to outwit his captor, recognizing that this is the only way to even the odds. Odysseus’ cleverly executed plan to outmaneuver the giant demonstrates his courage, tact, and brilliantly ingenious nature. By approaching Polyphemus with an offer of wine, Odysseus demonstrates his abundant courage. Although he has previously seen the giant savagely rip his men to pieces and eat them and he is well aware that a similar fate could befall him, Odysseus still steps forward to attempt to negotiate with the giant.

Demonstration of Tact, Self-Control, and Ingenuity

Odysseus' offer of wine is also a masterful application of tact. By offering his best wine to the giant, Odysseus dupes Polyphemus into thinking that he is attempting to make peace. Hence, the giant is lured into a false sense of security causing him to let his guard down and cede the advantage to Odysseus who strikes decisively (Tartell 1). Additionally, Odysseus demonstrates admirable self-control in remaining sober throughout this encounter despite the fact that he knows how good the wine he has offered the giant is (Homer 223). Instead, Odysseus keeps his mind firmly on his objective, which he ends up executing to perfection.

In two instances, Odysseus also proves himself very ingenious. First, Odysseus lies that his name is “Nobody,” such that when Polyphemus' fellow Cyclops come to respond to his distress call, and he tells them that “Nobody” is attacking him, they leave him thinking he means that he is alone (Homer 225). Later, Odysseus also exhibits ingenuity when he formulates the brilliant strategy of tying his men to the undersides of Polyphemus' rams to enable them to leave the cave undetected (Homer 225). The blinded giant, having blocked the cave's entrance, pats the sheep on their backs on their way out to pasture hoping to catch the men riding the sheep. However, Odysseus is a step ahead and again manages to outwit the giant.


Conclusively, it is evident that Odysseus is a man of undoubted courage. A very cunning adversary, Odysseus undertakes a series of adventures before eventually returning home. To overcome the dangers he faces on these adventures, Odysseus relies a lot on his tact, courage, ingenuity, patience, and self-control. Whereas these virtues manifest themselves during several incidents, it is in his defeat of Polyphemus, arguably his greatest adventure yet, that they truly emerge.

Works Cited

Homer. The Odyssey. Edited by Bernard Knox, Translated by Robert Fagles, Penguin Books, 1996.

Tartell, Hayley E. "The Many Faces of Odysseus in Classical Literature."Inquiries Journal/Student Pulse, vol. 7, no. 3, 2015, pp. 1-2, Accessed 1 Mar. 2018.

December 12, 2023

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