Odysseus Heroic Courage

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Through its almost three millennia of existence, Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey , has been a source of insight into the principles of Ancient Greek civilization and culture. The poem’s themes reveal different traditional values that make up the foundation of Ancient Greek society. One of the motifs which The Odyssey examines is the nature of thumos , or heroic courage. In this essay, I will argue that the Iliadic goal of glory through thumos is slowly overcome by a newfound Odysseadic objective to rediscover what it means to be part of a civilized, human polis during peacetime. Each stage of Odysseus’ wanderings reintroduces him to a key aspect of the Greek civilized citycenter. His interaction with the Lotus Eaters highlights how significant memory is to the…show more content…
It is this journey in its entirety that allows Odysseus to relearn what it means to be civilized and participate in a polis. This slow regeneration of civility does not mean that Odysseus’ Iliadic urge for thumos immediately disappears, rather it implies a gradual tipping of the scales in favour of the urge to belong to a system of order. As Odysseus prepares to face the trials that both Tiresias and Circe prophesied, Circe asks him, “Must you have battle in your heart forever” (XII. 136)? Years of warfare left an instinct in his heart, one which inclines him towards justice and vengeance through violence, rather than Zeus’ civilized form of justice through dikē or distribution (O’Brien). Even after Odysseus experiences the Lotus Eaters, Polyphemus, the goddesses, and the underworld, he still does not consolidate each individual lesson into a unified whole. Upon washing up on the shores of Phoenicia, Odysseus immediately falls asleep (V. 519). Throughout The Odyssey , sleep represents a transformative experience (O’Brien). On this occasion, the act of sleeping transforms the previous notion Odysseus had of his years away
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