Odysseus As An Epic Hero

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Epic hero is characterized by being the one taking place between gods and humans. He must have distinctive qualities, which make him first among equals, he is the leader, devoted to his mission and loyal to gods, he is also mortal and, therefore, is not fully in control of his life and fate. Homer’s Odysseus represents a classic version of such hero. However, his distinctive qualities illustrate him as a character of special kind: “the man of twists and turns” (1.1). This paper will explore the uniqueness of Odysseus’s nature as an epic hero as well as what exemplary and unexpected traits of such hero he can be identified with. The foundation for Odysseus being a prototypical hero of oral tradition lies in his mission of glorious homecoming. Two elements which attribute to it are nostos (homecoming) and kleos (glory). Odysseus must possess both of them considering that without accomplishing nostos, he can not achieve kleos. In fact, he already proved himself a hero in the Iliad by being the reason of Troy’s defeat, but without the following nostos the adventure is incomplete. As Gregory Nagy puts it: “the Iliad will be in vain if there is no nostos, no safe return home from the faraway world of epic heroes” (§50). Odysseus shows himself as a true hero, devoted to his mission, who understands his destiny and is ready to suffer and die for it. He even refuses a chance for immortality in favour of completion of nostos. Odysseus represents a traditional example of epic hero,

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