The Odyssey Characters: Odysseus
Odysseus: King of Ithaca–Odysseus displays the essential traits of an epic hero: strength, nobility, confidence, courage, and the love of glory. He gains fame through his intellect and cunning, using both to help the Greek army destroy Troy. As with all Homeric heroes, Odysseus possesses hubris, or pride, which causes him to do really stupid things.
Analysis: A larger than life hero–Odysseus would fare well in professional wrestling if he were alive today, where instead of calling out the Cyclops Polyphemus, he could call out the Undertaker or Vince McMahon. After facing The Scylla and Charibdis, going to the Land of the Dead, and slaying hundreds of suitors, a cage match would seem easy.
He also does well with the ladies, having been with Circe the sorceress and Calypso the goddess. His only weakness, other than irritating half the gods on Olympus, including Poseidon upon whose sea he returns, is his propensity for falling asleep at crucial moments. The first came as he approached Ithaca as his crew members slit open the bag that held all unfavorable winds and shot them out to sea. The second came as his disobedient crew slaughtered the Cattle of the Sun. (I don’t think, however, this would affect his professional wrestling career. I’m sure they have quality “supplements” that would help him stay awake.).
Other Main Characters
Penelope: Odysseus’ faithful wife, Penelope is besieged by suitors, hoping to win her hand in marriage and rule Ithaca. She proves herself as cunning as her husband, devising several stratagems to delay her nuptials. She longs for Odysseus’ return and remains faithful.
Telemachus: Odysseus leaves for Troy shortly after his son Telemachus is born. The Prince of Ithaca despises the suitors as they despise him. He aides Odysseus in the infamous suitor slaughter.
Athena: The goddess of wisdom and war favors and adores Odysseus. She advises him upon his return to Ithaca. Although she doesn’t actively participate in the slaughter of the suitors, she does transform Odysseus into a beggar so as not to be recognized initially. She establishes peace on the island when the suitors’ parents react angrily.
Poseidon: Odysseus’ maiming of Poseidon’s son Polyphemus angers the god of the sea who punishes Odysseus.
Polyphemus: The son of Poseidon, Polyphemus is a Cyclops who feels Odysseus wronged him by poking out his eye. What he fails to mention is how he smashed the heads of several crew members and ate them for dinner.
Circe: Circe from The Odyssey is an enchantress who turns Odysseus’ crew into pigs. Odysseus, with a little help from Hermes, befriends Circe and spends a year in her care.
Calypso: The epic begins in media res on the Island of Ogygia, home to Calypso from The Odyssey. Calypso loves Odysseus and “welcomes” him to her island and its myriad caves. On a random note, Calypso from The Odyssey movie and Calypso from The Pirates of the Caribbean movie are played by the same actress, Vanessa Williams.
Antinous: A jerk among jerks, Antinous leads the suitors to michief and eventually their death. Odysseus shoots him in the throat with an arrow.
Alcinous: Alcinous, the king of Phaecia, hears Odysseus’ story and provides him safe passage to Ithaca.
Argus: Odysseus’ dog who dies on a pile of dung after seeing his master.
This post is part of the series: The Odyssey
- Summary of Homer's The Odyssey with Analysis
- Characters in the Odyssey
- Epic Similes in The Odyssey
- Themes in the Odyssey
- Odyssey Study Guide Questions