Throughout the Odysseus we see many good and bad qualities of Odysseus
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Odysseus is known to be a great leader and these leadership qualities are presented in how he always looks out for his men. Although sometimes the advise he gives them is ignored and this reflects on the men’s stubbornness. This behaviour is seen before the attack of the Cicones. Odysseus takes from Troy what he needs and is eager to leave. However, his men ignore this order and stay to celebrate. This stubborn behaviour leads to the loss of 6 men from each ship. However, the loss of Odysseus’s men is very important in the Odysseys because it is important that he returns home alone.
Another of Odysseus’s good leadership ships is that he always makes time for the important ritual of sending them off to the underworld, ‘I would not let the curved ships sail before each of our poor comrades who had fallen in action against the Cicones had been tree times saluted with a ritual call’. When Odysseus and his troops reached the land of the Lotus Eaters, there was a hard decision that Odysseus, as the leader, had to decide. His men had indulged in a drug which caused them to forget all thoughts of return.
Odysseus knew that he was going against their own free will but using his own force he dragged the men back to the ships, as they wept on the way. And to make sure there was no escape he even tied his own men up and dragged them under the benches. The lotus eaters were happy staying on the Island, with no worries and a happy life. But it was himself and his own welfare that Odysseus was thinking of because at this point in his journey home he could not afford to loose and more men. His men were essential because he needed them to row the boat and it would be impossible for his to make the voyage across the wine dark sea alone.
When Odysseus and his men land at unknown territory of the Cyclopes they are cautious. Odysseus skills of observation allow him to understand that the Cyclopes are uncivilised citizens. There is no harbour and the land is unsown and untilled. This luxurious, rich land and the plump wild goats is a great temptation for Odysseus and his starving men. Odysseus relationship with his men is poor. He tends to ignore their advice as it was his men who advised him to leave the island but Odysseus’s curiosity was more important. Odysseus’s most important quality is his ‘Mi?? tis’ (cunning).
The conversations that Odysseus has with Polythemus are good examples of this. He lies about the location of the boat for the safety of his crew. This is also a quality of Odysseus because most of the time he puts the safety of his men before his own. He also uses his wit and intelligence to conquer dangers. For instance he knew that it was impossible for him to beat the Cyclopes in strength so to fight him was not an option. So the cunning Odysseus decides to outwit him instead; ‘My name is Nobody. That is what I am called by my mother and father and by all my friends. ‘
Odysseus is a thinker and so early on realises that even if he does manage to kill Polythemus, the enormous boulder blocking the door would mean they would be trapped in there. By calling himself ‘Nobody’ he was able to hide his identity and frame the Cyclopes for being mentally ill when he was calling out to his neighbours that Nobody had blinded him. Although, Odysseus fails to the temptation of vanity and soon shows his foolishness by telling Polythemus his real name. Odysseus does this in order to maintain his reputation. Often we see that Odysseus puts his reputation as his main priority.
He was cautious of the land of the Cyclopes, and still, looks for an adventure there in order to spread his name further. He waits for the Cyclopes to return home so that he may receive gifts, and he provokes Poseidon’s wrath so that he may be remembered. The sirens know that Odysseus cares about his reputation so they tempt him by saying they will tell him. After his disastrous visit to the Cyclopes and the loss of his men Odysseus decides not to go inland himself at the land of the Laestrygonians and keeps his ships away from the harbour. He sends only three men inland.
This shows us that on this occasion Odysseus cares more about his own safety that the safety of his own men. As a leader it should have been him who ventured onto the unknown island. This is Ironic to the fact that all of Odysseus fleets except for his were destroyed and he does not wait to save them. In books 9-12, Odysseus’ most noticeable qualities on top of the ones already mentioned are endurance and inner strength, inquisitiveness (slowly replaced by caution) cunning and stalwart, (which is often Odysseus’ epithet). The mere fact that Odysseus survived his travels demonstrates his endurance and his skill for survival.
As he goes from one hardship to another he grows in durability. When the worst event for his morale occurs (he is just about to reach home but the bag of winds is opened by his crew and his ship is blown back to the beginning), Odysseus did contemplate suicide but his determination pulled him through, ‘I stayed and I endured’. Curiosity is both a good and bad quality for Odysseus. One of the best examples of this is on the land of the Cyclopes when Odysseus takes the men inland and stays in the Cyclopes cave despite the pleas of his men.
Odysseus admits ‘I wished to see the owner’. This wish leads to the loss of six if his men. When the crew are rowing past the sirens, Odysseus’ curiosity gets the better of him as he wants to hear the beautiful singing of the sirens, although he does not allow this to endanger his crew and takes precautions of deafening them with wax in their ears. The only time that Odysseus is kept from curiosity and desire is on Aeaena, where he spends an entire year feasting, like a suitor. (Though one could argue that he is under the intoxication of the witch Circe)
Throughout his journeys Odysseus is given allot of help and advise which he most of the time follows because he knows that the Gods are more wise and more powerful. An example of this is when he is told to throw the cloth into the ocean when he reaches land. However, he disobeys the advice given to him about Sylla and dons his armour, due to his wish to take all possible precautions. Odysseus makes some mistakes in that he is not always truthful to his men and this causes a barrier of communication between them.
If only Odysseus had told his men what was in the bag carrying the wind that Aeolus gave to Odysseus then they wouldn’t have come to disaster. Odysseus had nothing to loose in telling them. Odysseus sometimes keeps the truth hidden in order to protect his men. An example of this would be when he avoided telling them about Scylla and Charybdid in order not to upset his crew and forestall panic. He gives rallying speeches of motivation; ‘My friends,’ I said ‘we may be miserable, but we are not going down to the house of Hades yet, not till our time has come.
Get up, and while there’s food and drink on board, let us have something to eat instead of dying here of starvation’. To conclude, Odysseus has the qualities of a great leader. Although he is not able to keep all of his men alive he still makes a big effort to help them survive and it is his men’s arrogance and stubbornness which costs them their own lives. Odysseus would not have got so far without his quick thinking and crafty tactics which helped his defeat the Cyclopes and the other magical monsters he meets on his journey home.