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Wisdom vs. Strength in Odyssey

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The Trojan army was slightly stronger than the Greek army. They had the god Ares, god of war, supporting them against the Greeks. At the same time, the Trojans had godlike warriors such as Hector and Aeneas. On the other hand, the Greeks had Athena, goddess of wisdom, to support them against the Trojans. Despite these facts, the Greeks, in the end, won the Trojan War, because of strategy. Therefore, it can be said that wisdom is superior to strength. Though Polyphemus is stronger than Odysseus, Odysseus escapes him through his shrewdness.

Odysseus tricks Polyphemus through temptation. Odysseus exploits two of Polyphemus’s senses. Odysseus attempts to fascinate Polyphemus’s sense of taste. For example, Odysseus allures Polyphemus with his wine by describing how it would be comfortable to drink with human flesh. Then, Odysseus tempts Polyphemus’s sense of hearing. Odysseus talks about his name. Odysseus tells Polyphemus “Cyclops, try this wine- to top off the banquet of human flesh you’ve bolted down!”(9.388-3.389) Shrewdness’s superiority over force is shown in his tempting Polyphemus to drink the wine, because Odysseus is able to make Polyphemus change his desire from wanting to eat them immediately to drinking the wine Odysseus has immediately.

In addition to temptation, Odysseus takes full advantage of Polyphemus’s gullibility. First, Odysseus makes Polyphemus believe events that genuinely did not occur to Odysseus. For example, Odysseus falsely tells Polyphemus that his ship was in ruins, because of Poseidon crushed it. Odysseus is able to Odysseus is able to make Polyphemus believe the foolish things he says about himself. For example, Odysseus tells Polyphemus that his name is “nobody”. Also, Odysseus is able to foolishly make Polyphemus believe that bad things are actually blessed items. For instance, Odysseus tells Polyphemus about the greatness of wine, although it can be harmful to Polyphemus, yet despite the harms of wine, Polyphemus believes Odysseus/ , Odysseus tells Polyphemus “Nobody-that’s my name. Nobody- so my mother and father call me, all my friends”(9.410-9.411) Odysseus’s exploiting Polyphemus’s gullibility expands upon the idea that wisdom is stronger than strength, because Odysseus makes Polyphemus believe Odysseus’s false ideas and this leads to Polyphemus not doing things that could have easily made his plan of eating Odysseus and his men successful.

Besides taking advantage of Polyphemus’s gullibility, Odysseus uses Polyphemus’s recklessness to his advantage. Odysseus uses all of the weapon resources available in the cave in attempt to be able to escape. For example, Odysseus sharpens the wooden shaft and then he blinds Polyphemus so there can be a possibility for him and his men to escape. Also, Odysseus takes full advantage of the weaknesses of Polyphemus’s cave. For example, Odysseus is able to blind Polyphemus and escape, because Polyphemus has put a boulder at the doorway and this boulder does not encourage the neighboring Cyclops to help, because they can not see what is happening in the cave. In addition, Odysseus takes full advantage of Polyphemus’s weak, uncontrolled state of mind. Odysseus attacks Polyphemus when he is asleep. In lines 427-428 of Book 9, Odysseus says to the Phaenicians “Hoisting high that olive stake with its stabbing point straight into the monster’s eye they rammed it hard” Odysseus’s stabbing Polyphemus in the eye clearly proves that cleverness is stronger than vigor, because Polyphemus’s recklessness allows Odysseus to become stronger than him due to the fact that he is wiser in the decisions he makes in comparison to Polyphemus.

Wisdom is indeed stronger than vigor. Although Polyphemus is much stronger than Odysseus, Odysseus is still able to escape from him alive. Odysseus tempts Polyphemus with wine and this shows wisdom is stronger than strength, because Odysseus’s attempt to attack Polyphemus is implied with wine as Odysseus’s weapon. Also, Odysseus’s taking advantage of Polyphemus’s gullibility and recklessness shows how Odysseus does not choose to fight with all of his skill, but rather with sneakiness. This is because, Odysseus blinds Polyphemus with Polyphemus’s weapons that are lying around and he does this unexpectedly. Polyphemus does not expect Odysseus can possibly attack him.

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