Heroism in the Odyssey: Through the Epic Hero Odysseus

Heroism in the odyssey the characteristics of a heroHeroism in the Odyssey is one of the prevalent themes easily recognizable in this timeless piece of literature similar to the case of any other epic. Different characters displayed different versions of heroism, and in some cases, you may not readily agree.

However, as you continue to read on and discover more about the story, you may think otherwise. Find out how the different characters in the Odyssey displayed heroism in almost all aspects as a person and human beings.

What Makes an Epic Hero?

An epic hero refers to the main character in an epic who displays heroic deeds throughout the story. Being a hero indeed differs for each individual, whether in the real world or in a fictitious one. For some, being a hero means undergoing and winning many battles in life.

For others, it could mean sacrificing one’s life for your loved ones. Or even from a third perspective, some believe that being a hero means being favored by gods and goddesses, which makes all undertakings simpler and easier.

How To Become a Hero?

How a person becomes a hero may challenge different ideas and opinions. Still, one thing is for sure; a hero is worthy of emulation among his audience and followers in whatever situation they may find themselves in.

Heroism can be viewed from various lenses; however, they all contain one commonality. The character must be able to surpass all the challenges and do heroic deeds. To be acclaimed as a hero is not enough; one must display courage, strength, bravery, and intelligence, among other characteristics, to be able to accomplish gigantic tasks and exceed expectations.

The Odyssey, Heroism of a Lifetime

Epics like the Iliad and Odyssey, as an enduring type of literature, have their definitive characteristics. The most prominent is the presence of an epic hero. In an epic, the heroes and their mighty deeds are celebrated throughout the writings.

Equally famous and still widely read today is the Odyssey, a 24-part book of long narrative poems that described the experiences and exploits of the main Greek hero Odysseus.

Tired and weary from having participated in the notorious Trojan War, one would expect that providence would be kind to this weary soldier and let him go straight home, but by the power of gods in heaven, it wasn’t that easy. Odysseus went on a ten-year journey toward his home: the kingdom of Ithaca. Hence, the long tale of this epic begins.

Originally believed to have been written by a blind Greek writer, Homer, many concede that the modern copy being read today has already undergone a lot of changes.

A sequel to the Iliad by the same author, The Odyssey influenced how the world looked at the ancient Greeks: their history, mythologies, legends, and epics.

The All-time Epic Hero

The Odyssey is a hero essay for Odysseus. One could never imagine the extent of his struggles as he is being kept separated from his loved ones after joining a war he didn’t want to fight. As he was traveling towards his home, Ithaca, he faced many circumstances that brought out his very nature as a human being.

Some of the challenges he underwent during his journey showed how brave he was. For example, he passed the impassable strait that was the lair of Scylla and Charybdis. He even confronted and blinded the one-eyed giant Polyphemus. In the cyclops’ island, his obedience was tested; he did not touch the favorite cattle of the sun god Helios. However, his men did not follow suit.

As a human being, Odysseus was not perfect. There were times that he let his greed overcome the better part of him. For a year, he lived languidly in the arms of the bewitching Circe. Luckily, after a year, his men were able to knock some sense into their great leader.

All throughout his travels, Odysseus was able to face his fears and his ultimate enemy, himself. He started as a selfish person, with excessive hubris. Yet in the end, he was able to change into a better version of himself without losing his particular endowments: his intelligence, reflectiveness, patience, and great command and leadership.

He was able to use these personal skills to overcome different challenges. These skills were very useful as our main hero achieved atonement in The Odyssey when, after the long, arduous, and treacherous journey home, he was reunited once again with the love of his life, who waited patiently for him, along with his son.

Other Examples of Heroism in the Odyssey

There are many examples of heroism in the Odyssey, as shown by other great  characters. If one is ingenious enough to decipher the different struggles overcome by Penelope, Agamemnon, Achilles, and Hercules, you would discover that these characters, too, are heroes in their own right.

It is widely accepted that great literature survived the test of times not only because of the magnificent stories being told, but most of all because of the lessons it teaches us, mortals, who despite our frailties continuously seek ways to better ourselves. The Odyssey  gave us lessons in love, war, trust, and other valiant endeavors by the characters.

Indeed, the Odyssey is not only a work of art but a masterpiece that shows how ordinary human being can also become heroes.

The Heroic Wife: Penelope

Aside from Odysseus, another person who was revealed to be the hero in this epic was his wife, Penelope. Penelope in the Odyssey surely fits the bill of the hero, and many literary scholars even argued that it was really Penelope who was the main hero of The Odyssey rather than Odysseus.

The wife of Odysseus is beautiful in appearance. Although her face did not launch a thousand ships, unlike her sister Helen, Penelope has a charm of her own. She had a quite large number of suitors vying for her attention before Odysseus. All the more pressure was placed on her to remarry while she waited patiently for the return of her husband for ten long years.

Her strength shown through her patience is quite remarkable. Entertaining different males who all expressed their interest, she acted with grace and confidence. This could not have been easily achieved had Penelope been a clingy weak female stereotypically found in most pieces of literature.

Others would say that like any other human being, Penelope was bound to be tempted. However, even if she was, she was able to fight that temptation, thus making her stronger and more courageous.

Another heroic ability Penelope had was her intelligence. To avoid upfront obligations, she was able to pacify her suitors with the idea of her remarrying after she finishes knitting a shroud, with which she cleverly procrastinated until the return of her husband.

Last but not least was her ability to love. Her undying love and loyalty to Odysseus had withstood the many battles she and her husband encountered. True love indeed waits. After decades, she was reunited with the man she loved the most, her husband.

Heroes in the Underworld

In one of his travels, Odysseus traversed the underworld of the Cimmerians and looked for Tiresias, the blind prophet, who could tell Odysseus how to get home to Ithaca. While in the underworld, he met several souls of known heroes: Achilles, Agamemnon, and even Hercules.

Although they didn’t play a big role in this part of the Odyssey, the appearance of these famous heroes reminds the readers that even in spirit, one could never stop doing small heroic acts, which could help those who are lost or in dire need of help.


Though no longer the main character in this book, Agamemnon in the Odyssey was one of the recurring personas, now in spirit, whom Odysseus met during his trip down to the land of the underworld. In this encounter, Agamemnon narrated how he suffered death at the hands of his wife and his wife’s lover. He then warned Odysseus to never put too much trust in women.

Often referred to as the cursed hero, King Agamemnon of Mycenae led the war on Troy to take the wife of his brother Menelaus, Helen. After the war, Agamemnon returned home, only to be murdered. He is an arrogant, emotional, and pathetic character whose not-so-favorable turn of events in life could be well attributed to him.

Having a conversation with Agamemnon makes Odysseus reluctant to come home, but at the end of their encounter, Agamemnon encouraged him to proceed with his journey home to his wife, Penelope.


By the time the Odyssey has started, the Trojan hero Achilles was already dead. Just like Agamemnon, the hot-headed Achilles in the Odyssey also appeared as a spirit in Book 11. Juxtaposed with one another, the author emphasizes the qualities each man longed to have. Odysseus desired Achilles’s strength and fame, whereas Achilles envied Odysseus for being alive.

To lighten his load, Odysseus told Achilles about his son, who is now becoming an important soldier. It was the same glory that Achilles once enjoyed, but of which he is willing to let go if given a chance to have a longer life.


Odysseus also mentioned that he has seen the ghost of Hercules in the underworld. These two heroes are often being compared with each other because of the severity of the tasks they have encountered, yet unlike Hercules’ odyssey, which involved the completion of twelve gargantuan tasks set by the gods themselves, Odysseus did not altogether suffer undergoing twelve tasks but rather has a reprieve in experiencing some adventurous experiences on his way home.


One of the indelible marks of an epic is the heroes it celebrates. The Odyssey highlighted the heroic pursuits of Odysseus, who, because of his gumption and bravery and with a little help from gods and goddesses, surmounted the grueling and demanding tasks he needed to accomplish. Heroism in the Odyssey was shown in the following:

  • Heroism in the odyssey how to become a heroOdysseus showed qualities expected from heroes, such as bravery, strength, courage, leadership, and intelligence.
  • Favors and help from gods and goddesses were showered to the main character.
  • The hero evolved from a self-absorbed individual to a reflective and enlightened person through the quests he underwent and the lessons he learned from each.
  • Heroic deeds are not only manifested in battles won on the battlefield, but more so in the battles, you won against temptations and against yourself, as displayed by Penelope.

Justice in the Odyssey is the main goal achieved by the characters whenever heroism was portrayed. Despite all the difficult undertakings our heroes faced, in the end, it would all be worth it as they will be reaping the sweet fruit of justice they fully deserve.

Ancient Literature (May 25, 2024) Heroism in the Odyssey: Through the Epic Hero Odysseus. Retrieved from https://ancient-literature.com/heroism-in-the-odyssey/.
"Heroism in the Odyssey: Through the Epic Hero Odysseus." Ancient Literature - May 25, 2024, https://ancient-literature.com/heroism-in-the-odyssey/
Ancient Literature July 10, 2022 Heroism in the Odyssey: Through the Epic Hero Odysseus., viewed May 25, 2024,<https://ancient-literature.com/heroism-in-the-odyssey/>
Ancient Literature - Heroism in the Odyssey: Through the Epic Hero Odysseus. [Internet]. [Accessed May 25, 2024]. Available from: https://ancient-literature.com/heroism-in-the-odyssey/
"Heroism in the Odyssey: Through the Epic Hero Odysseus." Ancient Literature - Accessed May 25, 2024. https://ancient-literature.com/heroism-in-the-odyssey/
"Heroism in the Odyssey: Through the Epic Hero Odysseus." Ancient Literature [Online]. Available: https://ancient-literature.com/heroism-in-the-odyssey/. [Accessed: May 25, 2024]

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *