The Odyssey

Eumaeus, The Odyssey's Ideal Man College

In The Odyssey, Homer conveys themes of loyalty, authority, and reverence to the gods as he tells the story of Odysseus’ journey back to his home in Ithaca. All of these themes are exemplified in the disguised Odysseus’ encounter with Eumaeus, the servant who tends pigs. Eumaeus, though he only appears in the last third of the tale, contains all the attributes that Odysseus values himself and wants to elicit in a follower. Because the swineherd reveres the gods, respects authority, and shows a sense of loyalty, he is not only spared from Odysseus’ wrath but is also distinguished by Homer for his actions. The attention that Homer places on Eumaeus and his story conveys the importance of his character, providing the audience with an example of the ideal ancient Greek citizen.

At first glance, Eumaeus appears to simply be one of the many servants at the mercy of the suitors who have infested Odysseus’ estate; however, Eumaeus stands out even among these subordinates. Athena herself suggests that Odysseus go see Eumaeus, saying, “…You make your way to the swineherd first…true to you as always, loyal friend to your son, to Penelope…” (XIII, 461-463). As demonstrated in Greek myths, when a god sends a man to meet with someone, that...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 1060 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 8307 literature essays, 2287 sample college application essays, 359 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in