The Odyssey

How Heroism Originates: Telemachus in the Odyssey 9th Grade

The first four books of Homer’s The Odyssey depict Telemachus’ transformation from an immature, frightened child into an intelligent adult as he comes to encompass qualities that the ancient Greeks sought in heroes: an adherence to the rules of xenia, a loyalty to one’s family, and wisdom gained from travelling. First, the young prince offers food, shelter, and gifts to Mentes, whom he encounters in his kingdom, displaying his understanding of the guest-host relationship. Next, Telemachus acquires a vengeful attitude towards the suitors after talking to Mentes, the form that Athena takes when she visits Ithaca, who inspires him to defend his father’s reputation. Finally, the young prince gains some knowledge from his voyages to Sparta, where King Menelaus offers him advice and tells him where Odysseus is.

Because the Achaeans frequently travelled the sea and stayed at foreign ports, they frequently hosted strangers in their homes on short notice, sometimes for extended periods of time. Thus, they felt the need to reciprocate after having been treated so well in foreign lands. Therefore, a good king or lord is expected to treat a stranger with care and compassion, and this devotion to common courtesy is valued in the Achaean...

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