The Odyssey


A key attribute of Odysseus (Latin: Ulixes, often Ulysses)[8] in the Odyssey is his outstanding intelligence (Ancient Greek: mêtis).[9] In the Iliad, the characters often serve as foils to one another, but in the Odyssey, Odysseus becomes peerless, and "no living male character in the poem is portrayed as a match for him."[10] To this end, Odysseus is closely associated with two gods: Zeus and Athena.[10]

In the Odyssey, however, Odysseus is more closely identified with Athena. This is one way that the poem ascribes cunning intelligence to Odysseus. An explicit comparison between the pair is made by Athena herself: "[E]ach tries to deceive the other until Athena, laughing, puts a stop to the contest, reminding the hero that 'you of all mortals are the best for plans and speeches, while I among all the gods am famed for wits and wiles'".[11] They are also similar in their use of disguises,[12] utilising them throughout the poem. Athena provides Odysseus with some.[13]

Towards the end of the poem, Odysseus forms "a clever plan to slay the suitors which involves a contest to string [his] mighty bow and shoot an arrow through a line of ax handles. The plan has been carefully formulated to allow Odysseus to catch the suitors off guard and to provide the element of surprise he needs to overpower the suitors against such great odds."[14] Odysseus' cunning enables him to overpower and defeat his opponents, even when they are physically superior to him.[11][14] This mirrors an earlier episode in the poem, where Odysseus defeats the captor Cyclops by disguising himself, then blinding him while unable to defend himself.[15]

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