Homer's epic poems, The Odyssey and the Iliad, have left an impression on western society that has lasted for over two thousand years. These two works are widely held to be the beginning of Western Literature. Countless poets and artist have been moved by the different characters in these two poems. Throughout the centuries, few of these have generated such polarized interpretations as Odysseus. Whether admired or vilified, an author’s interpretation of Odysseus’ deeds can be seen as a reflection of the moral and/or social values of their time. Odysseus achieved his fame not through battle, but was renowned for his cleverness and oratory skills. Even though he was the king of the minor kingdom of Ithaca, he was among the most influential Greek leaders during the ten year war against the Trojans and arguably the most significant contributor to the fall of Troy. When Troy finally fell, the story of The Odyssey begins. This poem is an account of Odysseus’ journey across the Aegean to his beloved homeland, Ithica. Along the way he is cursed to wander the sea for ten more years before reaching home. The intelligence and resourcefulness he employs throughout his ventures are the morally ambiguous aspects of Odysseus’ character that is so frequently remarked upon by poets.
In Homer’s time, he is seen as a hero. He personified the self image of the colonizing Greeks of the 8th century B.C. His ten year detour represents the struggling ancient Greek over the Barbarians of other areas but, like Odysseus, the barbarous tribes were no match for the cultured and intelligent Greek. (p. 610 Powell) The best example of this is the legend of Odysseus’s confrontation with the Cyclops, Polyphemus. (Odyssey. 9.165-566) The Cyclops was the personification of the uncultured people the Greeks encountered during their colonization.
During a banquet hosted by Alcinous, king of Phaeacia, Odysseus tells the story of his venture to the land of the Cyclopes, a race...