Odysseus and the nymph Calypso.

Odysseus and the nymph Calypso.

Odysseus was a great figure from Greek mythology: he was the king of Ithaca who fought in the Trojan War for ten years; after the war he spent the next ten years attempting to return home while enduring many trials and tribulations, not only among cannibals and cyclopes, sea monsters and sirens, but also among lovely women such as Circe and Calypso. The painting above is of Odysseus and Calypso. I am not sure who the artist is, but it looks like something from the 19th century.

There were different attitudes towards Odysseus in the ancient world: the Greeks both loved and hated him, since he was the prototype of not only a great war hero, but also of an amoral man who would say or do anything to achieve his goals. The Romans simply hated him, as they saw him as a symbol of what they considered the sleazy and duplicitous character of the Greeks in general.

There are many different depictions of Odysseus throughout the history of literature, but my favorite depiction of Odysseus is that of the Iliad and the Odyssey, the two great, ancient Greek epic poems at the fountain head of all Western literature. In these poems Odysseus is not only a great man of action but also a man of great intellect: two things which have always been prized, but especially so in the ancient Greek world. The fact that he endured many things, journeyed to many different places, and had to suffer much before he could return home from the Trojan War has always caught the imaginations of generations for over three thousand years.

There is a classic epithet used for Odysseus by Homer, the poet behind the Iliad and Odyssey: “polytropos” which roughly means “a man of many turns”. This is often interpreted as either “a man who is much traveled or wandering” or “a man who is wily and crafty”. The meaning is ambiguous, and deliberately so, since Odysseus was all of these things. Which shade of Odysseus one prefers, is usually left up to the reader of whatever work in which Odysseus is being portrayed.

What I like is that Odysseus had to go through many things in life, and although my life is certainly not as glamorous as his, the story of someone having to endure different trials is one with which most people can identify. This is one of the reasons why Odysseus has been and remains to this day one of the most enduring figures in all of literature. It is one of the reasons I have chosen to use his name as my moniker. It seems appropriate at this point in my journey of blogging.