Odysseus: Hero or Villain?
Although, I am looking foward to your upcoming The Odyssey, I do take exception to your characterization of Odyesseus as "the epitome of everything Greek culture considers vile." If he was so vile, how could he, above all other characters in The Iliad, get his own epic? Nor, is he the villain of the story. If anyone is the villain, than the title rightly belongs to Paris (or Alexandros) the true instigator of the Trojan War!
The prophecy before Paris birth was that he was the firebrand that would destroy Troy. Not Odysseus. Not Achilles. Not Agamemnon.
And as for Achilles' character: Sure he was the greatest warrior blessed with perfect physical beauty... He was a demigod for pete sake's! And he was unbeatable because he had the gods literally fighting at his side! Give me Great Aias, the rock-steady soldier who fight on his own rather than that petulant hot-tempered, murderous man-god who cares for almost nothing but his own personal glory and treacherously prays for victory to the Trojans against his own Greek comrades... Just to show the Greeks how much they need him!
And I can't see how you consider Odysseus extracting a non-violence vow from all of Helen's suitors as anything but noble. He was trying to prevent a blood-bath. And as for his reluctance to participate in the Trojan War, considering your stance on the current Iraqi War, I find it surprising. Why should Odysseus abandon his wife, son and kingdom and risk his own life and that of his men to chase after an unfaithful, adulterous wife that is not even his?!? And considering what happened to Ithaca during his 20-years absence, I think his attempt to sit out the war was more than justified, especially since he was responsible for the ultimate victory for the long-haired Akhaians.
And as for the Trojans, they were almost as morally culpable as Paris himself. They knew that harboring Paris and Helen was wrong in the sights of gods and men, but their arrogant belief in their superiority kept them from returning Helen, even after Meleneus clearly defeated Paris in one-on-one combat. Let me also point out: Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, hated Paris and repeatedly wished that he died at birth; including Hector and Helen. And while Hector gains a tragic nobility fighting against fate, gods and unfairly superior opponent (I'm not including Aias who beat Hector twice!), he was still fighting an immoral war, which he clearly knew...
And I hardly think the Homer, a Greek (or whatever collective poets composed both epics) would consider an Oriental civilization as more heroic than their own people. The genius of Homer was that he could bring to life the full expression of humanity to both sides of the war, but let’s be clear: the Poet clearly sided with his own people.
And as for Odysseus himself: Yes, he was tricky, sometime treacherous, violent. But he was also cunning, brave, pragmatic (when almost no one else was), efficient, loyal, and wanted nothing more than to get himself and his men back home quickly and safely as possible. He got trapped in a war not of his own making, battling the fates and gods themselves and finally made it back home, to restore order to his kingdom. Odysseus might not fulfill all the requirements of a modern hero, but he was a hero in the Classical sense and is a hero for all times...
Last edited by JaeYu1; 05-03-2007 at 06:46 PM.