Among the earliest, and now oldest, stories we have are those written by Homer: The Iliad and The Odyssey. The first records the Trojan War and the ultimate fall of the city. The second recounts the story of Odysseus’ return home from that mighty battle. Today we are going to discuss which character are you more like: Achilles or Odysseus?
Within the tales are numerous characters of great depth and meaning that have been studied, analyzed, stripped and autopsied by scholars better than me. What I have always personally found fascinating in the tales are the characters, Achilles and Odysseus, and the disparity of their legacies.
Achilles is known for his strength in battle, his prowess. Yet, his memory is uncompromisingly connected to his greatest weakness and his death. We remember Achilles because of the battle of Troy.
Odysseus, on the other hand, is known for a different conflict. His greatest struggle was not against the walls of Troy, but his return home to his wife and son. We remember him because of the Odyssey, the journey and trial to find his way home.
Each hero has flaws, both possessed hubris, the plague of the Greek hero (and humanity in general) that comes close to negating the good they do.
Achilles, in his pride, refuses to do battle for much of the Trojan war because of a dispute over who gets the credit. His arrogance ends up resulting in the death of many of his comrades and dearest friends.
Odysseus makes a similar tragic error. He can’t let himself get away without taking the credit. After successfully blinding the Cyclops, and telling him that “Nobody” did it, he shouts to the blinded foe as he sails away, saying, “Cyclops, if any one of mortal men shall ask thee about the shameful blinding of thine eye, say that Odysseus, the sacker of cities, blinded it, even the son of Laertes, whose home is in Ithaca.”
Provoked, the Cyclops prayed to the sea god Poseidon to make the journey of Odysseus long and arduous – an easy request when the only way to travel home was by boat. While Odysseus does eventually make it home, it is only after a long painful journey, during which time his home is over run by men trying to marry his wife.
Which Are You: Achilles or Odysseus?
Through the lenses of these heroes we can see our own struggles, be it as man against man, as in the Trojan war, or man against nature like the Odyssey.
In learning from these Greeks we must ask ourselves the following questions:
- What is my struggle?
- Is my struggle for my own glory or for a greater goal?
- What am I willing to sacrifice?
- What will I be remembered for?
Our conflicts decide who we are and what we will be remembered for. Pride will come to kick us in the teeth at the worst moments. The question we face in those moments is, What do I wish to be remembered for? For my part, I’d rather be remembered for making it home.