In this series of posts, I examine the various versions of Odysseus/Ulysses that appear in the classical texts of the Greeks and Romans in an attempt to create a clear picture of who Odysseus really is. Most of the content in this series was written in February of 2013, as part of an assignment for a advanced literature course at Santa Clara University called Classical Mythology in the Western Tradition. In this class, we traced two major mythological figures, Odysseus and Helen, through the western literary tradition, from the ancient days to their modern incarnations.
Introduction to the Series
Suppose that Laertes, the father of Odysseus, wanted us to answer the question that all fathers ask themselves at one point or another: “What kind of person is my son? Did I raise him to be a good man, with good moral principles and the qualities one needs to succeed in the world?” Because Odysseus is a literary creation, the only evidence we can give Laertes are the stories which have been written about his son.
As we gather evidence for Laertes, we might ask Homer to tell—or rather “sing”—about Odysseus, the “man of twists and turns.” So, to find out what qualities Odysseus has and whether these characteristics are good or bad, we must follow the major appearances of Odysseus in classical literature: from the Homeric epics to the tragedies of Athens to the Roman era of Ulysses. (more…)