The Odyssey Essay

“The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it… I can resist everything but temptation,” Oscar Wilde once said. This quote explains Odysseus’ audacious personality completely. Temptation can be the beginning of a downward spiral in one’s life. In Odysseus’ case, temptation is his greatest enemy, along with his burning sense of curiosity. Odysseus’ first sign of curiosity during his voyage was when he had his encounter with the Cyclops, Polyphemus. “My men came pressing around me, pleading: take the cheeses, get them stowed, come back, throw open all the pens, and make a run for it? Ah, how sound that was! Yet I refused” (Homer II. 66-169; 957-958). Odysseus’ men were ready to grab all of the Cyclopes possessions and make a run for it, but Odysseus’ curiosity got the best of him.

By making that one decision to stay in the cave, two of his men got eaten alive that night. “One of the most prominent of the mental characteristics the ancient Greeks valued was the cleverness and the wit of an individual” (Greek). Although Odysseus’ temptation makes him weaker, his cleverness and wits help him overcome any situation he puts himself in. If Odysseus had listened to his men and left the cave when they asked him to, his encounter with the Cyclops could have gone much smoother.

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While Odysseus and his crew were sailing along the ocean, Odysseus heard a songlike noise out of the distance. It turns out that it was the sirens song. “This way, oh turn your bows, Achaea’s glory as all the world allows moor and be merry. Sweet coupled airs we sing. No lonely seafarer holds clear of entering our green mirror” (Homer II. 719-726; 977). Once Odysseus realized what was at stake, he immediately took action. “Going forward I carried wax along the line, and laid it thick on their ears. They tied me up, then plumb amidships, back to the mast, lashed to the mast, and took themselves again to rowing” (Homer II. 711-715; 977).

Although Odysseus put wax in his crew’s ears, he asked for them to tie him to the ship’s mast. The temptation the sirens were giving off only made Odysseus more curious to hear their song. This could have led to him ordering his crew to steer the ship in the sirens direction, which in the end would have killed them all. Even though Odysseus and his crew made it out safely that time, it would have been less dangerous to simply put wax in his ears like his crew did rather than letting his curiosity get the best of him once again. It seems to be prominent in Greek epics that temptation plays a role in the main characters personality.

Not only is it a quite obvious enemy for Odysseus in the Odyssey but also for Achilles in the Lliad. Achilles has characteristics that are very similar to Odysseus. Both Achilles and Odysseus are determined, proud, and curious about almost everything they do. Perhaps Greek mythology has a similar theme in its epics when it comes to the hero’s main enemy. “Of all creatures that breathe and move upon the earth, nothing is bred that is weaker than man,” as Homer said in the Odyssey. What makes a man so weak, are the desires of this world that tempt him. Odysseus’ weaknesses were all triggered by temptation of either curiosity or lust. Whether good or bad, temptation will always be a characteristic that can overcome a person’s life.

Works Cited

“Greek Life as Depicted in Homer’s Epic: The Odyssey. ” Ancient Greece. N. d. Web. 5 November 2012. Homer. “HomerQuotes. ” Goodreads. 2012, Goodreads Inc. Web. 11 November 2012. Homer. “Odyssey Part I. ” Prentice Hall Literature. Boston Massachusetts: Pearson Education Inc. , 2007. Print. Wilde, Oscar. “Oscar Wilde Quotes. ” BrainyQuote. com. 2012, Xplore Inc. Web. 11 November 2012.