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8. Heroism (Odyssey)

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the presentation of heroism in the Odyssey, focusing in particular on: (i) the similarities and differences between the Iliadic hero (Achilles) and the Odyssean hero (Odysseus); (ii) the importance of the first words in each poem in telling us what kind of hero we are dealing with – Achilles indulges in divine wrath (mēnin), Odysseus is simply ‘a man’ (andra); (iii) the multiple meanings of the epithet ‘polutropos’, used of Odysseus in the first line of the poem; (iv) the relationship between ‘kleos’ and ‘nostos’ in the Iliad (Achilles must choose one or the other) and in the Odyssey (Odysseus’ ‘nostos’ is the basis for his ‘kleos’); and (v) the difference between Achilles, who must rely on other people to tell his story, and Odysseus, who tells his own story.


In this course, Dr Emily Hauser (University of Exeter) provides a comprehensive introduction to Homer. In the first module, we think about the Iliad and Odyssey as ‘oral poems’ and consider this should impact how we read them. The following four modules (2-5) focus in the Iliad, with discussions of: (i) the narrative structure of the poem; (ii) the role of the gods; (iii) the nature of heroism; and (iv) the presentation of war and warfare. The five modules after that (6-10) focus on the Odyssey, with discussions of: (i) the theme of ‘nostos’; (ii) the theme of ‘xenia’; (iii) the nature of heroism; (iv) the role of women; and (v) the related themes of disguise and recognition. Finally, in the eleventh model, we think about the reception of Homer from antiquity to the twenty-first century, and how – if at all – it is possible to escape ‘the shadow of Homer’.

Note: Translations from the Iliad are taken from Martin Hammond (Penguin Classics, 1987) and those from the Odyssey from E. V. Rieu (Penguin Classics, 1946), unless otherwise noted.


Dr Emily Hauser is Senior Lecturer in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Exeter, and the author of an acclaimed trilogy of novels reworking the women of Greek myth, including For the Most Beautiful (2016, Penguin Random House). She has written articles on gender in Homer, women poets in antiquity and their reception in contemporary women’s writing; she also co-edited Reading Poetry, Writing Genre: English Poetry and Literary Criticism in Dialogue with Classical Scholarship (2018, Bloomsbury). Her latest books are Ancient Love Stories (2023, Bonnier) and How Women Became Poets: A Gender History of Greek Literature (2023, Princeton).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Hauser, E. (2020, September 10). Homer - Heroism (Odyssey) [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Hauser, E. "Homer – Heroism (Odyssey)." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 10 Sep 2020,