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In the Odyssey, Homer tells of Odysseus and his wanderings, as well does Odysseus himself. Odysseus gets a chance for his narration during a feast with the Phaeacaians. It has been posed that as Odysseus sits and tells of his journey whilst feasting with the Phaeacaians, he is lying (or rather embellishing). Although I cannot prove everything I do believe that I can persuade you otherwise when it comes to Odysseus' moral set.

The Proof

Odysseus’ story of his wanderings is narrated by him alone. There were no other survivors to prove him wrong. It could be argued that he have made it all up. Although it is possible that he did make it up, parts of the story that Odysseus tells the Phaeacaians are backed up with evidence. Odysseus may have embellished on events, as not all of what he says is supported, how ever the episodes of the one eyed giant, the kingdom of the dead, Circe’s island, and the cattle of the sun are all proven.

If Hermes is sent by Zeus to Calypso’s Island, and he tells Calypso that “there [on the sea] all [Odysseus’] loyal shipmates died” (156), just as Odysseus later tells the Phaeacaians they did, then it must be true.

If through Zeus’ conversation with Athena we find out that “The Earth Shaker, Poseidon, unappeased, [is] forever fuming against [Odysseus] for the Cyclops whose giant eye he blinded”, then that conversation proves Odysseus blinded the Cyclops. (79).

If Odysseus did go to Hades, he couldn’t have gotten there without help. He says Circe told him how to get there, then some of the Circe story is at least partly true. If Odysseus never traveled to Circe’s island, then he could have never tied an “intricate knot/ the lady Circe had taught him long ago” when he was tying a rope to his bounty (205).

If a person does not know something, they cannot tell about it. If Odysseus did not go to the underworld and see Tiresias, then he would not have been able to tell the Phaeacians that Tiresias told him of “arrogant men, devouring all [his] goods,/ courting [his] noble wife” were waiting (253). If Odysseus did not meet Agamemnon in the underworld, he wouldn’t have known that Agamemnon died by being "cut down as a man cuts down some ox at the trough!” (262). If Odysseus didn’t talk to his mother in the underworld, then he would have never learned that his wife is “waiting there in [his] halls... suffering so,/wasting away the nights, weeping away the days./ [and that] no one has taken over [his] royal rights”’ (255).

If Homer proclaims “Odysseus could not save [his crew] from disaster, hard as he strove-/ the recklessness of their own ways destroyed them all.. they devoured the cattle of the Sun” then that episode is defiantly true (77).

Odysseus claims that when Zeus destroyed his ship, he clung to the keel. Calypso herself says “I saved [Odysseus] riding astride his keel-board , all alone, then Zeus/ with one hurl of a white-hot bolt had crushed/ his racing warship down to the wine dark sea./ There all the rest of his loyal shipmates died/ but the wind drove him on, the current bore him here./ And I welcomed him warmly” (156). These words corroborate with the rest of his story and Calypso’s Island. Why would Odysseus lie to receive gifts if a “grand array of gifts” had already been laid out for him even before he spoke his tales (205)?

If Zeus already had the Phaeacaians “with all their hearts.. prize him like a god” then Odysseus had little to gain from the Phaeacaians by lying (153) . Also “[Odysseus’] wealth was vast!” already (304).

Although Odysseus has been known as a great liar, and has successfully lied in other parts of the Odyssey, these lies do not further implicate him in terms of his wanderings. It is proven that most of what he said is true and that he did accomplish many feats. Odysseus was not trying to impress the Phaeacaians because they were impressed just with the famous Odysseus and his story of Troy. Although there may have been fabrications, the main points are true. Some of his journeys have been talked about by the gods and otherwise proven to be impossible for him to make up. These elements of support for the wanderings prove that he was at least partially telling the truth.

All references and quotes are from the 1996 edition of the Robert Fagles translation of Homer's The Odyssey

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