Who was Odysseus?
Odysseus (or Ulysses in Latin) was the son of Laertes and was the ruler of the island kingdom of Ithaca. He was one of the most prominent Greek leaders in the Trojan War and was the hero of Homer’s Odyssey. He was known for his cleverness and cunning, and for his eloquence as a speaker. Odysseus was one of the original suitors of Helen of Troy. When Menelaus succeeded in winning Helen’s hand in marriage, it was Odysseus who advised him to get the other suitors to swear to defend his marriage rights. However, when Menelaus called on the suitors to help him bring Helen back from Troy, Odysseus was reluctant to make good on his oath. He pretended to have gone mad, plowing his fields and sowing salt instead of grain. Palamedes placed Odysseus’ infant son in front of the plow, and Odysseus revealed his sanity when he turned aside to avoid injuring the child.
However reluctant he may have been to join the expedition, Odysseus fought heroically in the Trojan War, refusing to leave the field when the Greek troops were being routed by the Trojans, and leading a daring nocturnal raid in company with Diomedes. He was also the originator of the Trojan horse, the stratagem by which the Greeks were finally able to take the city of Troy itself. After the death of Achilles, he and Ajax competed for Achilles’ magnificent armor. When Odysseus’ eloquence caused the Greeks to award the prize to him, Ajax went mad and killed himself.