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Jack Kelly

9/8/14
Block 5
9th English

Cunning
The Ancient Greeks lived in a time without TVs, radios, and even mass-produced books.
Stories from this era were handed down by word of mouth. To make these stories popular these
stories would have characters that embodied the traits that the Greeks thought were the ideal
traits for people to have if they wanted to please the gods. They valued things like loyalty,
courage, and honor. These traits are just large categories. Other traits exist inside of theses. One
hero was named Odysseus. He was one of the fastest thinking people of the age. His skill set is
commonly referred to as cunning. This was a trait the Ancient Greeks valued as heroic.
The Ancient Greeks were a proud and powerful people. The Greeks liked hearing stories
about how other Greeks defeated enemies, and when they defeated these enemies they crushed
and defeated them in a way that made them look stupid. An example of this is when Odysseus
yells at Polyphemus when he and his crew are escaping that it was he, Odysseus who blinded
him. Characters such as Odysseus had cunning. This ability allowed them to cleverly beat any
opponent, other than the gods. Greek Gods did not want mortals thinking that they, a mere
mortal, could be anywhere near as great as a god. Odysseus was proud of himself for using his
ingenious plan to win the Trojan War, he felt so proud that he boasted that he was better than the
gods. Zeus then sent Odysseus on a long journey instead of straight home. Greeks would have
looked up to Odysseus and his quick wits as long as he used it responsibly, as to not anger the
gods.
Ancient Greek stories were very extreme in the way that they emphasize the heroic traits
that they value. Odysseus’s quick thinking is a trait that comes up quite often in the Odyssey and
this trait often influences the story. Odysseus uses his brilliant mind to beat the Cyclops. He
knows that he cannot stab Polyphemus, or he and his men would not be able to escape, instead
Odysseus becomes resourceful. Odysseus finds a great wooden pole. He cuts this pole into
sections, and then he hardens the tip in the fire. When night falls and Polyphemus comes into the
cave he dives him a powerful wine that puts Cyclops into a drunken sleep. The men sneak up
while he is sleeping and blind him. Polyphemus woke to find that his eye was being punctured.
Earlier Odysseus told Polyphemus that his name was Nohbdy. When Polyphemus ran out of the
cave he was shouting that Nohbdy blinded him, his friends and family thought that Zeus had
blinded him. Thus, Odysseus got away with blinding him. Odysseus knew what Polyphemus
would say when he blinded him. His cunning allowed him to think ahead and get away with out
angering other Cyclopes that can see. The other Cyclops would be able to see and kill him.
Another great idea that Odysseus has is how he escaped. Some people would have just walked
out of the cave but not Odysseus. Odysseus realized Polyphemus would have heard if the just
walked out so, Odysseus and his men held onto the bottom of sheep, and rode out of the cave.
Events like this happened all the time in the Odyssey. If cunning was not an important character
trait it would not be as influential and as frequent as it is the Odyssey. In the Odyssey if you take
away Odysseus’s wits than the entire story is ruined. The Trojan War would not have ended when
it did, and how it did. The Greeks only won the Trojan War because Odysseus came up with the
idea to send a fake horse full of troops into enemy territory. Cunning allowed them to have their

Jack Kelly
9/8/14
Block 5
9th English
valued traits like honor, loyalty, and bravery. It is only a positive trait if it helps the other
qualities.
The Ancient Greeks viewed Cunning as a heroic trait. This is apparent based on all of the
evidence that is in the Odyssey, like when Odysseus uses his brain to over come a mountain of a
man. The frequency of which fast thinking is used and how it always helps the hero and the good
cause is one indicator that they valued such a skill. Another clue was how the Greeks liked
hearing how their ancestors defeated mighty enemies and how not only did they best these
enemies they embarrassed them. Cunning is a trait that allows them to embarrass their enemies.
The Ancient Greeks valued fast thinking, and wits as a heroic trait as long as it did not hinder any
of their other valued traits.