Odysseus’s “Right”: Failed Transition and Political Power in The Odyssey


When Odysseus goes to war at Troy, there is a failure to effectively transfer power, undermining the ability of the Ithacan people to act together and leaving extreme action upon his return as the only option for resolution. This case study allows students to discuss three key scenes in books 2, 16, and 24 of Homer’s Odyssey, which explore how Odysseus both facilitates and limits the execution of leadership and power on Ithaca. It will ask readers to consider how Ithacan political practices communicate essential beliefs and values about leadership. By examining the tensions in these values, students will be able to understand how unquestioned assumptions about leadership and unarticulated policies about the execution and transfer of power set groups of people into conflict before they even attempt to work together.

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