The Leadership of Odysseus and Eurylokhos Essay
The Leadership of Odysseus and Eurylokhos
In Homer’s The Odyssey, in both Book 10 and later in Book 12 Odysseus’ second in command Eurylokhos disobeys his commands because he thinks Odysseus is not leading safely. With both these books, it shows that going against Odysseus can be both smart and foolish, in one book it was smart to challenge him but in the other it was foolish. Eurylokhos in both these books feels he should take more leadership because he doesn’t like the way Odysseus keeps making mistakes. Eurylokhos and Odysseus throughout the story both show that they have good leadership skills in their own ways. Odysseus shows good leadership because he is the clever and heroic one, being known throughout history as “the man of many occasions” and winner of the Trojan War; while Eurylokhos, on the other hand, is the more cautious one and proves to have good intuition. Even though Odysseus is clever sometimes he lets his proud behavior get the best of him. This is displayed when he leaves the island of Polyphemus the Kyklopes. As he is departing on his ship Odysseus screams out his name to Polyphemus in a self-righteous and egotistical way. This is why he needs a second in command like Eurylokhos who is wise and has good instinct to create balance in their leadership.
Even though Eurylokhos is presented at first as Odysseus’ partner or second in command, most might see him later on in the epic as a deceptive man. I personally do not blame Eurylokhos for his actions because many times Odysseus makes foolish mistakes. In most cases, I feel that Eurylokhos has a better head on his shoulders because he is the more cautious one in certain situations. In book 10 on Kirke’s Island is when Eurylokhos really uses his gift of intuition and really starts to challenge Odysseus’ authority. Following the fact that they arrived on Kirke’s island, Odysseus kills a buck to feed his men and in my opinion, by doing this he tries regaining his crew’s trust after the Kyklopes situation. After having the feast Odysseus notices that there is smoke rising out of the woods, so he sends a random selection of men to investigate led by Eurylokhos. Eurylokhos and the rest of his men at this point all are sketched out at this point and afraid of what might happen.
Eventually when they reach to where to smoke was coming from, it was Kirke’s house. Outside of her house were mountain lions and wolves, this is where Eurylokhos’ intuition started to kick in, he gets a certain feeling in his gut when he glimpses and observes the animal’s behavior. He realizes that they are acting rather calm and are tamed not like regular animals. When meeting Kirke he also lets his instinct take control, all but him are seduced by her seductive behavior and go inside her house. He suspected something was wrong, he had a feeling Kirke was up to something. As the book says “Like sheep, they followed her, but I saw cruel deceit and stayed behind” (Book 10 Line 284) Kirk eventually fixes them a meal and puts something in their drinks, and once they drink what she gave them they all turn into pigs. Following this is when Eurylokhos decides to run back and warn Odysseus of what has occurred. Odysseus not paying mind to his co-leader wanted to see Kirke for himself. He says “Come, take me back the way you came, and by heaven, Eurylokhos stay and rest here then.”(Book 10 Line 300) And again puts himself and more of his men in danger because of his curiosity. Luckily for Odysseus Hermes and the gods decided to help him and save him. Most people would see this as Eurylokhos not honoring or following his ruler while the rest of his men do. But I feel as if this is just a co-leader trying to prove a better point and put his men into safety. This isn’t the only time Eurylokhos stands up to Odysseus He continues to go against Odysseus in book 12. Unlike book 10 however, Eurylokhos proves to be wrong against Odysseus this time around. He eventually shows his flaws and those flaws end up causing more damage to him and his men then he intended.
On the Island of Helios in book 12 Eurylokhos makes a big mistake going against Odysseus’ orders, and being defiant proves to be foolish this time. Unlike in Book 10 that Eurylokhos uses his intuition, this time he deliberately breaks an oath because of temptation. Odysseus makes his men swear a promise, “Any herd of cattle or flock of sheep her found shall go unharmed; no one shall slaughter out of wantonness,” (Book 12, Line 384). Odysseus makes Eurylokhos and the rest of his menswear this oath because the god Helios said if you kill any of my animals there will be consequences to pay. Eventually, Eurylokhos takes leadership again when Odysseus leaves the men because he feels that Odysseus is being foolish again. All of the men are starving and seeing all of these cattle proved to be too tempting towards everyone. As Eurylokhos says “You’ve gone through everything come we’ll cut out the noblest of these cattle for sacrifice to the gods who own the sky.” (Book 12, Line 442) Eurylokhos this time, in my opinion, went too far, although he was looking for the well-being of his men he still broke the oath of his leader and made his men join his mistake instead. This is the only time I would agree that Eurylokhos can be untrustworthy and deceive. Unlike on Kirke’s island, he did not use intuition this time, he only was tempted by human nature and ended up breaking a promise in the process. This breaking of the promise proved to be fatal towards Eurylokhos and the men that followed. This is where Odysseus shows better leadership than Eurylokhos. Odysseus knows how to keep his composure in situations like this. Again both men show good leadership in their own ways but in a case like this Odysseus can hold his composure.
Eurylokhos throughout The Odyssey displayed a co-balance to Odysseus’ leadership. He was there to try and advise Odysseus and steer him and his men in the right direction. I feel as if in some cases he proves to balance out or show better leadership than Odysseus. However, in most cases, Odysseus shows better composure and is more heroic which is why he is first in command and is a true hero. They both balance each other out as leaders because both have their pros and cons. In some cases, one person might be a better leader but in others, the other might have the upper hand. This is why I feel Eurylokhos had to go against Odysseus because he was trying to be a better leader and take the role. In one case he was right to do so, but on the other, he should have left the role to his higher up. In book 10 he was playing it safe but in book 12 Eurylokhos’ actions proved to be almost as foolish as Odysseus.’
Our customer support team is available Monday-Friday 9am-5pm EST. If you contact us after hours, we'll get back to you in 24 hours or less.