Welcome to the second round of the #NANAIHB (the Non-Atreid, Non-Achilles Iliadic hero Bracket), the definitive tournament to decide who really is the second best of the Achaeans. The first round saw six contests, most of which were blowouts. The second round introduces four heroes who received first-round byes: Odysseus, Ajax, Patroklos, and Diomedes.
Round 2, Match 1: Odysseus vs. Teucer. Ajax’s illegitimate brother gets to face the grandson of Sisyphus after quickly dispatching the braggart Heraklid, Tlepolemos, in the first round. All the smart money is in the tyrant king of Ithaca, but any archer’s got a chance, right?
“Homer made Achilles the best man of those who went to Troy, Nestor the wisest, and Odysseus the most shifty.”
φημὶ γὰρ Ὅμηρον πεποιηκέναι ἄριστον μὲν ἄνδρα Ἀχιλλέα τῶν εἰς Τροίαν ἀφικομένων, σοφώτατον δὲ Νέστορα, πολυτροπώτατον δὲ Ὀδυσσέα. #Plato
I know, I know. Laertes’ heroic son killed 108 unarmed suitors with Athena’s help when he got back home. And this is after he watched over the deaths of 12 ships of Kephallanian warriors! The man is a mighty machine of death. For sake of argument, let’s consider what Odysseus actually accomplishes in battle in the Iliad.
Book 1: Takes Chryseis Back to Chryses
Book 2: Gives a big speech, beats Thersites (and any other non-compliant commoner)
Book 3: Gets described by Helen as being like a snow storm when he speaks
Book 4: Agamemnon finds him hanging back from battle
Book 5: He decides between fighting “some Lykian” redshirts or Tlepolemos. He does not fight Tlepolemos (668-678)
Book 7: He does not win the lot to face Hektor
Book 8: He does not stop to help Nestor (8.97)
Book 9: We don’t have time to talk about Odysseus’ shenanigans in book 9
Book 10: He and Odysseus lie to Dolon, kill him, and kill Rhesus and his men in their sleep. Well, he has Diomedes do most of that
Book 11: He gets Diomedes to stay and fight with him
Book 14: He yells at Agamemnon for suggesting running away
Book 19: He tells Achilles that eating is good.
Book 23: He wrestles Ajax to a draw
Odysseus’ reputation is for his cleverness and lies. (He might be a necromancer too.) He knows how to suffer and he knows how to get revenge. And I am pretty sure he would shoot a man in Reno just to watch him die. (Yes, he’s a lot more than that. And, yes, I have a good deal to say about him. But we don’t have that much evidence he’s a great fighter.)
Let’s not forget that Teucer kills nine men in the pace of three lines in book 8 (273-275)! He may only be the second-best Salaminian, but is that nearly as good as being king of an island good mostly for goats.
So, go ahead, cast your vote for Odysseus like you want to, like you need to because he’s already in your head. But, remember, Teucer’s got an archer’s chance. And that’s something even Odysseus should worry about.
“I am called Odysseus for evil deeds correctly: For many who have been my enemy hate me.”
ὀρθῶς δ’ ᾿Οδυσσεύς εἰμ’ ἐπώνυμος κακῶν πολλοὶ γὰρ ὠδύσαντο δυσμενεῖς ἐμοί #Sophocles