In Homer’s The Odyssey, Odysseus makes many choices that have both good and bad outcomes. While he is a skilled strategist, often his pride gets in the way of sound strategy and he ends up making awful decisions to repair his ego. For example, his worst decision is fuelled by his pride; the decision to tell the Cyclops his name as he departs. He says that no one can defeat the “Great Odysseus,” when, up until then, the Cyclops did not know his name. Having defeated and blinded the Cyclops, who is Poseidon’s son, Poseidon then vows to get the gods together to thwart Odysseus’ plans to get home, which is what causes many of the events of The Odyssey, and the deaths of all of Odysseus’ men. This simple, unnecessary move, made out of arrogance, is what gets his men killed.
Pride is a very powerful theme in The Iliad, and just as Odysseus’ pride gets in the way of things, so can the same thing be said of Achilles. Achilles is an extremely prideful character – he has a very fragile ego, which makes him lash out in anger and make mistakes when his pride is threatened. For example, when Agamemnon insults him, he is hurt so much by this that he actively leaves his men and prays for their slaughter by the Trojans. Achilles’ primary motivation is attention and glory; he wants to prove himself and display his accomplishments to the world. In many ways, he and Odysseus are the same kind of hero, in that they fight for what they believe is right, but often succumb to selfish actions as a result of their hubris. The aforementioned name-dropping to the Cyclops was a feeble measure of chest-pounding on Odysseus’ part, while Achilles vents his anger whenever his manhood is questioned.
Homer. The Odyssey.
Homer. The Iliad.