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KleosThroughout the Odyssey (Greek: κλέος) is the Greek word often translated to "renown", or "glory". It is related to the word "to hear" and carries the implied meaning of "what others hear about you". A Greek hero earns kleos through accomplishing great deeds, often through battle.
Telemachus and Kleos “Go to Pylos first and question the excellent Nestor; then on to Sparta to see auburn-haired Menelaus…” Athene advises Telemachus on a journey to visit Odysseus’ Trojan war friends, on the surface the purpose of this appears to be to learn news of his father but another reason for this may be in order to grow into a man and to gain kleos. “Why have you crossed the seas, if not to find out where your father’s bones lie…?” Athene wants Telemachus to meet the people who know Odysseus best and gain credit with them so that he himself has some kleos to his name. It is important that he is known for his own self rather than Odyssesus’ kleos. It was traditional for fathers to pass their kleos down to their sons. “You…must be as brave as Orestes… future generations will sing your praises."
Telemachus and Kleos “How am I to go up to him? How shall I greet him? It is embarrassing for a young man to question one so much his senior.” Upon Telemachus’ arrival at Sandy Pylos, he is scared to talk to Nestor and his youthful shyness overcomes him. Part of his kleos is to grow up into a man in order to return home and defeat the suitors. “…you must think of some way of destroying this mob…by cunning or open fight.” Telemachus must have courage in order to win his kleos and by asking Nestor about his father, Telemachus proves this. “…inspired by Athene, who was anxious for him to question the king about his fathers disappearance and so win a good name among men…’ It seems that this is achieved when Athene, as Mentor, says: “…I think the gods have blessed… your progress to manhood”
Odysseus and Kleos The first display of Odysseus’ longing for kleos is shown with the Cyclopes when upon leaving, he shouts from the safety of the ship: “Cyclops, if anyone ever asks you how you came by your blindness tell him your eye was pout out by Odysseus, sacker of cities, son of Laertes, who lives in Ithaca.” This reciting of his name and details is purely for gaining kleos by his name being passed on through others. However this proves to be significantly dangerous as his details are passed onto Poseidon: “Hear me, Poseidon… if I am yours indeed and you claim me as your son, grant that Odysseus… may never reach his native land...” This arrogance and longing for kleos results in the death of Odysseus’ crew and his prolonged journey home, showing us that kleos must have meant more to him than the safety of himself, his crew and friends.
Odysseus and Kleos The next adventure when Odysseus’ risky behaviour for his kleos is shown, is his advice from Circe and actions that follow. “There is no homecoming for the man who draws near them… and hears the Siren’s voices…” Odysseus, so desperate to be able to boast that he has heard the voices of the sirens and survived, lies to his crew and tells them: “…she instructed me alone to hear their voices…” Odysseus disreagards the danger he could be putting himself and others in the position of and his sole desire is to gain kleos. “Two routes will be open to you… one leads to those sheer cliffs… the Wandering Rocks… only one has made the passage…Jason.”
Odysseus and Kleos Because this passage has been succeeded through once before, there is no kleos to be gained and therefore Odysseus puts himself and his crew at possibly more danger than if he were to have taken the route through the Wandering Rocks as… “No crew can boast that they have ever sailed their ship past Scylla unscathed.” Odysseus’ arrogance leads him to believe that he can gain kleos by avoiding both Scylla and Charybdis, even though he has been warned by Circe that it is impossible, he questions her: “Could I not somehow steer clear of the deadly Charybdis, yet ward off Scylla when she attacks my crew?”
Kleos Kleos has proven to be incredibly important in the classical Greek world. Odysseus seems willing to put everything at stake in order to gain his hero status. Telemachus however unknowingly earns his kleos in order to be able to remove the suitors from his home. He is guided through this by the goddess Athene and we see how easily he does this with her help. Contrastingly, Odysseus has the force of the gods against him and so struggles incredibly to gain kleos in successful ways. This suggests that kleos is a godly thing and can only be achieved with the help of the gods.