Odysseus exercises the authority the best he can before the crew goes onto the island as he warns his crew of their fate if they were to go onto the island and made them swear not to touch the cattle. Earlier in his journey Odysseus was forewarned that something terrible would happen if he were to ever go onto the island of Helios and kill the cattle. Once his crew sees the island of Helios, Odysseus tell his shipmates that he had a “forewarning from Teirêsias and Kirkê, too; both told me I must shun this island of the Sun, the world’s delight. Nothing but fatal trouble shall we find here” (12.350-355). Not only did Odysseus state that they would find trouble at this island, he also states how he has received the information from a goddess and someone from the underworld. He tells his crew that this piece of land should clearly be avoided but they still decide to go onto the island.
Furthermore, Odysseus is the only one of the crew, after knowing that only danger will be found on the island, that wants to avoid the island. Eurylokhos proposes only going for one night to eat supper and everyone agrees with his plan as they all want a break from the sea. Odysseus tells Eurylokhos that “they [the crew] are with you to a man. I am alone, outmatched” (12.380-381). Odysseus knows that he is outnumbered and he can’t force his whole crew to do something only one person wants. In being a leader, he decides to listen to his crew as they are the driving force behind their journey home. There is nothing he can really do even after telling them of their fate as everyone is in opposition to him. His crew is tired after such a long time on the sea and it would be unreasonable to force the whole crew to deprive them of a short break. Along with that, with the crew being so tired, they would still want to do what they wish and might even mutiny against Odysseus.
As there is nothing Odysseus can really do as his whole crew wants to stop at the island, Odysseus uses his leadership skills and has “this whole company swear me a great oath: Any herd of cattle or flock of sheep here found shall go unharmed” (12.382-383). His crew immediately sweared to follow through with that promise. It may be argued that an oath is not enough as they could easily break their vow but through Odysseus’s history with his crew, their pledge was enough. Odysseus has been with this crew for years. They are very loyal to him and respect them as shown through events with the Sirens or with the Cyclops. Due to the crew’s past actions, Odysseus knows that his crew will keep their word and knows that that is all he needed to do.
After arriving on the island, Odysseus uses his authority to the best of his ability through satisfying his crew for 30 days in a disastrous storm and prays to the Gods to save him and his shipmates. After arriving on the island of Helios, a colossal storm greets them, closing the crew off from the outside world. Food is low and temptations to eat the “cursed” cows are high. Odysseus’s crew upholds their promise for a month as gales blow all around the men. All his shipmates are living on “bread and good red wine” (12.417-418) which is hardly means to live by. The crew is eating practically the same thing everyday and there is definitely an urge to have a taste of the sacred cows. Even despite their desires to eat the cows of Helios, the crew still uphold their promise to Odysseus as they are loyal to him.
Odysseus did his best to satisfy the hunger of his crew, having them “scour the wild shore with angling hooks, for fishes and sea fowl, whatever fell into their hands” (12.421-423). Odysseus’s crew is suffering and they are still upholding agreement, going out of their way, into the deadly storm to hunt for anything but the cows. The great storms worsened and so did Odysseus’s shipmates’ hunger.
One day, Odysseus slipped away and “made supplication to the gods who own Olympos” (12.431-432), hoping that the gods would save him and his crew from ruin. It may be argued that Odysseus should have stayed and watched over his crew but that should not be the case. Odysseus’s shipmates are not children and should not be babysitted. They have already proved that they are loyal in the past and so far on the island as they are starving and even facing the harsh storms to get seafood instead of beef. Odysseus trusts them enough that in his time away, praying for the whole crew’s safety, that they would upkeep their vow. While Odysseus is away at that time, his crew decides to kill and eat the cows of Helios. Odysseus has already done everything he can to satisfy his shipmates. Odysseus could not have known that during this one time that he decided to pray to the gods that his crew would break their agreement. There was nothing else Odysseus could really do as his whole crew was starving as his shipmates were driven by their despair. Odysseus had already done more than enough, warning them that danger would fall upon them if they were to step foot on the island, making his shipmates swear to not touch the sacred cows, trusting his crew to uphold his promise and trying his very best to feed each and every shipmate.
Odysseus really does his best to lead his crew in this time of crisis even though his great efforts are not effective. Odysseus tells his shipmates of the future, stating that not one but two people have warned him about the island. That alone should be enough leadership as he is concerned about how the fate of his shipmates. He then places trust, possibly the greatest thing a man can bestow, on his crew to uphold their promise of not touching the beevs. There is no such thing as a team without trust and Odysseus acknowledges this, putting his faith in his crew. Finally, on the island, Odysseus feeds and satisfies his crew the best he can for thirty days. His crew even goes into the storm to fish for seafood. Odysseus’s attempts were clearly sufficient under all the circumstances.
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