In The Iliad’s account of the Trojan War, Odysseus is an asset for the Achaeans not just as a warrior, but also as a strategist and rallying public speaker. While he has no qualms about entering into traditional battle and killing Trojans as a path toward victory, he reveals his strength most when he influences or skillfully manipulates others.
Agamemnon is well aware of Odysseus’s strength, and for that reason he sends Odysseus as a liaison to Calchas and Achilles, and as a spy to the Trojan camp. Nestor also urges Odysseus to rally the Achaean troops when Agamemnon cannot bring them back from their attempt to retreat. In each of these occasions, Odysseus is calculated and cunning. He knows the best approach to take for the best chance of success, and the poet consistently reinforces Odysseus’s skill with his words. He brings back the Achaean army, and he stirs them up in battle so they can continue to fight the Trojans. He manages to convey Agamemnon’s message to Achilles without making Achilles angrier than he already is. He uses a mixture of deceit, stealth, cleverness, and intimidation to gain valuable intelligence about the Trojans’ plans.
While he is a cunning and convincing man, Odysseus is also a skilled warrior. During Patroclus’s funeral games, we learn that he is an avid wrestler. He appears in many of the battle scenes, holding his own against the Trojans. He is even listed among the best soldiers in the Achaean army.
Odysseus is an influential player in The Iliad, but his part in this story does a great deal to set his character up for The Odyssey, in which he is the titular hero. The Iliad shows Odysseus giving a speech to the Achaean army that is stirring enough to stop them from fleeing the battle and instead fight the Trojans with renewed vigor. His persuasion is one of his main tools he wields to return home in The Odyssey. In The Iliad, we see him crafting detailed strategies of misdirection, which again prove a necessary skill for him in The Odyssey. Perhaps more than his specific talents however, The Iliad shows Odysseus as the hero he is remembered as in The Odyssey. The legends of Odysseus in his own poem would not exist without his actions in The Iliad.