Just as I
have come from afar, creating pain for many—
men and women across the good green earth—
so let his name be Odysseus . . .
the Son of Pain, a name he’ll earn in full.

With these words in the middle of Book 19, Homer explains the origin of Odysseus’s name (19.460464). They are actually spoken by his grandfather Autolycus, who named the hero when he was an infant. The name implies that pain, like dark hair or some other physical attribute, is in some way in his blood, which may be true in two senses. First, as Autolycus happily brags, Odysseus is the grandson of someone who has created pain for many, and he might be expected to inherit this quality and grow up like his grandfather. Pain is part of his makeup because, like some kind of physical attribute, he is destined to live with it from birth. The name recognizes that pain will be a constant in his life. He may not always be on the receiving end of it (The Odyssey provides at least as many examples of Odysseus giving pain to others as feeling its sting himself), but it will always be there, like an extension of his body. From minor incidents like the goring that gives him his scar—which happens, not coincidentally, while he is on a hunting trip with his grandfather—to the massacre of the suitors, The Odyssey suggests that Odysseus has indeed earned his name “in full.”