Mr7ro Odysseus’ long-awaited return from the Trojan War to his homeland, Ithaca, after ten years of wandering. The current action of The Odyssey occupies the last six weeks of the ten years, and the narrative includes many places – Olympus, Ithaca, Pylos, Pherae, Sparta, Ogygia, and Scheria. In Books 9-12, Odysseus narrates the story of his travels in the years after the fall of Troy, and this narrative includes other far-flung places, such as the island of the Cyclops. The main action of the poem takes place in Ithaca, after a disguised Odysseus reaches there in Book 13.
In Books 13 to 24, Odysseus is slowly reunited with his family and takes revenge on the suitors that have been wooing his wife and Odysseus – the protagonist and hero of the poem. Odysseus is the King of Ithaca, a small, rugged island on the western coast of Greece. He takes part in the Trojan War on the side of Agamemnon. Of all the heroes who return from the war, his homeward voyage is the longest and most perilous.
Although Odysseus is in many ways a typical Homeric hero, he is not perfect, and his very human flaws play an important role in the work. Penelope – the “much-enduring” wife of Odysseus and the patient mother of Telemachus. If travel is Odysseus’ test, staying home is Penelope’s. She keeps home and family intact until Odysseus can return to claim his rights. The suffering she undergoes and the tricks that she employs to keep her suitors at bay bear testimony to her power of endurance and love for her son and Telemachus – Odysseus’ son. A mere child when his father left for the Trojan War, Telemachus is, at the beginning of The Odyssey, an inexperienced, unhappy, and helpless young man. His travels in search of his father help him to mature, and, on Odysseus’ return, he fulfills his duties, as the son of a hero Athene – the goddess of wisdom and the daughter of Zeus. She is Odysseus’ champion amongst the gods, and she aids him and Telemachus throughout the poem, displaying great tact, intelligence, and cleverness in all her endeavors. Nestor – the King of Pylos. He had fought on the side of Agamemnon in the Trojan War. When Telemachus sails off to find news of Odysseus, he first visits Nestor at Pylos. Nestor contributes very little to Telemachus’ knowledge of his father, though he is generous and helpful.
Menelaus – the King of Sparta. The Trojan War was fought to rescue his wife, Helen, who was abducted by Paris. In The Odyssey, both husband and wife are back at Sparta. An old friend of Odysseus, Menelaus welcomes Telemachus Helen – the wife of Menelaus and the cause of the Trojan War. Helen’s portrayal is more striking than that of Menelaus. She is back with Menelaus at Sparta, happy and at peace, having learned from her sufferings. The tenderness which she possesses in The Iliad is turned to new purposes here in Antinous – the most vociferous and proud of the suitors. He plots Telemachus’ death and often leads the suitors in their mistreatment of Odysseus and his Eurymachus – another outspoken and powerful suitor. In Book 22, he begs Odysseus for forgiveness on behalf of all the suitors. Athene in the disguise of Mentes – in the first Book, Athene encourages Telemachus to go in search of news about his father. She does this in the guise Aegyptus – one of the noble Ithacans. He speaks first at the assembly called Halitherses – an Ithacan soothsayer. He is one of the few Ithacans in the assembly who remain loyal to Odysseus. Mentor – another Ithacan who is loyal to Odysseus. When Odysseus departed, he had given charge of his house to this man. Athene often disguises herself as Mentor in order to aid Odysseus and Telemachus. Leocritus – one of the contemptible, villainous suitors who voices his opinion Peisistratus – the son of Nestor and Telemachus’ companion for much of his Echephron, Stratius, Perseus, Aretus, Thrasymedes – the other five sons of Nestor at Gerenia, who help their father in looking after the guest,Telemachus. Eurydice – Nestor’s wife, eldest of the daughters of Clymenus. Polycaste – the youngest daughter of Nestor. She bathes Telemachus when he stays at her father’s house in Pylos. Diocles – son of Orsilochus and ruler of Pherae. Telemachus and Peisistratus stop at his place for the night on their way to and from Sparta. Lord Elconeus – the squire of Menelaus. He announces the arrival of Telemachus and Peisistratus to his king.
Asphalion – another squire of Menelaus. He helps to look after Telemachus Eidothii – daughter of the mighty Proteus. She helps Menelaus to trap her father so that he may hear about the past and future from him. Noemon – an Ithacan. Athene borrows his ship for Telemachus to take to Pylos for finding news of Odysseus. It is through Noemon that the suitors realize Telemachus has left Ithaca and has gone to Pylos. Medon – a herald in Odysseus’ home at Ithaca. He is loyal to Penelope and often overhears the vicious plans of the suitors and reports them to Penelope. Calypso – a goddess. She abides on a distant isle, Ogygia, and, when Odysseus reaches there after a shipwreck, he stays with her for eight years. It is from her isle that Odysseus leaves for Phaecia, from which he finally reaches Ithaca. Calypso loves Odysseus sincerely, but has no choice but to let Ino – daughter of Cadmus. She was initially a mortal, but is now a goddess who resides in the deep sea. She helps Odysseus to reach Phaecia after his ship is wrecked by Poseidon by giving him a magical veil which prevents him Nausicaa – the daughter of Alcinous, the King of Phaecia. She is the first to meet Odysseus when he reaches Phaecia. She guides him to the city and advises him to approach her mother Arete if he wishes to get help to return Alcinous – the king of Phaecia. He is a hospitable host to Odysseus, who stays with him for a few days. Odysseus relates the stories of his adventures to Alcinous, who helps him return home. Arete – the wife of Alcinous. She is a well-respected woman at Phaecia. When Odysseus reaches the Phaecian capital’s palace, he clasps her knees and asks for help to get back to his home. She is obliging. Demodocus – the divine minstrel at Alcinous’ palace. Upon hearing his songs of the heroes of Troy, Odysseus begins to cry.
Pontonous – a servant at Alcinous’ palace. He helps to lead the blind Demodocus into the hall and performs other miscellaneous duties. Laodamas – son of Alcinous. He suggests that Odysseus should also take part in the Phaecian games and try his hand at some sport. Euryalus – a strong and handsome Phaecian youth. He insults Odysseus when he refuses to take part in the Phaecian games, but later apologizes on Halius – the second son of Alcinous. He and Laodamas dance to entertain Clytoneus – the third son of Alcinous. A swift runner, he wins the race in the The giant Polyphemus – a Cyclops and the son of the god Poseidon. Odysseus enters his cave with his companions after leaving Troy and is trapped. While escaping, he blinds the eye of this giant, for which he is Aeolus – keeper of the winds. He resides on a floating island along with his large family. After the adventure with the Cyclops, Odysseus and his men stay with Aeolus for a whole month and then are sent on their way to Ithaca. Aeolus gives Odysseus a bag of winds that his men foolishly open, causing them to be driven back to the Aeolian isle. Antiphates – a Laestrygonian noble. He is as bulky as a mountain peak and kills many of Odysseus’ men when they arrive at Lamos and Telepylos after Circe – a goddess. She resides on the Aegaean isle. After the Laestrygonian encounter, Odysseus and his men reach her place and stay with her for a year. She begins as a malevolent witch who turns his men into pigs, but later helps Elpenor – the youngest of Odysseus’ crew. When Odysseus and his men are about to leave Circe’s isle in order to descend into the underworld, Elpenor falls from the roof of Circe’s dwelling and dies. His soul meets Odysseus in the underworld and asks for a burial. Eurylochus – the most vociferous of Odysseus’ crew. He plays a significant part in the Circe and Thrinacian isle episodes but perishes in the sea with the rest of the crew when Odysseus’ ship is destroyed. Tiresias – a legendary Greek seer. His soul prophesies the future for Odysseus in the Hall of Hades and warns him of the dangers that he may face on his Anticleia – Odysseus’ mother. Her soul meets him briefly in the Hall of Hades. Mother and son wish to embrace but cannot, as she is a spirit. Agamemnon – the King of Mycenae and Menelaus’ brother. A heroic leader in the Trojan War, he was killed by Aegisthus, his wife’s lover, upon his return home. His soul meets Odysseus in the Hall of Hades and warns him of Achilles – a hero of the Trojan War. His soul meets Odysseus in the Hall of Hades and says that he would prefer to be a serf in the land of the living than a great prince in the land of the dead.
Ajax – another Trojan hero. His soul appears in the Hall of Hades when Odysseus goes there but refuses to speak to Odysseus as the latter had won a battle against him. This battle was fought for the arms of Achilles at the end of Heracles – the son of Zeus and a great hero. Odysseus meets and talks to his soul in the Hall of Hades. Heracles recounts his own destiny. Eumaeus – Odysseus’ chief swineherd at Ithaca. Eumaeus is loyal to his master and helps him in the slaughter of the suitors. Theoclymenus – a soothsayer. A fugitive, he sails with Telemachus from Pylos to Ithaca. He interprets signs and omens at Ithaca which indicate that Odysseus will soon slaughter the suitors. Amphinomus – one of the suitors. He is the only one who is somewhat compassionate, but he, too, is slaughtered in the end. Eurycleia – a respected, old servant at Odysseus’ palace. She is loyal to the household and exhibits a clever and sensible mind. Antiphus – one of the noblemen at Ithaca. He remains loyal to Odysseus and Melanthius – Odysseus’ chief goatherd. He is a rude, pompous man and is disloyal to Odysseus. He is cruelly killed by Odysseus’ loyal servants in the Phemius – the bard at Odysseus’ palace at Ithaca. He remains loyal to his king, though he is forced to sing for the suitors while they feast in the halls. Eurynome – a maidservant of Odysseus. She is loyal to Penelope and Irus – a common beggar at Ithaca. He challenges the disguised Odysseus to a fight. Odysseus accepts and defeats him easily.
Melantho – a shameless and rude maidservant at Odysseus’ place in Ithaca. She is Eurymachus’ paramour and insults the disguised Odysseus more than Ctessipus – another arrogant suitor. He throws an ox’s foot at the disguised Leiodes – the soothsayer among the suitors. He is the first to attempt Odysseus’ bow, but he fails miserably. Philoetius – Odysseus’ chief cowherd. He helps Odysseus in the slaughter of the suitors and displays a quick, efficient mind. Agelaus – another impudent suitor. He urges his companions to attack Laertes – Odysseus’ old father. He no longer resides at Ithaca, but at a farm in the country. Odysseus meets him in the last Book, and Athene gives this old warrior strength to fight with the suitors’ kinsmen. Dolius – this old man stays with his sons at the same vineyard where Laertes dwells. He embraces Odysseus warmly and welcomes his return. Eupeithes – Antinous’ father. He persuades the suitors’ kinsmen to avenge the wooers’ death. He leads the townspeople to Laertes’ farm to confront Odysseus and is killed by Laertes himself. Hermes – one of the gods. He often acts as a messenger of Zeus. He is sent to ask Calypso to release Odysseus, and he later leads the suitors’ souls to the Zeus – the supreme god and Athene’s father. His word is the ultimate dictum, and he often appears in this epic, casting thunderbolts and speaking to Athene.
The protagonist of this epic poem is Odysseus, the pivot of most of the action. After his ten years of war at Troy, Odysseus is away from home another ten years. He is kept away for so long by the wrath of Poseidon, who is angered by the blinding of his son, Polyphemus. The Odyssey is about Odysseus’ struggle and final return home. The Trojan War lies in the background as Odysseus leaves Ogygia, reaches Phaecia, where he narrates his adventures up until that point, and returns home to Ithaca. Once at Ithaca, he slays the suitors who have been wooing his wife. Odysseus is the chief of the surviving heroes of the Trojan War, and the story of his adventures and return is the most famous of many. He himself is an enlarged and elaborated version of what he The antagonist of Odysseus is the series of trials, inflicted by many individual antagonists; in order to successfully return home and regain his rightful place, he must overcome each of them. The god of the sea, Poseidon, keeps Odysseus wandering for ten weary years, forcing him to arrive in Ithaca in a pitiable condition, with trouble waiting for him at home. He has punished Odysseus for blinding his one-eyed giant son, Polyphemus. Through the eventful course of these ten years, Odysseus is pitted against varied forces – the Cicones, the Lotus-Eaters, the Cyclops, the Laestrygonians, the goddess Circe, the Sirens, Scylla, Charybdis, sea storms raised by gods, Calypso’s temptation of immortal love, and, finally, the suitors at Ithaca. The suitors may be his worst enemies, but they are not the only ones to cause conflicts in Odysseus’ travels, and their slaying, though it provides a climax to the work, is only one episode in the long list of struggles Odysseus endures. He needs to be cunning and resourceful throughout, even while winning over friends such as the Phaecians. So, while Odysseus is clearly the protagonist, a single antagonist does not exist. Instead, this brave hero fights against odds and antagonistic situations more than antagonists themselves.
The Odyssey reaches its climax in the combination of two events – the stringing of the great bow by Odysseus and the slaughter of the suitors. At the end of Book 21, Odysseus, still disguised as a beggar, lifts the heavy bow, bends it, picks up an arrow, and sends it effortlessly through a line of twelve axes. The suitors are greatly surprised at this incredible feat. In Book 22, Odysseus strips himself of his rags and reveals his true identity to all after killing Antinous. Eurymachus begs for forgiveness on behalf of all the wooers, but Odysseus refuses, and a bloody battle follows in which the suitors are slain. Odysseus finally establishes his superiority in his own house. He gets rid of the young men who were wasting his wealth and corrupting the environment by sleeping with the maidservants. These twelve disloyal women are hung by Telemachus on Odysseus’ instructions. Finally, the house is purified with sulfur and fire, symbolizing the re-establishment of order in Ithaca after the return of the king and the punishment of the evil doers. The epic poem ends in comedy for Odysseus; he manages to reach his homeland despite all odds and slay the suitors of his wife, who far outnumber him. He is recognized and accepted by his family after initial doubts and is once again master of his house and leader of his people. In the last Book, Athene reconciles the feud between the kinsmen of the slain suitors and At Odysseus’ palace in Ithaca, the suitors of his wife, Penelope, are wasting his wealth during his long absence.
Odysseus had left Ithaca to battle against the Trojans in the Trojan War, which lasted twelve years. The battle had been won, and most warriors have long since returned home. Odysseus and his men, however, are still missing. The reader learns that he is living in captivity at the isle of Ogygia with the nymph Calypso, who loves him dearly. In a council of the gods, Athene obtains permission to have Odysseus freed. She then appears at Ithaca in front of Odysseus’ son, Telemachus, in disguise and urges him to go looking for news of his father. Telemachus visits Pylos and Sparta and learns about his father’s heroic acts from Nestor, Menelaus, and In the meantime, Odysseus is released from his captivity on Calypso’s isle and reaches the kingdom of Phaecia. He recounts the tales of his adventures after the battle of Troy to the Phaecians, after which the Phaecians aid him in reaching his homeland. Upon reaching Ithaca, Athene disguises him as a beggar. He stays at his swineherd’s house, to which Athene brings his son, Telemachus. She reveals the hero’s true identity to his son and together they plot the slaying of the suitors. Telemachus goes back to the palace while the disguised Odysseus follows him later to town. He sees the suitors’ misbehavior for himself and also ascertains which of his servants have been loyal to him and which have not. Penelope announces that she will marry the suitor who is able to string Odysseus’ bow and then shoot an arrow through a row of twelve axes. The suitors try and fail miserably.
The disguised Odysseus strings the bow and shoots the arrow through all the axes. With the aid of Telemachus and a few loyal servants, Odysseus kills the evil suitors. Odysseus is reunited with his family. A feud erupts between the slain suitors’ kinsmen and Odysseus, but is hastily stopped by a flaming bolt thrown by The Odyssey, like The Iliad, is pre-eminently a poem of action. It resembles other heroic poetry, as well as sub-heroic oral narrative verse, in the way it engages the listeners or readers with the poem and involves them imaginatively in it. In such poems the thrill of action is important, but it is attended by a notable concern for what humans do and suffer and the many ways in which they face their challenges. While the plot is advanced by strong, dramatic action, the poem also goes into detail about the characters’ thoughts, words, and feelings. Indeed, there is almost no human emotion which Homer does not present in his characters or arouse in his listeners/readers. Human emotions are an important theme of the epic. As in The Iliad, the framework of myth is used here to discuss such themes as endurance, courage, pride, vengeance, and the role of destiny in human lives. The plot of The Odyssey recounts Odysseus’ supernatural adventures on his way home from the Trojan War and his epic battle with the suitors who have plagued his wife during his absence. But, it is also the story of Odysseus’ own development, especially his gaining of humility and patience. Each of his encounters changes him and teaches him more about himself, until he is ready at the end to prove himself to his enemies. The Odyssey serves in some sense as a sequel to The Iliad, and the relationship between the two poems is obvious throughout. At the very beginning of The Odyssey, when the gods are discussing Odysseus’ fate as he languishes on Calypso’s island, they turn almost immediately to the fate of his old comrade, Agamemnon, who has been murdered by his wife’s lover. This episode broaches the topic of what happens to the heroes of Troy. The original audience would have known all about the Trojan War and would have understood any reference to it. So now it lies in the background as the tale of Odysseus and Ithaca is recounted.
Other Iliadic events are often related, and certain characters appear here who have played a substantial part in The Iliad as well. There is a constant interpolation of the past and the present, which includes not only events from The Iliad and the Trojan War, but also occurrences involving other humans and gods. An important theme, which cannot be ignored, is the role of gods and fate in human lives. In the very first Book, there is a council of the gods, at which Zeus says that mortal men must not blame the gods for their misfortune, as it is they themselves who bring about their own downfall through misdeeds. This remains a contentious issue throughout the epic. Most of Odysseus’ adventures seem to be ordained, and he is constantly aided by Athene. But at the same time, it is he himself who has brought about his long absence from home by inciting the wrath of Poseidon. In The Odyssey, fate, interference by the gods, and human action combine to form an epic that is gigantic in scale.
The Odyssey deals also with the normal conditions of society in peacetime and the importance of the “oikos,” or household. The household is almost a self- contained unit with its head, family, dependents or retainers, heralds, and slaves. Odysseus comes back to such a set-up. He slays the suitors in order to re-establish order in his own “oikos,” which was being corrupted. The first four Books and Books 13-27 deal with household and form a substantial An epic deals with a large canvas, and, as such, there are numerous minor themes. While Odysseus dominates the poem, his wife and son play important roles as well.
The growth and development of Telemachus from an inexperienced, naive youth to a hero is a minor theme. His mother Penelope’s endurance and prudence, in contrast to Clytemnestra’s infidelity and cruelty in The Iliad, is another theme of some importance. The suitors occupy quite a large part of the epic, and their unheroic, impudent behavior is in great contrast with the noble qualities of the heroic ideal. They are a part of the generation that did not fight at Troy, and they have not learned the lessons that war teaches. The descriptions of their transgressions and the necessity of their punishment are a minor theme. The Odyssey deals twice with the ancient theme of the witch who detains the hero on his return by making him live with her. She need not be malevolent, but she hinders his desire to go home. In The Odyssey, she appears in two quite different forms as Circe and Calypso. Circe has a ruthless, cruel side, while Calypso is more gentle and charming, although she keeps Odysseus Another minor theme is the loyalty of some of the servants to Odysseus. Odysseus’ relationship with Eumaeus is especially delineated. Later, Eurycleia and Philoetius are also presented as loyal to the hero. Odysseus is capable of winning steadfast faithfulness, and this contributes to his heroic stature.
The mood is exciting, which is typical of an ancient epic. The excitement is seen especially in the first half, when the canvas is very large and includes numerous fabulous events. There is adventure, mystery, suspense, and even terror, especially in the recounting of Odysseus’ supernatural adventures on the way home from the Trojan War. In the second half of The Odyssey, from Book 13 onward, the age-old tale of the wanderer’s return is told, and the mood becomes more low-keyed and domestic. Thus, the tale of an enduring wife, a revengeful husband, a maturing son, and villainous suitors is combined with stories of monsters, ghosts, nymphs, and giants. Two distinct moods, one of supernatural, epic excitement and another of human drama, are merged effectively in The Odyssey to produce an epic poem that possesses diverse By the 8th century BC, Greece had passed through her “Dark Age” and had re-emerged a strong force. Colonies burgeoned northeastward towards the Black Sea and westward to Sicily and Southern Italy. Homer was active in Ionia during this time. No authentic biography can be attached to him, except that he is said to have composed both The Iliad and The Odyssey.
He was supposed to have been an “aoidos,” a singer, for the age of true literacy was Accurate and complete works of Homer took a long time to be produced, and not for several generations did anything like an official text exist. As there was not a reading public, Homer’s poems were learned by heart by boys at school. The texts owned by cultivated Athenians in the 5th century BC were merely memory aides, rather than versions to be continuously studied. Some critics consider it unlikely that the same man wrote both The Odyssey and The Iliad, or that either is the work of a single poet. It is most likely that both poems combined and remodeled earlier poems, which were in turn enlarged and remodeled by others. Of the two poems, The Odyssey has a closer structural unity and is generally held to consist of a substantial core poem with some later additions. The 3rd century Greek scholar Longinus believed that both these poems were composed by the same author and that the discrepancies that do exist between the two can conceivably by ascribed either to a difference of kind established by tradition or to the difference of outlook and temper which a single poet may develop with the advance of years. Whether the reader chooses to believe that these are indeed Homer’s works or not, the fact remains that they possess the qualities which are Homer occupied a central position in the culture of ancient Greece. His works provided everyone’s elementary education. His reputation as the greatest poet of antiquity survived even in the Latin West, where his works were mostly unknown. The humanists in the 15th century were eager to study The Iliad, but when they obtained copies, they were disappointed by its realism and directness. The study of Homer stagnated, and no serious interest was shown in his work until Hobbes’ and Dryden’s attempts at translation towards the end The most widely read English translations in the 20th century are those of E. V. Rieu.
His prose version of The Odyssey was the first Penguin Classic in 1946. There have been several attempts at verse too, including those of The Iliad and The Odyssey are ancient Greek poems that are concerned with the events and consequences of the Trojan War. Nothing conclusive can be said about the actual history of that war. It is conjectured that some contest between peoples of more or less kindred stocks, who occupied the isles and the eastern and western shores of the Aegean, left a strong impression on the popular fancy. Many older myths, stories, and legends which previously floated unattached now gathered around the memories of this contest. Later, minstrels, poets, and priests shaped all these materials into a definite body of tradition. Thus, scattered stories were united into national legends. When The Odyssey was composed, the poet must have had before him a well- arranged mass of legends and traditions from which to select his material. Homer had an extremely consistent knowledge of the local traditions of Greece and of the memories that were cherished by Thebans, Pylians, Mycenaeans, and others. He assumed that his audience shared this knowledge, as well as that of certain legends, such as the Argonautic Expedition. One of the chief proofs of the unity of authorship of The Odyssey is the extraordinary skill with which originally unconnected legends and myths are woven into a single poetic plot so that the marvels of savage and barbaric fancy have become indispensable parts of an artistic whole.
The Odyssey opens with the traditional invocation to the Muse of poetry, in which the poet asks for her assistance in telling his story and presents the theme of his poem, which is about a man who suffers through years of wandering before he is able to return home. At the beginning of the story, Odysseus is being held prisoner on the island of Ogygia by the nymph Calypso, who wishes to marry him. At a council of the gods on Mt. Olympus, in which Poseidon, who is angry at Odysseus, is absent, Athene appeals for Odysseus’ release. She then flies down to assist Telemachus, Odysseus’ son. At Odysseus’ house in Ithaca, the scene is chaos. His wife, Penelope, is being courted by suitors who, believing him to be dead, have taken over his house and lounge about wasting his wealth on endless feasts, which Telemachus is unable to stop. Athene, disguised in human shape as Odysseus’ friend Mentes, ruler of the Taphians, greets Telemachus, who apologizes for the condition of the house and asks for news of his father. Athene assures him that Odysseus is alive and advises him to go to Pylos and Sparta in search of news of his fate. She also asks him to call the Ithacan lords to an assembly in which he must ask Penelope’s wooers to return to their own homes. After Athene leaves, Penelope enters the hall, where a bard is singing about the pitiful return of the Achaeans (the ancient Greeks name for themselves) from Troy. She asks him to stop, as it reminds her of Odysseus. But Telemachus sends her back to her chamber and himself addresses the suitors, asking them to attend an assembly the next day in which he might ask them to leave his house.
Eurymachus, one of the suitors, asks him who the visitor was. Telemachus replies that the guest was Mentes, though he knows in his heart that it was really Athene in disguise. Telemachus is unable to sleep that night and keeps thinking of Athene’s advice of a journey in search of news of The Odyssey, like The Iliad and other ancient Greek poems, begins with an invocation to the Muse. The opening lines here, however, are much less descriptive than those of The Iliad. The fantastic adventures of Odysseus are inadequately suggested in the reference to his encountering various cities and minds. The Cyclops and other monsters do not really have minds, and the only city seen by Odysseus is the capital of Phaecia. The poet emphasizes Odysseus’ brave struggle to survive, but underplays Odysseus’ failure to secure the return of his men. While Odysseus does look after them, he also takes risks with their lives and is often responsible for their deaths. Finally, the suitors and Odysseus’ ultimate vengeance on them are not mentioned. The lapse is odd, as this conflict provides a central theme and occupies more than Ancient epics traditionally began “in media res” – in the middle of things. Thus, it may seem that Books 1- 4 could have been omitted by bards who wished to begin the tale with the more thrilling adventures of Odysseus. But the opening Books do serve a dramatic purpose. They show the general state of Ithaca and the plight of Penelope in the absence of Odysseus. This is important to any understanding of his difficulties on his return and of the necessity for him to extract vengeance on the suitors. These Books also show how little is known of Odysseus’ fate and how anticipation of his return varies. This creates the suspense at which Homer excels. The other characters with which Odysseus will be associated are also introduced in these Books, adding to the epic’s range and richness and helping to set its plot to work. Book 1 prepares the way for much that comes later. It introduces the theme of the role of fate and the gods in human destiny through the decision of the gods to allow Odysseus to return home and Athene’s helping of Telemachus. It also anticipates the dual nature of The Odyssey, in which elements of domestic comedy and elements of fable and fancy are combined into a unified whole. Telemachus’ development also begins here. Cast for a large part and unready for it, he begins to face his responsibilities and even to test his powers after being visited by Athene. His courage takes the suitors by surprise, and before long they are sufficiently afraid of him to plot his death. He, therefore, becomes an important participant in the action and later helps his father in Telemachus calls the Achaeans to an assembly. He complains in vain about the wasting of his property by the suitors. Though he asks them to leave and feast in their own houses, they refuse flatly; instead, led by Antinous, they blame Penelope for deceiving them by false messages and hopes. Only Halitherses, a seer, Mentor, and an old companion of Odysseus take Telemachus’ side. The assembly breaks up without having reached a definite conclusion. Telemachus is disillusioned but is encouraged once again by Athene, this time disguised as Mentor. She helps him to make arrangements in order to leave in a ship for Pylos. He returns to his house for supplies, where he is mocked by the suitors and helped by his nurse Eurycleia. He tells her to keep his departure a secret from Penelope, so as not to worry her. Telemachus, the crew, and Athene disguised as Mentor leave Ithaca secretly in the middle of the night after having made drink offerings to the gods. Telemachus takes a step forward to maturity by assuming responsibility. At the assembly, he actually occupies his father’s seat, and the elders do not challenge him. However, he has not yet acquired the self-control and presence of mind of his father. When he makes a speech asking the suitors to leave his house, they refuse; as a result, he dashes his staff to the ground and begins to weep. This event highlights the utter helplessness of Odysseus’ family in his absence.
Their crisis is heightened by Penelope’s having exhausted her resources in putting off the suitors. For the last three years, she has been weaving and unweaving a funeral shroud meant for Laertes, Odysseus’ father, having promised to choose one of the suitors upon its completion. At the assembly, Antinous condemns her deception and demands that she make a decision. The poet, therefore, creates a situation where everything hinges on the possible return of Odysseus. This is genius at work. The role of gods and fate plays an important part once again. Zeus sends forth two eagles in answer to Telemachus’ threat in the assembly as punishment for the suitors. Halitherses interprets this sign as doom for the suitors and reminds them that he has predicted all these events and that all his past prophecies have come true. In response, Eurymachus denies fate brutally and mocks the seer. Athene, Zeus’ daughter, intervenes to make Telemachus’ task easier, leaving the reader to wonder whether Odysseus and his son would ever have accomplished heroic feats without her divine help. It is important to mention Eurycleia’s role here. She is a loyal servant of the family and helps Telemachus to collect food and wine for the journey.
Telemachus trusts her even more than his own mother. His decision to inform Eurycleia and not Penelope of his impending journey not only shows his trust in his servant, but also shows that despite all his naivet, Telemachus, like his father, possesses a shrewd, suspicious mind and is capable of acting on the Telemachus, Athene disguised as Mentor, and the crew reach Pylos, the capital of Nestor’s kingdom. They are greeted at the seashore by Nestor and his sons, who are performing a sacrifice to the gods. Telemachus introduces himself as Odysseus’ son and asks for news of his father. Nestor praises Odysseus and relates how the heroes of Troy went their separate ways after a dispute between Agamemnon, the leader of the expedition, and Menelaus, his brother, over whether they should sail for home immediately or stay and make sacrifices to the gods. Odysseus had originally sailed for home with Nestor and Menelaus, but after a dispute decided to rejoin Agamemnon, whereupon Nestor then tells the stories of the return home of various heroes, including Agamemnon and Menelaus. Agamemnon was murdered upon his return home by Aegisthus, his wife’s lover, and Nestor praises Orestes, Agamemnon’s son, who avenges his father’s murder by killing Aegisthus. Telemachus wishes to have similar strength so that he might take vengeance on his mother’s suitors. Nestor suggests that Telemachus go to Sparta to speak to Menelaus, who, having only recently returned home, may have some more recent news of After the stories of Agamemnon and Menelaus are told and libations poured to the gods, Athene-Mentor leaves for the ship in the semblance of a sea-eagle, while Telemachus is taken to Nestor’s house. He sleeps there comfortably and the next morning is given a chariot to leave for Sparta with Peisistratus, Nestor’s youngest son, as companion. He leaves only after Nestor has performed another sacrifice to Athene. They reach Pherae, stay there for the night, and the next day drive onwards once again. The Odyssey serves as a sequel to The Iliad in several ways. The Trojan War lies in the background as the reader learns about Odysseus and Ithaca. In this Book, Nestor talks about the war, and the large canvas of an epic comes alive with the mention of other heroes and events. Odysseus’ valor obtains a special meaning for Telemachus when he hears it praised by Nestor, who has been a friend and companion of his father in war. These stories provide Telemachus with the inspiration to mature and act out his role as a hero.
Nestor is garrulous, generous, helpful, and wise. He has no precise information about Odysseus’ fate but is able to relate the stories of Agamemnon’s and Menelaus’ return in great detail. His grand sacrifice to Athene when he realizes that it is she disguised as Mentor is indicative of the importance of the need to please the gods. The role of Athene deserves a special mention here. It is she who helps Telemachus to introduce himself in an articulate manner to Nestor and his people. And it is she who reminds him that a god can bring a man home safe even from afar. She helps him now as she had helped Odysseus during the Trojan War. The details of the sacrifices performed contribute to the vivid portrayal of the life and customs of the ancient Greeks. Mention of where Telemachus slept and how he was bathed accounts for a controlling realism that gives the poem much of its special flavor. There is a certain quiet poetry to these domestic scenes that makes The Odyssey familiar and friendly.
Telemachus and Peisistratus reach the city of Lacedaemon in Sparta and drive to Menelaus’ house, where they are identified as traveling strangers. Menelaus is busy feasting, but he welcomes them and looks after them. He tells them about his own travels and his grief at the sad fate of his friends at Troy, especially that of Odysseus, who he is not sure is alive or dead. Telemachus sheds tears at the mention of his father, and Menelaus wonders whether to question him about his family now or wait until he is ready to speak. Helen, Menelaus’ wife (whose abduction by Paris was the cause of the Trojan War), appears in the hall and notes a distinct resemblance to Odysseus in Telemachus’ features. At this, Peisistratus introduces himself and Telemachus to Menelaus, and together they all lament the fate of Odysseus and Peisistratus’ brother, Antilochus. Helen casts a soothing drug into their wine and then tells them how Odysseus had entered the Trojan city in a beggar’s disguise. Menelaus in turn relates the famous Trojan horse episode and applauds Odysseus’ cleverness. They finally retire for the night. The next morning, Telemachus tells Menelaus how his house is being misused by the suitors and asks for news of his father. Menelaus recounts the long tale of his encounter at Pharos with the god Proteus, the old man of the sea, who told him the fates of his comrades.
Odysseus, Menelaus recounts, is alive but being kept prisoner at the nymph Calypso’s house at Ogygia. Menelaus asks Telemachus to stay longer at his palace, but the young man refuses. At Ithaca, Antinous and Eurymachus are told that Telemachus has indeed left for Pylos. They are angered and hatch a plot to kill him on his way back home. Penelope’s herald, Medon, overhears them and tells her of their plan. She is surprised to learn that her son is not at home and is deeply worried about his safety. As she laments, Eurycleia asks her to pray to Athene. Penelope does, and the goddess consoles her by sending her a dream in which her sister Iphthime assures her that Telemachus is safe. Meanwhile, the suitors sail to Asteris, a little isle, in order to ambush Telemachus. Just after this Book, Odysseus shall be introduced in person, but for now his heroic qualities are highlighted even more by praise from Menelaus and Helen. The reader has heard so much about him by now that there is a curiosity to see the brave hero in action, which is satisfied from Book 5 Telemachus’ growing maturity is a theme of this epic, and part of his instruction occurs through the stories that he hears from Nestor, Menelaus, and Helen. These tales go back to the heroic world of Troy, as when Helen tells how she recognized Odysseus when he came to spy disguised as a beggar, or forward to the world of marvels, as when Menelaus tells how he tricked Proteus, the old man of the sea, into revealing Odysseus’ fate. The concrete information about Odysseus’ tearful existence at Calypso’s isle creates a growing assurance in his return and heightens the reader’s The rich house at Sparta first appears imposing, but it soon reveals the sad adventures of which it has been a part. Menelaus has lost his brother and his friends, and neither his wealth nor Helen can make up for the loss. Helen’s portrayal is more vivid than that or Nestor or Menelaus. She is a woman of intensity and of powers beyond human coping. Although she is divine, she has no peace, since she is filled with sorrow and guilt. Telemachus sees the contrast between her and the long-suffering and faithful Penelope; he senses that his mother will eventually earn her peace. While at Ithaca, the suitors are sufficiently afraid of Telemachus to plot his death. This evil decision justifies the necessity of their eventual punishment and slaughter. Penelope’s dismay at the danger to her son’s life humanizes her. At the same time, Eurycleia shows her worth by acting more rationally, asking her to pray to Athene instead of needlessly crying. The goddess gets into action once again by consoling Penelope through the dream she sends her.
Athene again appeals for pity on Odysseus at the council of the gods. Zeus asks Hermes to go to Calypso in Ogygia and command Odysseus’ release. When Hermes delivers Zeus’ command, Calypso becomes angry, telling Hermes that the gods are jealous of goddesses mating with men, but, as she cannot defy Zeus, she agrees to release Odysseus. Calypso goes down to the sea shore, where Odysseus is weeping, and tells him that she will help him build a raft to carry him home. He is initially suspicious of her intentions, but is convinced when she swears an oath that she means him no harm. It takes four days to build the raft. On the fifth day, Odysseus leaves the isle and travels peacefully for seventeen days. On the eighteenth day, Poseidon sees him and rouses great storms in anger. Odysseus curses his fate and wonders why he did not die on the battlefield. In the midst of his trouble, Ino, a goddess, takes pity on him and gives him a veil, which will not let him drown. He leaves his raft and swims for two days and two nights before he sees land. After great difficulty, he finally reaches the shore with the help of Athene and a nameless river god. He throws Ino’s veil back into the sea and goes to sleep on a heap of dry leaves in a thick wood away The middle section of The Odyssey starts with Book 5, which has a notably distinctive character. Odysseus’ departure from Ogygia and arrival in Phaecia are told in the third person with an outstanding objectivity. Odysseus emerges in all his glory and dominates the scene.
The events in this Book provide a skillful transition to the wonders that are to follow later. Here the events are not yet marvelous, nor are there any monsters, but Odysseus does show his physical powers and his endurance in building the raft, braving the storm, and then swimming for two days and nights. Rather than appear as a stock hero, however, Odysseus emerges as a complex being, capable of both homesickness and wanderlust, bravery and cowardice, despair and hope, nobility and deceitfulness, and, as such, becomes not only an interesting character in and of himself, but can stand as a symbol of either individual man The Odyssey deals twice with the ancient theme of a female superhuman who detains the hero by making him live with her. She appears in two quite different forms, as Circe (in Book 10) and Calypso. Both live alone on remote isles. Apart from this, the differences between the two are great. Circe keeps Odysseus for a year and releases him without complaint. Calypso keeps him for eight years, hoping to make him immortal, but is told by the gods to give him up, which she does unhappily, but graciously. Circe has a sinister glamour while Calypso does not. The adventure with Circe is exciting, whereas the sojourn with Calypso has much charm and beauty, but lacks dramatic variety. However, it is needed to fill a gap in the story.
Odysseus is away from home for a total of twenty years. By the time of his shipwreck and the loss of all his companions, only twelve years have passed, and the remaining eight have to be accounted for. This is done by confining him to Calypso’s island where nothing can be heard of him. His fate remains a mystery to his family and his friends, and he is almost forgotten by the gods. Gods again play an important role in this Book. It is Athene who initiates the action by asking the other gods to help Odysseus. Zeus agrees and sends Hermes to Calypso. Calypso is a goddess herself. Poseidon, the god of the sea, makes things difficult for Odysseus, and Ino, a sea nymph, aids him. Finally, a river god and Athene once again help the hero to reach the shore. But Odysseus, a mere mortal, does manage to hold his own in comparison to these Odysseus has arrived at Scheria, land of the Phaecians. While he sleeps, Athene visits the sleeping Nausicaa, daughter of the king, appearing to her in a dream in the semblance of one of her close friends, the daughter of a sea captain, Dymas. Hinting that Naucisicaa is soon to be married, Athene asks her to carry the palace laundry for washing in a river near the sea. Nausicaa awakens and asks her father for a wagon to carry the clothes there. He agrees, and the princess leaves with her maidens and attendants. After washing clothes, bathing themselves, and eating the midday meal, the maidens start playing ball. The ball falls into the deep, eddying current, and they raise a piercing cry, awakening Odysseus, who is sleeping nearby. He wonders whether the cries are that of wild beings or humans. As he creeps out of his shelter, all the women move away in fright, except the lovely Nausicaa. He addresses her with smooth words and asks for directions to town as well as a garment to cover himself.
She answers sensibly and asks him to bathe, dress, and eat before she can take him to the city. After bathing, Odysseus looks like Nausicaa instructs him to follow her chariot until they reach a grove dedicated to Athene outside the city gates. From there, he will make his own way to her father Alcinous’ house, so as not to cause gossip. She further advises him to plead to her mother Arete for help if he really wishes to make it back to his own country. They reach the grove as the sun is setting, and Odysseus stays there and prays to his protector. Though the goddess hears his prayers, she cannot appear in front of him for fear of Poseidon’s wrath. If the atmosphere in Ogygia was one of timelessness, Scheria has the brightness and some of the sorrows of youth. Nausicaa, tall, beautiful, and daughter of the king, has a dream of approaching marriage that Athene sends her. Athene appears in the shape of a friend of Nausicaa and suggests she go to the river to wash clothes. Athene wishes that this lovely girl may lead Odysseus to Phaecia. The goddess is always forming plans to help her favorite A scene of activity follows; there are clothes being washed, maidens playing ball, the ball falling into a deep eddy. The girls’ cries wake the suspicious Odysseus, and Nausicaa becomes the spirited mirror of late girlhood in facing his disheveled appearance bravely. After he has washed and dressed, the princess rather ingeniously confides to her friends her feelings about the transformed man, though she later hides her secret hopes from her parents. Nausicaa has a charmingly practical mind. She describes her city with thoughtful factuality and will have Odysseus accompany her while they are still in the country but no further, since she fears gossip. Important as she is for the plot and for the mood of renewal that Odysseus will experience at Scheria, there is something more to her character. Her love for Odysseus comes to nothing, but her disappointed hope is softened by her natural health and vitality. She will someday lose her youth, as Odysseus has, but he will retain the memory of her as a youthful being. From the poem’s point of view, her youth conveys what older figures like Odysseus and Penelope have moved beyond, yet remember. Nausicaa’s moment of life stays only as memory, a static image in the changing narrative, touched with both sweetness and Odysseus, of course, displays his resourcefulness in the manner in which he addresses Nausicaa at the river. He wins her over by his charming speech. Through his words, he shows her that he appreciates her beauty and youth and indicates that he was once a man of position. His moving praise of marriage equally fits her youthful thoughts, his desire for home, and the theme of the poem. At first, his naked plight is amusing to the reader and frightening to the maidens, but his skill in extricating himself from this embarrassing situation highlights his ability to master difficult situations.
Nausicaa reaches the home of her father at the same time Odysseus leaves the grove to go to the city. Athene casts a deep mist about him and aids him in finding Alcinous’ palace. On arrival, he admires the splendor of the place and finally goes through the hall and casts his hands around the knees of the queen, Arete. He pleads for help in getting home; Alcinous raises him from the floor and offers him food and wine. He agrees to aid Odysseus, but also wonders aloud whether this hero is really a god in disguise. Odysseus says that he is not and is in fact troubled by the real gods. After eating and drinking, Odysseus is left alone with Arete and Alcinous. Arete asks the long- suffering hero how he has come to be wearing clothes which she herself has stitched. In answer, he relates the story of his passage from Ogygia and his encounter with Nausicaa. Alcinous offers his daughter’s hand in marriage to Odysseus if he so desires but is also ready to arrange for his passage home in a fast-sailing ship. Odysseus rejoices at his good fortune and prays to Zeus. They all retire for the night in comfortable beds. Athene again aids Odysseus, this time in helping him reach Alcinous’ palace. Odysseus himself shows his resourcefulness by winning the favor of the Phaecian royal family to the extent that Nausicaa is offered to him in marriage. Phaecia is an ideal land, yet it is not real in the same sense as Ithaca. The seasons allow crops to be gathered all the year round; the palace servants are made by the god Hephaestus from metal; the Phaecians rarely mingle with other peoples and are consciously aware and proud of being favored by the gods. The wild wonders which Odysseus will relate of his travels will seem less improbable here than they would in Ithaca. Both Alcinous and Arete are gracious, clever, and observant. Alcinous wonders whether Odysseus is a god in disguise, come to create trouble, and Arete is quick to notice that the famous hero is wearing clothing woven by her. Both king and queen are intelligent and worldly, and it seems right that Odysseus should be sent to Ithaca by such civilized people. The splendor and prosperity of the Phaecian palace provide a striking contrast to Odysseus’ own palace in Ithaca, which is being wasted and misused by the suitors. The contrast justifies the need for the cruel punishment of Penelope’s wooers.
The Phaecians gather together at an assembly. Alcinous arranges for a convoy to accompany Odysseus over the seas to Ithaca. After the ship is moored near the shore and sacrifices have been made to the gods, Demodocus, the divine minstrel, sings of the quarrel between Odysseus and Achilles. Odysseus, deeply moved, sheds tears under the cover of his cloak. Alcinous notices him weeping and immediately calls forth everybody to participate in sports of every kind. After some games, Laodamas, one of Alcinous’ sons, asks Odysseus to try his skill in some sport, but he replies that his heart is too sorrowful to do so. Euryalus, one of the competitors, rebukes him for this answer, saying that he is like a merchant whose only interest is in his greedily gotten gains. Odysseus’ pride is hurt by this insult, and he proceeds to prove his strength by throwing a heavy disc much further than any Phaecian. He also talks about his skill in other sports, and when he stops, Alcinous decides to show him the Phaecians’ skill in both dancing and singing. Demodocus sings of the love of Ares and Aphrodite and then Laodamas and his brother Halios dance together with a ball. Odysseus praises their dance and Alcinous is pleased. He asks all the princes in Phaecia to present gifts to Odysseus and also asks Euryalus to apologize with sweet words and a gift as well.
When the presents are packed in a beautiful coffer and Odysseus himself has tied a curious knot on the lid, they sit together to feast in the hall. Odysseus offers a portion of meat to Demodocus and asks him to sing about the Trojan horse that Odysseus himself had designed. When the minstrel sings, Odysseus starts weeping again, and this time Alcinous asks the hero what his name is and why he cries. Alcinous also mentions a prophecy of his father, Nausithous, according to which Poseidon would get angry with the Phaecians one day and overshadow the Phaecian city with mountains. This is a long Book, and the lively entertainment at Phaecia provides an interlude before Odysseus recounts the tale of his sufferings. The canvas of the epic comes alive with Demodocus’ songs of incidents in the Trojan War and of the love between gods. The songs make Odysseus nostalgic, and he reveals his vulnerability when he cries. The reader is filled with compassion on seeing this tender side of a strongman. At the same time, Odysseus proves his physical strength in his response to Euryalus’ rebuke. Odysseus comes across as a hero who is both genteel and sentimental but who can rise to a challenge with strength and eloquence. The gifts that he receives from the Phaecians signifies their acceptance of him as a hero and ensures that, as such, he does not return home empty-handed. The Phaecian episode, therefore, allows the poet to have Odysseus, despite his suffering and losses, to return home in the manner befitting the heroic tradition.
The Phaecians themselves are unlike any other race. They are blessed by the gods and enjoy comforts throughout the year. They have magical ships and live in isolation. They live not for war, but for dance and song, in which they excel. The games, dancing, and singing are a great contrast to the grave adventures that Odysseus relates from the next Book onwards. Alcinous himself comes across as a capable, diplomatic leader. He arranges for Odysseus’ departure and is the only one to notice his tears. He placates Odysseus’ anger at Euryalus by proposing dancing and singing. He makes Euryalus apologize to the god-like hero and asks the princes to give gifts to Odysseus. Later, he notices again Odysseus’ tears and finally stops the minstrel from singing any further. The poem has eventually reached the point where Odysseus will have to reveal his true identity to the noble Phaecians.
Odysseus reveals his true name and identity to King Alcinous and his people. He then describes some of the troubles he and his men faced in their journey back from Troy. First they sack Ismarus, the city of the Cicones. After an initial success, they linger too long feasting, by which time the Cicones are able to call in reinforcements, who defeat them and drive them from their island. After surviving a fierce storm, they reach the land of the Lotus-Eaters. All the men who eat the lotus plants provided by the natives forget their homeland and do not want to leave the island. Odysseus must force these men against their will back onto their ships. Odysseus then relates in detail the famous episode with Polyphemus, the Cyclops. After having feasted on abundant flesh and sweet wine on an isle near the island of the Cyclops, Odysseus leads one ship to their land, wanting to see for himself whether the Cyclops, a race of savage, one-eyed giants, are as wild and rude as men say. He leaves the ship on the shore and goes to one of the giants’ cave with twelve of his men.
Polyphemus is not there, and the men help themselves to the cheese kept in his basket. They wish to leave, but Odysseus has them await the giant’s return, hoping for a “stranger’s gift.” When Polyphemus comes back, he blocks the entrance with a huge rock. Discovering the men, he immediately eats two of them for dinner. Before leaving with his flocks for the hills the next morning, he eats two more men. Odysseus devises a plan to escape and sharpens the tip of a long stick. When the Cyclops comes back, Odysseus offers him intoxicating wine and gives his name as “No-Body.” While the giant is sleeping, the men thrust the stick in the fire and then into the giant’s eye. He raises a terrible cry, but when the other Cyclops ask him what’s wrong, he says that “No-Body” is killing him, and they leave in disgust. The next morning, the hero and his companions manage to escape by hiding themselves below the bellies of the rams. On reaching the ship with the flock, Odysseus incites the fury of the giant by taunting him. Incited, the giant in return throws huge stones at the ship and prays to his father, Poseidon, to punish the hero by killing him or, failing that, killing all his men and keeping him from home for a long time. Finally, Odysseus’ ship reaches the others at the nearby isle, and the men divide the sheep amongst themselves and have a feast. Then they once again sail away.
The much-awaited tales of Odysseus’ adventures finally begin in this Book. The Achaeans sack the city of the Cicones, but their greed proves to be their downfall. Several times in the book, Odysseus’ companions will get into trouble because of their gluttony and feasting. Here they are busy eating sheep and drinking wine when the Cicones re-gather, plan a surprise attack, and kill The Cyclops episode is one of the most famous in The Odyssey. The Cyclops, who live wildly without the benefit of laws, cities or agriculture, are the antithesis of civilized men. Rather than welcoming strangers, they eat them (perhaps the ultimate act of “inhumanity”). They also mock the power of both men and gods. Odysseus’ encounter with the Cyclops highlights the conflict between man and nature.
Odysseus is able to trick the Cyclops through his cleverness, but he is punished by Poseidon for his act and his subsequent The Cyclops episode acts at the moral center of the tale, for it is here that the reader learns why Odysseus is forced to wander for so many years before he reaches home. One of the themes of the epic is the moral development of the character of Odysseus. He needs to be humbled and made more patient. In this episode, the reader gets a glaring view of his follies. His greed for gifts takes him to the giant’s cave, and his stubborn refusal to return when his companions ask him to do so shows his foolhardiness. Moreover, his proud, boasting words to the giant when they are sailing away further endangers the lives of his men. He is far from being perfect, and the reader begins to understand Odysseus himself may have brought on some of the terrible ordeals that he has to endure before reaching Ithaca. Homer has made changes in the traditional tale of the Cyclops. He introduces the trick by which Odysseus says that his name is “No-Body.” Outwitting the Cyclops makes Odysseus more formidable; but at the same time, it increases the danger to himself. The trick, however, saves Odysseus at a critical moment. In the escape from the cave, the more traditional version has Odysseus and his companions kill the sheep and clothe themselves in their skins. In this Homeric version, they to cling their bellies of the sheep, which brings them advantages. Homer, therefore, is seen successfully juxtaposing traditional epic material with folklore.
The next stop for Odysseus is the island of Aeolus, where he stays for a month. Upon his departure, Aeolus, who has been given power over the winds, gives Odysseus an ox-hide bag in which he has sealed all the winds except the gentle Western one, which is to carry him home. On the tenth day of sailing, Ithaca is in sight, and Odysseus falls into a grateful sleep. While he is sleeping his men, jealous of the gifts Odysseus has received and thinking the bag contains treasures, open it, and the escaping blasts drive them back to the Aeolian land. There Odysseus asks for help once again, but Aeolus rebukes him as one cursed by the gods and refuses. Without any wind to sail by, Odysseus’ men are forced to row. After a week, they reach the land of the Laestrygonians. All the ships anchor in the harbor, excepting Odysseus’ own. He sends three men to find out about the people there, but they meet with disaster. A Laestrygonian named Antiphates eats one of them, and then all the Laestrygonians attack the ships. Most of the Achaeans are killed, and only Odysseus’ ship manages to escape and reach the After spending two days on the shore, Odysseus ventures up a hill and sees smoke rising from Circe’s home.
The next day, the men draw lots and Eurylochus along with twenty-two men, half of his remaining crew, are sent to Circe’s halls. There they are bewitched by her and turned into swine. Only Eurylochus escapes. Odysseus, going alone to rescue his companions, is met by the god Hermes, who gives him a magic herb to prevent bewitchment and instructs him how to deal with the goddess. Circe is unable to bewitch Odysseus, and he makes her take an oath not to harm him. His companions are also saved and turned back into men. They stay with her in luxury for a year. Finally, the men express the desire to get back home, and Odysseus asks Circe to let them go on their way. She agrees, but explains that before they can get home they must first go to Hades, the land of the dead, and speak to Tiresias, the blind soothsayer. She explains the route of the journey and the manner by which they may converse with Tiresias. While the men prepare to sail, Elpenor, the youngest, meets a tragic end when he falls from Circe’s roof and breaks his neck. Before the men leave, Circe ties a ram and a black ewe to their ship for the sacrifice that Odysseus will have to perform on reaching the Odysseus continues his narrative, and the reader learns of his bad luck. The Aeolians send him on his way home after having looked after him, but Odysseus’ companions are the cause of his misfortune this time. Their folly is highlighted once again when they open the bag and release the ruinous winds that take them back to the Aeolian land.
Odysseus and his companions often get into trouble because of their impatience, and they exhibit absolutely The episode with the Laestrygonians is a fatal blow to Odysseus, showing that Poseidon is indeed punishing him thoroughly. Polyphemus’ prayer that Odysseus should reach home alone seems to be getting fulfilled. Only one ship is saved, and the remaining men reach Circe’s isle. Circe first appears as a malevolent witch, but once Odysseus subdues her she helps him and his men, showing no signs of her sinister past. She then takes up another part, which may belong to her original character: foretelling the future. Seers are quite common in heroic tales, and in The Odyssey, Homer presents two traditional characters that prophesy. The first is Circe; but she insists that Odysseus should consult the other, the ghost of the seer Tiresias. This is a very ancient theme and bears some resemblance to the Epic of Gilgamesh, where the hero crosses the waters of death to consult Uta-Napishtim. Odysseus’ men are dismayed at the prospect of going into the underworld, but Circe is convinced that they must and starts preparing for their departure. The difference between gods and men is made clear here.
Where the former act decisively, the latter are often scared and reluctant to take action. Towards the end of the Book, there is the small episode of Elpenor’s death. He dies by falling from the roof and, thus, meets an unheroic and untimely end. Later in the poem, the importance of a heroic death will be emphasized. An Iliadic hero would rather die in battle than by any other means. Odysseus himself comes off well in this Book as his concern for his men is clearly depicted. He kills a huge stag on Circe’s island for his men. Later, when Eurylochus comes back alone from Circe’s dwelling, Odysseus insists on going alone to rescue his men. After befriending the goddess, Odysseus refuses to eat until he sees his companions safe and sound. The scene of their reunion is a compassionate one, and the goddess herself is moved. The only actions of Odysseus that might be considered questionable are his willingness to take to Circe’s bed and the length of his stay on the island. Even after a year, it is his men that remind him of his native land, Ithaca. Odysseus has a typical Homeric hero’s appetite for wealth, wine, and women.
Odysseus relates the details of his journey to Hell. After crossing Oceanus, the river at the end of the world, he and his crew come to the place that Circe had told them about. They perform sacrifices to the mighty Hades and to Persephone. Many spirits of the dead come to drink the blood of the sacrificed animals, but Odysseus keeps them away as he awaits Tiresias. The first spirit to come is the recently deceased Elpenor, followed by Anticleia, Odysseus’ mother. Then Tiresias’ spirit arrives. After drinking the blood, the seer prophesies Odysseus’ future and advises him on his upcoming journey. If he does as directed, he will eventually arrive at Ithaca alone and take revenge on the suitors, but he will not be able to rest until he has appeased Poseidon. After Tiresias has spoken, there is a compassionate scene in which Odysseus talks to his dead mother. He also sees the spirits of many famous women, including Phaedra, Ariadne, and Leda, and hears their respective stories. Odysseus stops his narrative here and asks the Phaecians to let him retire for the night.
Alcinous, however, is eager to hear about the other spirits that Odysseus might have met. Odysseus continues his story and tells of his conversations with Agamemnon and Achilles and of the sight that Tityos, Tantalus, Sisyphus, and Heracles presented. After Heracles departs, myriad tribes of the dead throng up together, making a great clamor, and Odysseus is scared that Gorgon, a monster of the underworld, might appear as well. He asks his men to mount the ship, and they sail away down the river of Oceanus, Odysseus sails to the edge of the world and meets many ghosts, among them some chief figures in The Iliad. Agamemnon has been murdered by his wife, in marked contrast to Odysseus, whose faithful Penelope holds out bravely against the suitors. While shedding no new light on his personality, his story emphasizes the dangers that await those who return from Troy. Ajax, in a brief appearance, adds a new dimension to his simple character in The Iliad. In the interval, he has killed himself, because his honor has been wounded by Odysseus. Odysseus does his best to appease him, but Ajax takes no notice and does not answer. Achilles is the most striking figure and his poetic words have a deep impact. He says that he would rather work on the land as a serf than reign over all the perished dead. His son Neoptolemus is his only consolation, as he has turned out to be a stout warrior. These three ghosts form a link with The Iliad, and when Odysseus speaks to them, he speaks to his peers, as he does nowhere else in The Odyssey. The main purpose for which Odysseus enters the world of the dead is to consult the ghost of the seer Tiresias. Tiresias says very little about the immediate future, except in warning Odysseus not to eat the cattle of the sun god Hyperion at Thrinacia.
However, he does give him a precise forecast of his last days and quiet ending, with advice on the ritual that will appease Poseidon. In earlier versions, Tiresias might have said more than this and his warning about the cattle might only be a part of a larger set of warnings and forecasts. These are transferred to Circe instead. When Odysseus comes back to her, she will give him a careful and lengthy forecast of the dangers that lie before him. This device keeps Circe powerful, but at the cost of a lengthy “pre-vision” of what will come soon afterwards. Everything happens according to plan, but without the element of surprise. This Book possesses a distinctive epic style. The tales of famous mortals and gods add color and give the reader a glimpse of the background against which Odysseus operates. Through Agamemnon’s story, Odysseus learns that he must be discreet when he reaches Ithaca, and he is. Penelope is once again contrasted with Clytemnestra, Agamemnon’s wife; it is once again states that Penelope has been loyal to her husband. It is still emphasized, however, that women are not generally trustworthy. Apart from the variety of mortals, god, and destinies, there are some moving scenes in this Book, especially when Odysseus meets his mother. He wishes to embrace her but cannot, as she is merely a spirit, and the reader feels sympathy for his pathetic plight. Overall, however, this Book describes Odysseus as admirable for the courage he shows in reaching the Hall of Hades Odysseus continues his narrative and tells the Phaecians how he and his companions sail away and reach Circe’s isle once again. They bury Elpenor and then feast by their ships. Circe gives Odysseus a careful forecast of the dangers that lie before him. Odysseus tells his men some of the prophecies, First they pass the island of the Sirens, women who lure sailors to their deaths by enchanting them with their songs. Following Circe’s advice, Odysseus plugs his crew’s ears with wax. Wanting to hear the Sirens’ songs, however, he leaves his own ears unplugged, but has his men bind him to the ship’s mast, with orders not to set him free, no matter how much he begs, until the danger is past. Though Odysseus is enchanted by the Sirens’ songs, his crew ignores his cries, and they pass the island safely. Next they pass a narrow strait, on the one side of which is Scylla, a six- headed, man-eating monster, and the other side of which is Charybdis, a ship- destroying whirlpool. There is no way to pass this hazard without harm. As their choice is between losing six men to Scylla or having the entire ship destroyed by Charybdis, they sail close by Scylla, who, as forecast, eats six of the terror-stricken crew as they pass.
They reach the isle of Thrinacia, where Hyperion, the sun god, keeps his cattle. Odysseus makes his men take an oath that they will not harm the cattle, as Circe has warned that if they do so, none of them will get home alive. They stay there for a month, as the storms and winds are unfavorable for journeying ahead. While the food stocks on the ship last, the men keep their oath, but when the supplies dwindle and they are hungry, trouble begins to brew. When Odysseus falls asleep while praying to the gods, his men sacrifice the best of the cattle and eat the meat. Hyperion is outraged and asks Zeus to punish Odysseus’ men. After six days of feasting, Odysseus and his men finally get onto the ship to sail away. A storm arises and the ship is destroyed by one of Zeus’ thunderbolts. All the men perish except Odysseus, who lashes the keel and mast of the ship together and, sitting on them, is swept away. He manages to get past Scylla and Charybdis and finally reaches the isle of Ogygia, home of Calypso. Now Odysseus addresses his Phaecian hosts and tells them that there is no use in his speaking any longer, as he has already told them of his This is the last Book in which Odysseus relates his adventures, for in the next he reaches Ithaca. The contrast between Books 12 and 13 is great; there is fantastic adventures in the first and domestic strife in the second. The sources of The Odyssey are different from those of The Iliad, giving each work a different character. Both deal with marvels and monsters to some extent, and in both poems gods interfere with the course of human events. The Odyssey, however, belongs more to legend and folklore than history. The wind-bag of Aeolus, the transformations of Circe, and the monstrosity of Scylla are marvels of a greater order than those appearing in the strictly heroic Odysseus conducts himself heroically here, but the monsters which he has to face are outside both human and heroic experience.
The poet, however, creates a sense of realism through graphic descriptions; he also gives his monsters some human characteristics to make them appear a little less inhuman and supernatural. Polyphemus, for example, talks kindly to his sheep and appears almost pitiful when he implores his father, Poseidon, for revenge. In this Book, the poet employs a similar strategy. The Sirens, despite their luring songs and the bones of decaying bodies found around them, are careful to do no more than politely invite Odysseus to come and listen to them sing prophetic songs. Scylla is a grotesque horror, and yet one small touch brings her into the realm of living things. Her voice is like that of a puppy, which is quite unexpected, and the trait makes her tangible. Eurylochus is one of the only members of Odysseus’ crew whose character is clearly delineated. It is he who urges the men to slay and eat Hyperion’s cattle at Thrinacia, rather than die of starvation. This act brings doom upon them. They all perish in the sea, and only Odysseus manages to reach Ogygia. While Odysseus acts resourcefully and wisely, a sign of his growing maturity, the impatience and greed of his men causes their downfall.
When Odysseus stops his narration, Alcinous asks the princes to bestow more gifts on the brave hero. They agree and then retire for the night. The next morning, after sacrifices and feasting, Odysseus bids farewell to the Phaecians and climbs aboard the ship they have prepared for him. The boat reaches Ithaca without any trouble, and Odysseus is left on the shore with all his gifts. While he is still sleeping, Poseidon sees the Phaecian ship leaving Odysseus. The god is angered that Odysseus should come back home so comfortably and with so many gifts. He speaks to Zeus, who allows him to turn the Phaecian ship into stone as it is coming back into port. When the Phaecians see their ship transformed, they become alarmed. Alcinous, recalling an old prophecy, asks them to sacrifice bulls and pray to Poseidon in order to prevent him from burying the city under a great mountain. Meanwhile, Odysseus awakens at Ithaca and is unable to recognize his own land, as it is covered with mist. He wonders where he is and checks his gifts to see whether the Phaecians have stolen any. Athene comes to him in the disguise of a young man and tells him that he is at Ithaca. Odysseus does not reveal his true identity, making up an incredible story about himself. Athene smiles at his cunning and changes into her original form. They converse and Odysseus asks for further proof that he is really at Ithaca. Once convinced, he rejoices; then Athene helps him to hide his wealth in a cave. She disguises him so that he looks like an old beggar and advises him to seek out his swineherd, Eumaeus, so that he can learn more about what is going on. Athene goes to Lacedaemon to fetch Telemachus, while Odysseus goes to find In Books 13-24, the action takes place in Ithaca. This is a familiar world for the hero.
Yet here, too, much in the story is derived from old folktales exploited with novelty by the poet. Unlike previous sea voyages, Odysseus’ voyage from Phaecia to Ithaca is uneventful, and he actually sleeps the entire way. He is deposited in Ithaca by the Phaecians, along with the gifts that are so important for any hero’s return. Poseidon, who has not forgotten his wrath for Odysseus, is angry that he has come back with gifts even more luxurious than he might have been able to win at Troy. Zeus allows Poseidon to punish the Phaecians by turning their ship into stone, and Alcinous remembers that this was destined to happen. The role of gods and fate in the entire epic is unmistakable. The last vision of the Phaecians is of them praying to the earth shaker, Poseidon. Odysseus in this Book is his usual suspicious, clever, and cunning self. As soon as he awakens, he wonders where he is, but is unable to recognize his own land. He does not trust the Phaecians and counts his gifts to ascertain whether any have been stolen. When Athene meets him in the disguise of a young man, Odysseus is careful not to reveal his identity. He makes up a long, fantastic story about himself, and Athene is amused by his guile. He does not let his guard down even in his own land, and it is this quality that makes him truly exceptional and enduring. It is in this Book that Athene and Odysseus finally come face to face, and their meeting is as one between equals. Athene shows affection towards Odysseus, while he wishes to make the most of her help in punishing the suitors. After he flatters her, she formulates a plan whereby Odysseus will first stay with his swineherd as a beggar. This is a part of Odysseus’ humbling. Polyphemus’ prayer has been answered, and Odysseus has indeed reached home alone, with trouble reigning in his house. Athene is the only god who helps Odysseus throughout The Odyssey. While talking to Odysseus, she reiterates that Penelope has been constant, but she knows that he will test his wife before accepting her. Odysseus has not forgotten Agamemnon’s fate nor the words of Agamemnon’s spirit warning him to be wary of women. As a result, the hero has to disguise himself until he has avenged the suitors. In this, too, he is helped by Athene yet again.
Odysseus reaches Eumaeus’ hut in the disguise of a beggar and is almost attacked by the hounds. Eumaeus welcomes him hospitably, while also lamenting the loss of his master, Odysseus, and the evil deeds of the suitors. Odysseus tries to convince the swineherd about his master’s imminent return, but Eumaeus asks him not to speak false words in the hope of receiving gifts. Odysseus then relates a long and fanciful tale of his history and whereabouts. He claims to be the son of a wealthy man from Crete and to have fought at Troy. He again claims to have heard tidings of Odysseus, but Eumaeus refuses to believe him. Eumaeus sacrifices the best of the swine for Odysseus’ dinner, and Odysseus is pleased by his swineherd’s treatment of a stranger. That night it rains heavily, and Odysseus decides to test whether his swineherd will be good enough to give him his own cloak. He relates a fictitious story in which Odysseus succeeds in getting him a cloak when he is without one in the battle of Troy. The swineherd, happy that Odysseus is being praised, gives his guest his cloak readily. Odysseus is made comfortable for the night, while the swineherd goes out to sleep with the boars, beneath the hollow of a rock.
Books 13-24 tell the tale of the hero’s return. The setting is domestic and the mood is very different from that which dominates Books 9-12. The adventures now are less fantastic and more concerned with the behavior of humans at a familiar and not very exalted level. Odysseus, disguised as an old beggar, reaches the hut of Eumaeus, his chief swineherd, and is greeted there hospitably. He learns details of the suitor’s transgressions through the complaints of Eumaeus. Odysseus’ Iliadic gift of eloquence continues unabated here. He claims to be born at Crete, and the fictitious adventures that he relates prove that he has a fertile imagination. He repeatedly promises Eumaeus that his master, Odysseus, will return, but Eumaeus has been fooled before and refuses to believe him. Eumaeus is a loyal servant and comes across as a sensible man. Homer emphasizes the need for Odysseus’ return through Eumaeus’ complaints; the pathetic plight of Penelope is the main complaint. She has welcomed anyone in the past twenty years who has claimed to have heard of Odysseus’ fate, and there have been many who have lied and taken advantage of her vulnerability. As Eumaeus elaborates on the suitors’ misbehavior, Odysseus silently seethes. Keeping these events in mind, his anger in the slaughter scene that comes later is understandable. Ithaca itself appears in strong contrast to Phaecia. The terrain is rocky and fit for goats, not horses. The climate is not as pleasant, but there is plenty of water and many domestic animals. It is a place that raises tough men such as Odysseus, who is the most enduring and cunning of all warriors. Odysseus himself never ceases to be conniving, and he relates a fabulous tale just to test Eumaeus’ hospitality. Eumaeus, of course, passes the test with flying colors. He appears as a large-hearted, yet prudent, man, concerned for both his master and his master’s property. He is most concerned about the welfare of Odysseus’ family and property, and Odysseus appreciates him for that.
Athene goes to Telemachus, who is staying with Menelaus, and asks him to go back home to Ithaca to look after his property. She also warns him about the suitors’ plans to ambush him on his way home. Telemachus wants to leave at once, but his companion Peisistratus advises him to wait until the next day, so as not to be discourteous to their host. In the morning, Telemachus speaks to Menelaus about his departure and he allows him to go once he has been presented with glorious gifts and given his midday meal. Just before Telemachus and Peisistratus leave, an eagle carries a goose off from the farmyard, and Helen interprets this as an omen of Odysseus’ long-awaited When they reach Pylos, Telemachus apologizes to Peisistratus for not having time to visit his father Nestor and asks him to help him prepare for his departure. At the docks, they meet Theoclymenus, a soothsayer, who asks Telemachus to help him by giving him place on his ship. Telemachus agrees, and Theoclymenus sails with Telemachus and his men. At this point, the scene shifts back to the swineherd’s hut at Ithaca. Odysseus tells Eumaeus that he wishes to go to the city to beg and perhaps visit Odysseus’ house to obtain work as a servant. Eumaeus advises against this, saying that the suitors are violent and inhospitable. After further conversation, in which Eumaeus talks of Odysseus’ parents and of his own origins, they Meanwhile, Telemachus’ company reaches the Ithacan shore. The young man, obeying Athene’s instructions, asks the men to go to the city while he himself plans to go to the herdsmen. As for Theoclymenus, Telemachus asks him to go to the suitor Eurymachus’ house. At this point a hawk with a dove in its talons flies by on Telemachus’ right hand. Theoclymenus interprets this as an auspicious omen, and Telemachus now instructs his friend Piraeus, who is part of his crew, to take Theoclymenus home and look after him. As the ship sails toward the city, Telemachus walks to the swineherd’s dwelling.
Athene plays an important role throughout the epic. She plans all the important moves for Odysseus and Telemachus. In this Book, she persuades Odysseus’ son to come home and also advises him about the details of his return to Ithaca. Telemachus is sensible enough to obey each of her instructions judiciously. Telemachus’ growth in maturity and his development in heroic stature is one of the themes of the poem. He conducts himself well at Menelaus’ house, and he is decisive in refusing Menelaus’ offer of collecting more wealth by visiting other lands nearby. In his eagerness to embark on his ship at Pylos and get home, he decides to do so without seeing Nestor, since this would waste a lot of time. He sends the young Peisistratus instead to fix The seer Theoclymenus asks Telemachus for protection, since he is guilty of murder. Telemachus agrees to take him on the ship. On arriving at Ithaca, Theoclymenus asks where he is to stay, and Telemachus, rather strangely, says with Eurymachus. Eurymachus is one of the suitors and a prominent enemy. This response conveys the depressed and defeated mood of Telemachus. When Theoclymenus interprets the hawk as a favorable omen, Telemachus changes his mind and sends him to his friend Piraeus’ house instead. Theoclymenus’ task is to forecast events by augury and vision, but the reader suspects that, in some other version, he might have done more. He may have played a more prominent part in letting Penelope know of her husband’s presence or in driving the suitors to their destruction. The element of the supernatural which he represents adds something to the story, but it is not Odysseus continues to exhibit one of his major characteristics, namely, curiosity. He wishes to know about his father and mother and later patiently hears Eumaeus’ long story about his childhood and ill-fated journey to Ithaca. Odysseus is eloquent when he consoles Eumaeus by saying that Zeus has given the swineherd good as well as evil.
The brave-hearted hero shares a warm relationship with the swineherd, and it is this tenderness that makes him especially admirable. It humanizes the god-like Odysseus. This Book builds the suspense about the imminent reunion between Odysseus and Telemachus. While the father is conversing with the swineherd, the son is nearing the Ithacan shore. The Book ends with Telemachus having reached Eumaeus’ house, leaving the reader curious to know how the long-awaited While Odysseus and Eumaeus are making breakfast, Telemachus arrives. Eumaeus is very happy that Telemachus has reached Ithaca safely, and his feelings are as a father towards a son. Telemachus is keen to hear about Penelope and whether she still remains loyal to Odysseus or has already wedded another. He meets Odysseus, but is unaware of who he is. Odysseus questions Telemachus about the wooers and claims that he would have fought them if he had been Odysseus’ son or Odysseus himself. Telemachus answers his questions and then asks Eumaeus to go to Penelope and let her know of his safe return. Eumaeus thinks that it would be proper to let Laertes know as well. Telemachus agrees and asks the swineherd to tell Penelope to send a maid with this news to Laertes. Eumaeus departs for the city. Athene comes to the beggar Odysseus and touches him with her golden wand to bring him back to his earlier form. Telemachus is amazed at the metamorphosis and believes this stranger to be a god. Odysseus convinces him that he is not a god but is his father. There is a tearful reunion, and then father and son discuss the transgressions of the suitors and how they might be punished.
Meanwhile, Telemachus’ ship reaches the city and both Telemachus’ herald and the swineherd together reach Penelope’s place. The swineherd informs Penelope of Telemachus’ arrival and the wooers are dismayed to learn that he is safe. Antinous comes back with his ship and tells his companions that some god must have helped Telemachus in escaping death. The suitors hold a discussion of what to do about Telemachus. Penelope comes among them to rebuke Antinous for his insolence in devising a plot to kill her son. Eurymachus convinces her that Telemachus will come to no harm, but, in truth, he himself is plotting her son’s death. She retires to her chamber. In the evening, Eumaeus comes back to Odysseus and his son, by which time Athene has already disguised Odysseus as a beggar again. Telemachus inquires after the plans of the suitors, but Eumaeus can only tell him about one of their ships that he had seen in the harbor. They then eat their The pace of the story increases with many events clustered into this Book. Telemachus arrives at the swineherd’s dwelling and his first question is about his mother’s fidelity to Odysseus. Throughout the epic, women are cast as being fickle and disloyal. Agamemnon’s slaughter by his wife’s lover is well- known, and Helen is held responsible for the Trojan War and the death of numerous Achaeans. As a result, both Telemachus and Odysseus are wary of women and do not trust Penelope entirely. This is interesting to note, especially in the light of the fact that she has been chaste and honorable Eumaeus’ love for Telemachus is obvious, and the latter calls the former “father.” It is important to note that both Odysseus and Telemachus are capable of winning great affection and respect from their inferiors and equals, as well superiors such as the gods. They are not proud and ill-mannered as the suitors are and are, therefore, true heroes. Eumaeus displays his sensibility when he insists that Laertes, too, be informed of Telemachus’ return. At some point, the wandering hero must be recognized. Homer moves through a series of recognitions, each marking a step forward. The first is when Odysseus, transformed into a shrunken old beggar, is for a short time given back his true shape and reveals himself to Telemachus. Athene makes it possible, and so to a great extent, it is a supernatural event. What matters is that Odysseus must not start on his vengeance entirely alone, and his obvious companion is his son, who stays with him for the rest of the poem.
Telemachus shows his growing maturity. He answers intelligently the criticism implicit in Odysseus’ suggestion that if he were Telemachus, he would have taken revenge, explaining that he is an only son without a father and without allies in his home. In talking to Odysseus about what to do about the suitors, he displays his independence of thought. He has his own views, which are sometimes at variance with those of Odysseus. He has certainly The suitors display their villainy in planning to do away with Telemachus and usurp his property. Penelope makes one of her rare appearances in front of them to reprimand them. It is clear that she is attached to her son and feels strongly for him. Eurymachus’ lies to her and the reader display the acute need for Odysseus’ return. The Book ends with the loyal servant Eumaeus having returned to his masters and telling of seeing the suitors’ ship. Telemachus, knowing that he has foiled the suitors’ plans to kill him, gives a conspiratorial smile to his father. A firm bond has already been formed between father and The next morning, Telemachus plans to leave for the city and asks Eumaeus to bring along the disguised beggar Odysseus later, so that he may beg for his food himself. Penelope greets her son lovingly and asks him what he has learned of his father. He does not answer her questions; instead he asks her to go wash herself and pray to Zeus. He then goes to the hall and sits with Mentor, Antiphus, and Halitherses. Piraeus arrives with Theoclymenus. When Telemachus and Theoclymenus have been bathed, Penelope asks her son once again for news of his father. Telemachus tells that he has heard that Odysseus is at the nymph Calypso’s isle. Theoclymenus, too, reassures her that Odysseus’ return is close at hand. The suitors, having had their pleasure in Meanwhile, Odysseus and Eumaeus begin their journey from the fields to the city. They meet Melanthius, the goatherd, at a spring near the city. He insults both of them and kicks Odysseus, who holds his temper. Melanthius then arrives at the house earlier than Odysseus and Eumaeus and sits amongst the suitors. When Odysseus and Eumaeus arrive, they find Odysseus’ dog Argus lying neglected atop a pile of dung by the gates.
The dog recognizes his master and dies; Odysseus has to hide his tears. Eumaeus enters first and sits down to eat by Telemachus. When Odysseus enters, Telemachus has Eumaeus take him some food and tells him to beg from the suitors. Odysseus does so, and most of them give him morsels, except for the vain and stingy Antinous. Odysseus begs him for some bread, telling him a fictitious story of his travels. When Antinous refuses, Odysseus condemns his ill-breeding, and Antinous responds by hitting him with a footstool. The other suitors are displeased by this, and one warns Antinous that gods often disguise themselves to test humans. When Penelope hears of the episode, she expresses a desire to meet the stranger. Eumaeus takes her message to the disguised Odysseus, who agrees to meet her, but only after the sun has gone down, so that he may escape the wrath of the suitors. She appreciates his good sense. Meanwhile, Eumaeus prepares to depart for the farm, but only after having warned Telemachus to be careful of the suitors’ mischief.
This is another long Book, and much happens here. Telemachus is clever in not letting Eumaeus know that the old beggar is really Odysseus in disguise. At the palace, the two maintain a facade of respectful formality, giving no clue that they know each other. Odysseus’ purpose in begging the suitors, of course, is to see what kind of man each one is, and while berating Antinous for his stinginess, he controls his temper. Both father and son are capable Telemachus is received lovingly by the women in the household, Penelope in particular. But he is not all that attentive to her and appears to take her for granted on occasion. When she first questions him about Odysseus, he tells her to go to her own chamber and pray to Zeus. Only after she presses him does he answer, relieving her worry. Odysseus’ lesson in humility continues when he returns to his house in the pathetic disguise of a beggar. There is no grand welcome. He begs for his food and is actually hit on two occasions. Sandwiched between these two failures to recognize Odysseus is a recognition scene. When Odysseus arrives at his palace, he sees his dog Argus, whom he had trained and hunted twenty years earlier. The dog is old and full of insects, but he wags his tail and struggles towards his old master before collapsing dead, giving the impression that he has been living only for his master’s return. This recognition, based on affection and loyalty, conveys swiftly and surely how Odysseus belongs to Ithaca and how deep his roots there are. Homer builds suspense in several ways. He puts off the meeting between Penelope and Odysseus, leaving the reader to wonder whether she will be able to see through his disguise. He also heightens the tension between Odysseus and the suitors. The latter are as usual feasting and wasting Odysseus’ property. Odysseus begs among them and is insulted by Melanthius and Antinous. Telemachus is powerless to do anything. These events show the degree to which the normal order of things has been reversed in King Odysseus’ absence and the necessity of the upcoming revenge. Elements of the supernatural also move the poem toward its climax. Theoclymenus repeats his interpretation of the omen of Odysseus’ return, and, later, when Penelope, speaking to Eumaeus of her wish for that return, hears Telemachus sneeze, she takes it as an omen that Odysseus will soon arrive.
Irus, a beggar from town, comes upon Odysseus and orders him to be on his way. They speak angry words to each other, and the suitors are amused by their quarreling. Antinous offers goats’ bellies to the one who will show himself to be the better man. Odysseus agrees to fight Irus, but only after having extracted an oath from the suitors that they will not hit him. Athene increases Odysseus’ size, and he deals Irus a crushing blow. Antinous gives him meat as a prize, while Amphinomous offers him two loaves. Seeing that he is a reasonable man, the disguised Odysseus encourages him to leave the house before Odysseus returns. Amphinomous considers his words but, fated Athene inspires Penelope to appear before the suitors, and, as she sleeps, she enhances her beauty. When she enters the hall, all are impressed. She rebukes Telemachus for not looking after the beggar-guest. Speaking to the suitors, she recalls Odysseus’ last words to her before leaving Ithaca . Hinting that she must marry, she both chastises and flatters the suitors, telling them that in her own country the custom is for suitors to woo women with presents. Utterly impressed by her speech, the suitors ask their henchmen to bring her splendid gifts. She retires to her chamber with her gifts, and Odysseus rejoices at her When it grows dark, Odysseus offers to help the maids hold the torches while the suitors feast and dance. They laugh at him, and Melantho, Eurymachus’ mistress, in particular speaks very rudely. Odysseus is angered and frightens them away by saying that he will complain to Telemachus. While Odysseus tends the torches, Eurymachus makes fun of Odysseus’ head and also offers him work on a farm but then adds that such a greedy, lazy beggar would never work for a living. Odysseus is furious at such rebukes and gives a long speech about his strength in comparison to that of Eurymachus.
The suitor is shocked by the beggar’s boldness and throws a footstool at him, which misses and knocks down the cup-bearer. The general mood of the suitors is spoiled, and Telemachus boldly asks them to leave for their respective homes. They are surprised but agree, and, after pouring libations to the gods, they retire for the A common beggar named Irus rebukes Odysseus, and the hero is unable to contain his anger. Athene as usual comes to her favorite’s help and increases Odysseus’ already impressive stature. Odysseus may be in the disguise of a beggar but is still very much the hero, and here he displays his physical strength once again. But he is not a cruel person, and the reader must take note of the fact that Odysseus does not kill Irus. He instead carries him away and rests him against the courtyard wall. The suitors, in contrast, are frivolous and mean. They encourage the bloody fight and laugh loudly when Irus falls down. They represent the villainous nature of man, while Odysseus and Telemachus represent the heroic aspect. Amphinomous is the only suitor who is still somewhat noble, but he refuses to leave the hall as Odysseus advises Penelope’s appearance in front of the suitors is prompted by Athene, and she comes off well. The reader learns that Odysseus himself has asked her to marry if he did not return home. His last words to her before leaving for Troy were gentle ones, showing his understanding nature. Odysseus is all the more heroic in that he possesses this gentler side. However, this gentle side is combined with an eye for wealth. He rejoices when he sees that Penelope succeeds in drawing gifts from the suitors after having beguiled their minds. All three members of the family – Odysseus, Penelope, and Telemachus – possess cunning, endurance, and eloquence. Penelope is articulate in expressing her sorrow at a fight taking place within her own house and chides Telemachus for allowing it to occur. It shows that she has a clear liking and preference for propriety, in contrast to the havoc the suitors create through
When Penelope retires to her chamber, Odysseus’ plight as a beggar worsens. He is rebuked by his own maids and by Melantho in particular. Her disloyalty in becoming Eurymachus’ mistress is a further sign of the corruption in the house. To make matters worse, Odysseus is teased and insulted by Eurymachus as he tends the torches. These events further justify the need for The role of gods in human affairs is especially apparent in this Book, as Athene directs the actions of the characters throughout. She has destined Amphinomous to die, so he does not heed Odysseus’ advice. She places the idea in Eurymachus’ head to mock Odysseus, so that he will be incited to revenge, and she further inspires Penelope to speak to the suitors. The reader may wonder if her actions are just gentle nudges encouraging the characters true selves, or whether the poem’s heroes could even be heroic without her When the suitors have left the hall, Odysseus asks Telemachus to remove the weapons from there. The young man is to say that they are being marred by the fire in the hall, and that furthermore he is removing them in order to avoid bloodshed in the event of a quarrel. Eurycleia is asked to shut the women in the chambers while this task is being completed. Odysseus and Telemachus then take away the arms, after which Telemachus retires for the night. Penelope comes to the hall and is made comfortable near the fire. Melantho reviles Odysseus, again angering him. Penelope chides the rude maid. She then converses with Odysseus, asking him where he comes from. He praises her instead of answering her, while she tells him about her failed trick of weaving and unweaving Laertes’ shroud.
When she further questions him, he finally tells her a false story of his past adventures, adding that he had met Odysseus when he was on his way to Troy twenty years ago. Penelope seeks to test him to ascertain whether he is speaking the truth, and he manages to convince her by relating in detail the nature of the garments that Odysseus had worn in that fateful year. He further tells her not to lament, as Odysseus will soon return. Penelope is doubtful about this, but is pleased with the disguised beggar and asks the handmaids to look after him well. Eurycleia is assigned the task of washing his feet, and she recognizes the scar of an old wound, which he had received while hunting boar as a young man with his grandfather Autolycus. The entire tale of Odysseus’ naming and the adventure by which he was scarred is now told. Eurycleia is about to tell Penelope that the beggar is really Odysseus, but he stops her with the threat of death.
Eurycleia leaves, and Penelope voices her predicament to her disguised husband. She does not know whether she should stay with her son in the house and keep her husband’s possessions safe or leave with the best of the Achaeans and get married, leaving the property to Telemachus. She also relates the details of a symbolic dream to him, in which an eagle kills the geese in her yard, and he answers by saying that the dream means sure death for the suitors at the hands of her husband. She then tells him about her plan to offer a contest to the suitors. Whoever can string Odysseus’ bow most easily and repeat his trick of shooting through a row of twelve axes will win her hand. Odysseus encourages her to announce the contest soon, promising that her husband will return before any of the suitors can string the bow. After lamenting once again for her husband, Penelope retires to her chamber to Odysseus moves forward with his plans for the suitors’ punishment. He removes the weapons from the hall with his son’s help. The fictitious reasons that he gives to Telemachus for explaining the removal to the suitors is very clever. Odysseus has been rightly called “the man of many devices.” It is imperative that careful preparations be made in advance, as the suitors are greater in number, and defeating them might prove to be an arduous task. Odysseus is in command.
He asks Telemachus to keep his thoughts in check and go to sleep while he converses with Penelope. Melantho reviles him for the second time, and, in Odysseus’ reply to her there is a clear foreboding of the maid’s future punishment. It is interesting to see Odysseus and Penelope converse, for she is unaware that she is talking to the one she has waited so long for. Odysseus’ affection for her is apparent in his tender words of praise. She confides in him, and the reader learns more about the trick by which she has fooled the suitors for three long years. The way she placates them while weaving Laertes’ still unfinished shroud bears testimony to her power of endurance and love for her son and husband. The long years of waiting and sorrow, however, have made her distrustful of men, fate, and even gods. She no longer believes in the stories of travelers from abroad who claim to have seen Odysseus. Even the wise Odysseus in the disguise of a beggar cannot fully win her confidence and make her look hopefully towards the future. In spite of his assurance that her dream of the eagle and the geese is true, she says that it issued from the ivory gates of deceptive dreams, not the horn gates of true ones. Although her suffering has chastened her out of superficial optimism, it has not sunk her in incapacitating melancholy. Though she does doubt the beggar’s prediction about Odysseus’ homecoming, she acts upon it and soon afterwards declares her intention of marrying the man who can string Odysseus’ bow and shoot through the twelve axes.
The scene in which Penelope weeps and her melting flesh is compared to the thawing snow is a very poetic one. Odysseus hides his own tears with difficulty, and their true reunion is delayed for a more appropriate moment. Before Odysseus is recognized by his wife, there is a third recognition, and it is by his old nurse, Eurycleia. It is dark, and Penelope is sitting in the shadows, not far away. The nurse recognizes a scar, which Odysseus had gotten long ago on a boar hunt and is on the point of crying out when Odysseus puts his hand on her throat and ensures her silence. This is the most dramatic of the recognitions so far. The long tale of Odysseus’ naming by Autolycus and the story of his scarring is in keeping with the epic tradition. Epics almost always contain numerous smaller stories and legends, which are woven together inside the greater tale. This tale highlights Odysseus’ heroic past. Almost all heroes get scarred, and this bears testimony to their bravery and to the fact that they are active, while Penelope’s dream of the eagle and the geese is a clear indicator of things to come. Homer is building an atmosphere in which the suitors’ punishment is a certainty. The story is slowly but surely moving towards the climax, and the Book ends with Odysseus urging Penelope to no longer delay the contest of Odysseus prepares to sleep but is unable to. He lies awake with evil thoughts for the suitors. He sees some of the maids coming forth from their chamber laughing, on their way to lie with the suitors. He is furious at this sight, but restrains his anger. Athene appears and tells him not to worry about the suitors and go to sleep instead.
While he sleeps, Penelope awakens and prays to Artemis that she might be taken away by death rather than marry another man. She speaks about yet another dream that she had dreamed and starts weeping. In the morning, Odysseus awakes, hears Penelope weeping, and asks Zeus to show him some good omen so that he may be reassured. Zeus obliges, and Odysseus is comforted by a thunderous sound and an ominous prayer uttered by a weary woman grinding at the mill. The household begins to stir. Telemachus awakes and asks Euryclea whether the beggar has been looked after properly. Meanwhile, the maids prepare for yet another day of feasting. Eumaeus and the disloyal Melanthius arrive at the palace, and the latter insults Odysseus yet again. Philoetius, a loyal cowherd, comes to the palace and greets the disguised Odysseus with kind words. The suitors make plans to kill Telemachus but defer their plot after Antinous sees an eagle fly by on their left hand with a dove in its talons. As they dine, the mood is tense. Telemachus sits Odysseus at his own table and tells the suitors to leave him alone. One of the suitors, Ctessipus, throws an ox’s foot at Odysseus, but he avoids it. After Telemachus delivers another threatening speech, the suitors are momentarily silenced. Then Agelaus asks Telemachus to tell Penelope to choose the best man and wed him. Telemachus answers that he cannot drive away his own mother without her consent. The men begin laughing, but it is a forced laughter, and the seer Theoclymenus suddenly sees shrouds of death covering their bodies and the walls dripping with blood. They laugh at his warnings, and he leaves the doomed company. Meanwhile, Penelope has heard the words of each one of the men in the halls, for she had set her chair near them.
Odysseus’ endurance is tested here when he sees the insolent maids laughing on their way to sleep with the suitors. He controls his anger with great difficulty, and, in a brilliant epic simile, his growing anger is compared to that of a dog guarding her young ones from a stranger. Later, he endures the goatherd Melanthius’ taunts and escapes an ox’s foot that is thrown at him by one of the suitors. All these incidents serve to increase his anger and are needed to justify the cruel slaughter of the suitors soon afterwards. Athene often encourages such taunts, so that they may wound Odysseus’ pride and increase his desire for revenge. An important theme of the epic is Odysseus’ humbling, and these episodes serve this theme’s purpose. The suitors are deplorable beyond belief. They have inflated opinions of themselves and no scruples about getting what they want. Antinous differs from Eurymachus only in being more outspokenly brutal. The others conform to type, except, perhaps, Amphinomus, who has some relics of decency, though not enough to escape death. In the suitors, it is hard not to see an embodiment of a heroic society in decay. This is the generation that did not fight at Troy, and their lack of heroic qualities fits the relatively unheroic temper of The Odyssey. When the doom of the suitors is near and Ctessipus has just thrown an ox’s foot at Odysseus, they are seized with a frenzy of madness, and Theoclymenus in ringing tones foresees their doom. It is an apocalyptic moment, but they are too far gone to recognize their predicament. This is the last scene for Theoclymenus. He has completed his task, which is to forecast events by augury and vision.
The element of the supernatural is more dominant here than anywhere else in the epic. Odysseus prays to Zeus for a good omen, and it is granted. Penelope dreams of a man such as Odysseus lying next to her in bed. The suitors see an eagle with a cowering dove in its clutches, and Theoclymenus has his bloody vision. The doom that is to come upon the suitors is not only brought about by Odysseus, but by the will of the gods themselves. In a chilling commentary at the end of the Book, the poet indicates that they have had a fine lunch in which they have sacrificed many victims and, in doing so, have earned a gruesome supper which will be served to them by “a god and a man.” In addition to showing the suitors’ folly, the dinner scene also reveals the mood of Odysseus’ family. Odysseus bides his time, Telemachus grows angry and impatient, and Penelope is allowed to hear each word the suitors speak, solidifying her distaste for them. Homer brings together all three members of the family in their desire for vengeance on the arrogant, audacious suitors. In a small but important scene, Odysseus meets another well-wisher, Philoetius. He needs all the help he can get in the final slaying of the suitors. There are only a few men to help him in this, but they are loyal and dependable, and Philoetius is no exception.
Penelope goes to the storeroom to get the famous bow and a quiver of arrows so that the contest may begin. As she does this, the poet interweaves the history of the bow. She appears among the suitors and addresses them, agreeing to marry the one who shall most easily string Odysseus’ bow and shoot through all twelve axes. Eumaeus and Philoetius weep on seeing their master’s bow, and Antinous rebukes them. Telemachus digs a trench for all the axes. He nearly strings the bow himself but is stopped by a frowning The suitors decide the order that they will attempt to string the bow. Leiodes tries his hand, but fails. Antinous asks Melanthius to bring a great ball of lard and to light a fire so that they may warm and grease the bow with it. He does this, but none of the suitors are able to bend the bow enough to string it. Meanwhile, Eumaeus, Philoetius, and Odysseus leave the hall. Odysseus tests their loyalties before showing them his scar and revealing his true identity. They are overjoyed to see their master and kiss him lovingly. Odysseus asks Eumaeus to bring him the bow and quiver when they return to the hall and asks Philoetius to bolt and bar the doors. They return as Eurymachus is giving up. Antinous suggests postponing the contest to the next day. After the men agree, Odysseus asks to be allowed to test his strength by stringing the bow. Antinous refuses. Penelope thinks that the beggar should be allowed, as he is a guest, but Telemachus stops her from speaking any further and asks her to go back to her household duties, as the bow is a man’s business. She obeys him. Eumaeus brings the bow to Odysseus and tells Eurycleia to bar the doors of the women’s chamber. Philoetius bars the outer gates of the court. Finally, Odysseus lifts the bow and, after viewing it from every side, easily strings the bow. Zeus thunders forth a blessing, and Odysseus, heartened at the omen, sends a shaft through all twelve axes. Odysseus, signaling with his eyebrows, tells his son it is time for supper. Telemachus grasps his sword and spear and comes and stands by his father.
The epic reaches its climax. Penelope goes to fetch the bow, and, in true epic fashion, its history is related before Penelope brings it into the hall before the suitors. Eumaeus and Philoetius display their affection for their master when they actually cry upon seeing the bow. Antinous continues to be brash and rude and rebukes the two servants for their tears. Telemachus has benefited from his travels and shows his maturity. He urges the suitors not to delay the trial of the bow, and his efficient setting up of the axes impresses everyone. He is on his way to becoming as heroic as his father Odysseus. After a few unsuccessful tries, he nearly strings the bow himself, but this feat is reserved for his father, and he is stopped abruptly by a frown from Odysseus. A difference has to be maintained between Odysseus and Telemachus, and the former still has pre-eminence over the latter. Later in the Book, Telemachus displays his leadership qualities once again, when he stops his mother from speaking any further about the bow. He claims that the power to give or deny the bow rests solely with him. His assumption of responsibility and his self-confidence here are in great contrast to his inexperienced, hesitant self at the start of the epic. At the end of this Book, when he stands beside Odysseus, he seems worthy of a position next to his esteemed father. The fourth recognition of Odysseus takes place in this Book. Odysseus reveals himself to Eumaeus and Philoetius, but only after he has tested their sincerity and loyalty. Odysseus has learned from his wanderings, and he is clever enough not to trust even friends too easily. It is this trait that has enabled him to survive his many adventures and has earned him the adjective “enduring.” Once again, his scar plays an important role in this recognition.
Odysseus strips himself of his rags and kills Antinous with a shot to the throat. The suitors are enraged by this act and threaten to slay him. Odysseus announces who he really is, and the suitors are scared. Eurymachus begs for forgiveness on behalf of all the suitors and promises to recompense him for all the food and drink that has been consumed in the halls. Odysseus refuses and gives the suitors the choice of fighting or fleeing to avoid death. Eurymachus and Amphinomus are the next to die. Telemachus brings shields, spears, and helmets for Odysseus, Philoetius, Eumaeus, and himself. Melanthius, who is on the side of the suitors, brings them arms from the storeroom. Upon seeing this, Odysseus is alarmed and asks Eumaeus and Philoetius to stop him from getting any more weapons. These two tie up Melanthius. Athene appears in the disguise of Mentor to encourage Odysseus, but, wishing to test his strength, she does not give him a clear victory. Agelaus urges the wooers to together throw their spears at Odysseus, but none hit their intended mark. The battle continues and Amphimedon, another suitor, succeeds in wounding Telemachus before the latter kills him. Philoetius strikes the vain Ctessipus. In the midst of the fighting, Athene holds up her destroying aegis – a shield with the Medusa’s head on it – high from the roof. The wooers are scared and flee to the far end of the hall, where they are slaughtered. Leiodes asks for mercy, but Odysseus does not grant it. Only Medon and Phemius, a bard, are spared. Once Odysseus sees that all the enemies are dead, he asks for Eurycleia. She is about to cry aloud for joy but is checked by her master. He wishes to know which of the women have been disloyal and which have kept the honor of the house. The twelve shameless women are brought forth and are made to carry the dead outside and to clean the tables. When the hall has been cleaned and set in order once again, these twelve women are hung by Telemachus on Odysseus’ instructions. Melanthius is led out and killed cruelly. Odysseus then washes himself and purifies the house with sulfur and fire. Meanwhile, Eurycleia goes through the halls to call out the women. They come out and welcome Odysseus with embraces and kisses.
He is moved and longs to weep, The epic reaches its climax in the suitor-slaying scene in this Book. The warrior of The Iliad, who has become the wanderer of The Odyssey, needs all his powers of decision, command, and improvisation to beat the suitors. These he amply displays. The man who kills Dolon in the battle of Troy is not likely to spare the suitors or the servants, male or female, who have worked for them. Odysseus in The Odyssey is a magnified version of Odysseus in The Iliad, but he remains substantially the same man. It is significant that when Odysseus kills the suitors, he has every advantage over them, and though this is due to his foresight, it is not the way in which Achilles would have taken on an enemy. Odysseus does start with something like Achilles’ unforgiving wrath and spurns Eurymachus’ offer to repay his loss. His anger, however, unlike Achilles’, does not last. He spares Phemius and Medon and forbids Eurycleia to whoop in triumph. “It is not holy to exult over dead men,” he says. He sees himself only as the enactor of just punishment. The bloody slaughter of the suitors may dismay the reader slightly, but one has to understand that their punishment is well-deserved and supported by the gods. The hanging of the unfaithful women show that Odysseus is master and king and that no treachery shall be tolerated. The re-establishment of order is completed with the cleaning of the house with sulfur and fire, which symbolizes purification and renewal. Odysseus is once again the rightful master of the house; his mission has finally been accomplished despite many Eumaeus and Philoetius prove to be dependable and are a great help to Odysseus in his battle with the suitors. It is they who tie up Melanthius as he is about to bring out more arms for the suitors. They also fight bravely and are responsible for the deaths of a few suitors. Their presence shows that Odysseus is capable of winning great loyalty. Indeed, the party of Odysseus in Ithaca is held together by loyalty to him and hatred of the suitors. It is interesting to note that Athene aids Odysseus so long as he is courageous and heroic. She chides him with wrathful words when she sees him weakening. While she does offer him help, she does not allow his victory to be too easy. Odysseus is being tested, and this fight against the suitors, who are greater in number than Odysseus’ party, is a part of his test.
Finally, the women come forth from the chamber to greet Odysseus with embraces and kisses. The conspicuous absence of Penelope builds anticipation for the reunion of husband and wife, which finally takes place in the next Eurycleia goes to the upper chamber to awaken Penelope and to let her know of her husband’s long-awaited return. Penelope refuses to believe her initially and is only somewhat convinced when told that the beggar guest was actually Odysseus in disguise, noting that it may very well be a god finally taking vengeance upon the suitors. She is not even convinced by the mention of Odysseus’ scar. She now goes down to the hall but stands apart from Odysseus. Telemachus rebukes her for being hard-hearted, but Penelope replies that she will only recognize Odysseus when they share some secret unknown to the others. Odysseus smiles at this and tells Telemachus to bathe and then arrange for a feast and dancing so that the slaughter of the suitors may remain hidden. Penelope tests Odysseus by telling Eurycleia to move Odysseus’ bed and set it up for him outside the bridal chamber. This is not possible as, Odysseus had himself constructed the bridal chamber around an olive tree and had made the bed out of its stump. When Odysseus describes the chamber in detail, Penelope accepts him to be truly her husband and finally embraces him. As they talk and weep, Athene stays the dawn for them so that they can have more time together. Odysseus tells Penelope about Tiresias’ predictions and warns her that their troubles are not over. They take to their bed, make love, and tell each other of their suffering and adventures before falling asleep. Finally, Athene has the sun rise and awaken Odysseus. He asks Penelope to look after the house and remain in the upper chamber with the other women while he goes to see his father Laertes at his farm. He arms himself with weapons of war and goes along with Telemachus, Eumaeus, and Philoetius. Though there is light over the earth, Athene hides them in night and quickly conducts them out of the town.
The suitors have been slain and it is now time for the fifth and most important recognition to take place. It is that between Odysseus and Penelope. An entire Book is devoted to the reunion between husband and wife. The signs that have satisfied others do not satisfy Penelope. It is not without reason that she is called “wise” and “enduring.” The long years of waiting have made her suspicious, and rightly so. While Telemachus rebukes her for being hard- hearted, the reader can somewhat sympathize with this woman who does not wish to be fooled either by mortals or gods. She tests the stranger by telling Eurycleia to move Odysseus’ bed, but the stranger knows that Penelope and he have their own special, secret bed made from the stump of an olive tree in the heart of the palace. This is highly appropriate, as Odysseus and Penelope are man and wife, and the bed is an intimate symbol of their union. When Penelope finally accepts Odysseus, the reader is gladdened. They retire to the bed, and now Penelope exhibits the same curiosity that characterizes her husband. She wants to know all about his adventures, and he obliges her with the tale, although he tactfully omits his infidelities. It is not difficult to imagine, however, that Penelope will get the full story sooner or later. Two great Alexandrine scholars, Aristarchus and Aristophanes, have regarded the union of Odysseus and Penelope in the place of their old bed as the proper end of The Odyssey. They may have had external evidence that some good manuscripts ended at this point, or they may have made their decision on the strength of anomalies of narrative and language in the text after this point. It cannot be denied that the text takes on a different tone once they retire to bed, and it is unlikely that the primary poet of The Odyssey composed this part. Still, that does not deprive it of significance. It shows that someone felt that the end of The Odyssey called for some sort of an epilogue. The Odyssey might have had a satisfactory end when Odysseus and Penelope go to bed, but the added passages and the Book that follows do have their own advantages Athene once again plays the role of the guardian angel effectively. She lengthens the duration of the night so that Odysseus and Penelope can prolong the joy of talk and love, a generous and touching gesture. The next morning, she has the sun rise only when she feels Odysseus and Penelope have had enough sleep. She further aids Odysseus by helping him and his party leave Hermes leads the souls of the suitors to the Hall of Hades.
The souls of Achilles, Partroclus, Antilochus, and Ajax watch as they arrive. Agamemnon tells Achilles about Achilles’ death and funeral, which he witnessed, and laments his own uncelebrated death. When the suitors come up to them, Agamemnon questions Amphimedon about his and the others’ death, and Amphimedon recounts the long tale. Agamemnon praises Penelope’s loyalty to Odysseus in contrast to Clytemnestra’s treachery. In the land of the living, Odysseus and his company reach Laertes’ house. Odysseus asks Telemachus to prepare for the midday meal while he goes to the vineyard to see whether his father will recognize him. He finds his father digging a plant and only reveals himself to him after relating a false story about himself and saying that he had met the hero Odysseus five years prior. When Laertes groans at the mention of his son, Odysseus embraces and kisses him and tells him who he really is. Now Laertes tests his son, and Odysseus convinces him by showing him his scar and telling him about the trees that Laertes had given him when he was a child. Both go back to the house, and Laertes bathes. He is made to look more impressive by Athene. They sit down to eat, and Dolius and his sons embrace Odysseus. Meanwhile, in the city, the people bury the suitors and then gather together at the assembly place. Eupeithes, Antinous’ father, urges the Achaeans to avenge the death of the noble young men. Medon and Halitherses try to persuade the people not to fight with Odysseus and his company, but they are more inclined towards Eupeithes’ suggestion. Athene asks Zeus what he has in mind concerning the Ithacans, and he replies that he would like to see the feud end and the two opposing sides to be brethren once again. The townspeople now arrive at the farm to fight and Odysseus’ party comes out to meet them. Athene, disguised once again as Mentor, urges Laertes to throw his spear, and he does. It kills Eupeithes, and then Odysseus and Telemachus fall upon their attackers and begin slaughtering them. Athene stops the fighting, but Odysseus hurls himself on the fleeing enemy with a terrible cry. Zeus casts forth a flaming bolt of lightning at Athene’s feet, and she stops Odysseus with a threat. The hero obeys her, and she sets a covenant between the two opposing parties in the guise of Mentor.
This is the last and final Book of the epic. It wraps up the few remaining threads of the story. Some feel that it is a sort of epilogue and that the epic could have logically ended when Odysseus and Penelope go to bed. The reader may ask what advantages, if any, are gained by the addition. There are in The Odyssey two passages where Homer presents ghosts of the dead, and each includes some chief figures of The Iliad. This Book contains the second passage, where the ghosts of the suitors are escorted by Hermes to the land of the dead. This passage does have a part in the whole plan of The Odyssey, though it is a later addition; it clearly reinforces several themes of the work. First of all, the importance of Penelope’s virtue is underscored by Agamemnon’s comment that Odysseus is indeed fortunate to have a wife like Penelope and very unlike Clytemnestra. Secondly, the parade of the ghosts of Troy provides a final curtain for great figures of The Iliad and of the heroic age itself. Thirdly, there is a striking contrast between the glorious death of the heroic Achilles and the miserable careers of the suitors. They are at the other extreme from the true nobility of the heroic ideal. The Odyssey, like The Iliad, stresses what real heroes are. Odysseus meets Laertes in the country. The reader feels that Odysseus carries his suspicion and curiosity too far when he wishes to test his own father. Odysseus still has the energy and inclination to recite yet another long and false tale about himself in order to gauge Laertes’ reaction. It is only when Laertes groans that his son takes pity on him and reveals his true identify. He proves himself first by the scar and then by his knowledge of Laertes’ orchard, which he had helped to plant. All these recognitions have a certain simplicity. The scar does the most work because it arises from the oldest tradition. The accumulation of six recognitions suggests that there were many variants in the traditional story and that Homer gave a subordinate purpose to some which might have been of primary importance in earlier versions.
Although Odysseus emerges as a hero in his own right in these final Books, the importance of the role of the gods and fate cannot be ignored. Athene asks Zeus what he plans for the Ithacans, and whatever he decides will take place. Eupeithes has managed to convince the people into a desire for revenge on the suitors’ slayers. Despite Halitherses’ and Medon’s arguments, the townspeople march towards the farm. It is here that the irregularity in this Book becomes apparent. Athene has just talked to Zeus and knows that he desires peace at Ithaca, but it is she who first draws near them in the guise of Mentor. Odysseus is encouraged by this and asks Telemachus to uphold his ancestors’ honor in the subsequent battle. Moreover, Athene encourages Laertes to throw the spear that kills Eupeithes. Only after Odysseus and his men are destroying the enemy does she stop the fighting. One wonders why she has encouraged it in the first place. Odysseus still needs to be controlled. He hurls himself at the opposing party, and only Athene’s threat, after Zeus throws forth a bolt of lightning, can stop him. It is the gods who finally control events, and the Book ends with Athene setting a covenant of peace. The fight between the suitors’ kinsmen and Odysseus indicates that the slaying was not as final as it seemed, and it may have provided a start for new adventures in which Odysseus leaves Ithaca. The continuation suggests that the poet would like to prolong the story. He clearly has a gift for touching narrative, as shown by the scene between Laertes and Odysseus. But this Book as a whole is at variance with the main poem, and the reader realizes that this final Book lacks strength.
Odysseus is driven to many wanderings during which he sees many wonders and endures many sufferings. Part of the poet’s theme is the vicissitudes that have fostered the hero’s multi-faceted character. Yet, Odysseus’ adventures are not random, for they reach a goal that in him implies unity of character. Many various strands, however, are interwoven to reveal the various traits of this hero. He can be clever, as seen when he tricks the Polyphemus by calling himself No-Body. He can be deceitful, as seen when he disguises himself as a beggar in Ithaca. He is always enduring, as seen in his refusal to give up during any of his struggles. The cleverness, deceitfulness, and endurance Odysseus also has an eye for wealth and adventure, traits that are common to all Homeric heroes. He welcomes the Phaecian gifts with unconcealed pleasure and enthusiasm; he is also pleased to see Penelope trick the suitors into presenting her with gifts. Just as he welcomes riches, Odysseus also welcomes adventure, often seeking it out. He chooses to go to Polyphemus’ cave and refuses to plug his ears, for he wants to hear the song of the Sirens. In truth, it is a search for wealth and glory that causes Odysseus to ever leave A wide variety of epithets are used to describe Odysseus. He is “wise hearted,” “bold,” “glorious,” and “god-like,” but is also “son of Laertes” and “Ithacan.” The latter two epithets are more basic to the story. The former traits are seen in the suitor-slaying episode, where Odysseus starts with something like Achilles’ unforgiving wrath and spurns Eurymachus’ plea for forgiveness. His anger, unlike Achilles’, however, does not last. He spares the herald Medon and the bard Phemius, and he forbids Eurycleia to whoop in triumph Odysseus’ dual character, as both wise man and hero, persists in the climax. After long trials, Odysseus realizes the value and sanctity of home. The sanctity of these ephemeral securities can only be understood by a man like him who can measure them in the context of the wide world – its perils, glories, and temptations. He is the hero, defending the last human possibility, and the epithets “Ithacan” and “son of Laertes” assert that he is not simply vindicating common civil order. In having seen the underworld and renouncing Calypso’s proffered immortality, he alone has fully regained what the other fated Iliadic heroes lost. In the climactic suitor-slaying scene, he acts as a powerful man, but he also understands as the tested man.
The trait of endurance that marks Odysseus is mirrored in his wife Penelope, who is unwilling either to reject or to accept marriage. The former choice would endanger her son’s life and property, while the latter would end her hope of reunion with her husband. It is for this loyalty to her husband’s memory that she is praised in comparison to Clytemnestra’s infidelity. Like her husband, Penelope is also seen as clever. She is able to trick the suitors and delay a decision of marriage by carefully knitting Laertes’ shroud by day and removing the stitches at night. Since the shroud is never finished, she is able to postpone a decision about matrimony. Penelope does not allow herself to sink into black despair at the thought of Odysseus’ misfortune. She rises from her inertia when the time comes for action and decision. She appears before the suitors and announces that she will marry the one who can string Odysseus’ bow and send the arrow through the twelve axes. Her primary purpose is to try and get rid of the suitors and to buy time, for she knows that none of them can pass the test. While her suffering does chasten her out of superficial optimism, it does not, however, sink her into an incapacitating melancholy. Though she doubts the beggar’s prediction about Odysseus’ homecoming, she acts upon it, declaring her intention of marrying the man who can string Odysseus’ bow. This expresses her inspired compromise between doubt and hope, between her memory of Odysseus’ old command and her faith in today’s signs. Her thoughts and dreams each night oscillate between duty and desire, and she Penelope is not just heroic, beautiful, chaste, and commanding; she is also human and sometimes filled with doubt. She loves her son and is anxious for his safety. It is for his sake, in fact, that she even thinks of re-marrying. She is also doubtful, especially about Odysseus’ return. Even after he reveals himself to her, Penelope wants proof, which he provides in knowing about the olive In characterizing Penelope, Homer gives up his normal device of describing characters through their setting.
As with Achilles, Homer penetrates her mind. The mystery of her girl-like laughs, her impulsive appearances before the suitors, her beautifying sleep, and her wish to die speak of her complete inwardness, which is seen even through the last scene. In this respect, she offers a striking contrast to Odysseus, whose responses are conveyed through his setting and through what he sees around him. Homer also paints Penelope at a higher level than most of his female characters, who are described as At the beginning of the story, Telemachus is young, inexperienced, unhappy, and helpless. He tells Athene in the guise of Mentes that he is the son of the worst fated of men, and the goddess sketches for him a plan of action. Athene gives Telemachus vitality and confidence and enlivens his father’s memory. On rejoining the suitors after Athene-Mentes’ strange departure, he shows his new confidence by rebuking Penelope. As the goddess has advised, he calls the suitors to an assembly the next day, an act implying kingship. Telemachus has decided to rule at least in his own house. However, at the assembly the next day, his gesture is weak and desperate. The gathering is largely hostile to his plans, and the futile assembly dissolves. Telemachus, however, is not Telemachus travels through much of the poem, and his voyages teach him piety, manners, a sense of a greater past, a hope for a better future, and, by implication, an inkling of what is demanded of a hero. Nestor teaches him to be pious by giving him an idea of what it means to live under the loving guidance of a father. Through his account of Orestes’s revenge of Agamemnon’s murder, Nestor shows him where his duty lies vis–vis the suitors. And the same story related in detail by Menelaus also teaches him how to value Penelope, his silent, suffering, and heroic mother. He will also learn before long what hardships have made of his father. He will see in him the severity of a man who has come to meaningful terms with life, home, and even death.
He learns that those who seek adventure will turn out to be heroes and wise men, and those who remain at home will degenerate like the suitors, who live meanly and die disgracefully. His encounter with Helen will also show him how she, a woman of intensity and Iliadic dimension, is also a woman of sorrow and guilt. She is divine, but has no peace, whereas the unhappy but faithful Penelope obtains peace after cruel trials. Through his travels and his reunion with his father, Telemachus learns what true heroism is. By the end of the poem, he understands the active heroism of Odysseus, who seeks to conquer the world, and the passive heroism of Penelope, who preserves the home for the hero. On Odysseus’ return, Telemachus proves he has matured into a heroic young man, worthy of being Odysseus’ son and The gods are treated with a different intention in The Odyssey than in The Iliad. In the latter epic, their interventions and frivolous actions provide a contrast to the destructiveness and dangers of heroic life. In this poem, the gods are treated in a more calculated way. While the gods do occasionally judge human actions, the dominant role played by them is to offer challenge and protection to Odysseus. The goddess Athene becomes his chief protector, and she is seldom far away from her hero or his son. She instills confidence into Telemachus and aids him in his travels. She continually aids Odysseus, giving him advice and practical assistance. In the climactic scene of the slaughter of the suitors, she actually deflects weapons aimed at him and frightens his adversaries by flashing her shield from the roof. Although her character as a virgin goddess does not allow for a romantic relationship with Odysseus, she does hold him in great admiration and affection. At many places it may seem that she is in love with this enduring mortal, but she is not. They treat each other as equals, as when he recalls her kindness to him at Troy, or she praises him for his cunning. Athene’s role is not just that of aiding Odysseus; she also helps in his development as a character, teaching him patience, humility, and restraint. From her first act of assistance to her final peacemaking, she is largely responsible for the development and conclusion of the plot.
On certain occasions, the reader wonders whether Odysseus and his son could ever be heroes without Athene’s help. It is important to consider, however, that at many critical points they do act alone and that they would not be helped by her at all unless they were worthy of it. Indeed, some critics feel that Odysseus’ relationship with Athene enhances his position as a heroic survivor in an unheroic world. The reader may decide otherwise, but the fact remains that the Homeric poems have no other parallel to so close a relationship between a goddess and a mortal. Though later Greek literature occasionally allows such friendships, it makes much less of them than Homer.
Calypso’s island, the reader learns at the start of the poem, has grown tedious to Odysseus. He would gladly die if he could see the smoke leaping up in his native land. For eight years, Odysseus has lived in Ogygia, an enchanted land of marvelous beauty. Yet Odysseus longs to leave Calypso for the world of his home – the world that shows beneath Penelope’s clouded beauty. Calypso loves Odysseus deeply and sincerely. She expresses a chaffing regret when she learns that the gods at Olympus disapprove of her love for a mortal and that Zeus commands that she release Odysseus. She offers to help him leave her island; yet she also wants him to live with her forever, ageless and immortal. There is an endearing simplicity about her in her reliance on her love and beauty. Despite her charms and the promise of immortality, Odysseus chooses Penelope and Ithaca. He acknowledges the privilege of living with her, but cannot remain with her. He is a mortal and must choose a mortal life, even though it promises sorrow and pain. Calypso represents the outer oblivion just as Circe represents the inner. To accept the immortality that she offers is to forego one’s identity, and Odysseus will not give this up after what he has learned about it. The quiet period of his eight years with her conveys his near entrance into timelessness. His leaving of the goddess and his subsequent recovering of his old heroic power at Scheria indicates his rebirth into humanity. He now knows both timeless nature and death, and he will act with this double knowledge when he reaches If Ogygia was timeless, Scheria has the brightness (and some of the sorrows) of youth.
Nausicaa, Alcinous’ daughter, has a dream of approaching marriage that Athene sends her. The goddess suggests she go to the river, on the pretext of washing clothes, where she might find a husband. Nausicaa charmingly conceals from her parents her real intention in going to the river. She displays virtuous concern that her brothers should have clean linen for their dances and asks her father for the mule cart. Alcinous can understand her reasons for going. The father in him comes through clearly. Nausicaa meets Odysseus and brings him towards the city. She shows a charmingly practical mind when she asks Odysseus to accompany them only to the edge of the city, but no further. This is because she fears gossip. She imagines people looking through her hopes of marriage with the god-like stranger. She also resents the affronts of local suitors. Yet she does admit that she would herself think ill of a girl who thus brought home a stranger. She ends her instructions to Odysseus with advice to seek out her mother. She, if All happens as Nausicaa has said. When Odysseus is about to enter the banquet, he sees her again, standing, as did Penelope, by a pillar, which reminds him of home. She bids him not to forget her in his own country. He replies that he will pray to her there all his days as to a goddess. Throughout his travels, characters disappear as the hero moves on, but this final sight of Nausicaa is exceptional. She is not only important for the plot, but also for the mood of renewal at Scheria. Her love for Odysseus comes to nothing.
But her disappointed hope is more than made up for by her health, youth, and vitality. She will someday lose what Odysseus has already lost, but he will retain the The suitors are close to being the “antagonists” in the poem, but since Odysseus does not know about them until the end, they become only one of his many challenges in this epic drama. They are a group of noble princes from Ithaca and nearby isles who begin to woo Penelope and, in the process, stay at her palace. Their stay there corrupts the household and wastes the property. For this, they blame Penelope herself for giving them false messages The suitors are over a hundred in number and are described more in terms of their collective qualities. They have an inflated opinion of themselves and no scruples about getting what they want. Initially, they feast with Telemachus and are not intimidated by him. Their attitude towards him is that of amusement. They do not take his anger at their indulgences seriously and often mock him. At an assembly at Ithaca, Telemachus feels so helpless in comparison to them that he cries. The situation starts changing once Telemachus leaves to find news of his father. The suitors and the other Ithacans do not help him in obtaining a ship for his travels. They are surprised to learn that he has arranged for a ship himself and is already at Pylos. At this point, they begin to take him seriously and are sufficiently scared of him to plot his death. The decision puts them grievously in the wrong. The misbehavior of the suitors is a topic of conversation for both Eumaeus and Telemachus, who separately inform Odysseus of their villainy. He sees it for himself from Book 17 onwards, and his desire for vengeance increases. They insult the disguised Odysseus and encourage his fight with Irus, another common beggar. He, in turn, notes their indulgences and advises one of them, Amphinomus, to leave the palace and stop wasting wealth that does not belong to him. Amphinomus is one of the only suitors who possesses some decency, but even he refuses to leave. The others conform to their typical crass behavior. Antinous differs from Eurymachus only in being more brutally outspoken. Ctessipus throws an ox’s foot at Odysseus, and Agelaus leads the suitors against the hero in battle. Leiodes, a soothsayer, is the first among the suitors to try and string Odysseus’ bow. He has refrained from outright villainy but is nevertheless punished by Odysseus.
What in the suitor-slaying episode appears as justice is rather the proof and manifestation of a god-given order. Odysseus is destined to find “trouble at home” when he aggravates Poseidon’s wrath. In dealing with the suitors in the guise of a beggar, Odysseus is humbled, but must still act as the powerful In the last Book, the ghosts of the suitors meet some of the heroes of The Iliad. Amphinomus relates the tale of their doom and admits that the suitors were in the wrong. Though this passage is thought to be a later addition, it does have a part in the whole plan of The Odyssey. Achilles hears of his own death and funeral from Agamemnon. The Muses had sung of it and the ceremony was a fitting climax to a heroic life. The suitors present a complete antithesis to it. Their ignominious deaths are the proper end to their squalid careers. The contrast between the death and glory of Achilles, immortalized in song, and the miserable careers of the suitors is striking. The suitors are at the other extreme from the true nobility of the heroic ideal. Eumaeus is the most special among all the servants of Odysseus. His character delineation by Homer is deliberate and serves the purpose of humanizing Odysseus. The hero stays with Eumaeus upon reaching Ithaca, and the bond that he shares with the swineherd is a compassionate and a touching one. They talk at great length. While Odysseus relates fictitious tales about himself, Eumaeus recounts his true life history. Odysseus consoles the servant. Eumaeus reveals his love for and concern about his master Odysseus. He is one of the few servants who genuinely prays for his master’s return. When Odysseus stays with him, disguised as a beggar, Eumaeus talks about the misbehavior of the suitors with disgust. He wishes that Odysseus would return to seize his rightful place with Penelope. Eumaeus’ concern for the disguised beggar Odysseus, his generosity in giving him a mantle, and his reluctance in letting him go to the city to beg also indicate that he is a large-hearted, sincere man. On recognizing Odysseus, he helps him dutifully. He becomes an important part of Odysseus’ party against the suitors. Telemachus, too, treats him with respect and addresses him as “father.” Eumaeus and Eurycleia represent the loyalty that a hero such as Odysseus is capable of winning. At the end, when Odysseus promises Eumaeus a house, a wife, and a higher status in return for his help, the reader feels these rewards are well deserved.
At a cursory glance, it would seem that The Odyssey has a totally traditional structure. The first four Books are largely expository and expound the themes of the poem. The rising action begins in Book 5 and continues until the climax in Book 22, when Odysseus slays the suitors. The falling action occurs in the next chapter when Odysseus is reunited with Penelope. The final chapter, which was probably added at a date late than the rest of the poem, is the conclusion or denouement. Within this standard framework, however, there are innovations that make this epic different. References to the past repeatedly penetrate the present, especially in Books 9-12, where Odysseus narrates his previous adventures. At these times, the linear narration is not maintained, and the reader learns not only about the events that follow the council of the gods that open the work but also about people and events of the past. Some critics maintain that The Odyssey has a cyclic structure. Books 1-4 are concerned with human drama, Books 5-12 are on a more fabulous, incredible, and exalted scale, and Books 13-24 once again revert to human drama and tell the age-old tale of the hero’s return and vengeance. The Odyssey begins with the traditional invocation to the Muse, after which the story begins. The first four Books emphasize the general plight of Ithaca and the particular plight of Penelope and Telemachus in the absence of Odysseus. They build up the need for Odysseus’ return and a growing assurance of it.
In Books 5 to 8, the tale of Odysseus’ departure from Ogygia and his arrival and welcome in Phaecia are told in the third person with outstanding objectivity. These Books provide a skillful transition to the wonders that are to follow. The events are not yet marvelous. Odysseus shows his physical prowess by swimming in a rough sea for two days and two nights and his resourcefulness by winning the help of the Phaecian royal family. In Books 9 to 12, the more extravagant actions are told by Odysseus himself. He recounts those adventures in the two years between the fall of Troy and his captivity on Calypso’s island. The reader is brought back to the present whenOdysseus reaches Ithaca in Book 13. He is disguised as a beggar and stays with Eumaeus, a swineherd. His reunion with his son takes place in Book 16. Now Homer moves through a series of recognitions, each separate and distinct and marking a step forward. The climax is reached in Book 22, when Odysseus reveals himself to the suitors and proceeds to slay them. The outcome of Odysseus’ journey is wrapped up in the last two Books. Penelope and Laertes accept him after initial doubts and the feud between the suitors’ kinsmen and Odysseus’ supporters is stopped by the gods. There is also another view of the underworld, re-introducing characters from The Iliad. The traditional plot has been elevated to an epic scale by the inclusion of this larger canvas and the mention of other legends and stories outside Odysseus’ The major theme of this poem of action is stated in the Invocation to the Muse. The Muse is asked to speak about the adventures of “the man of many devices.” Since the hero of The Odyssey is not named at this stage, it indicates that his story is a familiar one. It is true that Odysseus and the stories of his adventures and final vengeance on the suitors are central to this epic poem, as stated by the Muse, but The Odyssey is much more than a simple tale of adventure. Odysseus’ character undergoes major changes through the narrative. In the adventures with the Cicones, the Laestrygonians, and the Cyclops, he is a typical Greek hero who is proud, even impatient, at times. By the end, when disguised as a beggar at Ithaca, he has to restrain his anger and patiently endure the impudent behavior of the suitors and the disloyal servants. Throughout the poem he has been continually tested, and his trials have taught him a lesson in humility and patience. In dealing with the suitors, he is not as reckless as he was when he entered the cave of the giant, Polyphemus.
In the battle with the suitors, he is still not perfect, and Athene chides him for his weakness and does not let him win too easily. Even at the very end of the poem, the goddess intervenes against the proud Odysseus and prevents him from striking the suitors’ kinsmen; the humbled Odysseus has no choice but to obey. Homer, the poet of action, proves through this epic drama that he also has great skill in developing characters. He gives meaningful insight into the changes that occur in Odysseus through his adventures. Odysseus’ growth and maturation is, therefore, an important theme of the epic. Another very important theme of The Odyssey is the relationship that Odysseus has to The Iliad. Nestor, Menelaus, and Helen relate episodes from the Trojan War to his son Telemachus. Nestor recounts the tale of his return to Pylos, whereas Menelaus tells of his own journey back to Sparta. Odysseus himself goes to the Hall of Hades and meets some of the warriors he has known during the Trojan fighting. He summons the ghosts with an offering of blood. Among those who appear are Agamemnon, Achilles, and Ajax. The parade of the ghosts of Troy provides a final curtain for great figures of The Iliad and of the heroic age. Later, when the ghosts of the suitors are escorted by Hermes to the land of the dead, they are also met by some of the heroes of The Iliad, notably Achilles and Agamemnon. The contrast between the two groups stresses what real heroes are and provides a final bow for the Iliadic heroes. It is not without reason, therefore, that this epic has been considered a sequel to The Iliad, for in The Odyssey the reader learns of the fate of the Iliadic characters. Agamemnon’s cruel killing by Aegisthus especially highlights the danger that Odysseus may face in his own return.
The supernatural elements in the epic constitute another distinct theme. Foremost are the gods, who take part in the affairs of humans. Athene especially plays a crucial role in assisting Odysseus throughout the poem. She is there to aid in protect her hero in almost every adventure. Apart from the role of the gods, the supernatural element takes the form of omens, signs, and dreams. Telemachus and Peisistratus see an omen while leaving Sparta, and at Ithaca nearly all the characters witness omens. Penelope also dreams symbolic dreams. Both Circe and Tiresias prophesy, while Theoclymenus is a soothsayer who whole purpose in the epic is to forecast events and interpret signs. The last element of the supernatural is the role of fate. Many events take place because they are ordained, and it is interesting to witness this larger Telemachus’ growth is also fundamental to the work. At the beginning, he is unhappy and helpless. His travels teach him to live and work like a hero, and, on Odysseus’ return, he fulfills his duties as the son of a hero should. From a helpless young man who breaks into tears at an assembly, he transforms into a hero who nearly strings his father’s bow. Moreover, he appears ready to compete with him in heroic capability. This development in his personality is undoubtedly one of the themes of the poem. The theme of endurance is also central to the epic. It is one of Odysseus’ chief characteristics, but it is what marks Penelope and makes her special. Because of her ability to endure, she knits the shroud by day and pulls out the stitches by night, never finishing the garment because she does not want to reject or to accept marriage.
The first choice would endanger her son’s life and go against her husband’s wishes, for he told her to remarry if he did not return; the second choice would end her hope of reunion with her husband. It is this steadfastness and loyalty to her husband’s memory that wins her praise from Agamemnon’s soul. Throughout the epic her behavior is contrasted with that of Clytemnestra, who caused her husband Agamemnon’s death. Odysseus, not fully trusting women, is wary of Penelope’s behavior in his absence; but Penelope proves to be loyal and enduring, and Odysseus need not fear her treachery. Penelope’s endurance, accompanied by her chastity and courage, makes her heroic in her own right and forms yet another theme of The The suitors occupy more than half of the poem, and their degeneracy is one of its themes. They are men of the younger generation who have not fought in the Trojan War and who do not possess heroic traits; instead, they are island chiefs and princes, who are impressed with themselves and who begin to woo Penelope in the sixth year after the fall of Troy. They greedily use up her property and vex her son Telemachus, who is too young to help. While Penelope pines at home amidst her wasting possessions, the suitors spread corruption in her household. They eat her food, sleep with her servants and plot Telemachus’ death. They are depicted as truly despicable characters, a total contrast to the brave and heroic Odysseus and the faithful Penelope. Their punishment by Odysseus is well deserved and inevitable. The suitors’ ignominious deaths are the proper end to their squalid careers, and, in the end, when their souls are in the Hall of Hades, their miserable qualities are contrasted with the true heroism of the Iliadic heroes. Circe and Calypso both belong to the ancient theme of the witch who detains the hero’s return. The differences between the two are great. Circe is subdued by the superior cunning and courage of Odysseus and, after admitting her defeat, welcomes him into her home. Her devotion to him is complete.
Odysseus is with Circe for a year and then released without complaint. He is with Calypso for eight years, and she lets him go graciously but unhappily. There is nothing sinister about Calypso, while Circe possesses a sinister glamour at the start. The adventure with Circe is exciting for its own sake and appropriate to the hero on his wanderings. The sojourn with Calypso has much charm and beauty, but lacks dramatic variety. It is needed to fill a gap of time in the story, for Odysseus is to be away from home for twenty years. By the time of his shipwreck and the loss of all his companions, only twelve years have passed, and the remaining eight have to be accounted for. Homer does this very cleverly by confining him to Calypso’s island, where nothing can be heard of him and his fate remains a mystery. The loyalty that Odysseus is capable of winning is another one of the themes of the epic. Not only does he win the heart of the Phaecians at Scheria, who help him to reach Ithaca, he is also helped in the slaughter of the suitors by his faithful servants. Odysseus’ relationship with Eumaeus is distinctively presented by Homer. The hero stays at the swineherd’s house, and they converse a great deal. Later, the faithful Eumaeus plays a key role in the slaying of the suitors. Aligned to Eumaeus is the cowherd Philoetius, who is also loyal to Odysseus. Among the women servants, Eurycleia is the most distinct. She had nursed Odysseus as a baby, and she recognizes him by his scar. She is the only woman servant whom Odysseus trusts. She points out the disloyal maidservants to Odysseus and nearly whoops with triumph when she sees the dead suitors.
All three, Eumaeus, Philoetius, and Eurycleia, represent what Odysseus is capable of winning – love, respect, steadfastness, and loyalty. Such loyal servants characteristically belong to an epic hero such as Homer covers a wide range of human experiences in the poem and moves easily among them, from the heroic and bold to the domestic and serene. He would not have maintained his wonderful directness of approach if he had not sung to a listening audience and felt himself bound to make everything beautifully clear. In exploiting a wider range of themes than other heroic poets, he may have been helped by the antiquity and wealth of the Greek poetical tradition, which accumulated stories over a long period and reflected In The Odyssey, Homer invites his audience to share the emotions at work and enter into the spirit of the characters. He does this by concentrating on a single mood at a time, which allows him to maintain a simplicity of poetic effect. Every episode has, on the whole, a single character, but once it is finished, the reader may expect something quite different in the next. When Odysseus strings the bow, the reader is held in tense expectation, but the whole situation moves forward with increasing excitement as he first shoots an arrow down the line of the axes and then throws off his rags and announces his new task of vengeance.
The tone is suddenly changed and then maintained for the new action. More exciting, but equally well maintained, is the small episode in which Odysseus is attacked by the dogs and rescued by the swineherd. The different elements are fused into a single whole that has a character different both from what precedes and from what succeeds it. The straightforward, direct movement of the narrative is enhanced by Homer’s eye for detail and his small touches that throw a vivid light on what happens. One such touch occurs when Menelaus tells how Helen walked around the wooden horse at Troy and addressed the Achaean leaders by imitating the voices of their wives. The reader can believe this of Helen, but the event is told of so simply that the reader does not realize immediately how illuminating it is. Another small touch, tragic, but deeply touching, is that of the dog Argus, who recognizes Odysseus after twenty years and then dies. Although he has suffered, his death is the appropriate end at the right time. In such cases, a detail adds something highly individual and yet illuminating. Such details are more effective when they strengthen some display of emotion or affection. They are as necessary to the heroic outlook as any kind of physical prowess, for they provide the hero with a solid background and bind Bibliography:pinkmonkey.com
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