It is considered an EPIC, a long narrative poem that traces the adventures of a hero (originally recited orally).
  • This story is said to have been written by the blind minstrel HOMER, probably around 700 B.C.
  • The journey of Odysseus from Troy to Ithaca takes ten years...the same amount of time that the Trojan War itself lasted. The extraordinary length of Odysseus' return trip, which should take a matter of weeks, is due to his many antagonists, including the god
    oseidon, the many mythical creatures he encounters, and Odysseus' often greedy and lazy crewmen.
  • Odysseus is considered to be an EPIC HERO—a legendary figure who usually represents the goals and virtues of an entire nation or culture.
  • Odysseus's most memorable quality is not his bravery or strength — though he is brave and strong — but rather his cleverness.


Epic Invocation

"Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns,

driven time and again off course, once he had plundered,
the hallowed heights of Troy.
Many cities of men he saw and learned their minds,
many pains he suffered, heartsick on the open sea,
fighting to save his life and bring his comrades home.
But he could not save them from disaster, hard as he strove—
the recklessness of their own ways destroyed them all,
the blind fools, they devoured the cattle of the Sun,
and the Sungod blotted out the day of their return.
Launch out on his story, Muse, daughter of Zeus,
start from where you will—sing for our time too."

The Odyssey begins with an epic invocation, an appeal to one of the muses, the nine goddesses of the arts. The ancient audience was already familiar with the legend of Odysseus and therefore knew the plot. The man in line 1 is obviously Odysseus. The adventure described involves his return home after the Trojan War. Shakespeare does the same with Romeo and Juliet, telling the entire story in the prologue by means o
f a sonnet. As with all epics, the narration of The Odyssey begins in media res, which literally means in the middle of. The major events of Odysseus' journey are told by Odysseus to Alcinous via flashbacks.

Breakdown of Odyssey Episodes:
Island of the Cicones
Odysseus landed on the Island of the Cicones after the Trojan War. His men raided the island and pillaged its luxuries. Odysseus urged his men to take what was needed and leave quickly, but they did not listen; their greed kept them on the island. As they were looting, the Cicones' army attacked Odysseus's men while they were busy enjoying themselves in a drunken stupor. Odysseus's men were fighting a losing battle, but they fought on bravely. Six benches of men on each ship were lost.

Island of the Lotus Eaters
After the Island of the Cicones, Odysseus landed on the Island of the Lotus Eaters. The Lotus is a plant that forces the eater to lose all grip on reality. Once it is eaten, the person knows nothing nor cares for anything other than eating the lotus plant. Odysseus sent in two men to scout out the area. When they did not come back, Odysseus sent in to find them. He found the two men hopelessly addicted to eating the lotus plant. Odysseus tied the two men up and forced them into the ship against their will and sails away.

Island of the Cyclopes
Odysseus then lands on an Island populated with bloodthirsty Cyclopes. The men land here out of desparation; they need water and food. Odysseus and his men go to explore a large cave that was just found, but little do they know of the peril that awaits. Inside, they find a cache of cheese and wine. Despite his men's constant pleading, Odysseus decides to stay in the cave, awaiting its owner's return. A huge, lumbering Cyclops enters the cave as they are feasting, and he is not very happy about the intruders. Polyphemus, the Cyclops, eats two of Odysseus's men. Odysseus becomes worried. Later, Odysseus formulates a very cunning plan. He tells the Cyclops his name is Nohbdy, intoxicates the Cyclops, then blinds him while Polyphemus is sleeping. Polyphemus shouts, "Nobody blinded me!" so no one comes to his aid. Then Odysseus and his men escape from the cave by hiding under Polyphemus's sheep.

Odysseus next lands on Aeolia, home of Aeolus, god of the winds. Aeolus bottles up all of the bad winds and gives Odysseus the bag filled with them. He did this to make his journey home safe. With Ithaca in sight, Odysseus's men become greedy and decide to open the bag. This causes the winds to blow them back to Aeolia. Aeolus sends them on their way because he fears their journey is cursed by the gods.Aeolus-the-heroes-of-olympus-18370902-278-182.jpg

Island of the Laestragonians
Odysseus's next stop was the Island of the Laestragonians. Here his men were ravaged by ravenous cannibals. They ate all but one ship of Odysseus's men.

After the run-in with the Laestragonians, Odysseus lands on Aeaea, home to Circe. Odysseus sends some of his men to scout out the area, but when they do not return, he becomes worried. All of Odysseus's men do not return, so Odysseus himself sets off to see why. On the way, he is confronted by Hermes. Hermes tells him that Circe is up ahead and that his only chance of survival is to eat the plant Moly. Odysseus hesitates; Moly is poisonous. Nevertheless, he eats it. Odysseus makes short work out of Circe because her spells have no effect on him. Odysseus saves his men and has them returned to their normal state. Circe pleads for them to stay on her island, and Odysseus does this because he was promised information on how to return home. Finally, Circe tells him to go see Tiresias, a prophet located in the underworld.

Odysseus goes to the land of the dead to seek Tiresias. He finds him here, as Circe said. Tiresias tells Odysseus to sail towards Scylla and Carybdis, but to take the route of Scylla. Only six men will be lost as opposed to all of them.

The Sirens
After Tiresias, and a brief stop at Aeaea, Odysseus's men go to the Sirens. The Sirens sing a song that no man can resist to passing ships. Circe gave Odysseus bee's wax to stop the sound, but advised that Odysseus hear it while tied to the mast. Odysseus gives his men the wax and has them tie him up to the mast. The condition he sets is this: if they see him struggle, tie him up tighter. Odysseus hears their irresistible song and struggles against the ropes, but his loyal men tie him tighter. Finally they're out of range, and Odysseus commands them to remove the wax from their ears.

scylla-and-charybdis-bookpalace.jpgAfter the Sirens, Odysseus sails on to Scylla, as Tiresias suggested. When they come into view, Odysseus and his men see a dangerous whirlpool along with an eerie cave. As instructed, Odysseus sails towards the cave. His men are terrified, but they sail on. Then, Scylla strikes. The six-headed-monster devours six of Odysseus's men as all six dangle from its mouth cursing Odysseus. Luckily, the remaining men are safe. They sail on.

Odysseus's next stop is Thrinacia, the island of the sun god's cattle. His men land here and Odysseus warns them to not touch any of the cattle. A storm is raging on, and they are imprisoned on the island with no food. Odysseus goes out to pray for the rain to stop, and he passes out. Meanwhile, his men decided that being smote is a better death than the slow ravaging one of hunger so they kill, eat, and sacrifice part of the cattle. Helios is greatly angered and the cattle, while roasting begin to moo and come alive. Helios beseeches Zeus to punish Odysseus and his men. Zeus does so by destroying Odysseus's ship and killing his men. Odysseus is left alive because Zeus knew that he was not responsible.

Odysseus was left floating on his own ship's wreckage. He floated aimlessly for a very long time, until he finally came back to Scylla and Charybdis. Odysseus was able to avoid both perils, with the help of Zeus and his quick thinking. Zeus saved Odysseus from Scylla by hiding him from Scylla's view. Odysseus saved himself from Charybdis by grabbing hold of a fig tree and waiting for his ship's wreckage to resurface.

Odysseus continued to float after his encounter with Scylla and Charybdis. He eventually ended up on the island of Ogygia, home of Calypso. Calypso is a nymph and a temptress. She tried to seduce Odysseus. Calypso detained him there for seven years and offered him immortality if he would remain. Odysseus wanted to go home too badly to stay. Zeus finally freed him from the temptress's clutches and he set sail for home.

As Odysseus journeyed home on his small boat, Poseidon, still angry at him, destroyed it. Odysseus eventually washed up on shore of Phaeacia. He was helped to the palace, and King Alcinous heard his story. Odysseus told of his travels during the large feast that was held. Alcinous then gave Odysseus ships and a safe passage home. He finally was returning to Ithaca.

Odysseus finally made it back to his home. Athena disguised him as a beggar so he can remain hidden while he analyzes the loyalty of his friends and family. He confronts his son, Telemachus, and reveals his identity to him. Telemachus is at first in awe and disbelieves him that he is truly his father. Odysseus's dramatic change of appearance caused this. After a good explanation, Telemachus believes him, and they go to work on reclaiming the house and Odysseus's title as king. Telemachus is against fighting the suitors; he thinks their numbers alone will destroy the two of them. Odysseus persuades him by saying Athena and Zeus are on their side.

Odysseus, still disguised as a beggar, ventured into his own house. He was greeted with scorn by the rambunctious suitors. Antinous, the ringleader of the suitors even threw a stool at Odysseus. His wounds were treated, but Euryclia found out his identity. Odysseus kept her quiet so his cover would not be blown. He proceeded on his mission. He had Telemachus hide the armor and weapons so that the suitors could not use them.penelope.JPG

Penelope laid down a challenge to the suitors. Any one of them who can string Odysseus's bow and shoot it through the axe-handles like Odysseus used to do would be her choice. Needless to say, none of them could do it, that is, until the beggar got a chance. He was ridiculed as he tried, but Odysseus shot the arrow perfectly. Athena then changed his appearance to his previous one. The suitors were awestruck. It was then that Odysseu
s and Telemachus began their attack. With the help of Athena and Zeus, they slaughtered all of the suitors.bowtest.JPG

The next day, the enraged kin of the suitors angrily attack Odysseus. Odysseus, his father, Telemachus, and other loyal servants meet them in battle. Laertes kills Antinous's father with a lance. Zeus soon commands the fighting to stop. Odysseus finally reclaimed title.

Cumulative Writing Assignment: TBD

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