The Odyssey opens in the tenth year after the fall of Troy, 20 years after Odysseus left Ithaca. Odysseus, owing to the wrath of the sea-god Poseidon, has not been allowed to return home; Odysseus had blinded Poseidon’s son Polyphemus, a Cyclops. At the moment Odysseus is living with the sea-nymph Calypso on her violet-fragrant island in the Ionian Sea. But at last Athena, his constant friend among the gods, persuades Zeus, the king of the gods, to allow him to escape.
A Telemachus Seeks News
Athena goes in disguise to Ithaca, where Penelope and her son Telemachus are being harassed by a horde of 108 suitors who want to compel the queen to marry one of them. The suitors ...view middle of the document...
Reluctantly, Calypso submits. Odysseus builds a makeshift boat and sails eastward towards Ithaca. Poseidon, still angry with Odysseus, sends a violent storm and wrecks the boat. Odysseus, with the help of Athena, reaches land after a fearful struggle.
Next morning Odysseus is awakened by the voices of young girls. They are Nausicaä, princess of Scheria, land of the Phaeacians, and her handmaidens. Odysseus appeals to them for help. Nausicaä receives him courteously, provides him with food and clothing, and tells him about herself and her royal parents. She confesses to her handmaidens that he is the kind of man that she would like to marry. She leads him to the capital, where Odysseus, left to himself, admires the splendid palace and gardens of the Phaeacian king. He enters the main hall, supplicates Queen Arete and King Alcinoüs, and is hospitably entertained.
The next day Odysseus witnesses a display of athletic skill, in which he has an opportunity of showing his own prowess. A banquet and a recital of heroic songs by the Phaeacian bard Demodocus follow. Because he weeps when he hears Demodocus sing of the Trojan War, Odysseus is asked to tell his name and recount his adventures.
Beginning at his departure from Troy, Odysseus gives an enthralling description of his encounters with many strange peoples and monsters: the vengeful Cicones; the Lotus-eaters with their memory-erasing food; the gigantic, one-eyed Cyclops who ate members of Odysseus’s crew; Aeolus, king of the winds, on his floating island surrounded by a wall of bronze; the cannibal Laestrygones; the enchantress Circe who can turn men into animals by her magic potion and with whom Odysseus stays for a year; the ghosts in the underworld; the Sirens with their spellbinding song (which Odysseus resisted by having himself bound to the mast of his ship as he sailed past, having filled the ears of his companions with wax); the impossible passage between Scylla and Charybdis, the ravenous sea monster and the voracious whirlpool; the sacred cattle of the Sun that prove fatal to his crew; and finally, when Odysseus had lost all his ships and companions, the kindly Calypso on her lonely island.