Irrespectiveof the fact that Homer was blind, he is one of the most celebratedpoets of the mid-8thcentury BCE throughout the whole of the Western literary tradition.Some of Homer’s ancient Greek poems include the Odyssey, which isthe sequel to yet another epic poem credited to him: Iliad(Baker).The Iliad is the most treasured poems of all time among the Westernliterary scholars. The poem recounts the final weeks of a ten-yearTrojan offensive on the city of Troy, organized the by the King ofMycenae, Agamemnon (Friedman, 59). The Greeks got involved with thedecade-old Trojan War with the sole intention of rescuing a Greekqueen by the name Helen from her Trojan captors (59).
Justlike other men from Greece, Odysseus travelled to Ithaca at the onsetof the Trojan invasion of Troy. Homer chose to make the fall of Troy(as narrated by Iliad) to be the starting point of Odyssey, “tonarrate the story of one of the Greek warriors that played aninstrumental role in driving Agamemnon and his Trojan army from thecity of Troy rescuing Helen in the process” (61). Odyssey is apoem that narrates the long voyage of the Greek hero shortly afterthe end of the Trojan War as narrated by the poem Iliad. Odysseytakes ten years to travel from Ithaca to Troy, an amount of timeequal to the one the Trojan War persisted. Hence, Odysseus had spenta total of 20 years from Ithaca, with the last ten years of hisjourney home narrated in the poem Odyssey (Baker).
Thefirst part of the poem narrates how life is back at the island ofIthaca in the absence of its hero Odysseus. Basically, Odyssey beginsat the end of the decade-old Trojan War, and Odysseus had still notfinished his ten-year tussle to return to his hometown of Ithaca(Haller, 112). His journey, which would normally take a couple ofweeks, lasted for ten years because as he was homebound, Odysseusencountered mythical creatures and antagonists like his enemyPoseidon (the god of the sea) (112). When Odyssey left for the cityof Troy, his wife, Penelope, was pregnant with a son who had turnedtwenty years following his absence from his household for two decades(Baker). Odysseus’ 20 year absenteeism from Ithaca was sufficientlylong enough to convince his family and loyal subjects of his death.Certain of Odysseus’ demise, Telemachus, Odysseus’ son, wassharing (xenia) his father’s house with 110 energetic men whosemain objective in their household was to persuade his mother toespouse one of them to substitute his “dead father” (Friedman,63).
Inresponse to the prolonged absence, Zeus,who was the King of the gods, deliberated over Odysseus’ fate withgoddess Athena, the oracle of the Island of Ithaca, albeit in thenonattendance of Odysseus’ adversary Poseidon (Baker). In disguise,Athena then visited Telemachus and urged him to embark on a quest toknow exactly what happened to his father before any potential suitorwould be chosen to replace him. Telemachus welcomed theimposterto his father’s house, and during dinner, they both scrutinized thepotential suitors with Penelope’s support just in case “Odysseuswas doomed to never come back to his kingdom again” (Friedman, 65)The same evening, goddess Athena, now masquerading as Telemachushimself, organized a crew and a ship for the voyage she had vouchedfor. Before Telemachus departed at the break of dawn, he called anassembly of the loyal subjects of the island of Ithaca to deliberateon what would be done to the would-be suitors in case his father wasto make a comeback (Baker). Arriving at no amicable resolution,Telemachus departed for his voyage to unearth the truth behind hisfather’s long lasting absence. Telemachus was accompanied byPeisistratus, Nestor’s son, and goddess Athena in his truth seekingmission (Haller, 121).
Afterdeparting from the Island of Ithaca for mainland Greece, Telemachusand his crew made the first stop at Sparta (121). Here, they foundHelen and Melanus. Both had reconciled despite the fact that they hadfallen-out earlier on. Helen recognized Telemachus the moment she sawhim, pitying him because his father was not there for him as he wasgrowing up because he had travelled to Troy to rescue her form herTrojan captors (124). In addition to this, Helen told Telemachus ofhis father’s plans to steal the Palladium,which was believed to be the “luck magnet” for the city of Troy.Meanwhile, Melanus praised Telemachus’ father as a comrade andbrave warrior, reassuring the fact that Odysseus would return to theIsland of Ithaca even if they would not make the comeback “togetheras warriors that fought and won the same bloody battle” (125).Incidentally, Telemachus learned that his father was alive whenMelanus informed him that he was a “love” captive of Calypso.Melanus notified Telemachus that they made their way back to Greecethrough Egypt, where they came across Proteus, an old sea-god(Poseidon’s predecessor) who informed them that Odysseus was aliveand well but was “imprisoned by the charms of Calypso” (127).
Thesecond part of the poem shifts its focus to the main character of thenarrative: Odysseus. After spending ten years in the city of Troybattling against the Trojan army, Odysseus fell in love with a ladyby the name Calypso (Friedman, 67). Knowing that falling in love withCalypso would ruin Odysseus’ marriage to Penelope, Zeus sentHermes, his favorite messenger, to persuade Odysseus to leave Ogygia.To flee from Ogygia, Odysseus built a makeshift wooden craft and wasgiven food and clothing supplies by Calypso (68). When Poseidonlearned that Odysseus had escaped, he wrecked his wooden craft. Leftin distress, the nymph Ino helped Odysseus swim to safety to theshores of the Phaeacian Island that was known by the name Scherie.Exhausted and freezing, Odysseus hid in a pile of leaves where heslipped into deep slumber (Baker).
Earlythe next morning, Odysseus was awakened by the sounds of laughter,only to find himself surrounded by several maids and their youthfulmaster Nausicaa. They had gone to wash clothes when they stumbledupon the naked Odysseus. The oracle of Ithaca (Athena) directedNausicaa in a dream to go find Odysseus at the shores (Haller, 133).Desperate, Odysseus pleaded to Nausicaa for help, who encouraged himto seek for assistance from her parents. Fortunately, Odysseus waswelcomed to Nausicaa’s household who did not even bother to askhis name (xenia). He stayed there for several days and evenparticipated in a pentathlon,where a couple of poets performed items about the Trojan War (133).Caught up in emotions, Odysseus “broke down in tears and finallyrevealed his real identity” (135). Gathering courage, Odysseusnarrated to his audience, the TrojanHorse.This was a stratagem that Odysseus had personally designed to rescueHelen which turned out to be a huge victory on the battle groundagainst the Trojan Army (Haller, 136).
Aboveand beyond this enchanting story, Odysseus also gave an account ofhis homebound journey from Troy. He said that after laying an ambushon the town of Ismaros,his entire fleet consisting of twelve ships was driven off course bystrong gusts of wind (Friedman, 71). Following this unanticipatedevent, the squad found themselves in an island where they came acrossLotus-Eaterswho gave him and his men some fruits to eat as a sign of hospitality(xenia). Unfortunately, Odysseus and his crew were “seized byPolyphemus after the fruits they were given made them forget theirroute home” (71). To redeem themselves, Odysseus and his mendevised a fleeing plan. The plot was fruitful but as they wereescaping, Odysseus said that he erroneously revealed his realidentity to Polyphemus after blinding him with a wooden pole (72).
AfterOdysseus and his men escaped, Polyphemus told his father, Poseidon,that Odysseus and his crew blinded him before fleeing. Infuriated,Poseidon cursed Odysseus to “spend ten years wondering the sea,during which he would lose the whole of his crew and return home withthe assistance of others” (Haller, 139). After running away fromPolyphemus, Odysseus and his crew camped at the island of ruler ofgusts, Aeolus, for one year (xenia). As Odysseus and his crew wereleaving, Aeolus bestowed the hero with a leather bag that containedall sorts of gusts, except for the one that would take him home theWest winds (140). Thinking that the piece of luggage was something toeat, Odysseus’ greedy crew opened the bag letting all the windsfly out. The resultant rainstorm commandeered their ships back towhere they had come from (140).
Whenthe pleas for another bag of winds from Aeolus were unsuccessful,Odysseus and his men re-embarked on their journey home. This time,they came across the Laestrygonians who happened to be cannibals(Baker). Odysseus said that all the ships in his fleet entered theharbor of the Laestrygonians, and were destroyed immediately (Baker).The diminished number of men then decided to visit Circe, awitch-goddess. The goddess changed half of Odysseus’ survivors toswine after feeding them with cheese (xenia), but changed them backto men following Odysseus’ resistance that emanated from a drug(moly) Hermes had given him to resist the forces of the evil Circe(Friedman, 73). After spending another year on the island (xenia),Circe assisted Odysseus and the remaining men cross the ocean to theWestern end of the world, where Odysseus made a sacrifice to the dead(74). Here, he met the spirits of Elpenor, Agamemnon, prophetTiresias, and his mother who had died during his long absence. Fromhis mother’s spirit, Odysseus learned about the potential suitorswho were ready and willing to replace him. More determined than ever,Odysseus and the remaining crew revisited Circe for further guidanceon their way home (Baker).
Circethen directed Odysseus and his men to use the route that passed bythe island of Sirens, where they came across Scylla, a six-headedmonster that killed ten men (Haller, 145). Next, Odysseus said thatthey came across the island of Thrinacia. Here, Zeus caused a stormto prevent them from leaving. Spending more time than theyanticipated here, Odysseus’ crew ignored Circe’s warning of nothunting Helios, the sacred cattle of the sun god, as their food hadrun short. The god of the sun insisted that Odysseus punish his menfor “going against the rules of gods” (148). To this effect, theysuffered a shipwreck that killed everyone on board except forOdysseus. He was then washed ashore in Ogygia, where he fell underthe charms of Calypso until she was ordered by Zeus to releaseOdysseus (148).
Enthusedby Odysseus’ enchanting story, the Phaeacians offered to help himget home safely. Deep in slumber, Odysseus was carried anddropped-off at a hidden harbor on the island of Ithaca by skilledmariners of the Phaeacians army (Friedman, 75). When Odysseus wokeup, he made his way to the hut of Eumaeus, who was one of his slaves.To show Odysseus how things were run in his town, Athena disguisedhim as a beggar and walked him in the streets (Baker). Soon afterdinner, Telemachus arrived home, barely surviving a foiled ambushintercepted by the suitors. He went straight to the hut of Eumaeusand met one on one with his father (Baker). Odysseus introducedhimself to his son, unveiling the suitors’ plan to kill himunanimously assenting to have them killed. Still disguised as abeggar, Odysseus was taken to his house where a dog (which was apuppy when he left for Troy) died upon seeing him. He was mocked bythe suitors in his house, especially by one that was named Antinous(Baker). When Odysseus met Penelope, he tested her by saying that hehad “recently learned about Odysseus’ whereabouts” (Friedman,78). Odysseus’ real identity was eventually discovered whenEurycleia, one of his servants, recognized a scar as she was washinghis feet. The servant tried to notify Penelope but the oracle madesure that she would not “hear a word” (79).
Thefollowing day, Penelope organized a ball for the suitors to competefor her hand in marriage using Odysseus’ bow (Baker). The victorwas to be the man that would shoot through a dozen axe heads.Odysseus took part and emerged victor because he was the only manwith the strength to work with a bow he had designed for himself(Haller, 151). When he was declared winner, Odysseus swiftly threwthe rugs he was wearing and killed Antinous, the suitor that wasmocking him the previous night, with his next arrow. Then with theassistance of Telemachus, Eumaeus, Athena, and Philoteus, Odysseuskilled the remaining suitors first with arrows and then by swordsuntil they all died (Baker). Done with the suitors, Telemachus andOdysseus hanged twelve maids that were guilty of betraying Penelopeby sleeping with the suitors (Haller, 155). Also, a goatherd by thename Melanthius was also mutilated by Telemachus and his fatherbecause he was found guilty of conspiring with the suitors by virtueof “supplying them with armor and weapons during their slaughter”(156).
Withsuitors and traitors out of the way, Odysseus finally identifiedhimself to Penelope. Earlier disguised as a beggar, Penelope had ahard time coming to terms with the fact that he was who he said hewas (Friedman, 78). However, Penelope recognized Odysseus when hementioned that he made their matrimonial bed from an “olive treethat was still rooted to the ground” (78). Penelope hugged Odysseusand welcomed him back to his home after two decades of wondering inthe sea. The next day, Odysseus and his son visited the country farmLaertes, Odysseus’ old father, had given him to cultivate twodecades earlier (Baker). All the while, the affected citizens ofAthena were walking the streets swearing to avenge the deaths of twogenerations of sons: the suitors (although killed justly) and thesailors (80). To Odysseus’ defense, Athena intervened and told thepeople that harbored these thought to “give up on the personalvendetta that would bring no benefits” (Haller, 158). With thevendetta dropped, peace returned to Athena marking the conclusion ofthe poem Odyssey by Homer.
Baker,Patrick. "The Odyssey Summary." Shmoop.Shmoop University, 2016. Web. 10 Dec. 2016.
Friedman,Rachel D. "Call and Response: Derek Walcott’s Collaborationwith Homer in His THE ODYSSEY: A STAGE VERSION." Arethusa48.1 (2015): 59-80. Web. 11 Dec. 2016.
Haller,Benjamin. "Geography, the Odyssey." TheHomer Encyclopedia(2014): 112-65. Web. 11 Dec. 2016.