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We first meet Odysseus in Book V of The Odyssey on Calypso's island. He is described thusly:
She found him sitting upon the beach with his eyes ever filled with tears, and dying of sheer home-sickness; for he had got tired of Calypso, and though he was forced to sleep with her in the cave by night, it was she, not he, that would have it so. As for the day time, he spent it on the rocks and on the sea-shore, weeping, crying aloud for his despair, and always looking out upon the sea.
Even though he is an epic hero who, in The Iliad, helped win the battle of Troy by conceiving the Trojan horse, and even though he is to be the defeater of giants, monsters, and many threatening suitors later in the flashbacks of The Odyssey, we first see Odysseus as a defeated man, held hostage at the mercy of the sea nymph Calypso. He longs for home, wife, and son, but gods are possessive. He is her prized prisoner, the greatest mortal in the world. Even Odysseus' cunning cannot break him free from her island lair.
Odysseus' freedom comes at the behest of Athena. She sends Mercury with orders to free him. Soon, he builds a raft and departs, but the angry Poseidon sends great waves to smash the raft. Again, Athena must intercede and protect him with her magic. So, the ancient Greek conception of heroism is defined not only by strength and wit, but also by favoritism and protection by the gods. The gods have decided that Odysseus has suffered enough.
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