Who does Odysseus encounter in the Land Of The Dead in Homer's Odyssey?


The Odyssey

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pohnpei397's profile pic

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Odysseus meets a lot of people in the Hades, the Land of the Dead.

He goes there in Book 11 because Circe tells him he has to go there to talk to the prophet Teiresias if he ever wants to get back home.

Once he gets to Hades, he meets:

  • Elpenor -- a crewman of his who just died by getting drunk and falling off a roof
  • Teiresias
  • Odysseus's mother, Anticleia
  • Tyro, who had a child with Poseidon and was grandmother of Nestor
  • Epikaste, better known as Jocasta, mother of Oedipus
  • Nestor's mother Cloris
  • Leda
  • Iphimedia
  • Ariadne, lover of Thesus who went into the labyrinth
  • Agamemnon
  • Achilles
  • Tantalus
  • Sisyphus
  • Hercules
iandavidclark3's profile pic

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Odysseus meets many individuals in the World of the Dead, including Tiresias, Agamemnon, Anticlea, Ajax, and Achilles. While the whole World of the Dead sequence is fascinating, one of the most engrossing aspects of it is Odysseus' encounter with Achilles.

Achilles was, of course, the hero of the Trojan War, the famous warrior who chose glory in battle in exchange for a short life. In the Illiad, we primarily see Achilles as a proud and capable warrior, the most important individual on the battlefield. As a shade in the underworld, however, Achilles has quite a deflated ego, claiming that he'd rather be a lowly slave blessed with life than a king of the dead. In this scene, we are confronted with an interesting dilemma: is it better to win glory and have life cut short, or is it better to perhaps live a more ordinary life and enjoy old age? Judging from Achilles' regretful disposition, it seems as if Homer is questioning the mortal obsession with glory, and even suggesting that winning honor in life is not worth very much after all.

saranin2002's profile pic

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In Book XI of the Odyssey, Odysseus (also Ulysses) journeys to the Land of the Dead to seek the advice of the great seer Tiresias on how to return home. He performs a sacrifice, whose blood attracts the dead, with whom he can speak after they drink. These souls include:

- His 'comrade Elpenor,' whom they left for dead earlier in their voyage home,

- His mother Anticlea, who relates the goings on back home and how she committed suicide,

- The seer Tiresias himself, who explains how Odysseus may return home, as well as events going on in Odysseus' absence, and assures him of a peaceful ending,

- Various 'wives and daughters of the most famous men,' sent by Persephone, Queen of the Dead: Tyro, Antiope, Alcmena, Epicaste, Chloris, Leda, Iphimedeia, Phaedra, Procris, Ariadne, Maera, Clymene, Eriphyle,

- Odysseus' comrades from the Trojan war: Agamemnon, who recounts his tragic return and murder by his wife, Patroclus, Antilochus, Ajax, Achilles, who regrets his desire for glory that killed him, but is cheered by his son's success in the War. Also Odysseus sees the Telamonian Ajax, who even in death 'holds aloof' over a bitter dispute with Odysseus that ended in Ajax's death,

Odysseus meets others with whom he does not speak, but knows from their fame:

- Minos, the great Judge of the dead with 'his golden scepter in his hand,'

- 'The great hunter Orion, 'driving the animals he had killed,'

- Men who were doomed to eternal punishment by the gods: Tityus, Tantalus, and Sisyphus,

- And finally Odysseus sees the 'phantom ghost' of Heracles, who as a god is feasting on Olympus

The source for this answer was 'The Odyssey,' translated by Samuel Butler.

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