Odyssey, The (Myths and Legends of the World)
One of the great of ancient Greece, the Odyssey tells the story of the struggles and triumphs of the hero Odysseus as he made his way home after the Trojan Warlegendary war between the Greeks and the people of Troy that was set off by the kidnapping of Helen, wife of the king of Sparta; inspiration for Homer's epics the Iliad and the Odyssey. Pursued by the sea god , but aided both by his own cunning and by the goddess Athenain Greek mythology, goddess of wisdom and war; the daughter of Zeus (Roman goddess Minerva), Odysseus overcame countless obstacles during his long journey home. Along the way, he lost his ships, his crew, and the riches he had gained at Troy. The Odyssey is believed to be the work of the Greek poet Homer, who also composed the Iliad.
The Story Begins. The Odyssey opens with Odysseus stranded on Ogygia, the island home of the enchantress Calypso. Almost ten years had passed since the end of the Trojan War. All the other Greek heroes were either dead or safely back in their homelands. Only Odysseus had yet to return home. Calypso was holding the hero captive, hoping that her beauty and offer of would make him forget his wife, Penelope, and marry her.
Finally the gods took pity on Odysseus. Athena encouraged his son Telemachus to go on a quest in search of his father. The young man traveled to Pylos and then to Sparta, where he met Helen and Menelaus. Telemachus was proud when he learned of his father's fame. Meanwhile Zeusin Greek mythology, king of the gods and husband of Hera (Roman god Jupiter) sent to command Calypso to let the hero leave. She reluctantly agreed, and Odysseus sailed from the island on a raft. While the hero was at sea, Poseidon sent a great storm that destroyed the raft. Saved by a sea goddess, Odysseus finally reached the land of the Phaeacians. The Phaeacians welcomed the stranger and treated him as an honored guest. In return, Odysseus revealed his name and told the Phaeacians about the adventures he had had since leaving Troy many years before.
Odysseus's Tale. When the Trojan War ended, Odysseus set sail for his homeland of Ithaca with a number of companions in several ships. They first stopped in the land of the Cicones. After sacking the city there, they were driven off and suffered significant losses. Next they arrived at the land of the lotus-eaters, so named because the people there ate the honey-sweet fruit from the lotus plant. This fruit acted like a drug, and when some of the Greeks ate it, they lost all desire to return home. Odysseus had to drag them to the ships and tie them down before he could set sail again.
The Greeks next arrived at the land of the Cyclopes, a race of one-eyed savage giants. When Odysseus and some of his men went into a large cave, the Cyclops Polyphemus trapped them inside by rolling a huge stone across the entrance. Polyphemus, a son of Poseidon, proceeded to kill and eat several of Odysseus's men, and the survivors lost nearly all hope of escaping. Odysseus came up with a plan. After blinding Polyphemus with a stake, he and his men escaped the cave by clinging to the undersides of the giant's sheep as they were let out to graze. The Greeks ran to their ships and set sail. Polyphemus hurled rocks at them and called on Poseidon to take revenge against Odysseus.
The Greeks landed next on the island of Aeolus, the keeper of the winds. Aeolus listened eagerly to Odysseus's tales of the Trojan War and gave the hero a bag containing all the storm winds. With these winds, Odysseus would...
(The entire section is 1684 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!