According to the "Invocation" of "Book One" of "The Odyssey," Odysseus' men do not reach home because?

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ladyvols1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The "Invocation," opens with the poet requesting help from his muse.  He wants to discuss the story of Odysseus and the story opens in Mt. Olympias and the gods discussing the present affairs of man.  After the war (Troy) the soldiers all head home.  His men suffering from arrogance decide to steal the cattle of Apollo, the sun god and slaughter it and eat it.  This decision to eat the cattle of Helius (Apollo) angers the god and the men are punished for their arrogance.  The consequences for that act was their death.  The men didn't get home because of eating Apollo's cattle.  Anyone that ate was killed.  Odysseus himself is being held captive by Kalypso.  She wanted him to marry her but he wanted to get home.  Poseidon was also angry at Odysseus because he put out the eye of Poseidon's son the cyclops Polyphêmus.  The trip home has taken 20 years up to the point that the narrator asks the muse for help in telling Odysseus's story.

The gods were often selfish and cruel so anyone who crossed them was in danger of punishment or death.

"TELL ME, O MUSE, of that ingenious hero who traveled far and wide after he had sacked the famous town of Troy. Many cities did he visit, and many were the nations with whose manners and customs he was acquainted; moreover he suffered much by sea while trying to save his own life and bring his men safely home; but do what he might he could not save his men, for they perished through their own sheer folly in eating the cattle of the Sun-god Apollo; so the god prevented them from ever reaching home."

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

He came to see
many people's cities, where he learned their customs,
while on the sea his spirit suffered many torments,
as he fought to save his life and lead his comrades home.
But though he wanted to, he could not rescue them—
they all died from their own stupidity, the fools.
They feasted on the cattle of Hyperion,
god of the sun—that's why he snatched away their chance 10
of getting home someday.

The first book of the Odyssey opens with what might be considered a type of trial of Odysseus in front of the gods.  This invocation brings to light that while he was a great warrior, leading his men over the warriors from Troy, he was vain and boastful in his victory.  His revelry with his men offended the gods.  His battles in Troy and his destruction of the Cyclops angered Poseidon, god of the Sea.  The fact that Odysseu's men engaged in offensive and hubris filled actions angered the gods greatly, for hubris (excessive pride) in humans had always been frowned upon by the Greek Gods.  Hence, while they might have been victorious, Odysseus' men were punished with their inability to return home.  Ironically enough, the soldiers of Troy, who lost, were allowed to return home as supposed reward for their humility.