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Give an example of one of Eurylochus’ mutinies (rejection or resistance to Odysseus). What effect does this have on Odysseus’ journey? What might Homer be saying about Odysseus’ leadership?

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Wallace Field eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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On Circe's island, Eurylochus senses a trap and so stays back while other men go ahead and are turned into pigs; he then runs back to the ship to tell Odysseus. After Odysseus asks Circe to turn his men back into men if she wants him to eat and drink with her, she tells him to go and harbor his ship and bring the rest of his crew back with him. Everyone on board "jump[s] to do [his] bidding" except for Eurylochus, who has a "mutinous outburst" and tries to hold all the men back. He argues that Circe will turn them into "pigs or wolves or lions" that will be forced to guard her palace, and he accuses Odysseus of being "hotheaded" and responsible for the deaths of the men at the Cyclops's cave. Odysseus is tempted to "draw the sharp sword from beside [his] hip / and slice [Eurylochus's] head off [...]." However, Odysseus forbears and the men offer to leave Eurylochus behind, though he follows them to Circe's.

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Odysseus has been warned, by both the blind prophet Tiresias and Circe, the nymph sorceress, to avoid the isle of Helios, the sun god. However, Eurylochus, a member of Odysseus's crew, begs Odysseus for permission to land. Foolishly, Odysseus relents, but on one condition: none of the men must kill any of the island's cattle. The cattle, the oxen of the sun, belong to Helios, and killing them will incur the wrath of the gods.

While Odysseus is away praying to the gods, Eurylochus ignores his orders and leads the men to hunt and kill some of Helios's cattle. When Odysseus finds out, he is furious. He knows that some kind of divine vengeance awaits. Zeus responds to an angry Helios by agreeing to send down a bolt of lightning to destroy Odysseus's ship. All hands on deck are killed, including Eurylochus, but Odysseus manages to escape. He swims ashore on the island of Ogygia, home to the sea nymph Calypso. This will also be Odysseus's home for the next seven years, and this unplanned stopover will hold up his journey and delay his eventual return to Ithaca.

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