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The Odyssey

by Homer

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In Homer's Odyssey, who convinces Odysseus' men to eat Helios' cattle while he's asleep?

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Odyssey 12 contains a very significant scene in the epic. In this book, Odysseus relates how he and his crew landed on the island of Thrinacia, which appears to have been under the control of the sun god Helios. This god kept a special herd of cattle on Thrinacia, and Odysseus' Phaeacian audience had heard Circe's warning early in Book 12 that they should avoid these cattle.

Unfortunately, after adverse weather stranded Odysseus and his men on Thrinacia for longer than their provisions would allow, Odysseus' men, despite their leader's orders to the contrary, began to hunger for Helios' cattle.

At one point late in Book 12, Odysseus falls asleep and his men feast upon Helios' cattle. In this instance, it is Eurylochus who persuades his comrades to violate Odysseus' order:

And when I was far enough away from my crew, I cleansed my hands in a place on the island sheltered from the wind, and prayed to all the gods of Olympus. But they shed sweet sleep over my eyelids, while behind me Eurylochus was giving my comrades bad advice. (A.S. Kline translation)

Thus persuaded by Eurylochus, Odysseus' crew eat some of Helios' cattle. This enrages Helios and eventually results in their destruction by Zeus upon the seas.

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