Summary of epics of the Iliad and the Odyssey.

Expert Answers
readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

These are some of the greatest works of epic literature in the Western canon. Moreover, they are complex pieces of work with many twists and turns. Hence, any summary will be a bear sketch. So, I encourage you to read both works when time permits. With that said, here are a few points of summary.

First, Homer, the Greek poet is said to have written both. The Iliad is about the Trojan War, which started because the Trojan prince, Paris took Helen of Sparta from Menelaus. So, as revenge Menelaus got the leaders of Greece to fight the Trojan. However, things got complicated due to the conflict between Agamemnon and the greatest hero among the Greek, Achilles. Achilles, therefore, withdrew from battle, which caused the Trojan to gain the upper-hand. Achilles only went back into battle, because his good friend Patroclus was killed. Achilles then defeats many of the Trojans, and more importantly the great hero of the Trojans, Hector. This turns the tide. From this perspective, the Iliad is about the wrath of Achilles.

The Odyssey is about what happened after the Trojan war. Odysseus, one of the Greek heroes is on his way home back to Ithaca. However, his journey is fraught with twists and turns. In a word, things get very complicated. For instance, he has to face many dangers - the sirens, Polyphemus, Circe, Calypso, and many more. When he finally gets back, he realizes that there are many suitors that have taken over his home. So, he needs to fight them and he does. In short, this work is about his journey and homecoming.

corinnedolci eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The beauty of epic poems such as The Iliad and The Odyssey is that the stories are so rich that many can return to them again and again and find completely new meanings. As a result, distilling both into a "summary" is a difficult task indeed! Here are the two stories, in a nutshell:

The Iliad is the story of the Trojan War. The Trojan War began when Paris, a Trojan prince, visited a Greek king, Menelaus. During his visit, Paris seduced Menelaus's wife, escaping with her and returning to Troy. As a result, Menelaus rallied his fellow Greek kings, raised an army, and set sail for Troy to reclaim his wife. The story follows the Greek army as they lay siege to Troy for ten long years and raises thematic questions as to the value of honor and glory and the role of warfare in human society.

The Odyssey, on the other hand, is a very different tale. The Odyssey follows the journey of Odysseus, one of the Greek soldiers, as he attempts to return home from the war. One of the heroes of the Trojan War, Odysseus offends the sea god Poseidon and is punished with another decade of trials and tribulations before he can return home to the wife, Penelope, and son, Telemachus, that he left behind. The Odyssey considers themes such as the role of the veteran in society and the role of ego in the face of fated events.