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In Homer’s epic story of Odysseus’s ten-year journey to return to his wife and son, The Odyssey, the story’s protagonist encounters many challenges and peoples along the way, all the while overcoming the wrath of the very formidable God of the Oceans and Seas, Poseidon. The final stop on Odysseus’ voyage is the land of Phaeacia, populated by the Phaeacians, a seafaring people. As described by Nausicca, daughter of the king, Alcinous, the Phaeacians are skilled at martime-related tasks:
“Here people deal in ship’s gear of all kinds, such as cables and sails, and here, too, are the places where oars are made, for the Phaeacians are not a nation of archers; they know nothing about bows and arrows, but are a sea-faring folk, and pride themselves on their masts, oars, and ships, with which they travel far over the sea.”
The craft for which the Phaeacians are best known, then, is shipbuilding. As a seafaring people, the Phaeacians are completely dependent upon the goodwill of Poseidon. Their assistance to Odysseus in helping him return to Ithaca, then, is a cause of anger for the God of the Seas, who proceeds to punish these people by destroying their vessel after he discovers that they transported Odysseus to Ithaca in defiance of Poseidon’s wishes.
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