What do we learn about Cyclopes in The Odyssey

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Homer's Odyssey we learn a few important details about the Cyclopes. 

First, we learn that they are not very civilized. For example, they do not have laws or councils. For the Greeks this was odd, as they had city-states (poleis) and the rule of law was central to their life. So, we can say that the Cyclopes were very unGreek in this sense. They were veritable barbarians. 

Second, we learn that the Cyclopes had no idea of hospitality. Odysseus tarried on the island of the Cyclopes thinking that he would receive some sort of hospitality. Hospitality was important and understood to be given in the Greek world. In fact, Zeus was a god of hospitality. Odysseus would find out that the Cyclopes were so barbaric that they wanted to eat his men. They succeeded to a certain extent and Odysseus was lucky to escape. 

Finally, The Cyclopes lived in a very fertile land. This was fortunate for them, because they had no civilization. Hence, they did not cultivate their land. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial