The Odyssey by Homer

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In The Odyssey, what does Odysseus learn about his future from Teiresias in the Land of the Dead?

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Domenick Franecki eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In Book 11 of The Odyssey, The Kingdom of the Dead, Odysseus visits the underworld to consult with the prophet Tiresias. Circe instructs him to visit Tiresias so he can find out about his future, which will involve a difficult journey home. 

Tiresias tells Odysseus that while he wants "a sweet smooth journey home" (Book 11, line 111, Fagels translation), "a god will make it hard for you" (113). This god is Poseidon, who is angry because Odysseus has blinded his son, the Cyclops. Tiresias tells Odysseus that his crew may still reach home if he can "curb their wild desire and curb your own" (line 119). Tiresias says it's critical for Odysseus's crew not to disturb the cattle of Helios, the sun god, for if they do, they will be destroyed. Even if Odysseus survives, he will "come home late/and come a broken man" (129-130). His men will be destroyed, and he will find a "a world of pain at home," with men courting his wife and eating all his food (line 132). Odysseus will then need to "pay them back in blood" (line 135). After he has sought revenge on the men destroying his house, he will have to go to a place far from the sea to make a sacrifice to Poseidon. Only then will he be able to enjoy a "gentle, painless death" (line 154) and know that his land and people are in peace. 

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Angie Waters eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In The Odyssey, Odysseus is desperate to return home and admits his need on various occasions as he tries to negotiate his return. There is nothing more important to him, no matter what comfort he enjoys elsewhere. He has had to force his men, on various occasions, to continue on. However, he lingers almost too long on the island of the Cyclops where he tries to outwit Polyphemus, the son of Poseidon. Later, Odysseus will suffer Poseidon's wrath after having blinded Polyphemus in his attempt to escape. 

Having been advised by the goddess Circe, with whom...

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cybil eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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