The dead prophet Teiresias tells Odysseus that he must sail to the Thrinacian island and do certain things before he can return home.
After Odysseus and his men sail from the island of the Cyclopes in Book X, some of the shipmates of Odysseus believe that Aeolus has secretly given Odysseus a fortune in gold and silver, and they tear open the bag. Unfortunately, when the winds are released, they cause a storm that pushes the ships back to Aeolia where Aeolus refuses to help them again. So, the Achaeans row to the land of the Laestrygonians where they meet more misfortune because some of the crew are eaten. Desperately, Odysseus and his remaining men try to flee, but the Laestrygonians hurl huge boulders at the ships, sinking all the ships but the one belonging to Odysseus.
Then, Odysseus and his men travel to Aeaea, where the beautiful witch-goddess Circe turns some of the men into pigs. But Hermes assists Odysseus and the men are retrieved. However, Odysseus is seduced by Circe and becomes her lover for a year. Finally, Odysseus pleads with her to be allowed to return home. She agrees, but instructs Odysseus that he must first go to the halls of Hades and Persephone and there consult with Teiresias of Thebes.
So, Odysseus must inform his men that they must first go to Hades before heading home. In Book XI Odysseus then goes to the underworld where he speaks with the prophet Teiresias, who informs him that Poseidon is punishing him for having blinded his son Polyphemus (the Cyclops). Also, Teiresias says that when Odysseus brings his "stanch ship" to the Thrinacian island and finds the pasturing "kine and sturdy sheep of the Sun," he must leave them unharmed. He predicts that Odysseus then will be able to return home. Teiresias adds that Odysseus will find that he will have to seize his home from the wretched suitors who have been there for a long time; then, it will be necessary for him to make another trip in order to appease Poseidon by offering him a ram, a bull, and a boar. Finally, he can turn homeward, Teiresias says, and then
"...offer sacred hecatombs to the immortal gods who hold the open sky, all in the order due. Upon yourself death from the sea shall very gently come and cut you off bowed down with hale old age. Round you shall be a prosperous people. I speak what shall not fail."
After visiting with the spirit of his dead mother, Odysseus talks with other shades, then hurries to his ship.