Illustration of Odysseus tied to a ship's mast

The Odyssey

by Homer

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What's the first horrible act of the Cyclops in book 9 of The Odyssey?

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When Odysseus and his man arrive in the Cyclopes after escaping from the lotus eaters, they immediately happen upon a cave filled with invaluable food such as goats, milk, and cheese. Odysseus, against the wishes of his men, chooses to linger in the cave for some time until the dweller of the cave, Polyphemus, son of Poseidon, returns. Though he is initially courteous, he eventually commits his first horrible act by devouring two of Odysseus' men and imprisoning the rest for later consumption.

Completely outmatched in terms of strength, Odysseus must devise a way to outwit the colossal cyclops. He gets him drunk and tells him that his name is "Nobody," so that when he and his men attempt to kill to cyclops in his sleep, the latter calls out to his friends that "Nobody is killing me."

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The first obviously horrible thing that the Cyclops does in book 9 of The Odyssey is eat two of Odysseus's men. Before he eats the men, however, Polyphemus pretends to show the men hospitality, which is an act of deception intended to disarm the men and encourage them to let down their guard. Though this act of deception could be considered the first horrible thing the Cyclops does, it evades that description because the Cyclops fools the men only after he finds them trespassing in his cave. Odysseus and his men should not have been exploring the cave after observing details that indicated someone lived there; additionally, Polyphemus's consumption of the men could be interpreted as punishment for Odysseus, who ignored his men's advice to leave the cave.

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