Illustration of Odysseus tied to a ship's mast

The Odyssey

by Homer

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What should I know about the cyclops in The Odyssey?

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Polyphemus is the name of the cyclops Odysseus and twelve of his men meet when they go into his cave to explore. His men advise Odysseus to steal livestock and cheese and then leave, but Odysseus refuses because he thinks Polyphemus will show them hospitality and give them a gift. (It was the custom, remember, to welcome strangers and give them gifts.)They get locked in the cave of the cyclops when he rolls a big boulder across the opening of the cave. Odysseus asks for his gift, but instead, Polyphemus grabs two of Odysseus' men and eats them. The next morning, the cyclops eats two more of his men for breakfast. He then left, rolling the huge boulder across the opening. Odysseus comes up with a plan to whittle a huge spike so he can blind the cyclops in his one eye. When Polyphemus returned, he ate two more of Odysseus' men. Odysseus gets Polyphemus drunk with wine, and when Polyphemus asks Odysseus his name, he says "Nobody". They they stick the spike in the cyclops' eye, blinding him. Polyphemus cries out for help from his fellow cyclops, but when they ask him who was harming him, all Polyphemus could says was "Nobody". Odysseus and his men tied themselves to the bellies of the sheep and were able to get past the blinded Polyphemus the next morning. When Odysseus and his men get away from the island of the cyclops, Odysseus teases Polyphemus by telling him his real name. Polyphemus calls upon his father, Poseidon, god of the sea, to punish Odysseus, and this is why he doesn't get home for ten years.

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