What was the effect of the Lotus plant in The Odyssey?

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lsumner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Odysseus' ship was blown off course to a land of Lotus-eaters:

As they were about to round the southern tip of Peloponnesus, their ships were driven by strong wind to Libya, where they met the Lotus-eaters.

This was a beautiful area filled with a beautiful flowering Lotus plant. These people would eat the Lotus plant which is a type of flower with seeds. Odysseus sent some of his men to scope out the scene. Three of his men set out to find out about the Lotus-eaters. The Lotus-eaters gave them some of the Lotus plants. Odysseus' men began to care less about going home. The Lotus plant is very powerful. It causes those who eat it to forget:

The plant Lotus caused anyone to eat the flower or seeds to forget who he was, and his only interest was to eat more of the plants.

The Lotus plant is so powerful until Odysseus had to force his crew back on the ship. They only longed to eat more of the Lotus plant. In fact, they wept bitterly when Odysseus forced them aboard the ship for home:

Odysseus dragged his wailing men back to the ships, and they again moved out to sea.



favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Odysseus exercises caution when his ships arrive in the Land of the Lotus Eaters, and he sends only three men to go and scout out the land and the locals.  (He's wary of another ambush like the one they experienced in Ismarus.)  When the Lotus Eaters offer these crewmen their food, the lotus flower, they completely lose their desire to return home to Ithaca, and they resist Odysseus when he tries to take them back to the ship.  Odysseus actually has to physically overpower them and muscle them back, then tie them up on board so that they do not try to escape. 

This is a time when we get to see Odysseus's leadership skills.  Although it would probably be easier to walk away and allow these men to languish in a drug-addled, if pleasant, stupor, Odysseus cares about them and knows how badly they do, in their heart of hearts, want to go home.  They have been away, like him, for ten years—as they all fought in the Trojan War together.  Their families are waiting for them and counting on them to return.  Instead of viewing his crewmen as dispensable, Odysseus treats them as his equals.