Where is Odysseus at the beginning of the story and what has become of his men?
Odysseus has escaped from captivity at the beginning of the story he tells us, although he was a happy enough prisoner at first because he was a romantic captive of love on an island. He had been there for years, not having returned to Ithaka after the Trojan Wars. Back at home, everyone thinks he is dead although his wife holds out the hope that he will return and suffers constant pressure from other suitors who want to marry her. Kalypso, his captor, eventually released Odysseus from the bonds of love and as he begins his tale he has just washed up on another island where he tells this tale to another smitten young lady, a princess, and her parents - the king and queen of Phaiakia. He tells them how he set sail from Troy with a ship load of his men and that they raided an island and plundered the goods of the natives. Some of the men became bewitched through eating lotus flowers on the island of The Lotus Eaters and had to be forcibly returned to their ship as they had become too 'senseless' to find their way back by themselves. Then on the island of Aiolos, a sorceress turned some of the men into pigs. Next, after engaging with monsters such as Cyclops and the Sirens (and Skylla who ate six more men) the bad luck and bad judgement of the men continued, until eventually they ignored advice against eating sacred cattle. The men couldn't control their appetites and acted out of greed and intemperance, gorging themselves on the food. Bad luck followed and they were all killed in a sea storm, all save Odysseus himself.
Odysseus begins on the nymph Calypso's island in The Odyssey. The Odyssey begins ten years after the Trojan War and Odysseus has still not returned home. His palace on Ithaca has become overrun by suitors of Penelope, his wife, who are eating all his food and abusing his household. Telemachus, Odysseus' son is searching for his father. Athena, goddess of wisdom and war, tells her father Zeus, king of the gods and god of lightning. to allow Odysseus to return home, since he has been trapped on Calypso's island for seven years. She then appears before Telemachus to tell him to go find out about his father. He travels to Nestor and Menelaus/Helen to hear tales about what a great man his father is and that currently he is stuck on Calypso's island. Meanwhile, Zeus sent Hermes, the messenger god, to force Calypso to let Odysseus go. Odysseus, who has the wrath of Poseidon, the sea god, against him, sails off, but Poseidon sends a storm which shipwrecks him onto the isle of the Phaeaceans: Scheria. Here, he is brought to the king and treated as a guest, where he tells the story of his travels.