Who does Odysseus encounter in the Land Of The Dead in Homer's Odyssey?

In Homer's Odyssey, Odysseus encounters many people in the Land Of The Dead. They include Elpenor, Epicaste, Theban Tiresias, Agamemnon, Achilles, Minos, Heracles, Tantalus, and Anticleaia, the mother of Odysseus. Odysseus also meets the wives and daughters of great men, such as Tyro, Antiope, Alcmene, Chloris, Leda, Procris, and Ariadne. In fact,
the wives and daughters of heroes are so great in number that it's impossible for Odysseus to name all of them.

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Odysseus travels to the Land of the Dead to speak with the prophet Tiresias. When he gets there, he makes a blood sacrifice so that the spirits of the dead will emerge from the depths of Hades. One of the first spirits he speaks to is Elpenor, who begs him not to leave him unburied and unmourned.

Eventually, Tiresias comes forth to speak with Odysseus. The prophet tells Odysseus that his journey back to Ithaca will be hard. However, he offers Odysseus advice on how to overcome the odds.

After speaking to Tiresias, Odysseus speaks to Anticleaia, his mother. He asks her about his son, Telemachus, and his wife, Penelope. Anticleaia reveals that Penelope has remained faithful to Odysseus. Meanwhile, Telemachus has grown into a young lord who is popular with his peers. Before Odysseus takes his leave, he tries to embrace Anticleaia. However, because she is in spirit form, Odysseus cannot enclose her in a hug.

Next, Odysseus meets many wives and daughters of great men. They include the following:

Tyro: the former wife of Cretheus, who became infatuated with Enipeus (a river god). She is impregnated by Poseidon, the god of the sea, and bears two of his children, Pelias and Neleus.

Antiope: the daughter of Aesopus. She claims to have been impregnated by Zeus himself. As a result, she bears him two children, Amphion and Zethus.

Alcmene: the wife of Amphitryon, who was also impregnated by Zeus. Out of the union, she gave birth to Heracles.

Epicaste: the mother of Oedipodes, whom she married.

Chloris: the wife of Neleus and the last daughter of Amphion, the son of Iasus, a formerly great king in Minyan Orchomenus. Chloris bore Neleus three sons: Nestor, Chromius, and Periclymenus.

Odysseus also encounters Leda, the consort of Tyndareus, and Iphemedia, who was impregnated by Poseidon himself. One of his most poignant encounters is that with Agamemnon, who relates how he was murdered by his wicked wife, Clytemnaestra.

Other spirits Odysseus encounters are Heracles, Aias, Patroclus, Antilochus, Achilles, Tantalus, Orion, Tityus (the son of Gaia), and Minos (the son of Zeus).

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Odysseus speaks to Elpenor, one of his crewmen, who died after falling asleep on and falling from the roof of Circe's house. He asks Odysseus to return to her home and dispose of his body properly or else the gods will become angry with Odysseus for neglecting it. Odysseus promises that he will do this.

He also speaks to Teiresias, the blind prophet, who tells him that his journey home will be quite difficult because Poseidon holds a grudge against Odysseus for blinding his son, the Cyclops, Polyphemus. He warns Odysseus that he will have to watch his crew carefully to make sure they do not eat the cattle of the sun god. If they leave the cows alone, then the way home will be hard, but it will be possible. If they eat the cows, then his ships and crew will be lost, and he will still have a hard time getting home. He also tells Odysseus about the suitors and what's been going on at his house.

Odysseus also sees his mother. She describes the plight of Penelope and Telemachus in Ithaca, and she claims that she died of sorrow, of longing for her son who had been gone so long.

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Odysseus meets many individuals in the World of the Dead, including Tiresias, Agamemnon, Anticlea, Ajax, and Achilles. While the whole World of the Dead sequence is fascinating, one of the most engrossing aspects of it is Odysseus' encounter with Achilles.

Achilles was, of course, the hero of the Trojan War, the famous warrior who chose glory in battle in exchange for a short life. In the Illiad, we primarily see Achilles as a proud and capable warrior, the most important individual on the battlefield. As a shade in the underworld, however, Achilles has quite a deflated ego, claiming that he'd rather be a lowly slave blessed with life than a king of the dead. In this scene, we are confronted with an interesting dilemma: is it better to win glory and have life cut short, or is it better to perhaps live a more ordinary life and enjoy old age? Judging from Achilles' regretful disposition, it seems as if Homer is questioning the mortal obsession with glory, and even suggesting that winning honor in life is not worth very much after all.

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Odysseus meets a lot of people in the Hades, the Land of the Dead.

He goes there in Book 11 because Circe tells him he has to go there to talk to the prophet Teiresias if he ever wants to get back home.

Once he gets to Hades, he meets:

  • Elpenor -- a crewman of his who just died by getting drunk and falling off a roof
  • Teiresias
  • Odysseus's mother, Anticleia
  • Tyro, who had a child with Poseidon and was grandmother of Nestor
  • Epikaste, better known as Jocasta, mother of Oedipus
  • Nestor's mother Cloris
  • Leda
  • Iphimedia
  • Ariadne, lover of Thesus who went into the labyrinth
  • Agamemnon
  • Achilles
  • Tantalus
  • Sisyphus
  • Hercules
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