Illustration of Odysseus tied to a ship's mast

The Odyssey

by Homer
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Why does Odysseus make sure that Polyphemus knows his name?

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Odysseus has just outsmarted the Cyclops Polyphemus. He's blinded the hideous giant with a sharpened stake and while Polyphemus was screaming and flailing about in agony, Odysseus and his remaining crew-mates managed to escape by clinging to the bellies of sheep.

But this isn't enough for Odysseus; he has to...

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Odysseus has just outsmarted the Cyclops Polyphemus. He's blinded the hideous giant with a sharpened stake and while Polyphemus was screaming and flailing about in agony, Odysseus and his remaining crew-mates managed to escape by clinging to the bellies of sheep.

But this isn't enough for Odysseus; he has to rub Polyphemus's nose right in it. As he and his men are about to set sail Odysseus foolishly taunts the Cyclops, revealing his identity. Odysseus is full of bravado, and the adrenaline is coursing through his veins. He and his men had been trapped inside the Cyclops' cave for several days, where Polyphemus snacked on some of the ship's crew. So we can perhaps forgive Odysseus for his over-exuberance. He's glad to be alive, and even more glad that he was able to outsmart the Cyclops.

Prior to the departure of Odysseus and his men, Polyphemus had thought that Odysseus's name was "nobody." So when he screams that "nobody" has blinded him, the other giants on the island don't think there's anything wrong. But now, thanks to Odysseus, he knows his real name, and prays to his father Poseidon, the god of the sea, to exact a terrible revenge on the man who blinded him.

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