The Poem

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Odysseus, king of Ithaca, subdues a revolt against him soon after his return from the Trojan War. Growing discontent with the routine obligations of lawgiver, husband, and father, he builds a ship, forms a crew of similarly individualistic characters, and begins another journey—of no return. In Sparta, Odysseus tempts Helen to abandon, once again, her life of sumptuous boredom and accompany him. The shipmates next anchor in Crete, where, outraged by the disparity of wealth between the hedonistic court elite, presided over by the indolent King Idomeneus, and the impoverished kingdom, Odysseus leads an uprising of slaves and invading barbarians. Helen becomes the lover of one of the Dorian invaders and chooses to remain in Crete, to rear her child—a symbol for Kazantzakis of the golden age of Greece yet to come—when the conquering shipmates sail on.

In contrast to the triumphant overthrow of the Cretan court, Odysseus and his crew next join forces with revolutionaries and barbarians in Egypt to fight against a much larger and stronger army, at whose hands they meet bloody defeat, barely surviving. They become prisoners in an Egyptian dungeon. Odysseus eventually manages to terrify the superstitious Pharaoh, who banishes him into the desert. Having observed the corruption and injustice of various civilizations, Odysseus determines to create a type of utopian society for the ranks of the lawless and dejected who had followed him into exile, and for his...

(The entire section is 583 words.)