Illustration of Odysseus tied to a ship's mast

The Odyssey

by Homer

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What difficulties does Tiresias predict for Odysseus's future journey?

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Tiresias says that "a god will make [the journey home] hard for [Odysseus]"; he means that Poseidon, the god of the seas and the father of the Cyclops, Polyphemus, will do his best to prevent Odysseus from returning to his home alive. Odysseus blinded Polyphemus, and now Poseidon is angry and seeks to avenge his son. Further, Tiresias predicts trouble when the ship reaches Thrinacia, where the "fat flocks" of cattle belonging to the sun god, Helios, live. If Odysseus or his men "harm them in any way," their ship will be destroyed and the crew as well. Even if Odysseus makes it home, he will be a "broken" man. The prophet also speaks to Odysseus about the "arrogant men" who are eating up all his goods and chasing his wife in Ithaca, though he foretells that Odysseus will kill them and "pay them back in blood" when he reaches his home.

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Perhaps the biggest difficulty for Odysseus to face as predicted by Tiresias is the wrath of Poseidon, who is furious with Odysseus for blinding his son, the Cyclops named Polyphemus. Tiresias states that Poseidon intends to follow Odysseus, causing difficulties and problems as revenge for his son. However, Tiresias provides a solution for that problem: Odysseus must sail through a narrow strait which is where Scylla and Charybdis reside, both of whom are fearsome monsters who would kill most or all of them.

Tiresias also warns Odysseus not to touch the cattle of Helios, otherwise he and his crew will be destroyed.

Finally, Tiresias tells Odysseus of what he will find when he finally reaches Ithaca: the suitors who have been causing trouble in his home. However, Odysseus will take care of the suitors by killing them.

All of this takes place in Bk. 11, lines 111-133.

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