Illustration of Odysseus tied to a ship's mast

The Odyssey

by Homer

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The most meaningful goal that Odysseus is trying to achieve is to return home to Ithaca, from which he has been absent for twenty years.

Ithaca means everything to Odysseus. It's not just the place he calls home, the place where his wife Penelope has had to live without him all this time. It also happens to be his kingdom, the seat of his earthly power. The significance of Ithaca to Odysseus cannot then be underestimated. This explains why he is prepared to withstand all manner of trials and tribulations in order to reach his ultimate goal.

In Ancient Greece, people weren't thought of primarily as individuals. They tended to be evaluated by their status in society, by their membership of social groups. Odysseus is no different. He's defined by his being King of Ithaca, his homeland, the place where he belongs.

So long as he remains far from home, Odysseus's status, though still exalted, is not quite the same as it would be if he were safely back home on Ithaca in the welcoming bosom of Penelope. And so it's of the utmost importance that Odysseus finally end his epic wanderings and achieve his ultimate goal of returning home.

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