Illustration of Odysseus tied to a ship's mast

The Odyssey

by Homer

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Where does Odysseus lose all of his men?

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Odysseus lost six men from the crew of each ship to the Ciconians at Ismarus; they were attacked at night by the survivors of the town they'd sacked.  He then lost six men total when they were eaten for meals, two at a time, by the Cyclops, Polyphemus.  Odysseus then lost all ships except for the one in which he was traveling when they landed at Laestrygonia, the home of the cannibal giants.  Next, he lost one man -- Elpenor -- at the home of Circe.  Elpenor drank too much and fell asleep on the roof, and then he accidentally fell off and died.  Then, Odysseus had to choose between going nearer Charybdis, a whirlpool that could suck down and drown his entire crew, or Scylla, a six-headed monster who could only kill six of his men at once.  He eventually chose to take Circe's advice and steer closer to Scylla, and so he lost six more men there when she came out of her cave and took them.  Finally, after his ship's crew ate the sacred cattle of the sun god, Helios, the remainder of Odysseus's men were slain by Zeus.  Only he survived to go on.

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All of Odysseus' men died on the return journey to Ithaca. Originally, Odysseus had twelve ships. Unfortunately, the Laestrygonians engaged in cannibalism; they destroyed 11 of Odysseus' ships (every ship but the one he was on) and ate many of the sailors.

Most of the men on his ship died following their stop on the island of Helios. While on Helios' island, Odysseus' men defied orders and ate the sacred cattle of Helios. As punishment, Zeus hit Odysseus' ship with a lightning bolt. The ship was destroyed; only Odysseus survived. However, Odysseus lost men in other places as well. For example, the sea-serpent Scylla ate six of his men. Polyphemus the Cyclops (the son of Poseidon, the sea-god) also killed some of his men.

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