Illustration of Odysseus tied to a ship's mast

The Odyssey

by Homer

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In Homer's Odyssey, who are the lotus eaters and what is their impact on Odysseus and his men?

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After plundering the city of the Cicones, Odysseus wants to move on but his men are intent upon celebrating their success. This proves an ill-fated decision, for the remaining men of the Cicones call up reinforcements: other Cicones warriors. Odysseus and his remaining men are lucky to escape with their lives.

According to Odysseus, while they are escaping Zeus "roused the North Wind with a wondrous tempest," so that the ships are driven headlong and "their sails were torn to shreds by the violence of the wind." Odysseus and his men finally set foot on land. They eat and rest for two days and two nights; when they finally move on, the winds again bear them along for nine days until they finally come to land once more. This land is known as the Land of the Lotus Eaters. After eating and resting, Odysseus sends two men plus a herald to find out who the inhabitants of the land are. Odysseus' men are given the "lotus to taste" by the Lotus Eaters.

Unfortunately, after the men taste the "honey sweet fruit of the lotus," none of them want to return to Odysseus. They forget all their duties and their previous hopes of returning home. These men have to be dragged, weeping and screaming, back to the ships. Once there, they are bound so that they will not escape and return to the Lotus-Eaters. Odysseus straightaway bids "the rest of my trusty comrades to embark with speed on the swift ships, lest perchance anyone should eat of the lotus and forget his homeward way."

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