Illustration of Odysseus tied to a ship's mast

The Odyssey

by Homer

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Who are Odysseus' parents and how does he relate with them?

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In Homer's Odyssey, we only hear about Odysseus' parents, Laertes (father) and Anticleia (mother) in any detail in Book 11 and Book 24.

In Odyssey 11, Odysseus conjures up spirits from the underworld; one of these is the spirit of his mother, Anticleia. She tells her son that she died because she was "was yearning for you,...for your kindness and your counsels" (Kline translation). Anticleia also notes that Odysseus' father is "longing for your return." Thus, it is clear that Anticleia loves her son and he loves her. Odysseus tries to hug his mother, but because she is now a spirit, he is unable to do so.

At the end of the epic, Odysseus encounters his father, who lives on a farm not far from Odysseus' own palace. Laertes is dressed in ragged clothes is in a very sad state. Initially, as Odysseus did with his wife Penelope, Odysseus tests his father to find out his attitude towards Odysseus. He tells Laertes that he saw Odysseus five years ago alive and well. This news causes Laertes great pangs of grief. Thus, Odysseus feels sorry for his father and reveals to him his true identity. With father and son reunited, they prepare to face an attack from the relatives of the suitors. The epic ends with Laertes, Odysseus, and Telemachus standing side by side, preparing to battle the suitors' relatives. Fortunately, though, goddess Athena intervenes and a truce is made.

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Who are Odysseus' parents?

Odysseus, husband of Penelope and grandson of Autoclyus is the son of Laertes and Anticleia.  By the time The Odyssey's action begins, Anticleia has passed away. His father, Laertes, was known for traveling with Jason and the Argonauts on their quest for the Golden Fleece.  At the beginning of the epic, Laertes is an old man whose glory days are behind him.  A widower, his son has been away from home for twenty years, he has retired to life on a country estate.  Here his lives his life almost like a servant and less like the father of Odysseus.

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