Illustration of Odysseus tied to a ship's mast

The Odyssey

by Homer

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Key Plot Points

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Odysseus Sets Sail from Calypso’s Island (Book 5): Odysseus has been gone from home for over ten years. He sailed to Troy, defeated the Trojans, survived many adventures at sea, and lost much of his crew. Held captive by the nymph Calypso, Odysseus longs to be home with his wife, Penelope, and son, Telemachus. Athena (Minerva, in the Roman) sends Hermes to persuade Calypso to release Odysseus. With Calypso’s support, Odysseus builds a raft and continues his journey home. 

Odysseus Blinds the Cyclops (Book 9): After participating in a welcome feast and athletic games at the home of King Alcinous, Odysseus reveals his true identity and recounts the events that brought him from the Trojan War to Calypso’s island. He tells of his meeting with the cyclops Polyphemus, Poseidon’s son. Odysseus and his men blind Polyphemus as they escape from his cave, but Odysseus makes the mistake of gloating as they depart. Odysseus reveals his identity to Polyphemus, giving the cyclops the power to invoke Poseidon (Neptune, in the Roman) to curse Odysseus. 

Odysseus Goes into the Underworld (Book 11): Following the witch Circe’s advice, Odysseus ventures into the underworld. While he’s there, he meets the spirit of his fallen compatriots of war, including Achilles and Agamemnon. He also sees his mother, Anticlea, and the Theban seer Teiresias, who warns Odysseus against further dangers on his journey home. 

Odysseus Returns to Ithaca (Book 13): After ten years of war, ten years at sea, and the loss of all of his men, Odysseus arrives home in Ithaca. Athena greets him, and they devise a strategy by which he can safely reunite with his loyal shepherd and his son, Telemachus, and reclaim his home from the suitors who, vying for Penelope’s hand, have taken over his home and hall. 

Odysseus Defeats the Suitors (Book 22): After infiltrating his home in disguise, Odysseus and Telemachus launch an offensive against the suitors. Punishing the suitors for their betrayal of xenia, the sacred guest-host relationship in the ancient Greek world, Odysseus slaughters those who have transgressed against him while educating his own son in the craft of war. 

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