The Odyssey Summaries
Homer’s invocation to the Muses (9 daughters of Zeus worshipped for Inspiration to art and music) • The reader learns: • Odysseus has already had a rather lengthy journey home Book ONEAthena Advises Telemachus
Book 9: The lotus eaters & the cyclops • Odysseus reveals himself to King Alcinousas Laertes’ son • Odysseus tells of his misadventures with his crew • This story is in flashback– Odysseus tells it • After 9 days of drifting, they stop on the Land of the Lotus Eaters
Book 9 • The lotus plant causes feelings of laziness and dreaminess • Odysseus sends 3 of his men to check out the land; they never return because they eat the lotus with the Lotus Eaters • Odysseus finds the 3 men and ties them under their boat benches. • He tells the others not to eat the Lotus or they won’t want to go home Odysseus makes his men leave the Lotus Eaters
Book 9 • Odysseus and his men sail away • They land on the Cyclops’ island • Odysseus’ curiosity leads him to the Cyclops’ cave (the result of the encounter explains Poseidon’s anger toward Odysseus) • Odysseus and his men are sitting inside the Cyclops’s cave around the fire when he comes inside. • The Cyclops has one eye in the center of his head
The Cyclops leads his rams and ewes outside and covers the cave opening with a huge rock. He milks his ewes. He asks for “the strangers” identities The Cyclops’ name is Polyphemus Odysseus explains who they are and that they were blown off course Odysseus tells him that he should be hospitable or suffer the wrath of Zeus Book 9
Book 9 • The Cyclops says he is not afraid of Zeus and has more power than he does. • Odysseus says Poseidon broke up their ship (a lie) • The Cyclops picks up two of the men, bashes their brains in, and eats them! • Odysseus decides not to try and kill the Cyclops because they won’t be able to leave the cave
Book 9 • In the morning, the Cyclops eats 2 more men for breakfast! • He leaves his cave with his sheep and places the slab over the opening • The men make a 6 foot pointed stake while he is gone. • 4 men & Odysseus decide to poke the Cyclops in the eye
Book 9 • When the Cyclops returns at night and closes the cave opening, he eats 2 more men. • Odysseus gives him a bowl of strong wine • Cyclops asks his name & Odysseus replies “Nohbdy” • Cyclops falls asleep & the men put the stake in his eye
Book 9 • Cyclops begins to wail & call for nearby Cyclopes • He calls out: “Nohbdy tricked me, Nohbdy’s ruined me!” • Of course, “nobody” helps the Cyclops. • Odysseus ties his men under the rams so they can leave the cave when the rams do • Cyclops pats each ram as it leaves but doesn’t feel the men
Book 9 • Odysseus yells out to Cyclops once he is on his boat. • The Cyclops throws a boulder in front of the boat. • Odysseus calls out his real name to Cyclops. • Cyclops throws another boulder which hits their boat and slows them down. • Cyclops asks Odysseus to come back so they can be friends.
Book 9 • Odysseus goes too far when he tells the Cyclops that he would hurl him to hell (hubris) • The Cyclops calls out to his father Poseidon and asks him to prevent Odysseus from ever seeing his family and wishes that all of his men are killed on the journey.
The Polyphemus episode is important; we learn much about Odysseus as a leader - both his strengths and his flaws. Odysseus is prone to rash decisions. First, he makes the mistake of wanting to meet Polyphemus even as his men warn him against it. But he makes another error when he taunts Polyphemus not once but twice. This second mistake is what creates his problem with Poseidon, as he foolishly reveals his name and invites the wrath of the Poseidon, god of earthquake - and subsequently dooms his shipmates. Book 9 Commentary
Book TENThe Bag of Winds and the Witch Circe • Odysseus & men land on island of Aeolia • Aeolus, the wind king, puts all the winds in a bag so that the men won’t be harmed on the voyage • Odysseus’ sailors open the bag of wind on the boat & hurricanes ensue • They are blown back to Aeolia with no sympathy from Aeolus
Next, they sail to the land of the giant Laestrygonians (lees-trih-GOH-nee-unz) & some of the Laestrygonians, cannibals, eat some of Odysseus’ men. Then, with one ship left, they land on Aeaea, home to the witch Circe. Eurylochus, leads a party of 22 men to explore the island. They find Circe surrounded by many wild animals. Book TENThe Bag of Winds and the Witch Circe
Book TENThe Bag of Winds and the Witch Circe • Circe looks harmless since she is singing and weaving & the men think she might be a goddess. • Eurylochus did not go in to meet her since he sensed something evil within Circe. • Circe feeds the men and gives them laced wine which turns them into pigs. • Hermes gives Odysseus an antidote to eat to work against Circe’s power & he rushes to her home.
Book 10 • As Hermes predicted, Circe asks Odysseus to sleep with her; he first makes her promise not to use any more enchantments. • After they retire to Circe’s bedchamber, she turns them back into men, now looking better than ever. • Circe tells Odysseus to have his men bring their ships and gear ashore and come back with everyone. • They all return but the still suspicious Eurylochos.
Circe releases all of Odysseus’ men, and since she is the most beautiful immortal, he agrees to her request to have Odysseus and his men stay with her for a year. They beg Circe to help them get home. She warns them that they will have to confront Hades, King of the Underworld, and his wife Persephone, Queen of the Underworld. Book TENThe Bag of Winds and the Witch Circe
Circe gives Odysseus very specific instructions regarding how to reach the Underworld because one cannot simply take a boat there Odysseus must go to Persephone’s land, find the place where two rivers meet and drain into the river Styx, and then dig a trench. In the Underworld, the men will have to consult with Teiresias, the blind prophet, make sacrifices of animals, & confront ghosts. Book TENThe Bag of Winds and the Witch Circe
Book TWELVEThe Sirens, Scylla, and Charybdis • Odysseus has returned to Circe’s island & she warns him of the dangers of his journey • Circe warns the men of the Sirens, beautiful, bird-like women whose music enchants men so that they may kill them • No sailor has ever survived the lure of the sirens.
Book Twelve • Circe tells Odysseus to plug the men’s ears with wax so they can’t hear the Sirens • The men will continue to steer the boat past the Sirens. • Odysseus can be tied to the mast of the boat so he can hear them
Book TWELVEThe Sirens, Scylla, and Charybdis • Circe tells the men that the 2nd danger to avoid is the den of Scylla, a monster who has 12 legs and 6 serpent’s necks and heads. • She has 3 rows of sharp teeth. • She will eat 6 men at once.
Book Twelve • The 3rd danger is the whirlpool Charybdis • Circe tells the men that they should hug the cliffs of Scylla because it is better to lose 6 men than an entire boat of men. • The 4th danger are Helios’ cattle. If the men eat them, the ship & crew will be destroyed– but not Odysseus.
Book TWELVEThe Sirens, Scylla, and Charybdis • Odysseus never tells the men of the last prophecy (Helios’s cattle) • (Remember: Odysseus is still telling his story to King Alcinous) • The men survive the Sirens. • The men drop their oars out of fear when they see Scylla & Charybdis. • Scylla eats 6 of the men. • They avoid Charybdis.
Book TWELVEThe Sirens, Scylla, and Charybdis • Odysseus tells the men not to eat Helios’ cattle when they arrive on Thrinakia for a rest • After a month of storms, the men are hungry and kill a cow. • The men eat Helios’ cattle & are punished at sea by a thunderbolt from Zeus. • Odysseus is the only one who survived & is rescued on Calypso’s island.
Book Twelve • *Odysseus is finished telling his story to King Alcinous
Book Twenty-ONEThe Test of the Great Bow • Penelope tells the suitors that she will marry the one who can bend, string, and shoot Odysseus’s special hunting bow through 12 ax handles. • This contest takes place on a festival day for Apollo, the god of archery
Book Twenty-One • Nobody can work Odysseus’s bow. • Odysseus asks the cowherd Philoetiusand the swineherd Eumaeus to help him • Odysseus tells them that they were the only men who missed him
Book Twenty-ONEThe Test of the Great Bow • Odysseus will give the cowherd and swineherd wives, cattle, and homes if they help him kill the suitors • Odysseus shows them his scar to prove himself • Odysseus tells them to lock himself and all the suitors in the room when he picks up the bow • Penelope allows Odysseus, the beggar, to test the bow
Book Twenty-ONEThe Test of the Great Bow • Telemachus has removed the suitors’ weapons from the hall • Odysseus, the beggar, strings the bow and shoots it through the axe holes • Telemachus straps on his armor • The fighting with the suitors begins in the next book.
Book TWENTY-TWODeath at the Palace • *This is the climax. • Odysseus takes off his beggar rags. • Odysseus must fight more than 100 suitors • He attacks Antinous, the meanest, first, and shoots an arrow into his neck.
Book TWENTY-TWODeath at the Palace • The suitors run around, looking for their weapons and cursing Odysseus. • Odysseus accuses the suitors of such things as: “using” his maids and trying to marry his wife • The suitors, of course, don’t believe he is Odysseus • Eurymachus blames the suitors’ actions on Antinous’ commands
Book TWENTY-TWODeath at the Palace • Eurymachus tells Odysseus that he and the suitors will give him gifts if he lets them go • Odysseus replies, “There will be killing till the score is paid.” • Telemachus, Eumaeus, and Philoetius help Odysseus kill the suitors • Athena’s shield comes to life, and she, disguised as Mentor, helps kill the suitors • All suitors are killed by the end of the battle.
Book TWENTY-THREEOdysseus and Penelope • Eurycleia announces Odysseus’s return to Penelope. • Penelope suspects a trick from the gods and decides to test Odysseus • Telemachus chides her for doubting Odysseus’s identity • She tells Telemachus that she and Odysseus share secret signs
Book TWENTY-THREEOdysseus and Penelope • Odysseus is made handsome by Athena • Odysseus tells Eurycleia to prepare a couch for him to sleep upon • Penelope tells the nurse to carry their marriage bed out for him to sleep on—words meant to test her husband • Odysseus becomes upset because the bed was built around an olive tree that serves as a bedpost– it can’t be moved unless another man had sawed the post from the trunk
Book TWENTY-THREEOdysseus and Penelope • Odysseus passes Penelope’s test and they embrace. • Athena delays the sunrise so the couple can spend more time together • Odysseus plans to travel to his father Laertes’ house and to seek revenge upon the suitors’ families.