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|Genre(s)||Ancient Greek Epic Poems|
|Preceded by||The Iliad|
The epic poem of Odysseus begins ten years after the capture of Troy in Ithaca, his homeland. In his palace a large group of suitors have arrived and taken up residence to court Penelope, Odysseus’s wife. She, however, does not wish to remarry and makes them wait while her son Telemachus searches for just cause and a good reason to banish them from their home. All the while, Antinous plots to kill Telemachus and remove his opposition in the palace.
However, lost in the Mediterranean is Odysseus still trying to return home. Trapped on the island of Ogygia by the nymph Calypso, he wishes to return to his family but does not have the means to as he has lost his crew and ship. The Gods of Olympus continue to debate what they shall do about Odysseus, but Athena takes the initiative to visit and help his son, Telemachus. She arrives and convinces Telemachus to censure the suitors for their behavior and convinces him to travel to Pylos and Sparta. He learns while there that Odysseus is still alive and trapped by Calypso. While Telemachus prepares to return, Antinous puts his plans in motion to kill him.
Zeus finally decides to rescue Odysseus from Calyspo’s island and sends Hermes to convince Calypso to let him leave. He finally sets sail home, but is quickly shipwrecked again by Poseidon, the God who he had angered when Odysseus blinded his son Polyphemus, the Cyclops. Athena steps in to save Odysseus and brings him to the island of Scheria where he is found by Nausicaa, Princess of the Phaeacians. He reveals who he is to the King and Queen here and they immediately agree to help him return home. They first want to hear his story though.
Odysseus thus describes the months of travel that led him to the island of Calypso and then to Scheria. He begins with his trip to the Land of the Lotus Eaters, followed by the trip and battle of wits with Polyphemus, Poseidon’s Cyclops son. He describes the time he spent with Circe and their love affair as well as the journey past the Sirens and their tempting call. He continues to describe how he traveled to the underworld to speak with Tiresias the prophet and the fight with Scylla, the sea monster. Finally, after his tale is complete, Odysseus returns to Ithaca.
When he first arrives in Ithaca, he searches out Eumaeus, the swineherd. With Eumaeus’ assistance he finds and reveals himself to Telemachus as well. They then begin plotting to take back the palace and kill the suitors.
Odysseus arrives at the palace as a beggar and is immediately treated poorly. His nurse, Eurycleia recognizes him but does not reveal that she knows. Penelope also notes the beggar’s appearance and believes he might be her long lost husband. However, she is not sure, so she puts together an archery contest, the winner of which will be allowed to marry her. Whoever can string Odysseus’s bow and fire an arrow through twelve axes will be declared the winner. Only Odysseus was ever able to do so in the past. The suitors all fail before Odysseus is able to accomplish the feat. He then turns the bow on the suitors and kills every one of them.
Finally, Odysseus reveals his identity and reunites with his family. He then visits his father Laertes and after successfully repelling the angered families of the suitors he killed, Athena arrives and peace is restored to Ithaca with the epic coming to a close.
- 1 The Odyssey Character Summaries
- 2 The Odyssey Book Summaries
- 3 External Links
The Odyssey Character Summaries
- As the title character and cause for much of the play, Odysseus must fight a slew of angry Gods on his return trip from the years-long attack of Troy. As the King of Ithaca, Odysseus misses his wife Penelope and son Telemachus back home. He is incredibly intelligent and powerful, and after a bad encounter with a Cyclops, draws the ire of Poseidon. However, Athena favors him and ensures he succeeds.
- Odysseu’s son and the Prince of Ithaca. He was a baby when Odysseus left for Troy and is now twenty years old as the story begins. He does his best to keep the suitors at bay in his home but grows angrier with age. He eventually travels to visit friends of his father and returns to help his father remove the suitors.
- Odysseus’s wife and the Queen of Ithaca. Penelope tries her best to keep the suitors at bay while she awaits her husband’s return. She uses the excuse of finishing Laertes’ funeral shroud and unraveling it every night to make them wait.
- The daughter of Zeus and representative of wisdom and intellect as a Goddess. Athena helps Telemachus and Odysseus throughout the poem, constantly speaking for him on Olympus and lending help on Earth.
- As the God of the Sea, Poseidon takes on the role of the divine enemy when Odysseus blinds Polyphemus, Poseidon’s Cyclops son. He takes it upon himself to thwart his return journey to Ithaca, eventually shipwrecking him multiple times.
- As the King of the Gods, Zeus is the mediated voice of Olympus and must ultimately decide whether Odysseus shall be permitted to return. He occasionally allows such help by Athena.
- He is the figurative leader and most obnoxious of Penelope’s suitors, ultimately plotting to have Telemachus killed. He is the first and most angrily killed when Odysseus takes his revenge.
- The swineherd who helps Odysseus when he first returns to Ithaca, helping him get back into his Palace and reunite with Telemachus. He does not at first realize that the beggar is Odysseus, but offers him food and shelter anyways.
- The elderly nurse for both Odysseus and Telemachus. She knows of everything that happens in the Palace and offers advice to the King and Prince constantly. She helps Telemachus visit Sparta and keeps Odysseus’s secret when he arrives as the beggar.
- The nymph and purveyor of Ogygia, the island where Odysseus is stranded at the start of the epic. She is able to keep him there for seven years before Hermes finally arrives and makes her release him.
- Shortly after leaving Troy, Odysseus arrives on the island of Polyphemus, a Cyclops and son of Poseidon. After he tries to capture Odysseus and his crew and eat them, Odysseus is able to trick and blind the Cyclops, enraging Poseidon.
- Circe is a witch and goddess who turns the crew into a herd of swine before taking Odysseus as her lover and having him by her side.
- The decrepit, elderly father of Odysseus, Laertes lives just outside the Palace on a farm in Ithaca and offers advice to his grandson. When Odysseus returns, he regains much of his earlier energy and helps to kill Antinous’s father.
- Odysseus travels to the underworld and meets with Tiresias, the prophet to gain insight into his return journey to Ithaca and how he should approach it.
- The story of Agamemnon, told in the Illiad is retold when Odysseus travels to the underworld and meets his spirit. He was murdered by his wife and her lover when he returned from Troy, offering an inverted version of Odysseus’s current plight.
- The Princess of the Phaeacians, Nausicaa is the one who finds Odysseus when he shipwrecks on Scherias. She ensures that he is welcomed by her parents and helped after he gives his story.
The Odyssey Book Summaries
The epic begins with the invocation of the Muses, requesting inspiration and the beginning of Odysseus’s story. It’s been 10 years since the conclusion of the Trojan War and everyone but Odysseus and his comrades has returned from their service in Troy. Due to their devouring of Hyperion the Sun-god's oxen, his comrades are now dead and Odysseus is stuck on the island of Ogygia with Calypso, a besmirched nymph, Odysseus still yearns for his wife and home. Back in Ithaca, Odysseus’s home, Penelope sits waiting for Odysseus to return while fending off a palace full of suitors for her hand in marriage. Telemachus, hers and Odysseus’s 20 year old son, can do nothing to help and has finally come to believe that Odysseus is dead.
Athena eventually goes to Ithaca to talk to Telemachus. She tells him, in disguise as Odysseus’s friend Mentes, that Odysseus is still alive and will soon return. She also tells Telemachus that he should gather and have the suitors banished from the Kingdom. She then advises him to visit Pylos and Sparta to discern as much as he can about his father. After Athena departs, Telemachus sees his mother with the Suitors, upset by a particular bards’ song. The song itself is a tale of despair for those that have returned to Greece. Telemachus however, tells her that she should not be upset by the song, as other men have failed to return from Troy and that she can always leave if she does not enjoy the music; he can deal with the suitors. He announces to the suitors that he will hold an assembly the following day and that he expects them all to leave the estate. Antinous and Eurymachus are unhappy with the announcement though and demand to know who Telamachus was talking with, to which Telemachus only responds that it was a friend of his father’s. Telemachus is guided by Eurycleia, daughter of Ops and granddaughter of Peisenor, to his room where he retired to plan his journey
The next day, as Telemachus calls the assembly, an elder of Ithaca praises Telemachus for his actions as there has not been a single assembly since Odysseus left. Telemachus follows with a speech that decries the suitors for taking over his father’s home and mourns the loss of his father. He speaks against their rampant use of the palace’s food and wine and rebukes them for not simply going to Icarius, Penelope’s father, to ask for her hand.
In response, Antinous places the blame at the feet of Penelope for seducing them all but not committing. He describes her use of the burial shroud for Laertes to extend her decision. She declared that she would choose a husband after finishing, but every night she would unravel the shroud so as she never completed it. Antinous declares that she should be sent to Icarius so as he can choose a new husband for her. Telemachus responds violently, declaring he will never throw his mother out and that the Gods must punish those suitors who wish such a thing upon her. At that moment, a pair of eagles appears above and fight, a sign that the soothsayer reads as meaning Odysseus will soon return and massacre the suitors. They declare such a warning foolish though and continue to rebuke Telemachus.
Athena arrives once more while Telemachus is preparing to leave for Pylos and Sparta and gives him encouragement for the ensuing journey. She helps him gather a crew for his ship and Telemachus departs without telling any of his servants or his mother.
When Telemachus and Mentor arrive in Pylos, they witness a ritual sacrifice of twelve bulls to Poseidon and though he is unsure of himself, Mentor gives Telemachus encouragement to go forward and speak with Nestor about Odysseus. Nestor has no news to relay though and recounts the fates of Agamemnon and Menelaus after the fall of Troy. The two broke apart after an argument and went their separate ways, Nestor with Menelaus and Odysseus with Agamemnon. He speaks kind words for Telemachus but cannot offer any more information about Odysseus.
He does however explain more about what happened to Agamemnon. After returning from Troy, he finds Aegisthus who had remained in Greece while everyone went to Troy married to his wife, Clytemnestra. The two plot and carryout the murder of Agamemnon and attempts to take over the kingdom. Orestes however returns from exile and takes revenge against both Aegisthus and Clytemnestra. Nestor compares Orestes’ situation to that of Telemachus and sends Pisistratus along with Telemachus to Sparta to beseech Menelaus for more information. Athena then reveals herself as a goddess and remains behind in Pylos to protect Telemahus’s crew and ship.
When Telemachus and Pisistratus arrive in Sparta, they find Menelaus and Helen celebrating the marriages of their son and daughter. The King and Queen hold a feast hat night and recount for Telemachus the many instances of Odysseus’ cunning during the war. Helen recounts the time when Odysseus dressed as a beggar and infiltrated Troy and Menelaus describes the final victory of the Trojan Horse, masterminded by Odysseus himself. The next day, Menelaus describes how he returned from Troy. He was trapped in Egypt for a time and was forced to capture Proteus, the Old Man of the Sea who then gave him the directions back to Sparta as well as revealing the fates of Agamemnon and Ajax. Ajax’s own fate was similar to how Agamemnon finally returned home, only to be killed.
Proteus also reveals to Menelaus that Odysseus is imprisoned on the island of Calypso and has been for years. Telemachus and Pisistratus take this information and return to Ithaca. Back in Ithaca, the suitors begin to plot the assassination of Telemachus. A herald overhears the plot and reports it back to Penelope who becomes distraught. However Athena sends her own message to Penelope and relays that Telemachus has the goddess’s protection.
Back on Olympus, the gods convene without Poseidon to discuss what shall be done with Odysseus. Athena is able to convince Zeus to step in and so Hermes is dispatched to Calypso to inform her that Odysseus must be allowed to leave. She is unhappy, railing against the male gods of Olympus for their selfishness and hypocrisy. She does eventually relent though as it is by the decree of Zeus. Odysseus is alone with his crew and ship both long since destroyed after leaving Troy. However, with Hermes’ interjection, he is finally permitted to build a new boat and prepare it for his final voyage home.
After leaving, Odysseus spends only eighteen days at sea before spotting Scheria, the location pointed to him via Hermes by the gods. Poseidon has returned though from his trip to Ethiopia and sees that the other gods have helped Odysseus escape Calypso. In retaliation he sets a storm upon Odysseus and attempts to drown him. Ino arrives and saves Odysseus, bestowing upon him a veil meant to keep him safe from the sea after the ship sinks. With Athena also at his side, Odysseus is able to survive the storm and eventually fights his way to shore and the forest of Scheria. After tossing Ino’s veil back into the water, he is finally safe from Poseidon.
Athena appears in the dreams of Nausicaa, Princess of the Phaeacians as one of her closest friends. She coaxes Nausicaa to visit the river the following day and wash her clothing so that the men courting her will find her more attractive. She does as informed and while she and her maids are naked and playing beside the river, Odysseus awakes and encounters them. He himself is naked, but does not reveal his true identity, instead taking the time to clean the dirt and muck from the ocean clean. Athena imbues him with exceptional physical appearance and Nausicaa begins to fall in love with him upon seeing him once more. She informs Odysseus that he must approach the palace on his own so as not to draw attention to her bringing a man back with her to the city. She informs him to approach Arete, her mother and the Queen and gives him instructions on how to do so.
On the trip to the palace to meet with the King and Queen of the Phaeacians, Odysseus encounters Athena, in disguise as a young girl. She protects and hides him from the populous and guides him to the Palace. She tells him to ask for help from Arete and not Alcinous, the King as she is kind and wise and will help him. She then leaves Scheria to return to Athens.
When Odysseus arrives, he finds the palace worshipping Poseidon in a festival designed for him. He notes the beauty and excessiveness of the Palace and the King’s celebration and as Odysseus enters, the King himself questions whether or not Odysseus might be a god. However, Odysseus relates that he is indeed a mortal and with a bit of explaining is able to describe his situation without revealing his identity and secure a promise of assistance from the King and Queen; they will help him return home the following day.
That evening, Arete finally recognizes Odysseus’s clothing as belonging to her daughter, Nausica and questions him more regarding his identity. He still keeps his name to himself, but relays his story of the journey from Calypso to the beaches of Scheria and Nausicaa that morning. Odysseus calmly takes responsibility for arriving at the palace alone and does not give away any of what Nausicaa said or did, eventually impressing Alcinous enough for him to offer her hand to Odysseus in marriage.
The following day, an assembly of the Phaeacian counsel is called with Athena ensuring maximum attendance by carrying word to each counselor of the visitor to the island who appears as a god. Alcinous presents his plan to offer Odysseus a ship to return home and the counselors agree, after which everyone convenes at the Palace for a feast and games in honor of their incredible guest. A bard relays the story of Odysseus and Achilles quarrelling in Troy, causing Odysseus to weep in memory of those horrendous times. The king, noting Odysseus’s response ends the meal and announces the commencement of the games.
At first unwilling to participate because of the physical strain of his journeys, Odysseus is goaded into participating in the discus throw by a young athlete jabbing at his abilities. Overcome by pride, Odysseus out throws everyone and challenges the rest of the Phaeacians to any sport they might choose. Eventually, before anyone else can become upset, Alcinous announces that they shall have another feast with further song and dance. The bard sings this time a tale of gods and goddesses in love instead. After the feast, the Phaeacians offer their gifts to Odysseus to return home with. Later that night when Odysseus requests a song about the Trojan Horse and the end of the war, he eventually loses control of his emotions again, prompting Alcinous to demand he reveal his name and purpose.
Without much of a choice, Odyseeus relents and begins to tell his story. After first setting sail from Troy, they arrived at the home of the Cicones, Ismarus. They plunder the city but ultimately spend too much time there as the Cicone forces return and chase them back to their ships, killing almost six men per ship. After a storm that lasts for nine full days, they arrive in the Land of the Lotus Eaters.
Upon landing, Odysseus’s men are offered fruit by the Lotus Eaters and immediately fall victim to the intoxicating effect of it. They refuse to leave and eventually are taken back to the ship by Odysseus by force. When they finally leave the Land of the Lotus Eaters, the men securely locked up, they arrive soon in the land of the Cyclops. It is here that they encounter a herd of wild goats. However, eventually they decide they will cross the straight and visit the main land to acquire more supplies.
While on the main land, they discover a large supply of sheep, milk and cheese in a large cave. The men urge Odysseus to hurry but they spend a bit too long in the cave and Polyphemus, the cave’s resident returns and immediately eats two crew members and imprisons the rest for future meals.
Trapped behind the giant rock blocking the entrance, Odysseus is forced to think of a plan to escape. He waits for Polyphemus to leave the cave and finds a particularly good piece of wood to temper in the fire, hardening it. When Polyphemus returns with his flock, Odysseus uses the wine they brought with them to get him drunk. While drunk, Polyphemus inquires of Odysseus’s name, to which Odysseus responds “Nobody.” Shortly afterwards, Polyphemus collapses under the effects of the wine and Odysseus and his men attack with the staff, blinding the Cyclops. When he calls for help, all he can say is “Nobody is killing me”, forcing the other Cyclops to abandon his strange cries for help. The following day, the men cling to the bottom of the sheep and leave the cave when Polyphemus leads them out. They steal the sheep and as they are departing, Odysseus calls his name back to the Cyclops. With Odysseus’s name in hand, Polyphemus calls for his father, Poseidon, to curse Odysseus at sea.
The next stop for Odysseus and his men is the land of Aeolus, keeper of the winds. He offers Odysseus the gift of a bag, containing all of the winds. He then stirs up the Westerly wind to guide them home. After only 10 days, they are within sight of Ithaca. However, because the men are greedy, they tear open Aeolus’s bag, thinking it contains gold and silver. The winds, loosened as they are, form a terrible storm and blow the ships back to Aeolus who then refuses to help him as he believes them to be cursed by the gods.
Without the winds to guide them, Odysseus and his men row to Laestrygonia, the home of giants who immediately kill and eat Odysseus’s scouts. The Laestrygonians toss boulders towards the ships and sink them, leaving only Odysseus’s ship to escape in. After barely escaping, Odysseus and his men arrive in Aeaea where the witch-goddess Circe lives.
She immediately turns Odysseus’s men into pigs. Odysseus is given advice by Hermes to eat an herb known as Moly to protect him from the spell and that when she draws her sword, he should lunge towards her. After defeating Circe and forcing Circe to return his men to human, Odysseus becomes Circe’s lover, living on Circe’s island for more than year in absolute luxury. The men finally convince Odysseus to leave though and Circe offers instructions that will send Odysseus to Hades to speak with Tiresias, the blind prophet, to learn the way home.
When they awake and prepare to leave the following morning, Odysseus learns that yet another of his men has perished, having fallen from the roof after drinking too much and breaking his neck. The remaining men are not happy about the news that they will be traveling to the underworld instead of directly home.
Odysseus travels with his men to the river of Ocean in the Land of the Cimmerians to perform the necessary tasks outlined by Circe to reach the land of the dead. He pours his libations and offers sacrifices designed to attract dead souls and eventually is able to reach and speak with the young crewman who fell from Circe’s roof. He begs for Odysseus to return and properly bury his body. Next, he speaks to Tiresias the Prophet, who relates the reason for their poor luck. Poseidon is angered by the blinding of Polyphemus and impedes Odysseus’s return. He offers his vision of the future to Odysseus, that he will eventually return home to his wife and son. He also warns Odysseus that he must not touch the flocks of the Sun in Thrinacia or he will suffer greater hardship and lose his crew. After Tiresias departs, Odysseus speaks with his mother, Anticleia. She relates the current state of affairs in Ithaca and how she died in grief waiting for him to return. He speaks with numerous other perished heroes while in the underworld.
After attempting to end his story and sleep, Odysseus is pressed on by the Phaeacians to relay if he met with any of the great Greek Heroes who fell in Troy. Odysseus relays his meeting with Agamemnon who relates his murder at the hands of his wife Clytmenestra. He also meets with Achilles who asks after his own son, Neoptolemus. He also attempts to contact Ajax, the warrior who killed himself after failing to win a contest with Odysseus to retain the arms of Achilles. He mentions that he saw Heracles, King Minos, Orion and many other great Greek heroes.
He describes Sisyphus pushing his boulder up the eternal hill and Tantalus, eternally punished with hunger and thirst, surrounded by water and tempted by grapes. He is eventually rushed by the many souls wishing to learn more about the living world and is forced to flee for his ship, sailing away immediately.
Following his return from the Land of the Dead, Odysseus returns to Circe’s island and buries his dead crew member. She offers advice for the remainder of his trip on how to handle the ensuing trials as well.
The first trial turns out to be the Sirens. Odysseus has each of his men plug their ears with bee’s wax and then tie him down to the mast of the ship and hold him there no matter what. Despite their calls, Odysseus is able to withstand the Sirens with the help of his crew.
The next trial is the straight of Scylla and Charybdis. Here, they encounter the six-headed monster Scylla, who will eat one crew member for each of its six heads. On the other side is Charybda, the infamously dangerous whirlpool that takes any ship foolish enough to come within range. According to Circe’s advice, they navigate towards Scylla’s lair and are forced to sacrifice six men to survive the straights.
Finally, they arrive in Thrinicia, where they encounter the Cattle of the Sun. Despite his desire to move on, his men convince Odysseus to stop and rest on the Island of the Sun. After a full month of waiting out storm after storm, the men begin to exhaust their rations and decide they would like to kill and eat the Cattle on the island. Against Odysseus’s orders, they wait until he is asleep and slaughter the Cattle for food. The Sun is enraged and asks Zeus for assistance in punishing Odysseus and his men. After they leave the island, Zeus does just that by throwing a storm toward them that immediately sinks the ship and kills every man aboard except Odysseus. It is after this ordeal that he eventually makes his way, aboard flotsam from his sunken ship, to Calypso’s island where he’ll spend the next seven years.
The next day, after having completed his tale, Odysseus prepares to leave for Ithaca. Alcinous loads the gifts from the night before onto the ship Odysseus will use and the next day Odysseus sets sail with a full Phaeacian crew. He sleeps on the ship until he arrives at Ithaca, where the Phaeacians unload him and his gifts on shore before sailing home.
Poseidon, however, is unhappy that the Phaeacians, a people who traditionally worship him, would help someone he so dislikes. For that reason, he takes his vengeance upon them by waiting for the ship to arrive in Scheria and turning it to stone, sinking it to the bottom of the harbor. The Phaeacians recall a particular prophecy warning them against helping strangers and decide never to help a traveler again.
Odysseus awakes and finds himself in a strange land. Though he is in Ithaca, Athena keeps it hidden until she is sure what to do next. He is at first angry at the Phaeacians, but Athena arrives in the disguise of a shepherd and tells him he is in Ithaca. After a game of wits with Athena over their identities, Athena relays that he must use his intelligence to punish the suitors who have been misusing his home and wife. She tells him to seek out Eumaeus and take refuge in his hut. She also relays news of Telemachus and disguises Odysseus as a beggar to keep his identity a secret.
Upon approaching his hut, Odysseus finds Eumaeus who invites him inside for a meal of pork. Eumaeus recalls the glory days of his old master, who he worries is long dead and gone, and speaks ill about the suitors who have turned the once proud Palace into a horrid place. Odysseus pretends to predict the return of Eumaeus’s old master, but Eumaeus grows wary as many beggars have arrived trying to get a hot meal by offering news of Odysseus to Penelope. Eumaeus likes the beggar though and offers him a cloak and a place to sleep. Odysseus then relates the lie that he is from Crete and was at Odysseus’s side in Troy before returning home. However, a later trip to Egypt proved fatefully bad and he became the beggar that Eumaeus sees in front of him. He reveals that during the trip to Egypt he heard Odysseus was alive.
In Sparta, Athena arrives to find Telemachus and Pisistratus asleep in the palace of Menelaus. She relays to Telemachus that he must hurry home to deal with the suitors and warns him of the plot to assassinate Telemachus when he returns and how to avoid it. She tells him to seek out Eumaeus when he returns who will relay his return to Penelope.
When Telemachus is preparing to leave the following day an eagle appears with a goose in its claws, a sign that Helen interprets as the return and triumph of Odysseus. Telemachus arrives back in Pylos and immediately returns to his ship, stating that he has no time to spend with Nestor. The descendent of a prophet, Theoclymenus, who is pursued by the law for a crime committed in Argos, arrives and requests passage with Telemachus, who offers him ample hospitality.
Eumaeus refuses to allow Odysseus to leave and seek employment with the suitors, instead offering his own further hospitality. They continue to swap stories. Eumaeus describes how he first arrived in Ithaca. He describes how he was kidnapped by pirates and sold to Laertes, and eventually raised by Odysseus’s mother as one of her own.
When Telemachus arrives the next day, he disembarks and sends his crew ahead to the city. Theoclymenus sees a hawk fly above with a dove in hand that he interprets as a good sign for Odysseus and his family line.
Telemachus arrives at the hut of Eumaeus and finds Odysseus and the swineherd talking. Eumaeus at first suggest that Telemachus take Odysseus to the palace with him, but Telemachus is afraid of the suitors and their actions, so sends Eumaeus ahead instead to inform his mother of his return.
Athena then calls Odysseus outside the hut where she removes the spell she had cast upon him, revealing who he really is. He reenters the hut and, standing as Odysseus the long lost King of Ithaca, embraces his son and two weep. Odysseus describes his trip to Ithaca with the Phaeacians and begins to outline the plot which will eventually overthrow the suitors.
He will enter the palace disguised as a beggar, while Telemachaus hides the excess arms away from the access of the suitors. When the time is right, father and son will take the hidden arms and slaughter the suitors.
Eumaeus is unable to give Penelope the news of Telemachus’s return before the ships messenger arrives. The suitors are duly upset at their failure and begin to plan their next move against him. Antinous wants to kill Telemachus before he has a chance to call another assembly and reveal the plans of the suitors. Amphinomus, the nicer of the suitors, is able to waylay such talk though and convince his brethren to await a sign from the gods. Penelope later denounces Antinous for his plot against Telemachus before being calmed by the lies of yet another ill-mannered suitor, Eurymachus.
Leaving his father behind, Telemachus enters the palace and meets back up with his mother and Eurycleia, his nurse. He meets with Theocylmenus and his crew chief in the hall and requests that the gifts given to him by Menelaus remain on the ship for now, lest the suitors steal them. He later reveals the news he has gathered from Sparta and Pylos about Odysseus but does not reveal that Odysseus is in fact waiting in Eumaeus’s hut. Theocylmenus however, pronounces that Odysseus is in Ithaca at that moment.
After Telemachus has entered the palace and spoken with Penelope, Odysseus and Eumaeus set out for the palace on their own. One of the suitors’ companions sees them and physically assaults Odysseus (in the disguise of a beggar once more). When they arrive at the palace, Odysseus is treated similarly poorly and is barely able to receive food, insulting him repeatedly. Antinous hits Odysseus with a stool after he insults him in turn and even the other suitors are upset. Penelope then requests to see the beggar who has been beaten to ask of news regarding Odysseus. Odysseus does not want to be seen going to Penelope though.
A different beggar known as Irus arrives and with his fair share of insolence challenges Odysseus to a boxing match. With the extra strength of Athena on his side, Odysseus is able to quickly dispatch the other man. The suitors watch on all along, shouting to keep the fight going.
After receiving praise from the suitors for his actions, Odysseus is toasted and given food by one of the more moderate suitors, Amphinomus. This suitor causes Odysseus to pull him aside to ask him to leave the city. His request is such that he hopes to keep the man from being killed when Odysseus returns. However, Amphinomus does not comply as Athena has already marked him for death.
Driven by the careful nudging of Athena, Penelope appears before the suitors with the extra beauty bestowed upon her by a goddess. She relays that Odysseus had instructed her to take a new husband if Telemachus grew facial hair before he had returned. She plays her own clever tricks on them as well, requesting the suitors to bring her gifts rather than take from her to woo her properly. The suitors offer numerous gifts to Penelope and Odysseus attempts to send her maids to her. They also insult Odysseus though and so he threatens them to scare them away.
Athena continues to enflame relations with the suitors by prompting Eurymachus to insult Odysseus, leading to a volley of insults and thrown stools. The room is about to erupt into a full riot when Telemachus finally steps in and settles them all down.
That night, Telemachus and Odysseus hide away the arms while Athena keeps the rooms lit for them. Telemahus lies to the Eurycleia and tells her that they are keeping them from damage. After their task is completed, Telemachus leaves for his chambers and Penelope arrives to speak with Odysseus. She is curious of his knowledge of her husband and questions him to describe the King. He therefore describes himself in absolute detail, brining Penelope to tears in the process. He tells his recounting of how he met Odysseus and how he came to be in Ithaca. He tells her that Odysseus is alive and well and will return within one month.
He refuses an offer by Penelope for a bed to sleep in and very reluctantly allows Eurycleia to wash his feet. She notes the scar on his foot he received while boar hunting as a young man with his grandfather. She immediately recognizes Odysseus and hugs him. Athena does her part to keep Penelope distracted though so that Odysseus can maintain his secret identity and extract a promise of silence from Eurycleia.
Penelope describes a dream before she sleeps to Odysseus about an eagle which kills all twenty of her pet geese and then reveals itself as her husband killing her lovers. Odysseus explains the dream to her and Penelope announces that she will choose a new husband by demanding the suitors to attempt to shoot an arrow through twelve axes in a line, something only Odysseus has been known to accomplish.
Because of the task ahead of them, Odysseus has trouble sleeping. Athena assures him of his future success though, even against such incredible odds. Penelope on the other hand is distraught that her husband is still lost and that she has just committed to a new husband. She awakes and prays for death at the hands of Artemis. Odysseus responds with a prayer of his own to Zeus for an omen. Zeus replies with a thunder clap, coinciding with maids nearby cursing the suitors.
The following morning, Telemachus and Odysseus meet up with Eumaeus, a still loyal herdsman, and a swarm of suitors arriving with murder on their minds. Another eagle appears with a dove in its claws and Amphinomus requests that they call of their plot against Telemachus. Athena keeps the suitors riled up though so as Odysseus does not relinquish any of his rage. One of the suitors throws a cow’s hoof at Odysseus and another threatens to kill him. They laugh at Odysseus and miss the obvious omen of blood covering the walls, an imminent promise of their doom.
Penelope arrives with the announcement that she will choose a suitor, so long as he is able to string Odysseus’s bow and shoot an arrow through the line of twelve axes. Telemachus quickly sets up the axes and attempts the feat himself, failing to even string the bow. The suitors themselves fail at the task of warming and stringing the bow, one by one.
Odysseus retreats outside with Eumaeus and the loyal herdsman and ensures they are still loyal to him before revealing his true identity. He asks that they fight at his side and he promises to treat them as sons in repayment.
Upon returning they find that the suitors are still failing to even string the bow. Antinous tries to retire for the day so that they can make sacrifices to Apollo and try again the next day. However, Odysseus steps forward and requests to try the task himself. They fear his success and refuse him the opportunity. Telemachus silences them though and demands that Odysseus be given the bow and a chance. He quickly and easily strings the bow and shoots the arrow through all twelve axes.
As quickly as he shoots the first shot, Odysseus puts an arrow through the throat of Antinous and reveals himself as the long lost King, driving fear into the hearts of the remaining suitors. The doors are locked, keeping them from escaping and despite the pleas of the suitors to let them live, Odysseus declares that they will all die and the battle ensues.
Telemachus retrieves swords and shields from the storeroom and arms Eumaeus and the herdsman, but forgets to lock the room as he exits. One of the suitors is able to enter the room and retrieve arms for the others, though on the second trip to the storeroom he is captured and locked inside.
Athena arrives as Mentor and encourages Odysseus, trying to measure how strong he truly is. A few of the suitors are felled with spears with only small wounds for Odysseus and his side. However, as soon as Athena joins in as Mentor, the battle is quickly finished. Odysseus kills everyone who was with the suitors with the exception of the minstrel and the herald who he deems as innocent victims.
Odysseus then calls Eurycleia out to help remove the dead suitors. At first she is excited at their deaths, but Odysseus quiets her for rejoicing over the dead. They gather the servants who were disloyal and have them clean and dispose of the bodies before they are themselves taken outside and killed. Telemachus decides they will be hanged, a much more disgraceful way to die. Finally, after everyone is dead, Odysseus orders a fumigation of the house to cleanse it.
Having slept through the entire battle, Penelope is finally awakened. She does not believe Eurycleia at first and does not accept the truth until she goes downstairs and sees Odysseus with her own eyes. The family reunites and Telemachus chastises her for not showing more open excitement. However, Odysseus is more worried about having just killed every young nobleman in the country, something their parents will not appreciate. He decides to take his family to their farm and hide for a bit until things settle.
Wary that she is being tricked, Penelope is not quite willing to believe that her husband has returned. She requests that the bridal bed be moved, to which Odysseus explodes, explaining that such a thing cannot be done. It was carved from the solid trunk of a single olive tree, around which the house was built. She knows from these details that it must truly be her husband and finally she rejoices. They spend time getting caught up and Odysseus recounts his journeys thus far. The next day, he leaves to see Laertes and warns his wife to remain in her room and not take any visitors. Athena assists once again by hiding Odysseus and Telemachus in darkness.
The scene changes to the procession of the suitors’ souls to Hades, led by Hermes. Here, Agamemnon and Achilles argue over whose death was better, describing Achilles’ funeral in detail. They meet the suitors as they arrive and inquire as to how they all died. They blame Penelope for her treachery, which Agamemnon compares to the actual treachery of Clytmenestra, knowing that Penelope is a better person.
On Laertes’ farm, Odysseus arrives and meets with his father alone. He finds his father much older than when he left, having grieved for the death of his wife and loss of his son. Odysseus delays revealing himself to his father, but after Laertes begins to weep in memory of his lost son, Odysseus reveals himself and shows the scar on his foot to prove his claim along with certain memories of childhood. He describes the previous night’s battle with the suitors and their messy end.
After their discussion, they have lunch. During their meal, the Goddess Rumor spreads the news of the massacre in the palace. The suitors’ parents gather and decide how they will respond. Halitherses, an elder of the group describes the just punishment they received, while Eupithes, Antinous’s father wants revenge against Odysseus. Eventually, they track down Odysseus on Laertes’ farm. Athena appears once more as Mentor and stops the procession though, with only one more man dying, Antinous’s father. Under the careful manipulation of Athena, the Ithacans are able to forget the massacre and Odysseus is able to reclaim his throne and peace is restored.