Odysseus’ Nostos Part 2 | Homer’s Odyssey Summary | #GreekMyths

odyssey part 2

Last time we followed Odysseus from Troy to the land of the Lotus Eaters. We also saw what was happening in Ithaca during his absence. This time, we will continue with book nine of the Odyssey and follow Odysseus’ journey across the Mediterranean.  

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“The Odyssey” Books 9-12: Continuing the Wanderings of Odysseus

After managing to leave the land of the Lotus Eaters, wily Odysseus and his crew reached the land of the Cyclopes, which is estimated to be located in Sicily. The Cyclopes were giants with one enormous eye on their forehead. They were violent and lawless creatures and they were not the brightest either.

Odysseus and his man explored the land, ate some of the livestock, and found a cave that seemed occupied. They wanted to ask for help and entered the cave which was the home of Cyclops Polyphemus. The latter not only denied helping the men but ate some of them and trapped Odysseus and the rest of his crew in his dark, terrifying home. Little did he know that Odysseus was not only brave but blessed with the ability to find solutions in the most difficult situations.

Wily Odysseus offers some of his wine to Polyphemus and introduces himself – he says his name is “Kanenas” which translates to “Nobody” in Greek. Polyphemus soon falls asleep after drinking the wine and Odysseus finds the opportunity to create a sharp spear from Polyphemus large club. With the help of his men, he blinds Cyclops Polyphemous who wakes up, opens the door, and screams for help. This is when the Ithacans manage to escape and run towards their ship. The other Cyclopes visited Polyphemus asking him who hurt him. “Nobody” he screamed. The Cyclopes get confused and leave Polyphemus alone, thinking he blinded himself.

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Odysseus and his men were already on their boats, staring and pointing at the giant man who was tricked by a group of tiny humans. Odysseus was ecstatic; he had fought men in Troy but managing to win against a giant creature like Polyphemus was a great achievement. And that is when he began insulting Polyphemus while sailing away. He was unaware that he had committed an hybris and he was soon going to face the wrath of Poseidon, father of Polyphemus and god of the sea. Poseidon throws an enormous rock at Odysseus that nearly hits his boat. Odysseus is now cursed to never return home – at least alive.

Odysseus and his crew manage to reach the Island of the Wind, where Aiolos, the god of the Winds, resides. Aeolia was located close to Sicily and Aiolos was very kind and hospitable towards Odysseus and his crew. The Ithacans stayed there for one month and before they sailed away, Aiolos gifted Odysseus a bag containing winds that could help them reach Ithaca faster.

With the westerlies at their back, the boats start approaching Ithaca within ten days. Odysseus stared at the starry night over Ithaca knowing he would step foot on his beautiful kingdom probably within a day. And he fall asleep peacefully on the dock. Some of his men though could not sleep that night. What was in Aiolos’ bag? Did it contain winds or treasures? What is Aiolos’ had given gold to Odysseus and the latter did not want to share the gifts with his men? These greedy men decided to open the bag, just like Pandora opened the box containing all evils. The winds were forcefully released, creating a hurricane that lead the boats back at Aeolia. Aiolos speculates that Odysseus’ journey is cursed and explains that he can’t help him any further.

The Ithacans start sailing without any wind and they soon reach Lamos, a place that was inhabited by a group of aggressive cannibals called Laestrygonians. The Laestrygonians attacked and ate many of Odysseus’ men in front of the rest of the crew who watched in horror. The Ithacans run back to their boats, however, the hungry cannibals started throwing rocks at them. The rocks destroyed all ships but one. Odysseus and the rest of the survivors managed to escape by paddling faster than ever.

The next stop was the island of the witch Circe, Aeaea. Odysseus’ men were terrified to search for the inhabitants, since they had been meeting only dangerous, inhospitable individuals. However, Odysseus sends some of his men to follow a smoke trail that was coming from the depths of the woods. The men found a home that was guarded by wolves and mountain lions. A woman was singing inside the house – she invited the men inside, welcomed them, and prepared a feast for them. Little did they know that she was the witch Circe.

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The men start eating and drinking, except for sailor Eurylokhos who was hesitant towards strangers after witnessing his mates being consumed by giants not once but twice. Suddenly, the men start turning into pigs – their drinks contained a powerful potion that Circe had prepared for the men who displeased her. Eurylokhos informs Odysseus and the latter visits Circe and threatens her that he will kill her unless she takes the hex back. Circe explains that the curse will break only if Odysseus spends a night with her – a proposal that the king of Ithaca found quite fair.

Odysseus ended up spending an entire year at Circe’s island, which had turned into a paradise for him and his men (who were not only turned back into men, but their looks were also enhanced). Eventually, the Ithacans realize that it is time to go home. Odysseus asks Circe to help them return to Ithaca and she reveals to him that, in order to break the curse, he would have to visit Hades, the kingdom of the Dead, and speak with Tiresias, the well-known fortune teller and prophet. She explains what he would have to do there and how to protect himself from the blood-thirsty souls of the dead. How will Odysseus travel to Hades? Who is he going to meet there? Stay tuned because Part III will be coming soon!

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Part I of the Odyssey:

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Odysseus’ Journey Part 1 | Homer’s Odyssey Summary | #GreekMyths

You may know him as Ulysses or Odysseus. He was the legendary king of the island of Ithaca in Greece, husband of Penelope, and father of Telemachus. He is known as being resourceful, cunning, adventurous, brave, and determined. He was the person who came up with the idea of the Trojan horse in the Iliad after all. Sometimes, he appeared to be overconfident and faced the wrath of the gods. Today we will be exploring his nostos, his adventurous homecoming journey across the Mediterranean – known as “The Odyssey”, an epic poem attributed to the ancient Greek poet Homer.

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Nine Facts about Homer’s Odyssey:

  1. It is estimated that the Odyssey was composed around the 8th century BC;
  2. It is an epic poem and was meant to be verbally narrated but was documented on 24 books;
  3. The epic is the sequel of the Iliad, which revolves around the Trojan war;
  4. The Odyssey begins “in medias res” – instead of following a linear chronology, the story begins in the middle of the story (how many Netflix series have been inspired by Homer?);
  5. The epic poem starts with the invocation of the muse prompt – a prayer or address that acts as a prologue;
  6. It follows Odysseus (his Latin name is Ulysses) on his ten-year journey from Troy to his kingdom, Ithaca;
  7. Odysseus is brave and strong, but his greatest qualities are his cleverness and his ability to come up with quick solutions to gigantic (no pun indented) problems;
  8. The Odyssey serves as a cautionary tale for those who tend to brag about their achievements – hybris, the dangerous overconfidence, will lead you away from your path;
  9. Homer’s Odyssey stands as an inspiration for countless books, movies, and other forms of artwork. The most popular book is James Joyce’s “Ulysses”, one of the most important works of modernist literature.

The Summary of the Odyssey | The Odyssey in a Nutshell

Maybe you are preparing for a test or you are simply interested in getting the gist of the epic poem. Whatever the reason might be, here is the summary of Homer’s Odyssey – one of the most breathtaking adventures of all time.

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“The Odyssey” Books 1-4: What is Going on in Ithaca?

The first four books of the Odyssey describe the situation in the (real) island of Ithaca during king Odysseus’ absence. Odysseus took part in the ten-year siege of the city of Troy and his kingdom at the hands of his wife Penelope and his son Telemachus. Penelope is described as loyal, faithful, and patient. She awaits her husband’s return and hides away from the countless suitors that visit their kingdom in the hopes of marrying Penelope and ruling Ithaca. Although she dislikes the presence of the 108 suitors, she remains passive. She had told the suitors that she will remarry only once she completed a burial shroud for Odysseus’ father. However, every night she unravels the weaving to make sure that it will never be completed. Telemachus is in his teenage years and has started to get angry with the suitors who disrespect his father and create a sense of anarchy in the kingdom.  

 That is when goddess Athena decides to intervene. As the goddess of wisdom, she was in favor of the extremely intelligent Odysseus who had come up with the idea of the Trojan horse. After asking permission from Zeus, she travels to Ithaca in the form of Mentor, Odysseus’ friend. Athena reveals to Telemachus that his father is still alive and will return to the island soon. Telemachus asks for the gods to punish the suitors and soon two eagles appear on the sky, fighting. This was not the final punishment but rather a bad omen for the greedy suitors who chose to ignore it.

Telemachus follows goddess Athena’s advice and visits the Peloponnese region, specifically Pylos and Sparta, to investigate his father’s disappearance. He had been missing for over ten years after the end of the Trojan War – the trip should have lasted a few weeks or months.  King Menelaus, husband of Helen of Troy,  reveals to Telemachus that his father is stranded on the island of Calypso and really wants to come home. At the same time, while Telemachus is gone, the suitors start plotting his assassination. All they want is to take over the beautiful kingdom of Ithaca.

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“The Odyssey” Books 5-8: Odysseus Escapes Calypso’s Island

Books five and eight focus on wily Odysseus. The king is stranded on Calypso’s island, Ogygia, which is believed to be the island Gozo in the Maltese Archipelago. Calypso is a beautiful nymph who became Odysseus’ lover when he got stranded on her island and refused to let him return to his wife. Odysseus was in Ogygia for seven years with Calypso trying to convince Odysseus that she was much more attractive than Penelope. Although Odysseus did not agree with that statement, the nymph made him feel powerless and he acted as if he was her husband.

Thanks to Athena’s intervention, the gods of Mount Olympus agree to help Odysseus return home. Hermes, the messenger god, visits Calypso and orders her to let Odysseus go. However, Calypso is not the only one who wants Odysseus to stay away from his kingdom. Poseidon, the god of the sea, is mad at him – the reason is revealed later.

Odysseus is now free to leave Ogygia and, with the help of Calypso, he builds a raft within four days. With a magical breeze sent by gods, he is able to sail away from what we now know as the Maltese Archipelago. The 17th day of his trip, Poseidon sees him and conjures a storm that tosses Odysseus in the water – the king is almost drowned. With the help of the goddess Ino, also known as queen of the Sea,  and the goddess Athena, he manages to survive and get ashore.

The place he ends up staying is Phaeacia which is ruled by the king Alcinous, and many scholars believe is located near the island of Corfu. In Phaecia, a storm-tossed Odysseus meets Alcinous daughter, princess Nausicaa. Her female friends are all afraid of him; Odysseus looks similar to Tom Hanks in “Cast Away”.  But Nausicaa is instantly attracted to him. The princess wants to lead him to the palace but is afraid that people will start gossiping if they see him with her.

Odysseus is finally led to the palace with the help of Athena who is in the form of a little girl. At the palace, he is welcomed by Alcinous who is angered when he learns that his daughter left him find his way alone. After being bathed, clothed, and fed, Odysseus is encouraged to tell his adventures. And that is when the most interesting part of the epic poem begins.

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“The Odyssey” Books 9-12: The Wanderings of Odysseus

Odysseus starts narrating to the people of Phaeacia how he ended up stranded on their land. It all started ten years ago, right after the end of the Trojan War. He and his seamen started their nostos, their homecoming trip. Twelve ships sailed away and their first stop was the land of the Cicones, which was located in Thrace. Odysseus’ seamen start stealing and eventually the local army turns against them. Odysseus lost six men per ship and left as soon as possible.

Their next stop was the land of the Lotus Eaters, which is estimated to be located on the northern coast of Africa. The Lotus Eaters are very friendly and peaceful people. However, they lack motivation and ambition. All they want to do is eat their beloved lotus fruit all day and all night. The locals offer the lotus fruit to Odysseus and his crew. The fruit was apparently a narcotic and it was very addicting. Odysseus, a very ambitious man, could not bear see his men laying on ground all day, having forgotten their goal of reaching Ithaca. The men did not want to return to their duties on the ship and Odysseus had to organize a literal intervention and force his crew back to their ships. Their next stop was in Sicily, on the land of the Cyclopes, a group of gigantic, cannibalistic men with one huge eye on their forehead. What happens when Odysseus comes in contact with them? How wily Odysseus manages to free himself and his men from the barbaric Cyclops Polyphemus?

Stay tuned because we will be following the storyline in another video! Don’t forget to subscribe to stay updated!

Interested in reading the entire story? Here are some recommendations:

The Odyssey (Penguin Classics)

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