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The Odyssey

The Odyssey



 Table of Contents


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The Odyssey Characters

Meet the Cast


Odysseus is brave, strong, handsome, wily, loyal, pious—and did we mention handsome? He's basically begging for a "hey girl" meme. ("Hey girl. I may have spent seven years with a goddess, but you...


Shmoop has a secret. Odysseus may be the Odyssey's hero, but we actually think Telemachos is more interesting. Sure, Odyssey is the strongest, bravest, smartest, kindest, most pious hero alive toda...


The other Greek wives must have hated Penelope. She's like an ancient Greek Martha Stewart, without the pesky insider trading scandal: the perfect hostess, a faithful wife, a loving mother, and rea...


Zeus's daughter Athene may be the patroness of warfare but she's also the goddess of wisdom, so it's no surprise that she likes a hero with some brains in him—namely Odysseus. And having Athene o...


Sometimes spelled Agelaus. One of the suitors we see in Book XXI. He asks Telemachos to reason with Penelope about marrying someone already.


Sometimes spelled Aegisthus. The treacherous lover of Agamemnon’s wife, Klytaimestra. He conspired with her to kill her husband and was later murdered in revenge by Orestes, Agamemnon’s...


The fake name that Odysseus gives when speaking with Penelope while in the guise of a beggar. The scholar Olga Levaniouk has recently argued that this name means “fiery,” in the sense o...


Sometimes spelled Cassandra. A Trojan princess. She was raped and killed by Little Aias on the altar of Athene, which meant he had to die for his disrespect. (The problem was the location more than...


Laertes’s housekeeper.


A nymph who comes into play in Menelaos’s story to Telemachos about that one time he was stranded on an island. It was Eidothea who advised him to capture Proteus, the god of the island, to d...


The name that Odysseus gives to his father, Laertes, in Book XXIV, before revealing his true identity.


Eumaios is Ithakan swineherd who takes Odysseus in when he returns home in the guise of a beggar, and he shows us that it's not just kings who can be hospitable—even swineherds know how to treat...


Sometimes spelled Eurylochus. One of the Ithakans traveling with Odysseus on the way back from Troy. He is a cautious man, refusing to enter Circe’s hall even when accompanied by armed men. H...


A minor character in the story of How Odysseus Got His Bow. Actually, Iphitos is the man who gave him the bow.


Penelope’s sister. She isn’t actually present in the Odyssey, but in Book IV Athene sends a vision of her to Penelope in her sleep, to reassure the Queen that her husband is soon coming...


The daughter of Laertes, Odysseus’s sister.


Sometimes spelled Clytemnestra. Agamemnon’s no-good wife. She sleeps with Aigisthos while her husband is gone and kills Agamemnon when he finally does get home. She meets her death the same w...


Sometimes spelled Mycenae. Agamemnon’s kingdom.


Telemachos meets this guy, the King of Pylos, while he's searching for news of his father. Nestor provides another great example of good Greek hospitality, plying the Ithakan Prince with gifts...

The Taphians

Mentes, the man Athene pretends to be when she first arrives in Ithaka, is the ruler of the Taphians.


In the Underworld, he tells the story of the slaughter to Achilleus and Agamemnon. It's clear from his version that the suitors are none-too-repentant of their ways: he accuses Penelope of "plan...


Sometimes spelled Amphinomus. The good suitor, relatively speaking: his "heart saddened within him, shaking his head, for in his spirit he saw the evil" (18.153-54). Penelope seems to recognize...


Sometimes spelled Eurymachus. One of the not-so-nice suitors. He even plots to kill Telemachos and then deceives Penelope about it.


An evil suitor. Pretty much all he does in the Odyssey is to throw a cow's foot at beggar Odysseus and then die gruesomely.


Achilleus (or Achilles) is a big Greek hero who fought against the Trojans. He's already dead by the time the Odyssey begins, so we only see him in the Underworld. In the Iliad we hear Achilleus...


Agamemnon is a Greek king and Menelaos's brother. His unfaithful wife Klytaimestra (Clytemnestra) teamed up with her lover Aigisthos to kill him when he came back from fighting the Trojan War. In...


Sometimes spelled Antilochus. One of Odysseus's war buddies, who he talks to in the Underworld. When alive, he was a good friend of Achilleus.

Little Aias

Sometimes spelled Ajax. A Greek who fought in the Trojan war, and also a total jerk who raped and killed a princess on Athene's altar. He's about to escape Athene's punishment, when he goes "wild...


Also known as Pyrrhus. Achilleus's son. Achilleus asks for him in the Underworld, and Odysseus responds with details of the boy's accomplishments in battles, etc., etc. A nice contrast to our whi...


Agamemnon's son; he kills Klytaimestra and her lover Aigisthos as vengeance for his father's death. When the gods meet at the beginning of the Odyssey, first on the agenda is the murder and wheth...


Sometimes spelled Patroclus. One of the shades Odysseus sees in the Underworld. Patroklos was Achilleus's best friend. The Iliad tells us that after Trojan warrior Hektor killed Patroklos, Achille...

Telamonian Aias

Sometimes spelled Ajax. A Greek hero in the Trojan War whom Odysseus encounters in the Underworld. Aias killed himself after Odysseus was named a greater man than he, and still refuses to speak t...


Sometimes spelled Alcinous. King of the Phaiakians, husband of Arete, father to Nausikaa. He's a super hospitable guy, who offers Odysseus passage home:this stranger, I do not know who he is, com...


Queen of the Phaiakians, wife to Alkinoös, and mother to Nausikaa. She's apparently the one who calls the shots in the marriage, since Nausikaa advises Odysseus to get on her good side: "Go on p...


Sometimes spelled Demodocus. This guy is the Phaiakians' blind bard, and he's traditionally been thought (without any real basis) to be a representation of Homer himself. He's a major reason that...


A Phaiakian who competes in the athletic contests held during Odysseus's stay. He teases Odysseus about not wanting to take part, leading Odysseus to bust out some top-notch discus-throwing.


A Phaiakian prince, the son of Alkinoös and Arete. He wins the foot-race during the athletic games, before Odysseus starts flexing his muscles in everyone's face.


A Phaiakian prince, the son of Alkinoös and Arete. He wins the boxing match during the athletic games, before Odysseus beats everyone at everything. He challenges Odysseus in the games, saying t...


Sometimes spelled Nausicaa. The Phaiakian princess, daughter of Alkinoös and Arete. Nausikaa finds Odysseus, and she who brings him to the palace (somewhat indirectly) to ask for help from the Q...


King of Lamos, the land of the not-so-human Laistrygones. He greets the Ithakans by attacking the first man he sees and drinking his blood. Sadly, his skin does not sparkle.

The Cyclopes

Sometimes spelled Kyklopes. The one-eyed monsters that the Ithakans encounter on their way home.For more on these guys, check out Shmoop's guide to the Cyclopes.


Menelaos's wife and instigator of the entire Trojan war. Although we don't hear about it in the Odyssey, her story would have been common knowledge among Homer's audience. Here's the deal: Helen...

The Kikonians

Sometimes spelled the Cicones. The resident natives in Ismaros, where Odysseus first lands after leaving Troy. The Ithakans plunder them, because they can, and the Kikonians retaliate, also becau...

The Laistrygones

Sometimes spelled Laestrygonians. The scary and not-quite human folk that the Ithakans encounter in Lamos on the way home from Troy.

The Lotus Eaters

The Lotus Eaters are basically druggies. They (very innocently) give some of Odysseus's men some fruit to eat, and this is what happens:of them who ate the honey-sweet fruit of lotus was unwillin...


A King of Sparta and husband to Helen; he's the second man Telemachos visits in his search for Odysseus, and he's the one who confirms the boy's father is still alive and on Kalypso's island. Lik...


Sometimes spelled Polyphemus. The specific one-eyed monster that the Ithakans encounter on their way home. Unfortunately for everyone involved, Polyphemos eats human flesh. Doubly unfortunately,...


An island god we hear about in Menelaos's tale to Telemachos; he reveals to the King how to escape the island he's stuck on (namely, by traveling to Egypt and sacrificing to Zeus).

The Sirens

These are the dangerous ladies who lure men to their deaths with their voices. Odysseus becomes the first mortal to live to tell the tale, because he has his men tie him to the mast while they pl...


Skylla (or Scylla) is a monster that Odysseus must pass with his men. Odysseus has been instructed not to try to fight the monster, but rather to row by as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, it...


Charybdis is one of the monsters Odysseus must pass with his men. Graphic image: Charybdis is a whirlpool that swallows the sea and vomits it back up again.


Sometimes spelled Tiresias. The blind prophet whose help Odysseus seeks in the Underworld.For more on this guy, check out Shmoop's guide to Tiresias.


Sometimes spelled Aeolus, Eolus or Aeolos. God of the winds; he helps Odysseus and his men in Book X, before he realizes there is no hope for the Ithakans and sends them packing: "O least of livi...


Goddess of love. In the land of the Phaiakians, the bard Demodokos sings a tale about Aphrodite cheating on her husband (Hephaistos) with the God of war (Ares); she is caught in the act, literall...


God of war who gets busy (and then caught) with Aphrodite. For more on this guy, check out Shmoop's guide to Ares.


The sorceress of the island Aiaia. She turns Odysseus's men into sheep, seduces him, and then finally sends them on their way with directions to the Underworld. For more on this gal, check out Sh...


God of the sun and master of some really awesome cattle that no one was allowed to touch, much less kill and eat. When Odysseus's men do just that, Helios demands revenge, basically by holding hi...


Sometimes spelled Hephæstos. Aphrodite's crippled blacksmith husband. Luckily, he married a beautiful goddess. Unluckily, she cheats.For more on this guy, check out Shmoop's guide to Hephaestus....


The messenger of the Gods. He doesn't seem to have any real personality of his own, but he sure is Zeus's yes-man.For more on this guy, check out Shmoop's guide to Hermes.


Sometimes spelled Calypso. The goddess who holds Odysseus hostage for purposes of sex. On the one hand, she sure is hospitable: she invites Hermes to "speak what is in your mind. My heart is urge...


God of the sea, as well as an ever-angry and vengeful grudge-holder. He's the one who forces Odysseus to wander the sea for nearly twenty years, all because the man stabbed his son's eye out and...


Sometimes spelled Melampus. This is another minor name in a major digression over yet another minor character. Let's see if we can identify some sort of relevance to our tale: In Book XV, Telemac...


This guy is part of the digression regarding Theoklymenos, the hitchhiking fugitive seer that Telemachos picks up on his way back from Sparta. In the story, Neleus is the not-so-nice King that ex...


One of Telemachos's crewmen. When the Prince comes back to Ithaka at Athene's urging, Peiraios agrees to house Theoklymenos, the hitchhiking fugitive seer they picked up on the way. (More good ho...


Sometimes spelled Peisistratus or Pisistratus. Nestor's son. He accompanies Telemachos to Sparta to see King Menelaos. Unlike Telemachos, he's super good at speaking in public. Check out the way...


Sometimes spelled Theoclymenus. The hitchhiker fugitive seer who grabs a ride with Telemachos on his way out of Sparta and conveniently prophesies good fortune for Telemachos: "Telemachos, not wi...


Sometimes spelled Autolycus. Odysseus's maternal grandfather. We only hear about him in a flashback; he's the one Odysseus was hunting with as a boy when he got the telltale scar on his thigh. Th...


Odysseus's mother; he talks with her in the Underworld and discovers that she's killed herself from grief: "that was the reason I perished, nor in my palace did the lady of arrows, well-aiming, c...


Elpenor is the guy who wandered up to Circe's roof and fell to his death before the men departed. Odysseus talks to him in the underworld, where Elpenor asks for a proper burial: "I ask that you...


Eurylochos is one of Odysseus's companions. He's a cautious man, refusing to enter Circe's hall even when accompanied by armed men—until he's not cautious at all, like when he convinces everyon...


Odysseus's father. For some reason, he seems to live in a shack at the outskirts of Ithaka, although he also apparently has a nice farm. Mostly, he mourns for Odysseus and then for Telemachos. As...


An Ithakan lord present at Telemachos's meeting in Book II.


Sometimes spelled Antiphus. One of the Ithakan men. He remains loyal to Odysseus; Telemachos consults with him among others in Book XVII.


Antinoös's father. We meet him post-slaughter, while he's looking for a little vengeful slaughter action himself—against Odysseus and Telemachos.


An Ithakan augur and loyal to Odysseus. In Book II, he interprets the two vicious eagles as a sign that Odysseus is coming home soon.


Sometimes spelled Irus. Also known as Arnaeus. The real beggar of the palace in Ithaka. He gets territorial when a new beggar (who we know to be Odysseus in disguise) starts poking around his tur...


Athene first takes the disguise of this man, friend of Odysseus and ruler of the Taphians, when she comes to Ithaka to council Telemachos


Mentor can be confusing in the Odyssey since the name either refers to Mentor, the elderly Ithakan, or Mentor, Athene in yet another guise. (Imagine how much easier everyone's life would be if th...


A wealthy ship-seller in Ithaka. Athene obtains a ship for Telemachos from him, and then he accidentally spills the beans to the suitors.


Odysseus's loyal dog. When his master return homes after nearly twenty years, Argos recognizes him, rejoices, and dies. If you think Penelope had to wait a long time to see Odysseus again, try th...


Odysseus's nurse when he was a little boy. She's still around in the palace working as a servant (and trying to keep Telemachos from running off) when Odysseus returns and she recognizes her mast...


The keeper of Apollo's groves at Ismaros; he provides the Ithakans with wine.


Melantho is a palace servant who's loyal to the suitors rather than the Queen, if you know what we mean. And she gets hanged, obviously, because that's apparently the most humiliating way to die.


Sometimes spelled Melanthius. The Ithakan goatherd. Unlike many of the other, loyal servants we meet, Melanthios sides with the suitors and insults beggar Odysseus. On the one hand, he arms the s...


The town crier of Ithaka. He's called out as one of the men loyal to Odysseus, so he accordingly isn't slaughtered along with everyone else in sight.


Sometimes spelled Phemius. The resident bard in Ithaka. We first meet him as he saddens Penelope by singing of the Trojan war. Later, he is spared from the slaughter because he has been loyal to...


A cowherd in Ithaka and one of the servants who remain loyal to Odysseus. He fights on Odysseus's side against the suitors during the slaughter.
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