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The Odyssey

The Odyssey


by Homer

Odysseus Timeline and Summary

  • We learn that Poseidon hates Odysseus and that Athene is trying to help him get off of Kalypso's island, where he's stuck.
  • Meanwhile, back in Ithaka, everyone thinks he's dead.
  • Finally, after seven years, Zeus sends down Hermes to tell Kalypso to let Odysseus go; he sets out on a raft, which Poseidon immediately wrecks.
  • He makes his way to shore, where he's found by the princess Nausikaa. She brings him to court, where he begs mercy of the queen and is welcomed.
  • King Alkinoös declares the next day a festal day in Odysseus's honor, and Odysseus starts weeping when he hears the bard singing about Troy.
  • So, he launches into the longest dinner party story ever:
  • After leaving from Troy, Odysseus and his crew land in the city of Ismaros and raid it for no good reason. The next day, the people retaliate with a late-arriving cavalry and kill many of Odysseus's men.
  • Odysseus and his men suffer through three days of intense storms.
  • Ten days later, they land on the island of the Lotus Eaters. Odysseus explores the land with a scouting party. When he discovers that they lose their memory and all their will to go home after eating the lotus flower, he forces them all back to the ship as fast as he can and sails away.
  • They next arrive at the land of the Cyclopes, giants with only one eye, where Odysseus makes the mistake of not getting out as quickly as he can. There's a whole bunch of trickery, but Odysseus and (most) of his men escape—but not without seriously ticking off the now-blind Cyclops Polyphemos.
  • When Polyphemos learns Odysseus's real name, he asks Poseidon to curse him. Forever. Poseidon obliges.
  • There are more misadventures: winds blow them off course, the men turn into pigs, they visit the underworld, pass Skylla and Charybdis, and then make their worst and last mistake of eating the sun god Helios's sacred cattle.
  • When they next sail, Zeus strikes them down with a thunderbolt, destroying Odysseus's ship and killing everyone but our hero.
  • After escaping Skylla and Charybdis for a second time, Odysseus drifts for nine days until he washes ashore on Kalypso's island.
  • There he is seduced and trapped for seven years by the enraptured nymph Kalypso, although he chooses not to go into details and ends his story.
  • The Phaiakians are so moved by Odysseus's story that they offer his safe passage home.
  • When Odysseus wakes up in Ithaka, Athene reveals herself to him and they make plans to defeat the suitors.
  • Odysseus, dressed as a beggar, goes to the forest home of his swineherd Eumaios and crashes on his couch.
  • Shortly afterwards, Telemachos shows up. Odysseus reveals his true identity to his son and together they plan to defeat the soldiers.
  • Odysseus comes to town disguised as a beggar and, well, begs in the great hall, his own home, to find out which suitors are naughty and which are nice.
  • Most of them are naughty.
  • He also susses out the servants, and enlists some to help him fight.
  • Odysseus, still disguised as a beggar, wins Penelope's contest by stringing his own massive bow and shooting an arrow through the twelve axe heads.
  • He and Telemachos, along with the loyal herdsmen, kill all the suitors in the great hall.
  • Afterwards, Odysseus forces all the disloyal maids to clean up the slaughter and then has them killed as well. Best to not leave any loose, treacherous ends.
  • Odysseus wins back Penelope by revealing their "secret" to her—the fact that their bed is carved from the roots of an olive tree and is therefore immovable.
  • The reunited couple spends the night together.
  • The next day, Odysseus visits his father Laertes and reveals himself to him. It's all very touching, until a group of Ithaka rebels shows up; they want revenge for their murdered sons (the suitors).
  • They fight until Athene makes them stop.
  • Eventually, the people and Odysseus form a pact. Restored to his kingship, Odysseus brings peace to Ithaka once more.