Study Guide

The Odyssey Setting

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(Click the map infographic to download.)

From Troy in Asia Minor across the islands of the Mediterranean Sea (near Italy) and back to Ithaka, Greece, sometime in the Bronze Age.

Much of the action in the Odyssey takes place on the sea, where Odysseus must battle against the storms of the sea god, Poseidon, but the last third of the story is set in the town and countryside of Ithaka. The setting is a geographical potpourri of what was important, mythologically, in Homer’s time period. Scholars have tried to correlate various places in the Odyssey with real locations in the Mediterranean, but there’s a lot of guess work involved in this. It’s very possible that Homer based his hero’s wanderings on real geography but extrapolated and manipulated to suit his narrative purposes. Anyway, enough about that: here’s a list for you.

Aiaia (Aeaea): The island home of one Circe, everyone’s favorite sorceress.

Aiolia: The island ruled by Aiolos, god of the winds.

Elysion: The Odyssey’s version of a heavenly afterlife.

Ithaka: You know what Ithaka is. And how Odysseus made it home there by the longest route ever.

Ismaros: The first place Odysseus and his men land after leaving Troy. This is the land of the Kikonians, whom the Ithakans plunder until driven from their shores.

Lakedaimon: Another name for Sparta. (Technically, this refers to the surrounding area of which Sparta is the capital.)

Lamos: The land of the Laistrygones, the giant/ogres/weirdos, and King Antiphates, drinker of blood. Needless to say, Odysseus and the Ithakans leave this place pretty quickly. Well, except for that one guy who was chugged by Antiphates.

Mount Parnassos (Parnassus): Where Odysseus goes hunting with his uncle when he’s a little boy. This is where the boar/thigh-scar incident took place.

Mount Olympos (Olympus): The gods’ hangout/home/pad.

Ogygia: Kalypso’s island, where Odysseus is held for seven years.

Pherai: Telemachos and Peisistratos spend the night here on the way to Pylos from Sparta.

Pylos: The first place Telemachos travels in his search for news of his father. Here he dines with King Nestor and his son Peisistratos before leaving for Menelaos in Sparta.

Scheria: The island of the Phaiakians. This is Odysseus’s last stop before he reaches Ithaka and also the location where he tells his tale.

Thrinakia (Thrinacia or Trinacria): The land where the sun god Helios keeps his super-duper cattle.

The Underworld: The land of the dead. Odysseus travels here to speak with Teiresias, the dead, blind prophet. While there, he converses with many other "shades," including his war buddies and his mother.

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