Odysseus: Wikis


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Head of Odysseus from a Greek 2nd century BC marble group representing Odysseus blinding Polyphemus, found at the villa of Tiberius at Sperlonga

Odysseus or Ulysses (Greek Ὀδυσσεύς, Odusseus; Latin: Ulixes, Ulysses), in Greek mythology pronounced /oʊˈdɪsiəs/, was a legendary Greek king of Ithaca and the hero of Homer's epic poem, The Odyssey. Odysseus also plays a key role in Homer's Iliad and other works in the Epic Cycle.

King of Ithaca, husband of Penelope, father of Telemachus, and son of Laërtes and Anticlea, Odysseus is renowned for his guile and resourcefulness, and is hence known by the epithet Odysseus the Cunning. (See mētis, or "cunning intelligence"). He is most famous for the ten eventful years he took to return home after the ten-year Trojan War and his famous Trojan Horse trick.



Relatively little is known of Odysseus's background other than that his paternal grandfather (or step-grandfather) is Arcesius, son of Cephalus and grandson of Aeolus, whilst his maternal grandfather is the thief Autolycus, son of Hermes and Chione. According to The Odyssey, his father is Laertes[1] and his mother Anticleia, although there was a non-Homeric tradition[2] that Sisyphus was his true father.[3] Odysseus is said to have a younger sister, Ktimene, who went to Same to be married and is mentioned by the swineherd Eumaios, who she grew up alongside, in Book XV of the Odyssey.[4] Ithaca, an island along the Ionian northwestern coastline of Greece, is one of several islands that would have comprised the realm of Odysseus's family, but the true extent of the Cephallenian realm and the actual identities of the islands named in Homer's works are unknown.

Topics in Greek mythology

Variants and meanings of name

The name has several variants: Olysseus (Ὀλυσσεύς), Oulixeus (Οὐλιξεύς), Oulixes (Οὐλίξης)[5] and he was known as Ulysses in Latin or Ulixes in Roman mythology.

The verb odussomai (oδύσσομαι), meaning "hate",[6] suggests that the name could be rendered as "the one who is wrathful/hated". This interpretation is reinforced by Odysseus's and Poseidon's mutual wrath. In Odyssey 19, in which Odysseus's early childhood is recounted, Euryclea asks Autolycus, to name him. Euryclea tries to guide him to naming the boy Polyaretos, "for he has much been prayed for". (19.403f)[7] In Greek, however, Polyaretos can also take the opposite meaning: much accursed. Autolycus seems to infer this connotation of the name and accordingly names his grandson Odysseus. Odysseus often receives the patronymic epithet Laertiades (Greek: Λαερτιάδης), son of Laërtes.

His name and stories were adopted into Etruscan religion under the name 𐌄𐌂𐌖𐌈𐌖Uthuze.[8]

"Cruel Odysseus"

Homer's Iliad and Odyssey portrayed Odysseus as a culture hero, but the Romans, who believed themselves the scions of Prince Aeneas of Troy, considered him a villainous falsifier. In Virgil's Aeneid, he is constantly referred to as "cruel Odysseus" (Latin "dirus Ulixes") or "deceitful Odysseus" ("pellacis", "fandi fictor"). Turnus, in Aeneid ix, reproaches the Trojan Ascanius with images of rugged, forthright Latin virtues, declaring (in John Dryden's translation), "You shall not find the sons of Atreus here, nor need the frauds of sly Ulysses fear." While the Greeks admired his cunning and deceit, these qualities did not recommend themselves to the Romans who possessed a rigid sense of honour. In Euripides's tragedy Iphigenia at Aulis, having convinced Agamemnon to consent to the sacrifice of his daughter, Iphigenia, to appease the goddess Artemis, Odysseus facilitates the immolation by telling her mother, Clytemnestra, that the girl is to be wed to Achilles. His attempts to avoid his sacred oath to defend Menelaus and Helen offended Roman notions of duty; the many stratagems and tricks that he employed to get his way offended Roman notions of honour.

Before the Trojan War

The majority of sources for Odysseus' antebellum exploits—principally the mythographers Apollodorus and Hyginus—postdate Homer by many centuries. Two stories in particular are well known:

When Helen was abducted, Menelaus called upon the other suitors to honour their oaths and help him to retrieve her, an attempt that would lead to the Trojan War. Odysseus tried to avoid it by feigning lunacy, as an oracle had prophesied a long-delayed return home for him if he went. He hooked a donkey and an ox to his plough (as they have different stride lengths, hindering the efficiency of the plough) and (some modern sources add) started sowing his fields with salt. Palamedes, at the behest of Menelaus's brother Agamemnon, sought to disprove Odysseus's madness, and placed Telemachus, Odysseus's infant son, in front of the plough. Odysseus veered the plough away from his son, thus destroying his ruse.[9] Odysseus held a grudge against Palamedes during the war for dragging him away from his home.

Odysseus and other envoys of Agamemnon then traveled to Scyros to recruit Achilles because of a prophecy that Troy could not be taken without him. By most accounts, Thetis, Achilles's mother, disguised the youth as a woman to hide him from the recruiters because an oracle had predicted that Achilles would either live a long, uneventful life or achieve everlasting glory while dying young. Odysseus cleverly discovered which of the women before him was Achilles when the youth stepped forward to examine an array of weapons. Odysseus arranged for the sounding of a battle horn, which prompted Achilles to clutch a weapon; with his disguise foiled, he joined Agamemnon's army.[10]

During the Trojan War

The Iliad

Odysseus was one of the most influential Greek champions during the Trojan War. Along with Nestor and Idomeneus he was one of the most trusted counsellors and advisers. He always championed the Achaean cause, especially when the king was in question, as in one instance when Thersites spoke against him. When Agamemnon, to test the morale of the Achaeans, announced his intentions to depart Troy, Odysseus restored order to the Greek camp.[11] Later on, after many of the heroes had left the battlefield due to injuries (including Odysseus and Agamemnon), Odysseus once again persuaded Agamemnon not to withdraw. Along with two other envoys, he was chosen in the failed embassy to try to persuade Achilles to return to combat.[12]

When Hector proposed a single combat duel, Odysseus was one of the Danaans who reluctantly volunteered to battle him. Telamonian Ajax, however, was the volunteer who eventually did fight Hector. Odysseus aided Diomedes during the successful night operations in order to kill Rhesus, because it had been foretold that if his horses drank from the Scamander river Troy could not be taken.[13]

After Patroclus had been slain, it was Odysseus who counselled Achilles to let the Achaean men eat and rest rather than follow his rage-driven desire to go back on the offensive—and kill Trojans—immediately. Eventually (and reluctantly), he consented.

During the funeral games for Patroclus, Odysseus became involved in a wrestling match with Telamonian Ajax, as well as a foot race. With the help of the goddess Athena, who favoured him, and despite Apollo's helping another of the competitors, he won the race and managed to draw the wrestling match, to the surprise of all.[14]

Odysseus has traditionally been viewed in the Iliad as Achilles's antithesis: while Achilles's anger is all-consuming and of a self-destructive nature, Odysseus is frequently viewed as a man of the mean, world-renowned for his self-restraint and diplomatic skills. Professor Adele Haft, in her essay Odysseus' Wrath and Grief in the "Iliad", observes that there might be more to Odysseus's nature than initially appears on the surface. Haft makes several observations that raise questions about the traditional approach to his character. Haft notes that Odysseus is the only other character besides Achilles to receive a verbal reprimand from Agamemnon.[15] There are repeated suggestions that Agamemnon and Odysseus's relationship is strained: it is not Agamemnon but Nestor who selects Odysseus for his every mission in the Iliad. Haft explains Odysseus's displays of wrath, as well as his strained relationship with Agamemnon, as indicators that Odysseus will ultimately be responsible for the sacking of Troy. Haft points to the death of Democoon in Book 4 as a prime example of the consequences of Odysseus's anger, for it results in a massive reduction of Trojan morale as well as a retreat. Haft goes on to suggest that Democoon's death, in conjunction with the death of Simoeisius, previses the destruction of Troy.[16]

Other stories from the Trojan War

When the Achaean ships reached the beach of Troy, no one would jump ashore, since there was an oracle that the first Achaean to jump on Trojan soil would die. Odysseus tossed his shield on the shore and jumped on his shield.[citation needed] He was followed by Protesilaus, who jumped on Trojan soil and later became the first to die.

Odysseus never forgave Palamedes for unmasking his madness ruse, leading him to frame him as a traitor. At one point, Odysseus convinced a Trojan captive to write a letter pretending to be from Palamedes. A sum of gold was mentioned to have been sent as a reward for Palamedes's treachery. Odysseus then killed the prisoner and hid the gold in Palamedes's tent. He ensured that the letter was found and acquired by Agamemnon, and also gave hints directing the Argives to the gold. This was evidence enough for the Greeks and they had Palamedes stoned to death. Other sources say that Odysseus and Diomedes goaded Palamedes into descending a wall with the prospect of treasure being at the bottom. When Palamedes reached the bottom, the two proceeded to bury him with stones, killing him.[17]

When Achilles was slain in battle, it was Odysseus and Telamonian Ajax who successfully retrieved the fallen warrior's body and armour in the thick of heavy fighting. During the funeral games for Achilles, Odysseus competed once again with Telamonian Ajax. Thetis said that the arms of Achilles would go to the bravest of the Greeks, but only these two warriors dared lay claim to that title. The two Argives became embroiled in a heavy dispute about one another's merits to receive the reward. The Greeks dithered out of fear in deciding a winner, because they did not want to insult one and have him abandon the war effort. Nestor suggested that they allow the captive Trojans decide the winner.[18] Some accounts disagree, suggesting that the Greeks themselves held a secret vote.[19] In any case, Odysseus was the winner. Enraged and humiliated, Ajax was driven mad by Athena. When he returned to his senses, in shame at how he had slaughtered livestock in his madness, Ajax killed himself by the sword that Hector had given him.[20]

Together with Diomedes, Odysseus went to fetch Achilles' son, Pyrrhus, to come to the aid of the Achaeans, because an oracle had stated that Troy could not be taken without him. A great warrior, Pyrrhus was also called Neoptolemus (Greek: "new warrior"). Upon the success of the mission, Odysseus gave Achilles' armor to him.

It was later learned that the war could not be won without the poisonous arrows of Heracles, which were owned by the abandoned Philoctetes. Odysseus and Diomedes (or, according to some accounts, Odysseus and Neoptolemus) went out to retrieve them. Upon their arrival, Philoctetes (still suffering from the wound) was seen still to be enraged at the Danaans, especially Odysseus, for abandoning him. Although his first instinct was to shoot Odysseus, his anger was eventually diffused by Odysseus's persuasive powers and the influence of the gods. Odysseus returned to the Argive camp with Philoctetes and his arrows.[21]

Odysseus and Diomedes would later steal the Palladium that lay within Troy's walls, for the Greeks were told they could not sack the city without it. Some sources indicate that Odysseus schemed to kill his partner on the way back, but Diomedes thwarted this attempt.

Perhaps Odysseus' most famous contribution to the Greek war effort was devising the strategem of the Trojan Horse, which allowed the Greek army to sneak into Troy under cover of darkness. It was built by Epeius and filled with Greek warriors, led by Odysseus.[22] After Troy was sacked, Odysseus threw Hector's son Astyanax from the city walls to his death, lest the child reach manhood and avenge his father.

Journey home to Ithaca

Odysseus is probably best known as the eponymous hero of the Odyssey. This epic describes his travails as he tries to return home after the Trojan War and reassert his place as rightful king of Ithaca.

Other stories

Odysseus is one of the most recurrent characters in Western culture.


According to some late sources, most of them purely genealogical, Odysseus had many other children besides Telemachus, the most famous being:

Most such genealogies aimed to link Odysseus with the foundation of many Italic cities in remote antiquity.

He figures in the end of the story of King Telephus of Mysia.

The supposed last poem in the Epic Cycle is called the Telegony, and is thought to tell the story of Odysseus's last voyage, and of his death at the hands of Telegonus, his son with Circe. The poem, like the others of the cycle, is "lost" in that no authentic version has been discovered.

In 5th century BC Athens, tales of the Trojan War were popular subjects for tragedies, and Odysseus figures centrally or indirectly in a number of the extant plays by Aeschylus, Sophocles, (Ajax, Philoctetes) and Euripides, (Hecuba, Rhesus, Cyclops) and figured in still more that have not survived. In the Ajax, Sophocles portrays Odysseus as a modernistic voice of reasoning compared to the title character's rigid antiquity.

As Ulysses, he is mentioned regularly in Virgil's Aeneid, and the poem's hero, Aeneas, rescues one of Ulysses's crew members who was left behind on the island of the Cyclops. He in turn offers a first-person account of some of the same events Homer relates, in which Ulysses appears directly. Virgil's Ulysses typifies his view of the Greeks: he is cunning but impious, and ultimately malicious and hedonistic.

Ovid retells parts of Ulysses's journeys, focusing on his romantic involvements with Circe and Calypso, and recasts him as, in Harold Bloom's phrase, "one of the great wandering womanizers." Ovid also gives a detailed account of the contest between Ulysses and Ajax for the armor of Achilles.

Greek legend tells of Ulysses as the founder of Lisbon, Portugal, calling it Ulisipo or Ulisseya, during his twenty-year errand on the Mediterranean and Atlantic seas. Olisipo was Lisbon's name in the Roman Empire. Basing in this folk etymology, the belief that Ulysses is recounted by Strabo based on Asclepiades of Myrleia's words, by Pomponius Mela, by Gaius Julius Solinus (3rd century A.D.), and finally by Camões in his epic poem Lusiads.[23]

Middle Ages and Renaissance

Dante, in Canto 26 of the Inferno of his Divine Comedy, encounters Odysseus ("Ulisse" in the original Italian) near the very bottom of Hell: with Diomedes, he walks wrapped in flame in the eighth ring (Counselors of Fraud) of the Eighth Circle (Sins of Malice), as punishment for his schemes and conspiracies that won the Trojan War. In a famous passage, Dante has Odysseus relate a different version of his final voyage and death from the one foreshadowed by Homer. He tells how he set out with his men for one final journey of exploration to sail beyond the Pillars of Hercules and into the Western sea to find what adventures awaited them. Men, says Ulisse, are not made to live like brutes, but to follow virtue and knowledge.[24]

After travelling west and south for five months, they saw in the distance a great mountain rising from the sea (this is Purgatory, in Dante's cosmology) before a storm sank them. Dante did not have access to the original Greek texts of the Homeric epics, so his knowledge of their subject-matter was based only on information from later sources, chiefly Virgil's Aeneid but also Ovid; hence the discrepancy between Dante and Homer.

He appears in Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida, set during the Trojan War.


The bay of Palaiokastritsa in Corfu as seen from Bella vista of Lakones. Corfu is considered to be the mythical island of the Phaeacians. The bay of Palaiokastritsa is considered to be the place where Odysseus disembarked and met Nausicaa for the first time. The rock in the sea visible near the horizon at the top centre-left of the picture is considered by the locals to be the mythical petrified ship of Odysseus. The side of the rock toward the mainland is curved in such a way as to resemble the extended sail of a trireme

Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem Ulysses presents an aging king who has seen too much of the world to be happy sitting on a throne idling his days away. Leaving the task of civilizing his people to his son, he gathers together a band of old comrades "to sail beyond the sunset".

James Joyce's novel Ulysses uses modern literary devices to narrate a single day in the life of a Dublin businessman named Leopold Bloom. Bloom's day turns out to bear many elaborate parallels to Odysseus's twenty years of wandering.

Cream's song "Tales of Brave Ulysses" speaks somewhat of the travels of Odysseus including his encounter with the Sirens. An unnamed Odysseus figure is the narrator of the Steely Dan song, "Home at Last."

Frederick Rolfe's The Weird of the Wanderer has the hero Nicholas Crabbe (based on the author) travelling back in time, discovering that he is the reincarnation of Odysseus, marrying Helen, being deified and ending up as one of the three Magi.

In Dan Simmons' novels Ilium and Olympos, Odysseus is encountered both at Troy and on a futuristic Earth.

Nikos Kazantzakis' The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel, a 33,333 line epic poem, begins with Odysseus cleansing his body of the blood of Penelope's suitors. Odysseus soon leaves Ithaca in search of new adventures. Before his death he abducts Helen; incites revolutions in Crete and Egypt; communes with God; and meets representatives of various famous historical and literary figures, such as Vladimir Lenin, Don Quixote and Jesus.

Ulysses 31 is a Japanese-French anime series, published in 1981, which updates the Greek and Roman mythologies of Ulysses (or Odysseus) to the 31st century. In the series, the gods are angered when Ulysses, commander of the giant spaceship Odyssey, kills the giant Cyclops to rescue a group of enslaved children including Telemachus. Zeus sentences Ulysses to travel the universe with his crew frozen until he finds the Kingdom of Hades, at which point his crew will be revived and he will be able to return to Earth. In one episode, he travels back in time and meets the Odysseus of the Greek myth.

Early 20th century British composer Cecil Armstrong Gibbs's second symphony (for chorus and orchestra) is named after and based on the story of Odysseus, with text by Essex poet Mordaunt Currie.

Suzanne Vega's song "Calypso" shows Odysseus from Calypso's point of view, and tells the tale of him coming to the island and his leaving.

Joel and Ethan Coen's film O Brother Where Art Thou? (2000) is loosely based on the Odyssey. However, they have stated to never having read the epic. George Clooney plays Ulysses Everett McGill, leading a group of escapees from a chain gang through an adventure in search of the proceeds of an armoured truck heist. On their voyage, the gang encounter—amongst other characters—a trio of Sirens and a one eyed bible salesman.

In S.M. Stirling's Island in the Sea of Time Trilogy, Odikweos (Mycenean spelling) is a 'historical' figure who is every bit as cunning as his legendary self and is one of the few Bronze Age inhabitants who discerns the time-traveller's real background. Odikweos first aids William Walker's rise to power in Achaea and later helps bring Walker down after seeing his homeland turn into a police state.

Between 1978 and 1979, German director Tony Munzlinger made a documentary series called Unterwegs mit Odysseus (roughly translated: "Journeying with Odysseus"), in which a film team sails across the Mediterranean Sea trying to find traces of Odysseus in the modern-day settings of the Odyssey. In between the film crew's exploits, hand-drawn scissor-cut cartoons are inserted which relate the hero's story, with actor Hans Clarin providing the narratives.

Odysseus appears as a playable character in the video game Age of Mythology (2002). In addition, one of the levels in the game involves the player's rescue of Odysseus and his men from Circe.

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood retells the story from the point of view of Penelope.

Lindsay Clarke's The War at Troy features Odysseus, and its sequel, The Return from Troy, retells the voyage of Odysseus in a manner which combines myth with modern psychological insight.

Odysseus may be part of the basis for the character of Desmond Hume on the television series Lost. He is attempting to finish a "race around the world" and return to his girlfriend Penelope when he is stranded on the island.

Progressive metal band Symphony X have a song based on Odysseus's journey called "The Odyssey" on the album of the same name. At 24 minutes and 7 seconds long, it has a 6 part orchestra playing in it, each part comprising of 60 people or so.

Irish poet Eilean Ni Chuilleanain wrote "The Second Voyage", a poem in which she makes use of the story of Odysseus.

The Simpsons adapts a version of The Odyssey in "Tales from the Public Domain", the 14th episode of its 13th season. There were three mini stories in the episode, the first bearing the title "D'oh, Brother Where Art Thou?" which starred Homer Simpson as Odysseus.

The Police song "King of Pain" refers to Homer's connotation of the name "Odysseus".

A cartoon show named Class of the Titans has a character named 'Odie' who is a direct descendant of Odysseus. One of the episodes, "The Odie-sey", portrays the story of The Odyssey, with characters like Calypso, Scylla, and Aeolus, and also modern twists and such.

Actor Sean Bean portrayed Odysseus in the feature film Troy. Actor Armand Assante played Odysseus in the TV miniseries The Odyssey.

Comic book characters Batman and Superman are said to be somewhat inspired by Odysseus and Hercules.[citation needed]

One plotline in the comic series 52 features a storyline (which follows the character Animal Man) is a parallel of the Odyssey. In this storyline, Animal Man is lost in space and must voyage home to his wife and children, and on his way back he encounters a planet of drug-like plants, a giant who captures him and various other similar adventures.

Odysseus is also a character in David Gemmell's Troy trilogy. He is a good friend and mentor of Helikaon. He is known as the ugly king of Ithaka. His marriage with Penelope was arranged, but they grew to love each other. He is also a famous story teller, known to exaggerate his stories and heralded as the greatest story teller of his age. This is used as a plot device to explain the origins of such myths as Circe and the Gorgons. In the series, he is fairly old and an unwilling ally of Agamemnon.

In the second book of the Percy Jackson series, The Sea of Monsters, Percy and his friends encounter many obstacles similar to those in the Odyssey, including Scylla and Charybidis, the Sirens, Polyphemus, and others.

Other cultures

  • A similar story exists in Hindu mythology with Nala and Damayanti where Nala separates from Damayanti and reunites with her. The story of stringing a bow is similar to the description in Ramayana of Rama stringing the bow to win Sita's hand in marriage.

See also


  • Tole, Vasil S. (2005). Odyssey and Sirens: A Temptation towards the Mystery of the Iso-polyphonic Regions of Epirus, A Homeric theme with variations. Tirana, Albania. ISBN 9994331639. 
  • Bittlestone, Robert; with James Diggle and John Underhill (2005). Odysseus Unbound: The Search for Homer’s Ithaca. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521853575.  Odysseus Unbound website
  • Ernle Bradford, Ulysses Found, Hodder and Stoughton, 1963


  1. ^ Homer does not link Laertes as one of the Argonauts.
  2. ^ Scholium on Sophocles' Aiax 1988, noted in Karl Kerenyi, The Heroes of the Greeks 1959:77.
  3. ^ "A so-called 'Homeric' drinking-cup shows pretty undisguisedly Sisyphos in the bed-chamber of his host's daughter, the arch-rogue sitting on the bed and the girl with her spindle." (Kerenyi, eo. loc..
  4. ^ Women in Homer's Odyssey
  5. ^ Entry: Ὀδυσσεὺς at Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, 1940, A Greek-English Lexicon.
  6. ^ Definition in Liddell & Scott
  7. ^ Polyaretos, "prayed for".
  8. ^ Mommsen
  9. ^ Hyginus Fabulae 95. Cf. Apollodorus Epitome 3.7.
  10. ^ Hyginus 96
  11. ^ Book 2.
  12. ^ Book 9.
  13. ^ Book 10.
  14. ^ Book 23.
  15. ^ Iliad 4.356-63
  16. ^ Haft, Adele J. "Odysseus' Wrath and Grief in the 'Iliad': Agamemnon, the Ithacan King, and the Sack of Troy in Books 2, 4, and 14." The Classical Journal, Vol. 85, No. 2. (December 1989 – January 1990), pp. 97-114.
  17. ^ Apollodorus Epitome 3.8; Hyginus 105.
  18. ^ Scholium to Odyssey 11.547
  19. ^ Odyssey 11.543-47.
  20. ^ Sophocles Ajax.
  21. ^ Apollodorus Epitome 5.8; Sophocles Philoctetes.
  22. ^ See, e.g. Homer Odyssey 8.493; Apollodorus Epitome 5.14-15.
  23. ^ http://olisipo.blog.com
  24. ^ fatti non foste a viver come bruti / ma per seguir virtute e conoscenza

External links

  • Archaeological Discovery in Greece may be the tomb of Odysseus [1]
  • The Ulysses Voyage, by Tim Severin, 1987. An account of a voyage in a modern reconstruction of a Bronze Age ship, using the Odyssey as sailing directions, from Troy to Ithaca. Many Odyssey locations were, he claims, located.
  • In the animated television series Class of the Titans, one of the seven heroes, Odie, is descended from Odysseus.
  • Spanish poem to Odysseus

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ODYSSEUS (in Latin Ulixes, incorrectly written Ulysses), in Greek legend, son of Laertes and Anticleia, king of Ithaca, a famous hero and typical representative of the Greek race. In Homer he is one of the best and bravest of the heroes, and the favourite of Athena, whereas in later legend he is cowardly and deceitful. Soon after his marriage to Penelope he was summoned to the Trojan war. Unwilling to go, he feigned madness, ploughing a field sown with salt with an ox and an ass yoked together; but Palamedes discovered his deceit by placing his infant child Telemachus in front of the plough; Odysseus afterwards revenged himself by compassing the death of Palamedes. During the war, he distinguished himself as the wisest adviser of the Greeks, and finally, the capture of Troy, which the bravery of Achilles could not accomplish, was attained by Odysseus' stratagem of the wooden horse. After the death of Achilles the Greeks adjudged his armour to Odysseus as the man who had done most to end the war successfully. When Troy was captured he set sail for Ithaca, but was carried by unfavourable winds to the coast of Africa. After encountering many adventures in all parts of the unknown seas, among the lotuseaters and the Cyclopes, in the isles of Aeolus and Circe and the perils of Scylla and Charybdis, among the Laestrygones, and even in the world of the dead, having lost all his ships and companions, he barely escaped with his life to the island of Calypso, where he was detained eight years, an unwilling lover of the beautiful nymph. Then at the command of Zeus he was sent homewards, but was again wrecked on the island of Phaeacia, _whence he was conveyed to Ithaca in one of the wondrous Phaeacian ships. Here he found that a host of suitors, taking advantage of the youth of his son Telemachus, were wasting his property and trying to force Penelope to marry one of them. The stratagems and disguises by which with the help of a few faithful friends he slew the suitors are described at length in the Odyssey. The only allusion to his death is contained in the prophecy of Teiresias, who promised him a happy old age and a peaceful death from the sea. According to a later legend, Telegonus, the son of Odysseus by Circe, was sent by her in search of his father. Cast ashore on Ithaca by a storm, he plundered the island to get provisions, and was attacked by Odysseus, whom he slew. The prophecy was thus fulfilled. Telegonus, accompanied by Penelope and Telemachus, returned to his home with the body of his father, whose identity he had discovered.

According to E. Meyer (Hermes, xxx. p. 267), Odysseus is an old Arcadian nature god identical with Poseidon, who dies at the approach of winter (retires to the western sea or is carried away to the underworld) to revive in spring (but see E. Rohde, Rhein. Mus. 1. p. 631). A more suitable identification would be Hermes. Mannhardt and others regard Odysseus as a solar or summer divinity, who withdraws to the underworld during the winter, and returns in spring to free his wife from the suitors (the powers of winter). A. Gercke (Neue Jahrbiicher fiir das klassische Altertum, xv. p. 331) takes him to be an agricultural divinity akin to the sun god, whose wife is the moon-goddess Penelope, from whom he is separated and reunited to her on the day of the new moon. His cult early disappeared; in Arcadia his place was taken by Poseidon. But although the personality of Odysseus may have had its origin in some primitive religious myth, chief interest attaches to him as the typical representative of the old sailor-race whose adventurous voyages educated and moulded the Hellenic race. The period when the character of Odysseus took shape among the Ionian bards was when the Ionian ships were beginning to penetrate to the farthest shores of the Black Sea and to the western side of Italy, but when Egypt had not yet been freely opened to foreign intercourse. The adventures of Odysseus were a favourite subject in ancient art, in which he may usually be recognized by his conical sailor's cap.

See article by J. Schmidt in Roscher's Lexikon der Mythologie (where the different forms of the name and its etymology are fully discussed); O. Gruppe, Griechische Mythologie, ii. pp. 62 4, 705-718; J. E. Harrison, Myths of the Odyssey in Art and Literature (1881), with appendix on authorities. W. Mannhardt, Waldand Feldkulte (1905), ii. p. 106; O. Seeck, Gesch. des Untergangs der antiken Welt, li p. 57 6; G. Fougeres, Mantinee et l'Arcadie orientate (1898), according to whom Odysseus is an Arcadian chthonian divinity and Penelope a goddess of flocks and herds, akin to the Arcadian Artemis; S. Eitrem, Die gottlichen Zwillinge bei den Griechen (1902), who identifies Odysseus with one of the Dioscuri ('OXvi yES = HoXv5EVrc, t s); V. Berard, Les Phe'niciens et l'Odyssee (1902-1903), who regards the Odyssey as "the integration in a Greek voo-Tos (home-coming) of a Semitic periplus," in the form of a poem written 900-850 B.C. by an Ionic poet at the court of one of the Neleid kings of Miletus. For an estimate of this work, the interest of which is mainly geographical, see Classical Review (April 1904) and Quarterly Review (April 1905). It consists of two large volumes, with 240 illustrations and maps.

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From Ancient Greek Ὀδυσσεύς (Odusseus).

Proper noun


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  1. (Greek mythology) son of Laertes; wisest Greek leader during the Trojan War, and resposible for the Trojan horse; king of Ithaca; hero of the Iliad and protagonist of the Odyssey


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File:Francesco Primaticcio
An image showing Odysseus and Penelope (by Francesco Primaticcio).

Odysseus was a person in the Greek mythology. He was the king of the island Ithaca, and was married to Penelope. Odysseus and Penelope had a son called Telemachos. Odysseus is a major character in Homer's Iliad and Odyssey.

Odysseus fought in the Trojan War, and invented the Trojan Horse, which made the Greeks win the war. After the war, his adventurous journey home took the time of 10 years. The story of that journey is told in the Odyssey.

The latin name for Odysseus is Ulysses.

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