Monday, December 13, 2010

Homer's Odyssey

The Odyssey is a magnificent epic story written down by the Greek poet Homer around 700 B.C. The story mainly centres on the Greek hero Odysseus who is one of the most famous characters in Greek mythology.

Odysseus was the king of Ithaca well known through out his life as being rather devious and cunning. He went to Asia Minor to help king Menelaus recapture his wife, Helen, who had been abduced by Paris, a young prince of Troy. This was the beginning of the Trojan war. For nine years the battle waged, but there was never a solid victory.

Finally, Odysseus came up with a plan. Greeks would create a large wooden horse and hide inside. The horse would be presented as a gift. When the Trojans saw it they thought it was a gift of peace offering to end the war so they put it in the middle of their town of Troy.

The plan worked!!! The Trojans had no idea thet Greek soldiers were hidden inside, and so during the night, the Greeks emerged and destroyed the castle. After having destroyed the castle and defeated the Trojans. Odysseus and the other Greeks returned to their kingdoms across the sea.

But what Odysseus thinks is the end of hi
s long absence is truly the beginning...

Meanwhile back in Ithaca, everyone thought Odysseus was dead, many suitors wanted to marry his wife Penelope so they could be king, but Penelope and their son still believe Odysseus will come back.

"Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns
driven time and again off course, once he had plundered
the hallowed heights of Troy.
Many cities of men he saw and learned their minds,
many pains he suffered, heartsick on the open sea,fighting to save his life and bring his comrades home."

In this introductory paragraph Homer calls for the muse of poetry to help him in reciting properly the story of brave Odysseus.

The poem begins with Odysseus on the island of Calypso. Calypso was a nymph inhabiting the island of Ogygia, on the coast of which Odyseus was thrown when he was shipwrecked. Calypso loved the unfortunate hero, and promised him eternal youth and immortality if he would remain with her. She detained him in her island for seven years, until Zeus sent Hermes, his messenger, who ordered her to let him free. Even though the goddess Calypso wasn't happy about it, she agreed to let Odysseus go.

But unfortunately for Odysseus, the raft he set sail on was destroyed by his enemy, the god Poseidon. This event took place after Poseidon created the sea into a storm with his trident. Odysseus barely managed to escape with his life, and so was washed ashore days later, half drowned.

Ashore, Odysseus fell onto an olive thicket where he slept. Later he was awakened by the sound of voices and peeked through the trees to see a group of young women playing ball by the river. Seeking information that would help him get home, he approached them.
One of them was Nausicaa, the daughter of King Alcinous of Phaeacia. Nausicaa was kind enough to help Odysseus receive the king’s help in returning to his home town.

The King Alcinous did not refuse to grant Odysseus hospitality, ordered a feast prepared in honor of the visitor and then asked him his name and history.

Odysseus declared himself and told his tale. After the fall of Troy he and his soldiers destroyed Ismarus, but had to flee after suffering heavy losses through attacks from the Cicones who were allies of the Trojans.

They were fortunate enough to escape and landed on the island of the Lotus-eaters. The men who tasted the lotus, a strange plant, lost all desire to return home. Odysseus came to get them and tied them up by force. The men were back in the ocean.

For many days Odysseus and his men were lost at sea. One night they arrived on an island and discovered a cave full of goats and sheep. It was the domicile of the Cyclops, Polyphemus—son of Poseidon. He was a giant with only one eye. Soon they were trapped because the Cyclops had closed the cave entrance with an enormous rock. Not before long, Polyphemus had eaten two men for dinner. After having eaten the men for dinner, Odysseus and his men devised a cunning plan which involved sharpening a pole and using it to gouge out his eye. Once having done so, the men escaped the Cyclopes by clinging to the undersides of his goats.

As the journey continued they met Aeolus and his family who lived on the island of Eolia. Odysseus told Aeolus about his adventures and after a month, they finally left the island. As a present, Aeolus gave Odysseus a bag which contained all the winds except the one that would take them to Ithaca. But, while Odysseus was sleeping, his men opened the bag and a terrible storm swept them away from the shores of Ithaca.

After sailing for many days, Odysseus and his men ended up among the Laestrygonians. They desperately needed to escape because the Laestrygonians were unfriendly giants who killed most of Odysseus' men and destroyed many of their ships.

The few survivors ended up in the island of the enchantress Circe. She transformed most of the men into pigs. The god Hermes gave Odysseus a herb to help him in the task of rescuing his crew. They spent a month with her. Finally, she told them they had to travel to the Land of Death.

There, Tieresias, a dead blind prophet who had accompanied them to Troy, could tell them how to get home.

Teiresias prophesied that Odysseus would make it home, but not without difficulty. Odysseus spoke to several other famous dead people (like his war buddies Achilles and Agamemnon). He also met the ghost of his mother, Antikleia, who had died of grief over her son’s prolonged absence. Then, after a quick pit stop back at Circe’s island, where they got some more directions, Odysseus and his men sailed on.

Soon, they passed by the Sirens, monstrous women with beautiful voices who try to lure sailors to their deaths. Odysseus made his men plug their ears and tie him to the mast so he could listen to the song without chasing after it. In this way, he became the only man to hear the Sirens' song and survive.

Immediately after the sirens, Odysseus and his men saw a cloud of black smoke on the top of a mountain. It was Scylla, a horrible monster with twelve legs and six long necks ending in ugly heads with mouths full of teeth.

They could not avoid Scylla without falling into a terrible whirlpool, Charybdis, that swallowed the sea and spit it up again.

After that they landed on the island of Helios, the sun god, where his very special cattle were kept. Despite having been warned by Teiresias and Circe not to eat the cattle, Odysseus’s men couldn’t control their hunger. Bad call. Not long afterward, everyone died in a storm – except for Odysseus. He wound up on Calypso’s island, where he was held prisoner for seven years.
Phaiacians were so moved by
Odysseus suffering that they loaded him up with treasure and helped him to reach Ithaca.

Odysseus finally reached his homeland of Ithaca only to find his palace overrun with suitors who were spending his wealth, slaughtering his cattle, and courting his wife, Penelope. After many years, Penelope could no longer hold off the suitors.

Only Argo, Odysseus's old dog, knew who he was. Disguised as a beggar, and with the help of his son, Telemachus, he planned to recapture his throne as King of Ithaca.

Odysseus’ wife, Penelope announced to the suitors that she would marry the man who could string the bow of Odysseus and shoot an arrow through 12 axes placed in a row. The suitors all failed. Telemachus then demanded that the beggar be allowed to try. The beggar accomplished the feat. Then throwing off his disguise, he and Telemachus fought and killed all the suitors.

At first Penelope could not believe that this man was truly her long-absent husband.

Only when Odysseus revealed a secret that only they knew—that their bed was carved from a tree and remained rooted in the ground—did she acknowledge and embrace him.

This work was done by the students of the First grade of the

High School of Perama –Ioannina (Section 1)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this fun synopsis of the very elaborate story of Odysseus. Love the illustrations! Referring to it to help a few struggling 8th grade readers get the idea of the story before they tackle Mandelbaum.