The Odyssey

Greek: Οδυσσεια
What: The Odyssey is one of the two major ancient Greek poems (the other being the Iliad) written by Homer.
Author: Homer
Written: 8th Century BC
Takes Place: 1178 BC
Length:12,110 lines of dactylic hexameter

Odysseus by Jacob Jordaens (1600's).

Odysseus by Jacob Jordaens (1600′s).

The Odyssey was an epic poem written in the 8th century BC by the poet Homer. It told the tale of theGreek hero Odysseus and his journey home to Ithaca following the Trojan war. It takes him 10 years to reach his home of Ithaca, an island in the Ionian sea, where he is king. While he is absent his wife Penelope and son Telemachus deal with his assumed death, as a group of suitors compete for Penelope’s hand in marriage to become king of Ithaca.

Once the Trojan War is finished Odysseus and his crew set sail for Ithaca but are guided off course by the Greek God Poseidon. Odysseus visists many places on his way to Ithaca. He gets caught by a cyclops (as depicted in the image to the right), stays with Aeolus, the master of the winds, visited the witch-goddess Circe, skirted the land of the Sirens and visited many more strange and distant lands. Eventually he meets the Phaeacians, who are skilled mariners, who agree to get him home. Once in Ithaca he fights off the suitors and reunites with his son and wife.

The geography of the Odyssey has always been up for debate. It is believed that Odysseus expeditions took place in Thraki, the Aegean islands, the Peloponnese, Crete, the Ioanian islands, Malta, Sicily, parts of Italy, Corfu and some even say as far as Spain. One of the more interesting debates is Odysseus homeland of Ithaca. The only account we have of Ithaca in the peom is when Odysseus introduces his homeland to King Alcinoos:

I am Odysseus, Laertes’ son, world-famed
For stratagems: my name has reached the heavens.
Bright Ithaca is my home: it has a mountain,
Leaf-quivering Neriton, far visible.
Around are many islands, close to each other,
Doulichion and Same and wooded Zacynthos.
Ithaca itself lies low, furthest to sea
Towards dusk; the rest, apart, face dawn and sun.
Odyssey 9.19-26

Today’s island of Ithaca is not low-lying but rather mountainous, it is not the furthest out to the sea and does not face dusk (west). However, the Ioanian islands are in one of the most tectonically active places in the world, and the geography of the land could have changed since the Odyssey took place. Other islands thought to be the home of Odysseus include Lefkada and Kefalonia. Kefalonia might have the best case for the home of Odysseus. It is the farthest out to sea and not mountainous. In the Odyssey the people from the island of Ithaca refer to themselves as Cephallenians. Unlike Troy and Mycenae,Odysseus Palace has yet to be discovered. Learn more about the search for Ithaca here: http://www.odysseus-unbound.org/.

Famous quotes from the Odyssey:

  • A small rock holds back a great wave.
  • A young man is embarrassed to question an older one.
  • Evil deeds do not prosper; the slow man catches up with the swift.
  • For rarely are sons similar to their fathers: most are worse, and a few are better than their fathers.
  • It is equally wrong to speed a guest who does not want to go, and to keep one back who is eager. You ought to make welcome the present guest, and send forth the one who wishes to go.
  • There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep.
  • We are quick to flare up, we races of men on the earth.

“Homer’s Ithaca” by The History Channel :

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