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Homer

The Odyssey

The Odyssey is written in 24 books and begins nearly ten years after the fall of Troy. In the first part, Telemachus, Odysseus' son, visits Nestor at Pylos and Menelaus at Sparta, seeking news of his absent father. He tells them of the troubles of his mother, Penelope, who is beset by mercenary suitors. Menelaus informs him that his father is with the nymph Calypso (Books I–IV). The scene then shifts to Mt. Olympus with an account of Zeus' order to Calypso to release Odysseus, who then builds a raft and sails to Phaeacia. There he is entertained by King Alcinoüs and his daughter Nausicaä; he relates to them the story of his wanderings in which he has encountered Polyphemus, Aeolus, Circe, Scylla and Charybdis, the Sirens, the Laestrygones, and the lotus-eaters (Books V–XII).

Dramatic tension mounts with the return of Odysseus and Telemachus to Ithaca; together they plan and execute the death of the suitors. Afterward Odysseus makes himself known to his wife and his father, with whose aid he repulses the suitors' angry kinsmen. Athena intervenes, peace is restored, and Odysseus once again rules his country (Books XIII–XXIV). The atmosphere of adventure and fate in the Odyssey contrasts with the heavier tone and tragic grandeur of the Iliad.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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See more Encyclopedia articles on: Classical Literature: Biographies


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