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Odysseus is the cunning epic hero in Homer’s poem The Odyssey, which details his adventures as he tries to make his way back home from the Trojan War. Odysseus is best known as the mastermind behind the Trojan Horse.

Odysseus was the central figure of the epic poem The Odyssey by Homer. Odysseus was the king of Ithaca, and he left his wife, Penelope, and newborn son Telemachus behind when he went to go fight for King Agamemnon in the Trojan War. The war itself lasted for ten years, and it was brought to an end when Odysseus came up with the ingenious idea to build a giant horse, hide thirty men inside of it, and present it as a surrender gift to the Trojans. Once the horse was pulled inside the walls of the city, the men waited until the Trojans were asleep and opened the gates for the Greek army to come in and win the war.

Odysseus and his men set out for home, but they were diverted by many adventures. Odysseus brought a curse on their journey by mocking Polyphemus, the cyclops son of Poseidon, after he and his men stabbed out his one eye. Poseidon cursed the crew by foiling many of their plans, fooling with the weather, and making their navigation nearly impossible. Finally, Odysseus met with the dead blind prophet Tiresias in the Land of the Dead, who warned Odysseus that if his men were to eat the cattle of the sun god Helios, they would never see home again, and Odysseus’ trip would be delayed even further. Sure enough, after being trapped by a month-long storm, the starving men chose to eat the cattle while Odysseus was asleep. Zeus destroyed Odysseus’ men and ships, and it took him a total of 20 years to get back to Ithaca.

Once he reached his home, Odysseus discovered that many suitors had come to demand his wife’s hand in marriage since they believed Odysseus to be dead. They were odious, disrespectful men, and they planned to kill Odysseus’ son Telemachus once he reached 21. Odysseus, with the help of Athena and Telemachus, disguised himself as an old beggar and infiltrated the suitors. When the time was right, he revealed his identity, and he, Telemachus, and Odysseus’ swineherd Eumaeus killed all of the suitors.

Odysseus Hero Reference

Parents

Laertes and Anticlea


Notable Myths

  • The Trojan War
  • Polyphemus
  • Death of the Suitors

Symbols / Attributes

Odysseus’ bow


Companions

Penelope, Circe, Calypso


Be sure to check out the lesson plans on The Odyssey!

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