The Odyssey

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Food Symbol Analysis

Food Symbol Icon
Almost every fortune and misfortune in The Odyssey is a scene of men eating or being eaten. Every kindness culminates in a meal, and nearly every trial culminates in cannibalism or poison. Scylla, the Cyclops, and the Laestrygonians all eat some of Odysseus's men; Circe and the Lotus Eaters slip the men harmful drugs; and the feast of the Cattle of the Sun results in the destruction of his remaining crew. The suitors dishonor Odysseus's household by their incessant feasting, and various people honor Odysseus by giving him food and wine. Odysseus often comments that all men are burdened by their base physical needs; perhaps the tedious human cycle of ingestion and excretion represents the vicissitudes of the mortal world as opposed to the clean permanence of the divine.
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Food Symbol Timeline in The Odyssey

The timeline below shows where the symbol Food appears in The Odyssey. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 1
Fate, the Gods, and Free Will Theme Icon
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...to speak to Odysseus's son Telemachus. Droves of men courting Odysseus's wife Penelope have been feasting for years in Odysseus's court, pestering Penelope and depleting the resources of the estate. Athena... (full context)
Book 2
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...gods. He asks the suitors to heed their shame and to leave his household, and threatens again that the gods will revenge their crimes. At that moment, Zeus sends an omen... (full context)
Book 3
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Nestor's son Pisistratus brings Telemachus and his men meat and wine, and encourages them to say a prayer for Poseidon. With instinctive tact, Telemachus... (full context)
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...he wishes the gods would give him the power to wreak revenge on the suitors feasting in his father's house. Nestor wonders whether Odysseus will ever return to punish the suitors,... (full context)
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The next day, Nestor holds a feast. When everyone is gathered, a goldsmith covers a heifer's horns in gold, Nestor pours purifying... (full context)
Book 4
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Telemachus and Pisistratus arrive at Menelaus's palace, where the king is celebrating the two separate marriages of his son and his daughter. Menelaus tells his aide Eteoneus to invite the... (full context)
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As Telemachus and Menelaus feast at the king's palace, the suitors feast and amuse themselves in Odysseus's palace. Antinous and... (full context)
Book 7
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...Alcinous's fruitful realm and luxurious household. He goes inside the palace, where many people are feasting, and puts his arms around Arete's knees – at that moment, the mist around him... (full context)
Book 8
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...crew of fifty-two men to transport Odysseus home; everyone else, he says, should gather to feast and celebrate. After everyone eats and drinks, the bard Demodocus sings about the battle between... (full context)
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...competitor; Athena in disguise praises him and goads him on, and Odysseus boasts that he'll defeat anyone in the crowd in any sport – anyone except the king, because he is... (full context)
Book 9
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...many spoils; Odysseus wanted to leave, but his men decided to stay and plunder and feast. Meanwhile the Cicones called their neighbors for backup, and the expanded army killed many Achaeans... (full context)
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After nine days, the ships reached the land of the Lotus Eaters. There, the crewmen that ate the fruit of lotus lost all desire to return and... (full context)
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...evening the Cyclops came home, closed the entrance to the cave with a giant rock, milked his sheep and goats, and lit a fire. Suddenly he noticed the men and asked... (full context)
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At dawn Polyphemus lit the fire, milked his sheep, and ate two more men for breakfast. He then left for the day,... (full context)
Book 10
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Odysseus begged Aeolus for help, but Aeolus believed that Odysseus's misfortune proved that he was hated by the gods, and turned him away. There was no wind to help them, so... (full context)
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...two days, and Odysseus went out and killed a deer to feed his men. They feasted and slept. The next morning, Odysseus told the men that he saw smoke rising somewhere... (full context)
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...Hermes, who was disguised as a young man. The god gave him a drug called moly that would make him immune to Circe's potion. When Circe touches you with her wand,... (full context)
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...must be Odysseus. When they retired to bed, Circe's maids prepared a bath and a feast. But Odysseus was too troubled to eat, so Circe transformed his crew from swine to... (full context)
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...of Fire and the River of Tears meet, to dig a trench there, to pour milk and honey, wine, and water for the dead, to sprinkle barley; finally, she said, he... (full context)
Book 11
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...they did exactly as Circe said: they dug a trench, offered libations, and sacrificed a ewe and a ram. Thousands of ghosts appeared when the blood started flowing. The first ghost... (full context)
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Finally Tiresias appeared. Once he drank the blood of the slaughtered animals, he told Odysseus that his journey home would be full of... (full context)
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...mother, and Tiresias explained that a ghost would speak only if it drank the animals' blood. Odysseus let his mother drink the blood, and suddenly she recognized him. She told him... (full context)
Book 12
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...When they came to Charybdis they carefully sail around the whirlpool, and Scylla grabbed and ate six men. Filled with grief and pity, the men sail away as fast as possible. (full context)
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...insisted that the crew needed rest. Odysseus made the men swear an oath not to eat any cattle, but they were trapped on the island for a month by an inopportune... (full context)
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...the cattle that had been killed: they bellowed and moved. But the men continue to feast for six more days before sailing away. As soon as they were out at sea... (full context)
Book 13
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The next day, King Alcinous stows Odysseus's many gifts on the ship and everyone feasts. When Odysseus walks onto the ship the next morning, he falls into a deep, sweet... (full context)
Book 14
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...still disguised as a beggar, walks to the swineherd's house. Eumaeus invites Odysseus in to eat and drink and tell his story. Odysseus thanks the swineherd for his hospitality, and Eumaeus... (full context)
Book 17
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...twenty years. Telemachus tells Eumaeus to instruct Odysseus-the-beggar to go around the table begging for scraps, and Athena seconds that advice: it's a way of separating the bad suitors from the... (full context)
Book 18
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...them against each other so that the suitors can enjoy the fight; the prize is sausage and a seat at the suitors' table. Odysseus-the-beggar pulls up his rags to reveal a... (full context)
Book 20
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Eurycleia instructs the maids to clean and decorate the house for the feast to be held during the archery contest. Odysseus ignores another... (full context)
Book 22
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...about to take a sip of wine. The king kicks the table and scatters the food on the floor, and the food mingles with Antinous's blood. He reveals himself to be... (full context)
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...when he returns for more weapons and leave him strung up in the storeroom in great pain. Athena appears in the guise of Mentor; she then turns into a swallow and... (full context)