The Odyssey

Odysseus Character Analysis

King of Ithaca, husband of Penelope, and father of Telemachus, former commander in the Trojan War, Odysseus is the flawed, beloved hero of this tale of homecoming and revenge. His character is deeply contradictory: he is both a cunning champion and a plaything of the gods, a wise commander and a vainglorious braggart. After the Trojan War, which left him swollen with pride and fame, Odysseus seeks adventure on his way home; but the journey brings much defeat and humiliation, and the Odysseus that lands on the shores of Ithaca is a humbler, wiser man, more pious and reserved. As longing for adventure wanes, homesickness grows; the strictures of honor replace the demands of glory. Only when Odysseus learns to yield some control of his fate to the gods can he take charge of his life and bring peace to his household.

Odysseus Quotes in The Odyssey

The The Odyssey quotes below are all either spoken by Odysseus or refer to Odysseus. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Fate, the Gods, and Free Will Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Books edition of The Odyssey published in 1996.
Book 5 Quotes

Outrageous! Look how the gods have changed their minds
about Odysseus – while I was off with my Ethiopians.
Just look at him there, nearing Phaeacia's shores
where he's fated to escape his noose of pain
that's held him until now. Still my hopes ride high –
I'll give that man his swamping fill of trouble!

Related Characters: Poseidon (speaker), Odysseus
Page Number: 5.315-320
Explanation and Analysis:

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Three, four times blessed, my friends-in-arms
who died on the plains of Troy those years ago,
serving the sons of Atreus to the end. Would to god
I'd died there too and met my fate that day ….
A hero's funeral then, my glory spread by comrades –
now what a wretched death I'm doomed to die!

Related Characters: Odysseus (speaker)
Page Number: 5.338-445
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 6 Quotes

But here's an unlucky wanderer strayed our way,
and we must tend him well. Every stranger and beggar
comes from Zeus.

Related Characters: Nausicaa (speaker), Odysseus, Zeus
Page Number: 6.226-228
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 7 Quotes

The belly's a shameless dog, there's nothing worse.
Always insisting, pressing, it never lets us forget –
destroyed as I am, my heart racked with sadness,
sick with anguish, still it keeps demanding,
‘Eat, drink!' It blots out all the memory
of my pain, commanding, ‘Fill me up!'

Related Characters: Odysseus (speaker)
Related Symbols: Food, Food
Page Number: 7.251-257
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 8 Quotes

The gods don't hand out all their gifts at once,
not build and brains and flowing speech to all.
One man may fail to impress us with his looks
but a god can crown his words with beauty, charm,
and men look on with delight when he speaks out.
Never faltering, filled with winning self-control,
he shines forth at assembly grounds and people gaze
at him like a god when he walks through the streets.
Another man may look like a deathless one on high
but there's not a bit of grace to crown his words.

Related Characters: Odysseus (speaker)
Page Number: 8.193-202
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 9 Quotes

Calypso the lustrous goddess tried to hold me back,
deep in her arching caverns, craving me for a husband.
So did Circe, holding me just as warmly in her halls,
the bewitching queen of Aeaea keen to have me too.
But they never won the heart inside me, never.
So nothing is as sweet as a man's own country.

Related Characters: Odysseus (speaker), Calypso, Circe
Page Number: 9.33-38
Explanation and Analysis:

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Since we've chanced on you, we're at your knees
in hopes of a warm welcome, even a guest-gift,
the sort that hosts give strangers. That's the custom.
Respect the gods, my friend. We're suppliants – at your mercy!
Zeus of the Strangers guards all guests and suppliants:
strangers are sacred – Zeus will avenge their rights!

Related Characters: Odysseus (speaker), Zeus, Polyphemus
Page Number: 9.300-305
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 11 Quotes

Even so, you and your crew may still reach home,
suffering all the way, if you only have the power
to curb their wild desire and curb your own.

Related Characters: Tiresias (speaker), Odysseus
Related Symbols: Food
Page Number: 11.117-119
Explanation and Analysis:

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I tell you this – bear it in mind, you must –
when you reach your homeland steer your ship
into port in secret, never out in the open…
the time for trusting women's gone forever!

Related Characters: Agamemnon (speaker), Odysseus, Clytemnestra
Page Number: 11.515-518
Explanation and Analysis:

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No winning words about death to me, shining Odysseus!
By god, I'd rather slave on earth for another man –
some dirt-poor tenant farmer who scrapes to keep alive –
than rule down here over all the breathless dead.

Related Characters: Achilles (speaker), Odysseus
Page Number: 11.555-558
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 12 Quotes

So stubborn! …
Hell-bent again yet again on battle and feats of arms?
Can't you bow to the deathless gods themselves?
Scylla's no mortal, she's an immortal devastation.

Related Characters: Circe (speaker), Odysseus, Scylla
Page Number: 12.125-128
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 13 Quotes

Any man – any god who met you – would have to be
some champion lying cheat to get past you
for all-round craft and guile! You terrible man,
foxy, ingenious, never tired of twists and tricks –
so, not even here, on native soil, would you give up
those wily tales that warm the cockles of your heart!

Related Characters: Athena (speaker), Odysseus
Page Number: 13.329-334
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 15 Quotes

Even too much sleep can be a bore. …
We two will keep to the shelter here, eat and drink
and take some joy in each other's heartbreaking sorrows,
sharing each other's memories.

Related Characters: Eumaeus (speaker), Odysseus
Page Number: 15.443-449
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 16 Quotes

Would I were young as you, to match my spirit now,
or I were the son of great Odysseus, or the king himself
returned from all his roving – there's still room for hope!
Then let some foreigner lop my head off if I failed
to march right into Odysseus's royal halls
and kill them all. And what if I went down,
crushed by their numbers – I, fighting alone?
I'd rather die, cut down in my own house
than have to look on at their outrage day by day.

Related Characters: Odysseus (speaker), Telemachus, Antinous, Eurymachus
Page Number: 16.111-119
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 17 Quotes

Odysseus was torn…
Should he wheel with his staff and beat the scoundrel senseless? –
or hoist him by the midriff, split his skull on the rocks?
He steeled himself instead, his mind in full control.

Related Characters: Odysseus, Melanthius
Page Number: 17.257-260
Explanation and Analysis:

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You know how you can stare at a bard in wonder –
trained by the gods to sing and hold men spellbound –
how you can long to sit there, listening, all your life
when the man begins to sing. So he charmed my heart.

Related Characters: Eumaeus (speaker), Odysseus
Page Number: 17.575-578
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 21 Quotes

Like an expert singer skilled at lyre and song –
who strains a string to a new peg with ease,
making the pliant sheep-gut fast at either end –
so with his virtuoso ease Odysseus strung his mighty bow.

Related Characters: Odysseus
Page Number: 21.453-456
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 22 Quotes

No fear of the gods who rule the skies up there,
no fear that men's revenge might arrive someday –
now all your necks are in the noose – your doom is sealed!

Related Characters: Odysseus (speaker), Antinous, Eurymachus
Page Number: 22.40-42
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 24 Quotes

What good sense resided in your Penelope –
how well Icarius's daughter remembered you,
Odysseus, the man she married once!
The fame of her great virtue will never die.
The immortal gods will lift a song for all mankind,
a glorious song in praise of self-possessed Penelope.

Related Characters: Agamemnon (speaker), Odysseus, Penelope
Page Number: 24.213-218
Explanation and Analysis:

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Now that royal Odysseus has taken his revenge,
let both sides seal their pacts that he shall reign for life,
and let us purge their memories of the bloody slaughter
of their brothers and their sons. Let them be friends,
devoted as in the old days. Let peace and wealth
come cresting through the land.

Related Characters: Zeus (speaker), Odysseus
Page Number: 24.533-538
Explanation and Analysis:

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Odysseus Character Timeline in The Odyssey

The timeline below shows where the character Odysseus 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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...by asking the Muse, the goddess of poetry and music, to sing to him about Odysseus and his travels. Odysseus and his crew have seen many strange lands and have suffered... (full context)
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...says the bard to the muse, and so the story begins in the middle of Odysseus's long journey home from Troy. The nymph Calypso has held Odysseus captive for seven years... (full context)
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Meanwhile, Athena flies to Ithaca to speak to Odysseus's son Telemachus. Droves of men courting Odysseus's wife Penelope have been feasting for years in... (full context)
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After Telemachus has given Athena a proper welcome, she tells Telemachus that Odysseus is still alive, and that he is held captive on a faraway island. She prophesies... (full context)
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...grief. Telemachus reproaches her; he reminds her that Zeus, not the bard, is responsible for Odysseus's suffering. He tells her to have courage, to listen to the bard's song, and to... (full context)
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...for their wrongdoings. He declares his intentions to remain the lord of the estate in Odysseus's absence. The suitors are amazed at the prince's confidence and daring. Antinous responds that only... (full context)
Book 2
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...crew of twenty men to sail to Pylos and Sparta in search of news about Odysseus. If he hears that his father is alive, he will hold the suitors back for... (full context)
Book 3
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...does Nestor inquire about their identities. Telemachus explains that they've come to seek news about Odysseus's journey or about his death. (full context)
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Nestor mentions the many men whose deaths he witnessed during the Trojan War; he describes Odysseus as a man of unequalled cunning, and tells Telemachus that his eloquence is similar to... (full context)
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...power to wreak revenge on the suitors feasting in his father's house. Nestor wonders whether Odysseus will ever return to punish the suitors, and echoes Telemachus in wishing for him the... (full context)
Book 4
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He grieves for all his comrades, Menelaus says, but he grieves for Odysseus the most, because he worked the hardest but suffered the most. Telemachus cries to hear... (full context)
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...into the wine that makes the men forget their sorrows. She tells the guests about Odysseus's conquest of Troy: he stole into the city disguised as a beggar, killed many Trojans,... (full context)
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...describes the suitors' disgraceful behavior and begs Menelaus to tell him all he knows about Odysseus. The king tells Telemachus that the gods trapped him in still waters by the island... (full context)
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...that Ajax died at the hands of Poseidon, and Agamemnon at the hands of Aegisthus. Odysseus, Proteus said, was trapped on Calypso's island. The next dawn Menelaus and his men set... (full context)
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...to reassure her that her son is under Athena's protection. Penelope questions the phantom about Odysseus, but the phantom refuses to speak. The suitors sail to the island Asteris, and lie... (full context)
Book 5
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The gods assemble on mount Olympus. Athena implores Zeus to help Odysseus, who was such a kind and just ruler, and is now trapped in Calypso's house... (full context)
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...where the goddess sings and weaves by a fire in her cavern in the woods. Odysseus sits on the beach and cries. Hermes tells Calypso that Zeus commands her to release... (full context)
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Though Odysseus sleeps with Calypso, he weeps for his wife and home. Calypso comes to him and... (full context)
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The next morning, Odysseus sets to work making a raft with the goddess's tools. When he finishes, Calypso gives... (full context)
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Odysseus floats for two nights and two days, and at the dawn of the third day... (full context)
Book 6
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As Odysseus sleeps, Athena flies to a Phaeacian city where the princess Nausicaa, daughter of the king... (full context)
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By Athena's design, the girls romping wakes Odysseus. He's a little apprehensive at first but he walks out toward them, shielding himself with... (full context)
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Nausicaa invites Odysseus to ride into town with her, but on second thought asks him to enter the... (full context)
Book 7
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As Odysseus walks toward the city, Athena surrounds him with a protective mist. Disguised as a little... (full context)
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Alcinous sits Odysseus down next to him, Odysseus eats and drinks, and they all raise their wine glasses... (full context)
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As the servants clear away the plates, Arete notices that Odysseus is wearing clothes from her household, and asks about them suspiciously. Odysseus tells her a... (full context)
Book 8
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...ship down to the sea and to find a crew of fifty-two men to transport Odysseus home; everyone else, he says, should gather to feast and celebrate. After everyone eats and... (full context)
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...ready to compete. There is a footrace, followed by wrestling, jumping, and discus-throwing. Laodamas invites Odysseus to join the competition, but Odysseus declines, citing his long suffering and exhaustion. Broadsea, another... (full context)
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...farther than any other 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... (full context)
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After the story ends, Alcinous's best dancers perform, and Odysseus is amazed at their skill. Alcinous calls on the twelve peers of his kingdom to... (full context)
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...burst from the horse and defeated the Trojans; the bard mentions the particular courage of Odysseus and Menelaus. Odysseus cries to hear the tale. Only Alcinous notices his tears, and he... (full context)
Book 9
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Odysseus names himself and begins telling the story of his long travels after leaving Troy. In... (full context)
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...and all memory of home – they only wanted to stay and eat lotus. But Odysseus forced them to return to the ships, tied them to the masts, and told the... (full context)
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...Cyclops. The one-eyed Cyclops have no laws, no councils, no farms, no ships or traders. Odysseus and the crew from his ship went to explore the continent while the other men... (full context)
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...lit a fire. Suddenly he noticed the men and asked them angrily who they were. Odysseus responded that they were Achaeans that had lost their way home, and urged the Cyclops,... (full context)
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...the day, shutting the entrance of the cave behind him with the huge rock. Meanwhile Odysseus plotted revenge. He took Polyphemus' club and his men filed it down to a point... (full context)
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Next, Odysseus plotted their escape. He arranged the rams in the cave in groups of three and... (full context)
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...remembered that a prophet once told him that he would be blinded by someone named Odysseus and called out to his father Poseidon to exact revenge: he prayed that Odysseus should... (full context)
Book 10
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Odysseus continues his story to the Phaeacians: The men's next stop was the Aeolian island, home... (full context)
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Odysseus begged Aeolus for help, but Aeolus believed that Odysseus's misfortune proved that he was hated... (full context)
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Odysseus and his single ship sailed on, and anchored on Circe's island. They rested for two... (full context)
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Eurylochus ran back to the ship and told Odysseus that the men vanished into the palace and did not return. Odysseus set off for... (full context)
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When Odysseus walked into Circe's palace, everything happened just as Hermes predicted, and Circe then guessed that... (full context)
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...living in luxury, but after a year the crew grew increasingly restless and finally convinced Odysseus that it was time to leave. Circe advised him to go down to the land... (full context)
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...when he returned to of Ithaca and to slaughter a black ram for Tiresias. Afterwards, Odysseus must slaughter a ram and an ewe with his head turned away. Only then will... (full context)
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As Odysseus and his crew woke the next morning to depart, they discovered that Elpenor, the youngest... (full context)
Book 11
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Odysseus continues telling his tale to Alcinous and the Phaeacians. When he and his men reached... (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 trouble: Odysseus had angered Poseidon by blinding... (full context)
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Odysseus asked Tiresias how to speak to the ghost of his mother, and Tiresias explained that... (full context)
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Odysseus describes the conversation he had with Agamemnon. The ghost discussed his wife's infidelity; he told... (full context)
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Next Odysseus talked to Achilles, who said that he would rather be a slave on earth than... (full context)
Book 12
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...to Aeaea, performed all the proper funeral rites for Elpenor, and buried his body. Before Odysseus and his men depart, Circe told Odysseus that he must pass the island of the... (full context)
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...the ship Argo has passed between these monsters with no lives lost. Circe advised that Odysseus sail his ship past Scylla and sacrifice six men rather than risk getting sucked down... (full context)
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...Circe finished, and the men prepared their ship for departure. As the ship sailed away, Odysseus told the men Circe's advice, though he told them that Circe said he must hear... (full context)
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Next they reached the island of the Sun. Odysseus wanted to avoid the island altogether, but Eurylochus insisted that the crew needed rest. Odysseus... (full context)
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The sun god Helios angrily asked Zeus and the other gods to punish Odysseus's crew for killing his cattle, and Zeus complied. Strange things began to happen to the... (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... (full context)
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Poseidon is angered that the Phaeacians helped Odysseus and gave him so much treasure, despite Poseidon's grudge. Zeus considers Poseidon's complaint a bit... (full context)
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Back in Ithaca, Odysseus wakes from his long sleep. Athena has surrounded him with mist to protect him, so... (full context)
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Odysseus notes that Athena had been kind to him during the war but that she seemed... (full context)
Book 14
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Odysseus, still disguised as a beggar, walks to the swineherd's house. Eumaeus invites Odysseus in to... (full context)
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Odysseus-the-beggar tells Eumaeus that he was born in Crete, the unlawful son of a rich man... (full context)
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Odysseus-the-beggar left Egypt with a Phoenician con man, who convinced him to go to Libya. But... (full context)
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Odysseus decides to test Eumaeus's generosity: he describes a freezing, snowy night during the Trojan War... (full context)
Book 15
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...next morning, Menelaus arranges for Telemachus to leave for home with Pisistratus. When Telemachus mentions Odysseus in his good-byes, an eagle with a goose in its claws flies by: a good... (full context)
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Meanwhile, back in Ithaca, Odysseus decides to test Eumaeus one more time. He tells Eumaeus that he plans to leave... (full context)
Book 16
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...care of the stranger. Telemachus gladly offers to give the stranger clothes and a sword. Odysseus-the-beggar interjects to say that it upsets him to hear about the sad state of affairs... (full context)
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Athena approaches the farm, but only Odysseus and the dogs can see her. He walks outside to talk to her, and she... (full context)
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Odysseus asks Telemachus to describe the suitors so that they can plan an attack. Telemachus doubts... (full context)
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...from her chambers and confronts Antinous about his schemes against Telemachus. She reminds him that Odysseus once saved his father, and shames Antinous for mistreating Odysseus's land and wife in his... (full context)
Book 17
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...to him, but their intentions are dark. He tells Penelope that Menelaus had heard that Odysseus had been trapped on Calypso's island. Theoclymenus adds his prophecy: he says that Odysseus is... (full context)
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As the two men approach the castle, Eumaeus warns Odysseus-the-beggar that someone might hit or mock him just for the fun of it, and Odysseus... (full context)
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Odysseus enters his own house for the first time in twenty years. Telemachus tells Eumaeus to... (full context)
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Antinous flings a stool at the king, but Odysseus contains his anger once again, and tells the other suitors that such undeserved violence will... (full context)
Book 18
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A rude beggar named Arnaeus (Irus for short) wanders into the palace. He insults Odysseus-the-beggar when they meet on the grounds, and Antinous decides to pit them against each other... (full context)
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The suitor Amphinomus is especially kind to Odysseus-the-beggar. As they talk, Odysseus mentions his own past violence and error, advises him to live... (full context)
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...if they hope to win her hand they should give her gifts, as is customary. Odysseus is pleased at this clever trick. The suitors send their servants to bring fine treasures... (full context)
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Athena wants to rile Odysseus as much as possible, so she inspires Eurymachus to mock him once more, but Odysseus... (full context)
Book 19
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That night, as the suitors sleep, Odysseus and Telemachus lock up most of the weapons as part of their plan. Telemachus goes... (full context)
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...a luxury; instead, the nurse Eurycleia washes his feet. The old nurse cries to hear Odysseus's name and swears the there is a great likeness between her king and the old... (full context)
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When the nurse leaves, Odysseus-the-beggar resumes his conversation with Penelope. She asks him to interpret a dream in which an... (full context)
Book 20
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Odysseus lies awake and worries about fighting an entire crowd of suitors - and the crowds... (full context)
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...clean and decorate the house for the feast to be held during the archery contest. Odysseus ignores another insult from the goatherd and speaks briefly to the cowherd. An eagle flies... (full context)
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Athena wants to rouse Odysseus's anger so she inspires a suitor names Ctesippus to fling a hoof at him; Telemachus... (full context)
Book 21
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Penelope sets out Odysseus's bow and axes, and announces to the suitors that the archer that can shoot an... (full context)
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Odysseus reenters the palace, where Eurymachus has just failed to string the bow. Odysseus-the-beggar advises the... (full context)
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Eumaeus carries the bow to the king amidst the mocking of the suitors. Odysseus strings the bow as gracefully as a bard tuning his lyre; Zeus sends down a... (full context)
Book 22
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Odysseus shoots Antinous through the throat just as the suitor is about to take a sip... (full context)
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...so that no suitors can escape. The goatherd Melanthius climbs through a secret passageway into Odysseus's storeroom and brings weapons to some of the suitors. Eumaeus and Philoetius catch Melanthius when... (full context)
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Telemachus brings out Eurycleia; she is happy to see the suitors dead, but Odysseus warns her that it is wrong to rejoice over the bodies of the dead. He... (full context)
Book 23
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Eurycleia tells Penelope that Odysseus has finally come home and killed the suitors. The nurse mentions the telltale boar tusk... (full context)
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Athena changes Odysseus back into a handsome younger man. He chides Penelope for her cold welcome and tells... (full context)
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Odysseus warns Penelope that he must make one more long, dangerous journey before they can settle... (full context)
Book 24
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...young men have died all at once. Amphimedon describes the suitors' courtship, Penelope's loyalty, and Odysseus's revenge. Agamemnon is glad that Odysseus's wife was more faithful than his own, and says... (full context)
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Meanwhile, Odysseus and his three companions come to Laertes' farm. Odysseus finds his father working in the... (full context)
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...out for revenge, but the herald Medon warns the crowd that the gods are on Odysseus's side. Some back down in fear, but others get ready for battle. (full context)
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...that the townsmen should forget their grievances and live in peace. Back at the farm, Odysseus and the other men get ready to face the army from town. Athena in the... (full context)