Why does Telemachus go to Pylos and Sparta?
The goddess Athena, disguised as Mentes, advises Telemachus to visit Pylos and Sparta. Athena tells Telemachus that he might hear news of his father, Odysseus. If he doesn’t hear that Odysseus is still alive, Telemachus will know it is time to hold a funeral and assert his status as master of Odysseus’s house and property. The journey is potentially dangerous. By undertaking the journey, Telemachus shows that he has inherited his father’s courage, and he begins to forge a reputation in his society as a brave and adventurous man. His visits to Nestor and Menelaus require him to tactfully observe the social rules that bind travelers and guests. This introduces one of The Odyssey’s central themes: hospitality and the rules that govern it. Nestor and Menelaus tell Telemachus stories about Odysseus’s achievements in the Trojan War. Menelaus affirms that Telemachus is a worthy son of his famous father: “Good blood runs in you, dear boy.” Menelaus also tells him that his father is alive. This encouragement inspires Telemachus, and his experiences as a traveler help him to mature. When he returns to Ithaca, he is ready to help Odysseus defeat the suitors.
How does Odysseus escape Polyphemus?
The cyclops Polyphemus traps Odysseus and his men in a cave, behind an enormous rock. Only the cyclops is strong enough to move the rock, so Odysseus can’t escape. Instead, Odysseus hatches a plan. While the cyclops is out with his sheep, Odysseus sharpens a piece of wood into a stake and hardens it in the fire. Next, he gives the cyclops wine to get him drunk, and he tells the cyclops his name is “Nobody.” When the cyclops falls asleep, Odysseus blinds him with the hardened stake. Polyphemus’ screams summon the other cyclops, but when he shouts “Nobody’s killing me!” they go away again. In the morning, the cyclops must let his sheep out to graze. He feels the sheep as they leave, to make sure his prisoners aren’t escaping too, but Odysseus and his men are clinging to the sheep’s bellies. Odysseus’s escape from Polyphemus demonstrates his main character trait: a gift for tactics and trickery. It’s significant that Odysseus’s stratagem requires him to conceal his reputation and identify himself as “Nobody.” The Odyssey explores the nature of identity and the tension between a person’s reputation in the world and who he is in his inner life.
Why doesn’t the goddess Athena get Odysseus home sooner?
The goddess Athena is Odysseus’s patron. She is the goddess of craft and wisdom, so she is fond of the cunning Odysseus: “among mortal men / you’re far the best at tactics, spinning yarns, / and I am famous among the gods for wisdom, / cunning wiles, too.” Athena uses her divine powers to protect Odysseus and to help him get home. However, the god Poseidon is Odysseus’s sworn enemy, because Odysseus blinded his son, Polyphemus the cyclops. Poseidon is more powerful than Athena, and he has a higher rank amongst the gods. He does everything he can to prevent Odysseus from returning home. The action of The Odyssey begins when Athena sees her chance to rescue Odysseus from the nymph Calypso while Poseidon’s back is turned. Odysseus’s fate ultimately depends on the status of his patron goddess, suggesting that hierarchy is inescapable in the universe of The Odyssey.
Why does Odysseus kill the suitors?
Odysseus wants revenge on the suitors. They have wasted a lot of his wealth, by living at his expense during his absence. More importantly, by taking advantage of his absence, the suitors have insulted Odysseus and damaged his reputation. Odysseus lives by the heroic code of kleos, or fame, which values reputation above everything else. Odysseus is proud of his reputation: “My fame has reached the skies.” He cannot allow the suitors’ insult to his reputation to go unpunished. The suitors make things worse for themselves by mistreating Odysseus when he arrives at his palace disguised as a beggar. In the world of The Odyssey, hosts have an obligation to treat their guests well. Whenever he can, Odysseus punishes hosts who break this rule.
How does Penelope test Odysseus?
Penelope has not seen her husband for many years. When Odysseus returns, Penelope doesn’t recognize him and cannot be sure that Odysseus is really who he says he is. She tests Odysseus by ordering her servant Eurycleia to move their marriage bed. Odysseus gets angry. He explains that he built their bedroom around an ancient olive tree, and used the top of the tree to make their bedpost. He is angry because he believes Penelope must have replaced this bed with a movable one. His anger, and the fact that he knows the story of the bed, proves his identity. Only Odysseus, Penelope, and one loyal servant have ever seen the bed. Penelope’s determination to test Odysseus shows that she is intelligent and not easily tricked. In this way, she is very like Odysseus. Penelope’s test reminds us that the two characters are soulmates. Their marriage bed, literally rooted in the soil of Ithaca, is a powerful symbol of the permanence of home in a world where nothing else seems dependable.
What is happening at the beginning of The Odyssey?
The Odyssey begins with the invocation of the muse, which is a distinct literary characteristic typical of epic poetry. The first line of the text, “Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns,” invokes one of the nine muses, or goddesses of literature, science, and the arts. The poet begins his recitation by calling upon the muse for inspiration in telling Odysseus’s story.
Why does Athena help Odysseus so much?
Athena helps Odysseus for several reasons. Odysseus is Poseidon’s enemy, having blinded Poseidon’s Cyclops son, Polyphemus, and Athena and Poseidon share a mutual grudge stemming from when they both vied to become the patron saint of Athens. Further, Athena sided with the Greeks during the Trojan War, and Odysseus is a Greek hero. Lastly and perhaps most importantly, Athena has genuine respect and affection for Odysseus. For instance, in her first speech of the poem, she states that her “heart breaks for Odysseus,” and later Nestor recalls how much she “lavished care on brave Odysseus, years ago in the land of Troy.”
Why does Nestor invite Telemachus to the feast before knowing his identity?
By inviting Telemachus to the feast without knowing who he is, Nestor demonstrates the ancient Greek custom of hospitality known as xenia. This custom dictates that hosts and guests must show mutual respect toward one another, which includes offering food, drink, gifts, and shelter even before the host knows a person’s identity. Only after Telemachus has been provided food and drink does Nestor question the young man: “Now’s the time, now they’ve enjoyed their meal, / to probe our guests and find out who they are. / Strangers—friends, who are you?” Homer emphasizes these rituals throughout the poem whenever proper hosts meet strangers.
Why does Calypso allow Odysseus to leave her island?
Calypso allows Odysseus to leave her island because she understands that, despite Odysseus sleeping with her, his heart longs for his wife and home. At Athena’s request, Zeus orders Hermes to deliver orders to Calypso stating that “the exile must return.” Zeus even makes Calypso help Odysseus construct a raft to sail home. While Calypso is bitter, pointing out that the gods are “scandalized when goddesses sleep with mortals,” she has no choice but to obey Zeus’s commands. Five days after Hermes’s visit, Odysseus leaves Calypso’s island.
Why does Odysseus sleep with Circe?
When Odysseus fails to transform into a pig after drinking Circe’s potion, Circe realizes he must be the famed “man of twists and turns” and invites him into her bed. Odysseus refuses unless she meets his conditions: Circe must turn his men whom she earlier transformed into pigs back into humans, and she must promise never to use her magic to harm him. Once they strike a bargain, Odysseus sleeps with Circe. Odysseus and his men stay on her island for a year, and Odysseus only asks to leave when his men demand it. Such behavior implies that Odysseus has grown to care for Circe even though his “heart longs to be home.”
Why does Odysseus travel to Hades?
When Odysseus approaches Circe to ask for help returning home, she tells him that he must first travel to Hades to speak with the ghost of the blind prophet Tiresias. She explains that Tiresias “will tell you the way to go, the stages of your voyage, / how you can cross the swarming sea and reach home at last.” Eager to return to his home and family in Ithaca, Odysseus follows Circe’s detailed instructions to reach Hades, where the souls of the dead dwell. Tiresias provides Odysseus with important information, confirms that Odysseus will reach home to his loyal wife, and foretells of Odysseus’s slaughter of the suitors.
Why does Odysseus fail to reveal his identity to Penelope when they are first reunited?
Having been away from home for twenty years, Odyssey doesn’t immediately reveal his identity to Penelope because he needs to ensure that he can trust her and that she remains loyal to him. Suitors fill his palace, and though Penelope seems to care only for her husband, Odysseus has experienced enough treachery along his journey to know that she could be covering up deceit. While he doesn’t immediately tell her who he is, he does divulge to her, “I am a man who’s had his share of sorrows,” indicating that he wants to protect himself from pain.
Does Penelope really intend to marry one of her suitors?
In Book 19, Penelope declares her intention to remarry. She tells Odysseus, when he is disguised as a beggar, that she can no longer avoid it: Her parents are pressuring her, and Telemachus is “galled as [the suitors] squander his estate.” To determine which man she will marry, she devises a contest: Whoever can string Odysseus’s old bow and shoot an arrow through the twelve axes will win her hand. Eurymachus, the first suitor, can’t even string the bow, let alone shoot it. This fact hints that Penelope, despite her words, may know that shooting the bow cleanly is a near impossible task, a detail that would allow her to avoid choosing a new husband after all.
How do Odysseus and Telemachus defeat the suitors?
Odysseus and Telemachus face great odds when they take on the 108 suitors vying for Penelope’s hand at the palace. While Odysseus and Telemachus only have Eumaeus and a servant on their side, they also have a hidden weapon in Athena, disguised as Mentor, who joins them after the fight breaks out. Athena uses words to inspire Odysseus to tap into his ultimate courage and strength, taunting, “Where’s it gone, Odysseus—your power, your fighting heart? . . . How can you . . . bewail the loss of your combat strength in a war with suitors,” and she uses her powers to divert the suitors’ arrows from their mark. Athena only physically engages in the battle once Odysseus and Telemachus have proven their worthiness by fighting with determination. Once Athena enters the battle, armed with her “man-destroying shield of thunder,” the terrified suitors stop fighting and scatter, allowing Odysseus and his men to ruthlessly slaughter them.
Would Odysseus have survived without Athena’s help?
While Odysseus may have survived without Athena’s help, the goddess does save him numerous times, and she aids him almost constantly. For example, she surrounds him with a mist that allows him to move through hostile crowds, she makes him look more attractive to appeal to people who can help him, and she actively protects him from the suitors’ arrows. At the same time, if Athena had left Odysseus on Calypso’s island, he would not have faced so many dangerous situations. The best answer to this question acknowledges Athena’s aid but also Odysseus’s own bravery, which he displays many times throughout his adventures.