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The Odyssey

Quotes

The Mediterranean Coast

Quotes The Mediterranean Coast

Book 2

‘But I’ll cry out to the everlasting gods in hopes 
that Zeus will pay you back with a vengeance—all of you 
destroyed in my house while I go scot-free myself!’

And to seal his prayer, farseeing Zeus sent down a sign. 
He launched two eagles soaring high from a mountain ridge 
and down they glided, borne on the wind’s draft a moment, 
wing to wingtip, pinions straining taut till just 
above the assembly’s throbbing hum they whirled, 
suddenly, wings thrashing, wild onslaught of wings 
and banking down at the crowd’s heads—a glaring, fatal sign— 

In the world of The Odyssey, gods regularly intervene on behalf of humans, often to right wrongs and punish injustice. In this quote, Telemachus warns his mother's suitors that he prays to Zeus to punish them for taking advantage of his father's absence. Zeus responds immediately to Telemachus's prayer by "launching two eagles" that fight above the gathered crowd. The suitors interpret this event as a clear warning from the gods. Throughout The Odyssey, the gods manipulate the weather, environment, and people's appearances to affect human events.

Book 5

'I’ll give that man his swamping fill of trouble!' [said Poseidon]

With that he rammed the clouds together—both hands 
clutching his trident—churned the waves into chaos, whipping 
all the gales from every quarter, shrouding over in thunderheads 
the earth and sea at once—and night swept down from the sky— 
East and South Winds clashed and the raging West and North, 
sprung from the heavens, roiled heaving breakers up— 
and Odysseus’ knees quaked, his spirit too; 
numb with fear he spoke to his own great heart: 
'Wretched man—what becomes of me now, at last? 
I fear the nymph foretold it all too well— 
on the high seas, she said, before I can reach 
my native land I’ll fill my cup of pain! And now, 
look, it all comes to pass. What monstrous clouds— 
King Zeus crowning the whole wide heaven black— 
churning the seas in chaos, gales blasting, 
raging around my head from every quarter— 
my death-plunge in a flash, it’s certain now!' 

The setting of The Odyssey constantly changes according to the whims of the gods, who sometimes act independently of each other, making the fate of humans precarious and unpredictable. Odysseus was stuck on Calypso's island until all of the gods but Poseidon decided to let him leave to sail home on a calm sea. When Poseidon returns from a trip and sees Odysseus sailing, he is angry so he creates bad weather to send Odysseus off course. 

Book 9

Our party quickly made its way to [the Cyclops’s] cave 
but we failed to find our host himself inside; 
he was off in his pasture, ranging his sleek flocks. 
So we explored his den, gazing wide-eyed at it all, 
the large flat racks loaded with drying cheeses, 
the folds crowded with young lambs and kids, 
split into three groups—here the spring-born, 
here mid-yearlings, here the fresh sucklings 
off to the side—each sort was penned apart. 
And all his vessels, pails and hammered buckets 
he used for milking, were brimming full with whey. 
From the start my comrades pressed me, pleading hard, 
‘Let’s make away with the cheeses, then come back— 
hurry, drive the lambs and kids from the pens 
to our swift ship, put out to sea at once!’ 
But I would not give way— 
and how much better it would have been— 
not till I saw him, saw what gifts he’d give.

In this passage, Odysseus describes how he and his men are lured into the Cyclops’s cave by an abundance of riches. The men are tempted to steal all the meat, cheeses, and lambs, and sail away before the Cyclops returns. Odysseus prevents the men from doing so only because he expects that the Cyclops will reward them with rich gifts upon his return; instead, the Cyclops imprisons the men in his cave and begins to eat them. The enticing riches of the cave resemble the enchanting temptations of many other settings in The Odyssey. When people give in to such temptations, they quickly find themselves in grave danger.

Book 17

Friend, what a noble house! Odysseus’ house, it must be! 
No mistaking it—you could tell it among a townful, look. 
One building linked to the next, and the courtyard wall 
is finished off with a fine coping, the double doors 
are battle-proof—no man could break them down! 
I can tell a crowd is feasting there in force— 
smell the savor of roasts . . . the ringing lyre, listen, 
the lyre that god has made the friend of feasts.

After Odysseus spends the entire book trying to return to his home, he speaks these words to Eumaeus as he lays his eyes upon the royal house. Odysseus’s absence doesn’t seem to have affected the wealth or status of his household at all. His house still has all the trappings of nobility and wealth, which seem to be indestructible, and there’s a feast going on inside. The main difference is that the guests of the feast are not his friends, but suitors who want to take over his wealth and household. The entire ending of The Odyssey concentrates on Odysseus returning to his palace, casting out the suitors, and returning balance to his home.