Books 1 & 2

Ten years after the Trojan War Odysseus has yet to return home, as he is in the grips of the goddess Calypso. In Ithaca, Odysseus’s home is ravished by a slew of suitors hoping to marry his wife Penelope. Athena tasks Odysseus’s son Telemachus with banishing the suitors and traveling to gather information about his father.

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Books 3 & 4

Telemachus meets Nestor, the King of Pylos, who recounts the fate of Agamemnon and Menelaus after the fall of Troy. Nestor’s son, Pisistratus, accompanies Telemachus to Sparta where they learn of Odysseus’s ingenuity to use a Trojan horse to invade Troy and that Odysseus is held captive by Calypso. In the guise of Penelope’s sister, Athena eases Penelope’s fear that her suitors will ambush Telemachus by telling her that a goddess will protect him.

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Books 5 & 6

The gods convince a begrudging Calypso to release Odysseus. On his way to the island of the Phaeacians, Odysseus’s ship is attacked by Poseidon, but he escapes with Athena and Ino’s assistance. The princess Nausicaa discovers Odysseus, begins to fall in love, and advises him how to reach the palace and how to approach the Queen Arete.

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Books 7 & 8

Athena helps Odysseus make his way to the palace where he is greeted by King Alcinous and Queen Arete, who promise to provide Odysseus with a ship and offer Nausicaa’s hand in marriage. The next day Odysseus participates in a series of games where he exhibits his athletic prowess. After noticing Odysseus’s reaction to the bard’s songs, Alcinous questions Odysseus’s true identity.

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Book 9

Odysseus recounts the tale of his travels, from the city of Cicones to the land of the Lotus-eaters. Odysseus goes on to tell of his encounter with the Cyclops Polyphemus, whom after being blinded by Odysseus and his men calls on his father Poseidon to take revenge upon Odysseus.

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Books 10 & 11

Odysseus recounts how his crew preemptively opened the bag of winds Aeolus had given them, as well as their encounter with the giants. He goes on to tell of his affair with Circe and his meeting with several spirits at the River of Ocean in the land of the Cimmerians. Overwhelmed by the souls of the dead, Odysseus returns to his ship and sails away.

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Books 12–14

Odysseus details his last night with Circe, the incident with Scylla and Charybdis, and his confrontation with Zeus who destroys his ship and crew as they attempt to leave Thrinacia. Odysseus ends his story with his arrival in Ogygia, since they have already heard of his time there, and prepares to depart to Ithaca the next day. After arriving in Ithaca, Odysseus, disguised as an old vagabond, meets Eumaeus who lodges Odysseus for the night, and meets with Athena who tells him it is time to reclaim his rightful place in Ithaca.

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Books 15 & 16

Telemachus follows Athena’s advice to return to Ithaca and departs from Sparta. Eumaeus and Odysseus exchange stories and Eumaeus tells Odysseus of the dangerous suitors inhabiting the palace. The following morning Telemachus visits Eumaeus’s hut, where Odysseus reveals his true identity and the two are reunited and plot to eliminate the suitors from the palace, in particular Antinous who is scolded by Penelope for attempting to murder Telemachus.

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Books 17 & 18

Telemachus returns to the palace where he tells Penelope what he learned about Odysseus. Meanwhile, Odysseus and Eumaeus are goaded by Penelope’s suitors. Athena assists Odysseus and Penelope by granting Odysseus strength and Penelope extra beauty, as well as planting the idea in Penelope’s mind to have the suitors shower her with gifts. Odysseus gets into a fight with Eurymachus that almost breaks out into a riot before Telemachus stops it.

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Books 19 & 20

Penelope meets with Odysseus, still in disguise, and is brought to tears after hearing his description of the Greek hero, especially that he is still alive and traveling back to Ithaca. Odysseus reluctantly has his feet washed by Eurycleia who discovers his identity but promises to keep his secret, and Penelope resolves to marry the first man who can shoot an arrow through a set of holes. The suitors fail to recognize the portent signs all around them and continue to antagonize Telemachus and Odysseus the next day.

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Books 21 & 22

One by one the suitors fail to shoot the arrow until Odysseus takes up the bow and accomplishes the feat. The suitors realize Odysseus’s true identity and a blood bath promptly ensues. Before fumigating the house, Telemachus decides to hang the traitors and has Melanthius tortured and killed.

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Books 23 & 24

Penelope believes that the gods are playing a trick on her, but after hearing Odysseus’s description of her immovable bridal bed she is convinced that he has truly returned. Odysseus reunites with his father Laertes and imparts to him the details of what happened at the palace. After the news of the massacre spreads, the fathers of the dead suitors decide to seek revenge against Odysseus, but Athena intervenes and restores Odysseus to his rightful place as king and returns peace to Ithaca.

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