Part 4, Chapter 3: The Adventures of Odysseus Notes from Mythology

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Mythology Part 4, Chapter 3: The Adventures of Odysseus

Many of the Greeks who went to Troy were troubled on the way back to Greece if they made it home at all. Cassandra, a daughter of Priam and a prophetess, was raped in the temple of Athena. Athena asked Poseidon to destroy the man who did this and he obliged. Odysseus was to suffer for another ten years before he got home. Meanwhile, in Ithaca, suitors had besieged the house seeking the hand of his wife Penelope and plotting to kill his son Telemachus. She tried to delay them, using different ruses. For several years she wove a shroud and told them that when she was done, she would choose a new husband. Every night she would unweave what she had accomplished in the day.

Eventually, the gods came to pity Odysseus and they decided that he should be allowed to return home. He was being held by a nymph named Calypso. Hermes came to her and gave her the order of Zeus: Odysseus was to be sent on his way on a raft of his own making. Telemachus goes on a mini-quest to discover the fate of his father. This brings him to the house of Menelaus. Helen recognized Telemachus and Menelaus tells him all he knows of his father. When he was trapped in Egypt, he had to catch Proteus. Proteus told him that Odysseus was held captive on the island of Calypso.

Odysseus didn't trust Calypso when she said that he may leave, but he built the raft anyway. He left after five days and floated for seventeen. Poseidon saw that he was about to make land and sent a storm. The raft was destroyed and Odysseus was saved by the help of Ino who presented him with a veil that allowed him to float for many miles. He came to land and covered his naked body in a thicket beneath leaves. He was on the island of a good king who gave passage to many travelers. The king's daughter went out to wash clothes in the river the next day. She and her friends were playing a game with a ball and they discovered the sleeping wanderer. The princess told him to go to the palace and lay himself at the mercy of her mother. Odysseus did this and was given food and shelter.

The next day, he told the story of his great journey. They wandered through many dangerous islands and ended up on the island of Polyphemus. Polyphemus' prayer to Poseidon resulted in many years of suffering. The king of the winds, Aeolus, bagged up the other winds for them and they almost made it home, but Odysseus' men opened the bag at the last minute thinking that their commander was hiding something from them. Aeolus would not help them again. They landed on the island of Circe, a god who turned many of the men into pigs. Odysseus resisted her magic with the help of Hermes. She turned the men back and told them that they must travel to the end of the world and seek the advice of the dead prophet Teiresias. They made the perilous journey and the prophet warned them not to eat the cattle of the sun, and advised them how to get home. On the way, they were becalmed on the Island of the cattle of the sun and against his command, the men slaughtered the blessed bovines. Odysseus was the only one to survive Zeus' thunderbolt. He floated on the sea and ended up a captive of Calypso. He ended his story here. In the morning, they guided him to Ithaca and Athena told him of the state of affairs in his house.

"For the present she would change him into an old beggar so that he could go everywhere unrecognized. That night he must spend with his swineherd, Eumaeus, a man faithful and trustworthy beyond praise." Part 4, Chapter 3, pg. 311

Athena guided Telemachus back to the hut of the swineherd and father and son were reunited. Odysseus revealed his identity and they planned to return to the house. Odysseus was to stay in disguise. Telemachus started off first the next day and Odysseus followed. The suitors abused the old beggar. Penelope appeared and the suitors fawned on her. They gave her presents. She spoke privately with the beggar and Odysseus' old nurse recognized a scar from his youth. He told the woman to be quiet.

The next day, Penelope announced that she would marry the suitor who could string Odysseus' bow and shoot the arrow through twelve ax heads. None of them were successful. Odysseus asked for a chance and Telemachus forced the suitors to give him one. He accomplished the task easily, and then with the help of the swineherd, Telemachus, and Athena, he slaughtered all the suitors. He was reunited with his wife, but she hesitated to believe it was true. Eventually they were reconciled and Odysseus was restored as the leader of Ithaca.

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