The Odyssey Major Characters
Odysseus: Odysseus is the main character of the Odyssey, a tale which chronicles his homecoming and his journeys since his departure from Troy. Odysseus was present in the Iliad but not with the same focus as this poem. The story focus on his trials at sea and on land and how, once he gets home, he must avenge his family's honor from the suitors who have been besieging his house waiting for his wife to choose a new husband. He is aided by Athena in his journeys but thwarted by Poseidon.
Telemachus (Telemakhos): Son of Odysseus and Penelope, this poem is nearly as much about him as it is about his father. The story begins with his anger at the suitors who are wasting away his estate. At the encouragement of Athena, he begins a journey to search for news of his father. When he returns to Ithaca, he helps his father overcome the suitors and regain his power.
Zeus: Father of Athena and King of the gods, Zeus appears frequently in this poem but mostly to give assent to another god who either wants to help Odysseus or hinder him. He gives Athena license to help Odysseus but also strikes Odysseus' ship with lightning after he has committed wrongs against the gods. He gives frequent signs to Odysseus and others in the forms of lightning or storms throughout the poem.
Poseidon: Zeus' brother and the god of the sea, he is upset with Odysseus first for not offering sufficient sacrifices to him. He is even more unhappy after Odysseus blinds his son Polyphemus. It is Poseidon that Odysseus still must appease at the end of the poem. Poseidon keeps Odysseus from making it home on multiple occasions.
Athena: Daughter of Zeus and the goddess of Wisdom. She guides Odysseus and Telemachus throughout the poem helping them find their way from place to place and defeat their adversaries. On several occasions she directly intervenes and enters battle or conflict in the form of a human.
Penelope: Odysseus' wife and mother of Telemachus. She remains loyal to Odysseus even after he is gone for twenty years. She constructs elaborate ruses such as weaving and unweaving at a loom. She has trouble believing that her husband has returned when she first sees him and is very cold until she gets undeniable proof of his identity.
Aegisthus (Aigisthos): The lover of Clytemnestra who kills Agamemnon and who is killed by Agamemnon's son, Orestes, in revenge. This plot line serves as an example of appropriate revenge throughout the poem.
Orestes: Son of Agamemnon who takes revenge for his father's death by killing his adulterous mother and her lover.
Agamemnon: King of Argos who led the Greeks to Troy to retrieve his brother Menelaus' wife Helen. Upon returning to Argos, he was killed by Aegisthus who plotted with his wife Clytemnestra. His death is avenged by his son Orestes.
Clytemnestra (Klytaimestra): Adulterous wife of Agamemnon who plots to have him killed.
Calypso (Kalypso): Nymph who kept Odysseus on her island for many years by means of enchantment. Hermes orders her to release him by the authority of Zeus at the request of Athena. She has him make a raft to journey on.
Polyphemus (Polyphemos): Cyclops son of Poseidon who is blinded by Odysseus. Polyphemus is a shepherd who refuses to be a host to Odysseus and eats some of his men. He curses Odysseus and asks his father for revenge.
Nestor: Old king of Pylos who entertains Telemachus and advises him to go seek news for his father from Menelaus.
Menelaus (Menelaos): King of Sparta and husband of Helen for whom the Trojan war was fought. In this tale, Menelaus entertains Telemachus and gives him news of his father. He also tells the tale of his own journey back from Troy.
Antinous: The head suitor, son of a man Odysseus saved from death. He is the first of the suitors to speak at all times and plans to kill Telemachus. He is also the first of the suitors to be killed by Odysseus.
Eurymachus (Eurymakhos): The second suitor, Eurymachus always speaks after Antinous or in place of him. He is the second suitor to die.
Lord Aigyptios: The old man who is the first to speak at an assembly of Ithacans.
Halitherses: A prophet and seer of the Ithacans who speaks at the assembly before Telemachus leaves for Sparta and Pylos. He reads the bird omen of Book 2 as meaning that Odysseus will not be gone for long.
Mentor: An older man of Ithaca whose form Athena takes first to help Telemachus travel to Pylos and then to help Telemachus and Odysseus fight the suitors.
Eurykleia (Euryklea): Odysseus nurse as a child and a servant in his house. She hides Telemachus' journey to Pylos and is the first woman to recognize Odysseus. She helps Odysseus sort out the good hand-maidens from the bad ones.
Peisistratos: Nestor's son who accompanies Telemachus to Sparta.
Thrasymedes: A son of Nestor.
Idomeneus: King of Crete who was pictured as a great warrior in the Iliad.
Eidothea: Nymph who instructs Menelaus how to trap Proteus and force him to reveal which of the gods to appease in order to get home.
Proteus: Sea god who Menelaus captures in a cave of seals, from whom he learns how to get home.
Ajax (Aias): The greater Ajax of the Iliad. He dies an early death after the war and is mentioned when Menelaus asks Proteus about his companions and when Odysseus goes to the land of the dead.
Hephaestus (Hephaistos): The god of fire and iron-working. Hephaestus crafts divine goods for gods and men.
Noemen: A suitor.
Medon: The messenger of Odysseus' house. At the end of the poem he tells the assembly that a god slaughtered all of the suitors, not Odysseus.
Laertes: Odysseus' father. He appears only at the end of the poem and prepares to stand with his son against the Ithacan mob.
Hermes: messenger of the gods, he delivers the edicts of Zeus to gods and mortals. He instructs Calypso to release Odysseus. He also accompanies souls to the land of the dead.
Ino: Nymph who lends Odysseus her scarf so that he may float in the water for two days to make land after his raft is destroyed .
Alcinous (Alkinoos): King of the Phaiakians who welcomes Odysseus and hears his long tale. He presents Odysseus with great treasure and gives him secure passage to Ithaca.
Nausicaa (Nausikaa): Daughter of Alcinous who finds Odysseus in the thicket near the river where he washed up on the island. She was prompted to go to the river by Athena.
Arete: Wife of Alcinous who was approached by Odysseus for her help.
Demodocus (Demodokos): Minstrel who sings at the palace of Alcinous.
Laodamas: One of Alcinous' sons. One of his companions offends Odysseus during the athletic contests.
Ares: God of war who had an affair with Aphrodite and was caught by her husband Hephaestus.
Aphrodite: Goddess of love and lust whose affair with Ares is discovered and revealed by her husband Hephaestus.
Circe (Kirke): Witch-like woman who at first turns Odysseus' men into pigs but is impressed when she cannot affect Odysseus. She lusts after him and he stays with her for a year. She tells him to go to the land of the dead and advises him to avoid the cattle of the sun.
Polyphemus (Polyphemos): Cyclops son of Poseidon who is blinded by Odysseus because he eats some of his men and won't release them. Polyphemus' plea to his father sidetracks Odysseus for many years.
Aeolus (Aiolos): King of the winds who entertained Odysseus at an early part of his journey. He presents Odysseus with a bag of the winds so that he may get home safely. When Odysseus' men release the winds and the ship is blown back, Aeolus has no pity.
Eurylochus (Eurylokhos): One of Odysseus men. He is the man who does not drink from Circe's cup and warns Odysseus. He is also the one who convinces the Odysseus' men to stop at the Island of the cattle of the sun and is also the man who convinces them to eat the cattle.
Tiresias (Eurylokhos): Blind prophet who Odysseus goes to find in the land of the dead. He tells Odysseus how to get home and that he must appease Poseidon once he gets there.
Elpenor: Young sailor who dies on the island of Circe from falling from her roof. He appears to Odysseus in the land of the dead and asks him to come bury him.
Helen: Wife of Menelaus and reason the Trojan war was fought. In this tale, she drugs the wine of Menelaus and Telemachus so that they will forget their sorrow.
Achilles (Akhilleus): Hero of the Iliad. He dies before the end of the Trojan war and is shown in the land of the dead regretting his fate.
Heracles or Hercules (Herakles): Legendary hero who compares his labors to those of Odysseus in the land of the dead.
Eumaius (Eumaios): Swineherd who takes in the disguised Odysseus and gives him shelter and food. He helps Odysseus and Telemachus defeat the suitors.
Theoklymenus (Theoklymenos): Seer who Telemachus brings with him from mainland Greece.
Amphinomus (Amphinomos): One of the suitors who is opposed to killing Telemachus.
Melanthius (Melanthios): Goatherd who insults Odysseus and taunts the swineherd and the beggar.
Phemius (Phemios): Minstrel who sings at the house of Odysseus He begs for his life and Telemachus tells Odysseus that he doesn't deserve to die.
Irus (Iros): Younger beggar who comes in and challenges Odysseus to a boxing match. He is beaten with one punch.
Eurynome: One of Penelope's hand-maidens.
Melantho: Another hand-maiden, the sister of Melanthius. She taunts Odysseus when he is disguised as a beggar.
Philoitius (Philoitios): Cowherd who helps Odysseus and Telemachus defeat the suitors.
Ktessipus (Ktesippos): Suitor who throws a cow hoof at Odysseus and misses.
Agelaus (Agelaos): Suitor who tells the others not to assault the beggar.
Leodes: Suitor who clings to Odysseus' knees and asks for mercy.
Amphimedon: Suitor who appears in the underworld and relays Odysseus' homecoming to Agamemnon.
Dolios: Laertes' slave who joins Odysseus and his father and son for dinner.
Seareach: The Phaiakian who offends Odysseus and prompts him to join the athletic competition.