SHORT SUMMARY OF HOMER'S ODYSSEY

BOOK I. Athena calls the attention of Zeus to the sad fate of Odysseus, her favorite among the Greek heroes. For eight years he has been kept by the nymph Kalypso on her island of Ogygia. though he longs for home. Zeus reminds her that Odysseus had Odysseus offended Poseidon, but agrees that Kalypso should be told to let him go. Athena then goes in disguise to Odysseus's son Telemakhos (or Telemachus), advising him to call a public assembly to deal with his mother Penelope's suitors, who are proving unruly and unwelcome houseguests and also to set sail in search of news of his father.

BOOK II. Telemakhos calls the assembly, which achieves nothing. He exchanges insults with the suitors, who want him to force his mother to remarry. Disguised as Mentor, Athena helps him find a boat and crew and depart by night,

BOOK III. First Telemakhos visits Pylos, the kingdom of Nestor, who is not much help. hard news about Odysseus.

BOOK IV.Telemakhos next goes to Sparta and visits with Menelaus and Helen, Menelaus's recovered wife. On his own way home, Menelaus had met and wrestled successfully with the the shape-changer Proteus, who had told him of the fate of his brother Agamemnon, murdered by Aegisthus. Proteus had also told Menelaus that Odysseus was marooned on Kalypso's island. While Telemakhos is hearing this, the suitors decide to ambush him on his return home.

BOOK V. Hermes tells Kalpyso to let Odysseus go. He builds himself a raft and sets off, but Poseidon notices him and sends winds to break up the craft. Athena stills most of the winds, and Odysseus is able to swim to shore, where he falls asleep naked in a grove.

BOOK VI. NAUSIKAA (or Nausicaa), the local princess, has been inspired in a dream by Athena to go wash her wedding garments. She spies the stranger and senses that he is no ordinary naked bum, so she advises him on how to make his way into the city and seek aid from her father.

BOOK VII. Disguising herself this time as a little girl, Athena guides Odysseus through the streets of Phaiakia unseen in a mist, till he reaches the feast hall of King Alkinoos and presents himself as a suppliant by grasping the knees of Queen Arete. The king gives him the honored place of his favorite son, Laodamas. Odysseus tells his hosts of his escape from Kalypso, but not his own identity.

BOOK VIII. The guest is entertained with games. Challenged by the young men, Odysseus shows off a bit. The blind bard Demodokos is brought in to amuse the warriors. He sings first of Aphrodite's adultery with Ares and then of the ruse of Trojan Horse. Hearing of his own exploits makes Odysseus weep, and they ask him why.

BOOK IX.. Odysseus identifies himself and tells the throng about his trip home, beginning with the story of the land of the Lotus-Eaters. He tells how he escaped from the Cyclops Polyphemus, whom he blinded, and how this won him and his men the enmity of Poseidon. Alkinoos and his people are suitably impressed.

BOOK X.After a visit to the wind king Aiolos, they came to the island of the witch KIRKE (or Circe). She turned Odysseus's men to swine, but he bedded her instead, and for his sake she restored his crew and gave him advice on making his way home.

BOOK XI.The witch sends Odysseus down to Hades to get more detailed advice from the dead seer Teiresias (or Tiresias). He also talks with his mother Antikleia, visits with various fallen comrades, and sees some other famous dead men, including Sisyphus and Tantalus.

BOOK XII.Odysseus tells of how he and his crew more or less survived various perils of the sea, the Seirenes (Sirens), Skylla (Scylla), and Kharybdis (Charybdis).

BOOK XIII. The Phaiakians return Odysseus home, where he is greeted by Athena. In disguise as usual, she reveals herself to him, fills him in on the situation on Ithaka, and transforms his appearance to that of an old man.

BOOK XIV. Odysseus is given shelter by the swineherd Eumaios, who does not, however, recognize his former master.

BOOK XV. While Odysseus and Eumaios are talking, Athena goes to Telemakhos in a dream and tells him it is time to return to Ithaka. She tells him that the suitors plan to ambush him and advises him to avoid them and go to the swineherd's hut.

BOOK XVI. Odysseus is reunited with his son Telemakhos and they discuss strategy while the suitors are back at Odysseus's palace discussing whether to kill Telemakhos.

BOOK XVII. Odysseus comes home disguised as a beggar to enter his own home. His old dog Argos recognizes his master and expires of happiness, but the suitors treat him badly. Antinoos even throws a stool at him.

BOOK XVIII. The suitors set up a boxing match between Odysseus and another tramp, Iros, and cheer him when he wins. Odysseus even gives Amphinomos a warning that retribution is bound to come upon the suitors, but Amphinomos, knowing better, stays. The suitors get drunk and go to bed.

BOOK XIX. Odysseus tells Penelope encouraging lies about her husband's whereabouts. She (probably) does not recognize him but tells him she is about to set a trial for the suitors and will marry the one who succeeds. His old nurse, Eurykleia, bathes his feet and recognizes him by an old scar but promises not to give him away.

BOOK XX. Morning brings breakfast for the suitors and more insults for Odysseus as a beggar. A visionary, Theoklymenos, sees blood running down the walls and goes home, but the suitors mock him and jeer that Telemakhos brings home odd sorts.

BOOKS XXI. Penelope sets up a test. She will marry the man who string the great bow of Odysseus and shoot it through twelve axeheads. None of the suitors can string it, but over their protests Odysseus is allowed to try and, of course, succeeds.

BOOK XXII. Odysseus now shoots Antinoos and tells the rest of the suitors they are about to die. Assisted by his son, the swineherd, and a cowherd, he mows the suitors down, with additional help from Athena disguised as Mentor. Afterwards they butcher the servant Melanthios, who helped the suitors get arms, and hang all the maids of Penelope who had slept with the suitors.

BOOK XXIII. Penelope proves herself a true wife by holding back until Odysseus proves himself her husband indeed by recalling the secret of the olive trunk that was made their wedding bed.

BOOK XXIV. The suitors go down to the Underworld and give their news to the Odysseus's old friends there. He and his son go to see his father Laertes. Athena steps in to make peace when the suitors' relatives arrive looking for revenge.

[Last posted July 11, 2002, by Bob Canary, mail comments to canary@uwp.edu]