Background information – The

Odysseus, King of , is married to .

When he is asked to go fight in the , he has to leave his wife (Penelope) and his newborn son, Telemakhus, at home.

The Trojan war lasts 10 years.

The Odyssey starts about 16-18 years after leaves to fight in the war. All the other soldiers have returned home, long ago. Only Odysseus has not returned home…

No mortal (human) knows where he is…

What must his family think?

Zeus – king of the gods ()

Athena – goddess of war and

Poseidon – god of the seas and earthquakes (the earth shaker)

Hermes – messenger god (winged shoes)

Odyssey Book 1 Questions

1. Odysseus’s men died when they killed and feasted on the cattle (beef) that belonged to Lord (the Sun). Lord Helios killed them as punishment for killing his cattle.

2. Odysseus blinded the , Polyphemos, who happened to be ’s son. As a punishment, Poseidon has refused to let Odysseus sail home, sending storms, etc. in Odysseus’s path so he cannot sail home.

Odysseus is now stranded on Kalypso’s island. Kalypso is a (a minor goddess of nature). She wants Odysseus to be her husband.

3. Odysseus’s son thinks his father is dead. Odysseus’s family is dealing with a pack of greedy suitors. They are basically partying at his house, drinking his wine, eating his food (for years), demanding his wife marry one of them. She stalls; they wait.

4. and Agisthos. Agamemnon was a Greek king who fought in the Trojan war. is Agamemnon’s son. Agisthos had an affair with Agamemnon’s wife (Orestes’ mother).

5. plans to send (the messenger god) to Kalypso (the nymph with the pretty braids). He is going to tell Kalypso that she has to free Odysseus.

Athena, herself, plans to go to Ithaka (Odysseus’s home island) and “put courage” in Telemakhos. She wants him to call an assembly of the people and deal with the group of “suitors” who are at his house, trying to marry his mother and eating all his livestock (beef). She then plans to send Telemakhos to other Greek city-states to learn news of his father and to earn a reputation as a brave man. - a phrase used to describe a person

For example: Superman is called the man of steel.

From :  Athena is called the grey-eyed goddess. She is the goddess of war and wisdom and she shows favor to Odysseus.  Hermes, the messenger god, is called the Wayfinder.  Kalypso is called the nymph with the pretty braids. Kalypso is holding Odysseus captive, hoping he will marry her.  is called the summoner of cloud, and the father of gods and men. He is the king of the gods and goddesses (and associated with thunder).  Poseidon is the god of the ocean, seas, and earthquakes.

Akhaian means “greek”

A nymph is a minor goddess of nature.

# 6 Page 4 – the suitors are described as “lusty” and they are gambling.

Also page 4 “wolf pack of suitors”

We get the impression that the suitors have overstayed their welcome and are arrogant, greedy men.

#7 First impression of Telemakhos – he lacks the courage and valor to drive the suitors out of his house – he is wishing Odysseus were home to disband the crowd of suitors. He is sad to be in this situation.

#8 Telemakhos does follow the Greek custom of welcoming strangers – he gives her food and good plates, good chair, etc.

#9 – Telemakhos believes that his father is dead, but still wishes (hopes) that Odysseus is alive. Echoes his inability to deal with suitors…

#10 Athena tells him Odysseus is alive “never in this world is Odysseus dead… he is detained…”

#11 Athena does not think highly of them calling them arrogant. She wishes for their death.

#12 Athena suggests Telemakhos call an assembly of the islanders – publicly address the issue of the suitors -- then he will travel abroad to get news of his dad.

#13 Penelope wants the minstrel to change the song – she describes the song as a “bitter song that wears her heart away” – she clearly still misses Odysseus and is upset by his absence.

Greek Standard of Hospitality – an expectation that people would welcome strangers into their homes (the stranger could be a god/goddess in disguise). Books 3 & 4 (III & IV)

Telemakhos goes on a journey.

He is going to speak with King and King Menelaos.

He is searching for news of his father – specifically does anyone know if he is dead or alive?

Athena’s plan is for Telemakhos to grow on this trip (think of last year – bildungsroman – characters growing from child to adult)

Telemakhos will (hopefully) gain courage and confidence on his trip, becoming a “man.”

The journey is a rite of passage. Book 4 (IV)

 Telemakhos, Nestor’s son, and Athena disguised as travel to meet King Menelaos and Queen .  There arrive in the middle of a huge feast, celebrating two weddings/marriages.  Menelaos’s servant hesitates before offering hospitality – Menelaos insists the guests be treated according to custom.  Menelaos tells of his travels after the Trojan War – he was in Egypt, and other far away countries for seven years. His brother, Agamemnon, was murdered when he was away.  Menelaos tells of how he misses Odysseus.  Telemakhos cries at the story of his father – both Helen and Menelaos recognize him as Odysseus’s son.  Helen puts a drug in their drinks, to lessen the pain/sorrow they feel.  Menelaos tells a story of meeting the Ancient of the Sea Salt before he arrived home. The Ancient (a god or immortal creature) knew information about how Menelaos could return home. Menelaos learned of his brother’s death (with Aigisthos) and of Odysseus’s fate – trapped at Kalypso’s island.  Telemakhos hears, through Menelaos, that his father is alive, trapped at Kalypso’s island.  Telemakhos, learning news of his father, decides to return home…


Antinoos, a suitor, discovers Telemakhos is gone. The suitors decide to intercept Telemakhos’s boat as he returns home and kill him.

Penelope learns of the suitors’ plan – she is distraught (hates the suitors). Athena calms her via a dream that Telemakhos will be safe. Possible quiz questions

1. What is the story of Agamamnon? Why is it so important to the tale of Odysseus and his family? 2. How does Athena help Telemakhos? How do the gods/goddesses interfere in mortals lives? Why? For what purpose? 3. Where is Odysseus? What is Odysseus’s relationship like with the gods/goddesses? 4. What flaws does Athena see in Telemakhos’s character? How does she plan to help him? Is she successful? 5. How is Penelope characterized? In what ways is she strong? Weak? 6. How are the suitors characterized? 7. What is the Greek standard of hospitality?