Compare and contrast the Iliad and the Odyssey by Homer.

“Compare and contrast the Iliad and the Odyssey by Homer.” eNotes Editorial, 21 Feb. 2022, https://www.enotes.com/homework-help/compare-and-contrast-the-iliad-and-the-odyssey-by-3024775. Accessed 26 Oct. 2022.

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The Iliad and the Odyssey are both epic Greek poems; however, they differ in a number of significant respects.

The war at Troy took ten years, but the Iliad only covers a small part of the war, close to the end. Even so, it does not conclude with the Sack.

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The Iliad and the Odyssey are both epic Greek poems; however, they differ in a number of significant respects.

The war at Troy took ten years, but the Iliad only covers a small part of the war, close to the end. Even so, it does not conclude with the Sack of Troy but with the funeral games for Hector. The action therefore takes place over a much shorter time than that of the Odyssey. The same is true of space. While the Odyssey has a multitude of locations and diverse adventures, the Iliad takes place on a small piece of land, between the city of Troy and the Greek ships.

The similarities, however, remain more striking than the differences. The rigid, aristocratic Homeric code applies in both cases. While they are very different personalities, Achilles and Odysseus are both primarily concerned with posterity and glory. The gods remain frivolous and the mortals suffer. Above all, the writing style remains the same, with its characteristic epithets, extended similes, and epic grandeur.

What is the plot of Homer’s epic The Odyssey?

“What is the plot of Homer’s epic The Odyssey?” eNotes Editorial, 4 Sep. 2013, https://www.enotes.com/homework-help/what-is-the-plot-of-homer-s-epic-the-odyssey-451555. Accessed 26 Oct. 2022.

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The plot of Homer’s The Odyssey involves the story of a Greek war hero named Odysseus who, returning home to the island of Ithaca following the end of the Trojan War, diverts the path of his ship, along with his crew, to mysterious and often dangerous places, while his beautiful wife Penelope and their 20-year old son, Telemachus, attempt to manage a houseful of hopeful suitors for Penelope’s hand in marriage, Odysseus being assumed killed in battle. Greek gods and goddesses, meanwhile, plot Odysseus’ demise or, conversely, conspire to help him return home safely (in the case of the former, Poseidon, ruler of the oceans, and in the case of the latter, the goddess Athena.) Such is the debate among the gods and goddesses regarding the nature of man that Homer offers the observation, “Men are so quick to blame the gods: they say that we devise their misery. But they themselves – in their depravity – design grief far greater than the griefs that fate assigns.”

During the course of Odysseus’s voyage, he encounters, among other creatures, the notorious one-eyed giant Cyclops, the witch Circe, and the perilous waters surrounding the island of the Sirens, whose surreally-beautiful singing has been known to draw smitten sailors to navigate too close to the shores, whereupon their ships are destroyed on the rocks. Eventually, Odysseus makes it home and proves to Penelope and the houseful of suitors that he is, in fact, the heroic war hero for whom she has waited 20 years. In the process of staking his claim to home and hearth, Odysseus demonstrates his martial prowess at the expense of the suitors, instructing them that “your last hour has come. You die in blood.”

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The Odyssey is considered to be a sequel to Homer’s earlier epic The Iliad. The origins of both works remain something of a mystery, as little is known of “Homer” and the original production of the stories. Both stories are considered classics of literature and remain widely read and taught. The wisdom The Odyssey has imparted upon the ages includes such quotes as “Of all creatures that breathe and move upon the earth, nothing is bred that is weaker than man,” and “There is nothing more admirable than when two people who see eye to eye keep house as man and wife, confounding their enemies and delighting their friends.”

Who was Odysseus? – Story, Adventures & Travels

Trenton has a master’s degree in global history and has developed college Asian history courses.

Cailin received her MA in English specializing in Cultural Studies from Kansas State University. She has two years of teaching and tutoring experience at the university level.

Odysseus was a Greek soldier who orchestrated an attack on the city of Troy by presenting the Trojans with a peace offering in the form of a massive hollow wooden horse that contained hidden Greek warriors. Learn about the story of the Trojan War as well as the adventures and travels of Odysseus. Updated: 08/26/2022

Odysseus

Odysseus

Depicted here, Odysseus was one of the greatest of the Greek heroes who fought during the Trojan War. Known for his cunning intellect, Odysseus crafted the plan that destroyed the city of Troy and ended the Trojan War. The story of Odysseus begins in Homer’s epic poem The Iliad, but his second poem, The Odyssey, relates the tale of Odysseus wandering the seas for ten years as he struggled to return from the Trojan War.

Odysseus ruled Ithaca, an island kingdom. Penelope, Odysseus’s wife, had borne him a son, Telemachus, just before the events of the Trojan War began to unfold. Odysseus was favored by the goddess Athena for cunning and intellect. Odysseus is also known as Ulysses, which is the Roman form of his name.

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  • 0:48 The Trojan War
  • 2:43 The Land of the Lotus-Eaters
  • 3:14 Cyclops & King of the Winds
  • 5:18 Circe & The Underworld
  • 7:16 Charybdis and Schylla
  • 8:18 Calypso & Return to Ithaca

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The Trojan War

A prophecy stated Odysseus would stay away from home for a very long time if he joined the Greek army and attacked Troy. Odysseus loved his wife and newborn son. He did not want to leave, so he pretended to be crazy when the Greek army came to call. He yoked a donkey and an ox together and plowed the seashore. One of the Greeks placed Telemachus in the path of Odysseus, who swerved to miss the baby, revealing the farce. Odysseus left Ithaca and his family to fight at Troy.

The war with Troy lasted for ten years. Following the death of the Greek champion Achilles, Odysseus devised a plan to enter the city and end the conflict. Here is where the cunning of Odysseus shone through. Odysseus had the Greek army build what came to be known as the Trojan Horse, a giant hollow wooden horse to give the Trojans as an offering of peace. Inside the body of the horse, some of the best Greek warriors hid.

The remainder of the Greek army boarded their ships and sailed a short distance away from the city and out of sight. The Trojans rejoiced at the supposed end of the conflict and brought the horse inside the city walls. At night, the Greek warriors emerged from the horse and opened the gates of the city to the waiting Greek army. The city was taken by surprise and destroyed.

During the sack of the city, the Greek army desecrated the temples and altars of the gods, angering the gods. Upon the departure of the Greek army, a fierce storm caused by the gods scattered the Greek fleet. Odysseus and his men were blown off course, and this began a 10-year struggle to return to Ithaca.

Adventures at Sea

Odysseus and his men first landed at the city of Cicones. They attacked and sacked the city, which angered the god Zeus. Zeus caused another storm that blew Odysseus even farther off course and into a realm of monsters, witches and the dead.

The Land of the Lotus-Eaters

The first stop on their adventure is to the land of the Lotus-eaters, a people who created food and drink from flowers, but with a drug effect. Several of Odysseus’s crew partook of the food presented by the Lotus-eaters and forgot their goal to return home. They wanted to stay among the Lotus-eaters forever. Odysseus had these men dragged to the ships and bound below deck until the ships were safely away from the land of the Lotus-eaters and the men regained their senses.

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The Cyclops

The next stop is one of the most famous adventures on the trip, the meeting of Polyphemus the Cyclops, a 1-eyed giant. Odysseus and his men stopped in the land of the Cyclops and explored the area, finding a large cave. The Cyclops entered the cave with his flock of sheep, blocked the entrance and ate two of Odysseus’s men. Odysseus devised a plan to escape the lair of the Cyclops.

The next day as the Cyclops was away from the cave, Odysseus had his men create a sharpened stake. The Cyclops returned and began drinking wine and conversing with Odysseus. Odysseus told Polyphemus that his name was Noman. Once the Cyclops fell into a drunken stupor, the men drove the stake through the eye of the Cyclops, as shown on this plate.

Odysseus and Polyphemus

The Cyclops screamed and called for his brothers to come help, but when they asked what was wrong, Polyphemus answered by saying that Noman was trying to hurt him. They thought there was no danger since noman was hurting Polyphemus and left.

The next morning, Odysseus tied his men to the belly of the sheep and they escaped the cave. Polyphemus felt the top of each of the sheep as they left, but he did not feel the men hiding underneath the sheep. The blinding of Polyphemus angered the sea-god Poseidon and further caused the sea to work against Odysseus.

Visiting the King of the Winds

Following their escape from the cave of the Cyclops, Odysseus, and his companions came to the land of Aeolus, king of the winds. The king gave Odysseus a sack filled with the contrary winds that would have prevented him from sailing to Ithaca. His crew did not know what was in the sack and assumed it was treasure Odysseus was hoarding for himself.

Odysseus was asleep as the ships came in sight of Ithaca. The crew opened the bag of winds, which blew the ships of Odysseus far away from Ithaca to the land of the Laestrygonians, a race of giants and cannibals. The giants destroyed all but one of Odysseus’s ships and killed most of his crew.

Circe

Odysseus and his one remaining ship landed on the island inhabited by Circe, a witch. Most of Odysseus’s crew explored the island and came across the palace of Circe. She invited them in for food and drink. The crew noticed many wild animals roaming peacefully around the palace grounds. The food served by Circe was drugged, and she turned the crew into swine. One of the crew members had remained outside of the palace and, seeing the fate of his companions, ran to tell Odysseus.

Odysseus set out to save his companions and was met on the way by the god Hermes. Hermes gave Odysseus an herb to counteract the effects of Circe’s drug. Odysseus overpowered Circe, and she agreed to restore his men to human form.

Odysseus and his crew remained with Circe for a year before resuming their journey. Circe advised Odysseus to seek the counsel of Tiresias in the underworld on how to return to Ithaca. She also warned him of dangers along the way.

The Underworld

Odysseus and his crew sailed to the end of the world to gain access to the underworld. Tiresias, the prophet, revealed to Odysseus the route to Ithaca. Odysseus also visited with some of his dead comrades from the Trojan War, including the heroes Achilles and Ajax.

The Sirens

Leaving the underworld, the first danger that Odysseus faced was the Sirens. Sirens were mythical bird-like creatures whose beautiful voices lured men to their deaths. Their island was littered with the bones of old ships and their crews. Odysseus had each of his crew members put wax in their ears to block any noise, but he wanted to hear the song of the Sirens. The crew tied him to the main mast.

Sirens

The ship passed safely by the island of the Sirens. Odysseus was lured by the song and ordered the crew to steer towards the Sirens’ song, but the crew could not hear his orders and kept the steady pace.

Charybdis and Scylla

The next danger the ship needed to pass through was a strait with dangers on both sides. On one side was Charybdis, a sea monster that caused a whirlpool, sucking ships down to the bottom of the ocean only to spit them out three times per day. On the other side of the strait was the sea monster Scylla, a creature with multiple arms that would grab sailors off of the ships that passed. Odysseus was advised by Circe to sail closer to Scylla, reasoning it would be better to lose a few men rather than the whole ship. Odysseus heeded the advice and sailed on the Scylla side of the strait but lost six men in the process.

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The Island of the Sun

Odysseus’ ship landed on the island of the Sun after passing the dangers of Charybdis and Scylla. Circe has warned Odysseus not to eat the cattle of the Sun, but when his men smelled the roasting meat, they forgot the warning and ate. The ship set sail, but the Sun was so angry, he destroyed the ship, killed all of the crew, and left Odysseus alone.

Calypso

Odysseus washed up on the shore of an island inhabited by Calypso, a sea-nymph goddess. Calypso captured Odysseus and kept him in a cave as her lover for seven years. Odysseus still loved his wife Penelope and wanted to return to Ithaca. The goddess Athena intervened and asked Zeus to command Calypso to release Odysseus to return to Ithaca. Calypso released Odysseus, who built a raft and sailed to the island of the Phaeacians, who entertained him and sent him home.

Return to Ithaca

Upon landing on Ithaca, Odysseus discovered that suitors had been trying to marry his wife and take possession of his property for years, thinking he was dead. Odysseus disguised himself, entered his home and talked with his son Telemachus. They devised a contest to get rid of the suitors: Odysseus had a great bow, which took great strength to string. Only Odysseus was able to string the bow. Telemachus announced to the suitors that whoever could string the bow and shoot an arrow through 12 ax heads would win the hand of his mother Penelope.

Many of the suitors tried but none could string the bow. Odysseus, in the disguise of an old man, asked to try. He was able to string the bow and, with Telemachus, drove out and killed the suitors. Odysseus had returned!

Lesson Summary

Odysseus was a Greek hero famed for his intellect and cunning. He created the plan to sack the city of Troy using a giant hollow horse. He is also famous for his long odyssey, or journey, trying to return home after the events of the Trojan War. Odysseus is one of the most well-known of the early Greek heroes.

Odysseus Overview

Odysseus hears the Sirens

odysseushearssirens
Characters & EventsExplanations
Odysseusone of the greatest of the Greek heroes who fought during the Trojan War
The OdysseyHomer’s second tale of Odysseus wandering the seas for ten years struggling to return from the Trojan War
Ithacaan island kingdom where Odysseus ruled
PenelopeOdysseus’s wife who bore him a son, Telemachus, just before the events of the Trojan War began
Ulyssesthe Roman form of the name Odysseus
Trojan Horsea giant hollow wooden horse to give the Trojans as an offering of peace; Greek warriors hid inside
Lotus-eatersa people who created food and drink from flowers with a drug effect
Polyphemus the Cyclopsa 1-eyed giant who raised large sheep
Aeolusking of the winds who gave Odysseus a sack filled with the contrary winds that would allow him to return to Ithaca if kept sealed
Laestrygoniansland of giants and cannibals who destroyed all but one of Odysseus’s ships and killed most his crew
Circea witch that inhabited an island Odysseus landed on
Tiresiasunderworld prophet who revealed to Odysseus the route to Ithaca
Sirensmythical bird-like creatures whose beautiful voices lured men to their deaths
Charybdisa sea monster that caused a whirlpool, sucking ships down to the bottom of the ocean
Scyllaa creature with multiple arms that would grab sailors off of the ships that passed
Calypsoa sea-nymph goddess who captured Odysseus and kept him in a cave as her lover for seven years
Odysseus’ returnafter 20 years away, Odysseus returns to Ithaca, proves his identity, and kills or drives off his wife’s suitors

Learning Outcomes

When this video ends, you will be prepared to:

  • Recall the focus of Homer’s second work, The Odyssey
  • Identify the major players in The Odyssey
  • Discuss the many challenges Odysseus and his crew faced during their journey home
  • Describe Odysseus’ return to his homeland

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