Odyssey Summary Cards

A short summary of each book


Book 1

Athene Visits Telemachus

  • Pro Em - Book starts by calling on the Muses for inspiration to tell the story
  • Gods - The Gods in Olympus create a plan to send Hermes to Calypso to tell her to release Odysseus, while Posiedon is feasting with the Ethiopians.
  • Suitors - The suitors in Ithaca are eating all Odysseus' wealth and being extremely disrespectful, they pay no attention to xenia and are trying to court Penelope.
  • Mentes - Athene goes to see Telemachus, disguised as the family friend Mentes, and tells him to call an assembly (of which there have been none for the past 20 years, since Odysseus left) and bring the suitors' behaviour to everyone's attention to try to rid the palace of them.
  • She implants in him 'spirit and daring.'
  • Pylos - If this does not work (which it doesn't) she instructs him to go off on a voyage to gain information of his father from Nestor in Pylos and Helen and Menelaus in Sparta
  • Realisation - When Mentes leaves, he vanishes like a bird through a hole in the ceiling and Telemachus realises it was Athene, not Mentes to whom he had been talking.
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Book 5


  • 'The gods sat down in assembly'- Athene speaking to the Gods on Olympus and begs Zeus to intervene. He sends Hermes to Ogygia to free Odysseus.
  • Hermes swoops down and 'skimmed the waves like a sea-gull.'
  • Unfair double standards - Calypso is angry, she that male Gods are allowed to capture women but female Godesses can't keep men.
  • She has to surrender Odysseus because Zeus' orders are final.
  • Calypso completes Xenia - gives O material to build a boat and gives him provisions from her island, she swears and oath that she is not tricking Odysseus and watches him sail away.
  • 18 days - possible cause of storm = Poseidon.
  • Spots phaecia - Just as Odysseus spots land, Poseidon who was in Ethiopia, whips up a storm that almost drowns Odysseus.
  • The Godess Ino - comes to Odysseus' rescue giving him a veil to keep him safe
  • River God - Athene puts it in Odysseus' mind to pray to the river God who allows Odysseus to Pheacia
  • O throws Ino's veil back into the sea, not looking into the sea, as Ino instructed.
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Book 7

The Palace of Alcinous

  • Athene is now disguised as a young girl holding a pitcher - she acts as his guide andf leads him to the palace
  • She tells him a little about the king + queen. If he can supplicate Arete, Alcinous will consider him noble - loving, strong marriage
  • The palace is covered in gold, silver and bronze - built by gods and mortals.
  • There are 50 maids (Odysseus would have had about 30)
  • Odysseus gets it right - he supplicates + sits in the ashes/fireplace, saying he is as low as a dog
  • Arete wonders why Odysseus is wearing clothes that she has made
  • Odysseus explains his travels to Arete and the Phaeacians which is all true to the book
  • Odysseus lies to help and protect Nausicaa - altruistic lie
  • Phaeacians can row anywhere in a day so offer this service
  • The Phaeacians 'put a bed in the portico... with the finest purple rugs... and add warm blankets on top' and Odysseus sleeps
  • Odysseus ends book 7 completely transformed
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Book 8

The Phaeacian Games

  • Athene 'invested his head and shoulders with a divine beauty' makes Odysseus 'seem taller and broader'
  • Demodocus' song - song of Troy, a tale of Odysseus and Achilles
  • Odysseus weeps, tries to cover his face - shows longing to get home
  • Alcinous notices and to respect him, creates a diversion - athletic games (NOTE: Olympic games started 26 years before in 776BC)
  • Kings son, Laodamas leads games
  • Euryalus wins wrestling - him and Laodamas invite Odysseuis to join in, Odysseus regects and Euryalas insults him openly
  • Odysseus angry because he is being accused of lying about heroship
  • Odysseus comes back, saying L. has little brains. his words and actions proove his kingship
  • Shows his HUGE strength because he beats everyone in throwing the discus. Athene helps him by pointing it out
  • Euryalas has to give Odysseus a bronze sword as an apology
  • Demodocus' second song - Ares + Aphrodite. A song about marital infidelity
    • Hephistis traps A + A and invites gods to see for humiliqation
    • Reflects Odysseus being one man using cunning to defeat big groups
  • Demodocus' song of the Wooden Horse
    • idea that it was Odysseus' idea. He has the same grief as before and 'wept as a woman weaps.'
  • Alcinous hears and asks who he is, stressing about how much he can trust them like brothers
  • Alcinous says that their ships are alive, 'SENTIENT SHIPS'
  • Poseidons fate - will be punished for being too generous
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Book 9

The Cyclops

  • Start of the wanderings story
  • 'I am Odysseus, Laertes son.'
  • Zeus punishes Odysseus for letting his troops run rampage
  • Go to plunder Ismarus, the city of the Cicones (allies of troy) but want more. They don't follow Odysseus' orders to leave, they fight but loose sixty men per ship.
  • They sail for 9 days before:
  • Survivors land on country of the Lotus-Eaters (no intention of killing). They get intoxicated by the lotus (narcotic), making the men who eat it not want to leave island. O. binds those who have eaten it to the boat and sails off
  • Parks his boat on an island near the Cyclopes and takes 12 men carrying special wine from a priest of the god Apollo as a xenia gift. Men want to steal Cyclops' cheese and lambs but Odysseus says to wait. Polyphemius comes in and closes the entrance. When the Cyclops denies helping Odysseus and his men. Eats 6 men. 
  • Plan: O and his men create a sharp stick whilst P is gone and hide it in a pile of dung. When he returns O offers him the wine and in return P promises to eat O last. P asks for O's name, O tells him his name is 'nobody' + Cyclops falls asleep drunk. Men char stick in fire and then stab P's eye out. 
  • The next day O ties his men to the bottom of the sheep and they leave with the sheep
  • Odysseus shouts taunts at P who hurls a hiltop in his direction. His men urge him not to incite the giant but O doesn't listen and tells P his name.
  • The cyclops makes a prayer to Poseidon, his father to keep O from reaching his home and make him loose all his companions. 
  • Odysseus burns a ram as an offering to Zeus and they leave the next morning
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Book 10


  • The Achaeans sail to Aeolia, the home of Aeolus son of Hippotas, ruler of the winds. Aeolus presents Odysseus with a bag containing the winds, and stirs up a westerly wind to guide Odysseus and his crew home. 
  • In ten days they are in sight of Ithaca. Odysseus is sleeping and his men tear the bag open expecting treasure. The winds escape blow the ship back to Aeolia. This time, Aeolus refuses to help them, certain that the gods hate Odysseus
  • They row for 6 days, 6 nights to the land of the Laestrygonians, a race of powerful giants whose king, Antiphates, and unnamed queen turn Odysseus’s scouts into dinner. The Laestrygonians pelt the ships with boulders and sink them as they sit in the harbor. Only Odysseus’s ship escapes.
  • Then they travel to Aeaea, home of Circe. 
  • Men are in tears so Odysseus hunts a great stag for them to eat and see's smoke from the island
  • After eating the meat they split into two groups, one led by Odysseus and one by Eurylochus
  • Circe turns half of the men into pigs
  • Odysseus goes to rescue them but Hermes tells him to eat moly to protect him and then lunge at her when she tries to strike him and then to make love to her.
  • This works, forcing her to change his men back to their human forms.
  • Odysseus and his men live with her in luxury for a year.
  • His men finally persuade him to continue, and O asks Circe for advice: He must sail to Hades, the realm of the dead, to speak with the spirit of Tiresias, a blind prophet who will tell him how to get home.
  • Next morning O discovers that one of his young men, Elpenor, got drunk, slept on the roof, and in the morning he walked off and broke his neck - MORAL STORY
  • Odysseus explains to his men the course that they must take, which they are displeased to learn is rather meandering.
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Book 11

The Book Of The Dead

  • Leaves with a gentle breeze from Circe to the land of the Cimmerians
  • Decent into the underworld is vital to prove heroism
  • Sacrifices wine + barley meal + sheeps blood - performing black magic to summon the dead
  • Tells his men to pray to Hades + Persephone - King + Queen of the underworld
  • The dead approach - they can only talk when they've drank the sacrificed wine
  • First to speak is Elpenor, who begs O to return to Circe’s island and give him a proper burial.
  • O speaks with Theban prophet Tiresias: Poseidon is punishing the men for blinding Polyphemus. foretells Odysseus’s fate - he will return home, reclaim palace from suitors + make another trip to appease Poseidon. warns O not to touch the flocks of the Sun god Hyperion at Thrinacia.
  • O then speaks with mother, Anticleia, who died of grief waiting for his return. She tells him of his father and the state of the palace
  • He then meets the spirits of various famous men and heroes and hears the stories of their lives and deaths.
  • PAUSE: O now asks his Phaeacians to allow him to sleep, but they urge him to continue, asking if he met any of the Greeks who fell at Troy in Hades. 
  • He carries on: meets Agamemnon, who tells him of his murder at the hands of his wife, Clytemnestra. Agamemnon says women are 'never to be trusted' Also says 'don't return openly to port' + 'make a secret approach' 
  •  Next he meets Achilles, who says he would 'rather be a slave of a slave but still be alive thanbe king of the dead' REGRET. Advice: become a new kind of hero, life more important than fame + glory
  • He sees Heracles, King Minos, the hunter Orion, Tantalus, Ajax... 
  • Odysseus soon finds himself mobbed by souls wishing to ask about their relatives in the world above. He becomes frightened, runs back to his ship, and immediately sails away.
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Book 12

Scylla And Charbrydis

  • Go to Aeaea again, as soon as they arrive they bury Elpenor properly
  • Circe praises O for getting to underworld + back
  • Gives him instructions on returning home (odd because she told him to get this from Tieresias)
    • Sirens: beeswax in ears to stop from hearing their singing that makes you crash
    • Wandering rocks (death) OR Skylla (six-headed monster who, takes one sailor per head
    • Charybdis (death)
  • O asks if there could be any other way around but Circe gets angry and stresses that more will die if you fight them
  • Tells them about Thrinacie + special cows, if they eat them 'you will arrive late, in a wretched state having lost all of your comrades'
  • Sirens - men plug ears but O wants to hear so they tie him down - try to seduce him with knowledge + tales of Troy
  • O is going to try to fight Scylla but is distracted by Charybdis
  • Men dangling = most terrible thing O has ever seen.
  • Thrinacie - O says they should carry on but Eurylochus refuses + they stop + swear oath not to touch cows. They stay for a month as wind keeps them there FATE VS. FREE WILL
  • Eurylochus says he thinks they should eat cattle and then build temple after. Disobays Odysseus and kills all of the special cattle. O eats or touches none of the meat
  • OMEN: meat starts crawling
  • Hyperion threatens never to shine again; Zeus says he will hit them with a sorm
  • Zeus sends storm, enacting fate
  • Odysseus holds onto a tree from Charybdis + then a ship spat out by Charybdis
  • Calypso saves him
  • Wanderings end on Calypso's island
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Book 13

Odysseus lands on Ithica

  • Treasures from Phaecians, prompted by Athene - Clothing, orniments of Gods, tripod, bronze cauldron for food and offerings to gods, strong box...
  • Similie marks a significant point; the middle - 'He was like a ploughman who yearns for his supper after his two brown oxen have pulled the ploughshare up and down the field all day; the sunset is welcome to him, and his legs are weary as he plods homeward.'
  • O. is allowed to sleep whole way home for a day whilst they row, shows complete trust in Phaeacians.
  • Moor their ship at 'Pharcys', The Old Man of the Sea. Odysseus wakes up on Ithica not knowing where he is and his treasures appear to be missing.
  • MINI COUNCIL OF THE GODS - Poseidon angry because he has been thwarted by a mortal and fears loss of respect for him. He appeals to zeus.
  • Zeus tries to calm him but poseidon repeats threat; to show Phaeacians that they have been too generous. Zeus concludes that he can wrech the ship but not to create the mountains around Phaeacia.
  • Poseidon turns the ship into stone and only Alcinous knows whats happened because of the prophecy - defiance of their God
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  • Last time we see Phaeacians and Poseidon; he is no longer the Antagonist.
  • Athene - hides setting by covering Ithica in mist
  • Dramatic Irony - O. doesn't know where he is and criticises Phaeacians because he thinks they have tricked him
  • Athene - appears as a young shepherd; testing Odysseus to see if he is worthy of her help.
  • O. assesses situation, aks Athene where he is and she delays for a paragraph saying it is a good place until she tells him: Ithica. But O. doesn't let on who he is - 'He held back the words that were on his lips' (L.254) 
  • He tells a lie, saying he has been exiled from Crete because he killed a man for attempting to steal his loot.
  • Athene praises him saying that he is like her - they can both get their own way using judgement and argument.
  • THE PLAN - Kill all suitors 'staining your broad floors with their blood and brains'
  • Athene now transforms Odysseus into an old beggar, below everyone in society
  • Tells O. to go to Eumachus the swineherd, which he does in book 14 whilst Athene gets Telemachus to come back
  • How they kill the suitors is up to Odysseus - doesn't detract from him
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Book 14

In Eumaeus' hut

  • Eumaeus = enslaved by being captured; was son of a king
  • 'most faithful steward of his property'
  • Odysseus gets attacked by his dogs but Eumaeus saves him
  • Perfect xenia ; gives him all he has - his goatskin matress as a seat. E. sacrafices a pig for them to eat
  • E says there have been lots of beggars claiming to know about Odysseus and Penelope and wishes for his masters return but thinks he's dead
  • Eumaeus tells of Ithica
  • 'The inventive Odysseus' tells another lie - he is from Crete and fought in Troy but his ship was wrecked and lands on Ithica. He draws elaborately from his own tales
  • E beleives his stories of war and says he is going to show Xenia because of Gods
  • Discussion about Laertes(O's father), Penelope, suitors (been therte 3 years) and Telemachus' mini adventure
  • Odysseus test Eumaeus whether he will show true xenia - He talks of a time in the war of Troy where Odysseus tricked someone into giving the real Odysseus his cloak because forgot to bring his - showing no limit to his kindness
  • Odysseus is extremely impressed at Eumaeus' kindness of givimng him the cloak
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Book 16


  • Telemachus arrives, advised by Athene to go see Eumaeus in book 14: 'dogs began wagging...' shows Telemachus is a frequent visitor
  • O and T don't recognise eachother - DRAMATIC IRONY. Eumachus greets T like he is his son
  • T asks whats happening at the palace before he goes there = Penelope is suffering
  • T shows good xenia when O offers him his seat
  • Eumaeus is sent to tell Penelope but niot the suitors that Telemachus is back
  • Athene omes to talk to Odysseus - ODYSSEUS TRAMSFORMED BACK
  • Telemachus mistakes O for a god, O: 'But I am your father' - RECOGNITION. The first mortal to see O has returned is his son. Both hug and cry - Homer appeals to the senses
  • PLAN: 1) Both get to the palace independantly. 2) Weapons and spears removed from walls - Odysseus teaches T to lie. 3) Nod. 4) Kill suitors
  • Back at the palace - The suitors go to the assembly place ad lock the others out
    • Eurymachus - Sneaky and good at lies
    • Antinous - Thugish brute - short sentances
    • Amphinomus - almost good but still doomed
  • Antinous' first suggestion is murder. Failing that they will make her an offer and stop breaking xenia. Amphinimus says they should ask the Gods first
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