The Odyssey: Book Summaries

Brief overview of all the (relevant) books.
Books 4-12 and 18-22. 

HideShow resource information
  • Created by: Holly
  • Created on: 10-05-12 11:05

Book 4

  • Telemachus and Peisistratus (son of Nestor) arrive at Lacedaemon
  • Menelaus and Helen follow xenia and give them a warm welcome and food before asking any questions.
  • Men. and Hel. are organising their children's weddings.
  • After eating, Men. guesses that Tel. and Peis. are the sons of Kings.
  • He talks about how although he is extremely wealthy, he's also lost a lot. The loss he mourns the most is Odysseus.
  • He states he does not know if Ody. is dead or alive, and upon seeing Telemachus crying, he realises he is talking to the son of Odysseus.
  • Helen arrives and asks if he is Odysseus' son.
  • They tell more stories, and cry some more - too much for Hel. who drugs their wine.
  • Helen talks about how Ody. disguised himself as a beggar to enter Troy, only Helen recognised him.
  • Menelaus then talks about the Trojan Horse and how Helen called out, mimicking the voices of the men's wives, trying to tempt them. Ody. stopped the men replying.
  • Telemachus suggests they go to bed, and they all rest until the morning.

1 of 34

Book 4 (cont.)

  • In the morning, Men. asks why Tel. came to Lacedaemon. Tel. reveals about the suitors
  • Men. is angry about the suitors. He then tells Tel. about meeting Proteus, the Old Man of the Sea, who told him about Odysseus' fate. 
  • Proteus' daughter, Eidothea, told Men. to take 3 men and wait until her father had finished counting his seals and fallen asleep. Disguised in sheep skin they grabbed Proteus and held on to him as he transformed from shape to shape. Once he stopped Men. asked him how he could get out of Egypt. He then asked about Odysseus and learns he is being held by Calypso.
  • Menelaus gathers gifts for Telemachus, horses.
  • Tel. appreciates the gifts, but he expresses that horses aren't suited to Ithaca's rocky ground, and asks if he can have something else. Menelaus agrees, thinking well of him for asking.
  • Back in Ithaca, the suitors are approached by the man who lent Telemachus his ship - he wants it back. However this is the first that the suitors know of Telemachus being gone!
  • Penelope also hears and is very upset, she questions the nurse Eurycleia who tells her not to notify Laertes, Odysseus's father, about Telemachus' disappearance.
  • Meanwhile, the suitors plan to ambush and murder Telemachus when he returns.
  • They sail out into the cove and wait. 
  • Penelope dreams of her sister, Iphthime, who tells her the Gods are protecting Odysseus.
2 of 34

Book 5

  • Athene tries to help Odysseus, while Poseidon is away in Ethiopia. 
  • She complains to Zeus of his imprisoning on Calypso's island and the suitor's threat to Telemachus.
  • Zeus tells Athene that it was her plan that led to this, therefore she can control the situation.
  • Zeus sends Hermes to tell Calypso to let Odysseus build a raft. Odysseus will then meet the Phaeacians in 20 days, there he would be given a good ship and gifts.
  • Hermes flies to Calypso's cave where she is weaving. Odysseus is out on the shore, crying.
  • Calypso follows xenia by giving Hermes nectar and ambrosia.
  • He then tells her what Zeus wants her to do - this makes Calypso angry, however she can't disobey Zeus.
  • Calypso finds Ody. and helps him build a raft. Ody. ensures she is not tricking him by making her swear an oath on the River Styx.
  • Even though Calypso is letting him go she tries to persuade him to stay by reminding him of how Penelope has aged, and how she would be a superior wife. Ody. agrees but still wants to go.
  • At dawn, he is given an axe so he can cut down trees and a drill, so that he can build his boat. She also gives him cloth for a sail and some food.
  • On the 5th day, Odysseus sets sail. On the 18th day, he sees the island of the Phaeacians.

3 of 34

Book 5 (cont.)

  • Suddenly, Poseidon spots him and starts a storm. He is angry, thinking the Gods have been tricking him.
  • Leucothoe/Ino sees Odysseus and comforts him, she tells him Poseidon can not kill him. She gives him a scarf and tells him to swim for shore.
  • Ody. is afraid she is tricking him, so he stays on the raft for as long as possible.
  • Only when a devastating wave appears does he follow her instructions, he strips, ties the scarf around his middle and heads for the shore. Athene helps by calming the winds.
  • He first finds a reef, but this is too dangerous and so he swims to the mouth of a river. Here he disposes of his scarf as Ino instructed.
  • On the shore he finds a bed of olive bushes, covering himself with leaves he goes to sleep.
4 of 34

Book 6

  • Nausicaa, daughter of Alcinous, is visited by Athene in a dream. She suggests a visit to the river to wash some clothes, in preparation for being a good wife.
  • In the morning, she persuades her parents to lend her the wagon and the things she needs.
  • Her and her maids go to the washing pool, they remove and clean their clothes, leaving them to dry out in the sun. They play with a ball to pass the time.
  • Odysseus is woken up by the sound of the girls, he wonders where he is. He grabs a branch to cover himself and walks confused towards the party. All the maids flee except Naus. Odysseus thinks she may even be a goddess.
  • Ody. explains his long journey, troubled by Poseidon. He asks for some clothes and directions towards the town.
  • Naus. wisely says that Zeus hands out fortunes as he sees fit, as a princess she can help him. She tells her maids to give him clothing. He asks them to leave so he can bathe properly.
  • Ody. looks "godlike" after bathing. Nausicaa says she would like someone like him for her husband. She tells her attendants to bring food and drink.
  • The wagon is packed up and Naus. tells Ody. to follow them. To stop any kind of scandal Ody. must wait behind before entering the city. Then he must find Nausicaa's mother.
  • They set off and reach the Athene's grove where Odysseus must stay as the sun sets.
5 of 34

Book 7

  • Nausicaa goes and Odysseus stays and prays to Athene.
  • At her palace, her brothers bring the washing inside. Nausicaa goes to her room where her servant, a war prize of her father from a long time ago, lights a fire.
  • Athene shrouds Ody. in mist and leads him into the palace disguised as a young girl. Nobody notices him. Athene warns Ody. that the Phaeacians are not fond of strangers. She also adds that they are confident in their sea faring, as they are supported by Poseidon. 
  • They reach the palace. Ody. is told to be bold and try and gain the support of Queen Arete. She assures him that the only way he can get home is by gaining her favour, then Athene leaves.
  • Ody. goes into the palace, he mentions the skill of the inhabitants. He approaches Arete, boldly grabbing her knees. He asks for her help in returning home and then sits in the ashes of the fire.
  • Echenes, the wisest man in the gathering, notices they are not abiding by good guest-friendship (xenia) and says the stranger should be seated, given wine, and fed.
6 of 34

Book 7 (cont.)

  • Alcinous brings Ody. to a chair and gives him water to wash his hand. He brings food and drink, and makes a libation
  • He says that there will be a meeting in the morning to discuss how to send the stranger home in safety.
  • The guests leave and Arete asks Ody. where his clothes are from - she recognises them as her own work. Odysseus tells his story of being trapped on Ogygia with Calypso and then about being shipwrecked. He describes how Nausicaa gave him the clothes.
  • Alcinous says Nausicaa should have brought Ody. to the palace straight away, but Ody. defends her, explaining that there may have been a scandal if they had been seen together.
  • Alcinous is flattered by Ody.'s concern. He would like to see Naus. marry someone like Ody. He says he will find a way to get Ody. home. Ody. replies with a prayer to Zeus, while a bed is arranged for him.
  • Then they all go to bed!
7 of 34

Book 8

  • Odysseus' identity is still unknown. He and Alcinous are going to the Phaeacian assembly.
  • Alcinous instructs the Phaeacians to give Ody. a black ship and a crew of 52 men. They will all have a feast, the minstrel Demodocus will entertain by playing his harp and singing.
  • They fit out the ship and the crew join the feast with the rulers of the Phaeacians who had been at the assembly. Demodocus, who is blind, is seated with his harp plus bread and wine.
  • They eat and the minstrel sings. Odysseus begins to cry as Demodocus sings of his fight with Achilles. He tries to hide it beneath his cloak. 
  • Alcinous is notices his guest is upset and stops Demodocus. He instead says it is time for the athletic events. 
  • They have a pentathlon of events: boxing, wrestling, broad jumping, a footrace, and discus throwing. Euryalus wins the wrestling.
  • Laodamas, Alcinous' son who won the boxing, wants Odysseus to name what sport he excels at. Ody. tries to get out of it, stating that he's too old. Euryalus insults Ody. saying that he must have no skill.
  • Odysseus calls out Euryalus for his rudeness. He explains he has been injured by war and the sea, however despite this he will show up the young fool.
8 of 34

Book 8 (cont.)

  • Taking a heavy discus Odysseus throws it further than anybody else. He then says he'll challenge anybody, and will compete in anything except sprinting.
  • Alcinous steps in here and says his guest has been offended. He does not want the Phaeacians to be remembered this way. He wants Odysseus to tell good stories (improve their kleos) when he gets home.
  • He proves the Phaeacians are good dancers and summons Demodocus, who sings about the story of Area and Aphrodite who were caught by Aphrodite's husband in a net.
  • Demodocus then played music while Alcinous' sons Halius and Laeodamas dance with a ball.
  • The King then says that the 13 greatest lords should give Odysseus a clean cloak and tunic, plus a bar of gold. As well as this, Euryalus must apologise.
  • Euryalus makes amends by giving Ody. his sword, Ody. accepts it graciously. 
  • Arete orders a bath for his guest and arranges for all his gifts to be put in a fine chest. 
  • Nausicaa asks Ody. to remember her, he says he will.
  • They begin another feast and Ody. presents to Demodocus a large piece of meat. He asks him to sing about the Trojan Horse. The minstrel obliges, and Ody. cries again.
  • Alcinous tells the minstrel to stop as it appears to be upsetting his guest. He then asks Odysseus to reveal who he is.
9 of 34

Book 9

  • Odysseus reveals his identity, he then starts retelling his adventures since leaving Troy.
  • He first tells them about how his men plundered the land of the Cicones but decide they wanted more. However, their dawdling meant a number of armed men came and killed some of Ody.'s men.
  • They next go to the land of the Lotus Eaters. Lotus is a drug that makes those who eat it not want to leave the island. Some of Ody.'s men eat the plant, he orders the rest not to touch it and bind the rest. They sail away.
  • They then go to an island near the Cyclops and eat the goats and the wine from the Cicones.
  • Ody. takes 12 of his crew to the island of the Cyclops, taking wine as a gift. When they reach the island they see the Cyclops are pasturing their sheep.
  • They enter a cave and see cheese and lambs that they could steal, but Odysseus wants to wait to meet the Cyclops.
  • The Cyclops, Polyphemus, returns with his sheep, he pulls a stone slab over the opening.
  • Polyphemus asks the strangers who they are, Odysseus replies they are Greeks returning home from Troy and that they require his help.
  • Polyphemus replies he doesn't care about xenos and what Zeus demands about looking after guests. He eats two of Odysseus' men.
10 of 34

Book 9 (cont.)

  • Polyphemus goes to sleep and Odysseus starts planning their escape.
  • In the morning, two more men are eaten. The Cyclops then leaves with his flock.
  • The men cut a branch off of an olive tree and sharpen it to a point and hide the weapon in poo.
  • Yet more men are eaten when the Cyclops returns. Odysseus offers him his special wine. As an exchange for this gift Polyphemus promises to eat Odysseus last.
  • The drunk Cyclops asks Odysseus' name before passing out, he replies it is "Nobody."
  • Odysseus' men burn the end of the spike in the fire and ram it into the Polyphemus' eye until it burns away. He roars and shouts for his brothers to help him.
  • They come and ask what happened, he replies "nobody" has hurt him. The other Cyclops leave.
  • The next day Polyphemus lets out his flock, feeling the fleece on each as it passes in case Odysseus and his men were escaping.
  • However, Odysseus and his men were tied to the bellies of the sheep
  • Odysseus taunts Polyphemus, who returns fire with a chunk of earth in his direction. The men tell him not to annoy the Cyclops but he continues inciting him, he even reveals his name.
  • Polyphemus prays to his father, Poseidon, to keep Odysseus from achieving nostos and to lose all his companions. Odysseus burns a ram as an offering to Zeus and the next morning they leave the island.
11 of 34

Book 10

  • Next the Achaeans (Ody.'s men) go to the home of Aeolus, ruler and god of the winds. 
  • Ody. tells his story and in return he gets a bag of winds and a westerly wind to guide them.
  • Within 10 days they can see Ithaca. 
  • Ody.'s men think Aeolus has given Ody. gold and silver, they open the bag while Ody. sleeps.
  • The wind escapes and stirs up a storm - it blows their ship all the way back to Aeolia.
  • Aeolus thinks that the Gods must hate Odysseus and refuses to help him, saying, "Your voyage here was cursed by heaven!
  • They leave Aeolia and travel to Aeaea - the home of Circe. Circe is a witch-goddess and who drugs men and turns them into animals.
  • Odysseus goes to inspect the land, he sees a house decides not to approach without companions. He returns to the ship and at dawn tells his men about the house. His men are hesitant, due to their past experiences, but Odysseus sends 22 men.
  • The men see the house is surrounded by tame wolves and mountain lions
  • All the men except Eurylochus go into the house and drink with Circe. Her drugs transform them into pigs
  • Eurylochus runs back to Odysseus, he is too scared to return to the house so Odysseus ventures alone.
12 of 34

Book 10 (cont.)

  • Ody. is approached by Hermes in the disguise of a young man. He gives him a herb called moly, which will protect him from Circe's drugs. He then tells him to lunge towards her when she tries to stab him with her sword.
  • Ody. follows the God's instructions and overpowers the witch. She finds out his identity and invites him to sleep with her. Ody. forces her to change his men back, by refusing to eat. 
  • Odysseus becomes Circe's lover, and he and his men stay with her for a year.
  • Finally his men persuade him to leave, so Odysseus asks Circe the directions to Ithaca. 
  • She says he must sail to Hades, the realm of the dead, and speak to the spirit of Tiresias, a blind prophet who will tell him how to achieve his homecoming.
  • As they had no wind, Odysseus and his men row to the land of the Laestrygonians.
  • Some of Odysseus' scouts are eaten by the giants, King Antiphates and his queen.
  • The men all run to their ships but they are pelted by boulders that sink them. Only Odysseus's ship escapes.
  • In the morning, Ody. tells his men they are leaving. He also finds out that the youngest man, Elpenor, had died. He had gotten drunk and slept on the roof, the shouting of the men in the morning confused him and he fell off, breaking his neck.
  • Odysseus explains their route, it is a long one and the men weep at the prospect of it. Circe gives them a black ram and ewe to sacrifice when needed.
13 of 34

Book 11

  • They sail to the land of the men of winter and beached ships. Eurylochus prepares a ram and ewe to be sacrificed
  • Odysseus addresses a prayer to the dead, he digs a pit and sacrifices the sheep inside of it.
  • The blood of the animals is poured into the pit and the spirits of the dead begin to gather around the gore. 
  • They see is Elpenor, the young man who had broken his neck on Circe's island. He explains his death and asks that they go back and bury him before they return home.
  • Next Odysseus's mother Anticlea arrives, but Odysseus holds her off with a sword.
  • Next the prophet Tiresias comes and speaks. He warns Odysseus of the trouble ahead, he tells him not to kill the cattle of the sun and foresees a return home - but alone.
  • He first must deal with the suitors and then walk inland until he finds people who have never heard of the sea. Here he must make a sacrifice to Poseidon
  • Ody. asks why Anticlea won't look at him and Tiresias replies that she needs to taste the blood.
  • Eventually, she talks to him. Anticlea asks why he was not in Ithaca. He tells her he had not yet returned home. Anticlea says Penelope is still waiting for him with his son Telemachus.
  • Anticlea also says that Laertes was sick with longing for Odysseus. She died herself recently.
  • Ody. tries to embrace his mother three times, but is unable to. He cries and she has to explain that she is not flesh and bones, just spirit.
14 of 34

Book 11 (cont.)

  • There are many ghosts surrounding the pit now and Odysseus holds them off with his sword.
  • Next Aeolus tells her story, then the mother of Hercules and other mothers.
  • Odysseus suddenly stops telling his story and the flashback ends, Arete addresses the assembled men, she asks how they view their captain. 
  • Arete and Alcinous command that Odysseus rests a day before he leaves for Ithaca. Odysseus says he would wait a year if that was what Alcinous wanted, it would be better to return to Ithaca healthy and with gifts.
  • Alcin. tells Ody. he wants to hear more of the story and Ody. warns that his story gets sadder.
  • After the women stopped, Agamemnon appeared but had trouble speaking. Odysseus wept at the sight of him and asked how he died. 
  • Agamemnon tells of Aegisthus and Orestes revenge, his wife and betrayer didn't even close his mouth and eyes after his murder.
  • Agamemnon continued by saying that his wife's betrayal reflected on the whole of her gender.
  • Ody. notes that Zeus cursed the house of Atreus because thousands died for Helen.
  • Agamemnon tells him to be wary of women, although Penelope is and will remain loyal to him.

15 of 34

Book 11 (cont.)

  • Achilles and Ajax appear now, Achilles speaks first about how he died. Ody. tells him not to be upset by his death as he has been honoured. Achilles responds by saying, "Let me hear no smooth talk of death from you, Odysseus, light of councils." He says he would rather be a farm hand that "lord it over all the exhausted dead."
  • Achilles asks about his son and Odysseus says that he came into battle and assembly holding his own. He was the only Greek unafraid inside the Trojan horse and went home wealthy. 
  • Ajax does not talk, he is still annoyed that Odysseus took Achilles' armour instead of him. Odysseus asks to talk to him and he walks away. 
  • Odysseus sees many of the classical heroes and villains.
  • Then Hercules approaches him and compares his labour with Odysseus' struggles, Hercules laments his fate and turns away.
  • Odysseus wants to see more but sees that the spirits are swarming, so they rush back to the ship and leave.
16 of 34

Book 12

  • They sail back to Circe's Island and bury Elpenor as he requested.
  • Circe gives them food and they feast into the night. Circe warns Odysseus about the sirens and their singing, their songs can drive men crazy.  
  • She advises Odysseus to make earplugs out of beeswax, but if he wanted to listen to their song he needed to be tied to the mast.
  • After the siren she tells him about the rocks that can only be avoided by taking a route that goes past Scylla (a six headed monster) and Charybdis (a whirlpool). 
  • She tells them to sail near the cave of Scylla, taking the chance of losing six men over the threat of losing all of them in the whirlpool.
  • After Scylla and Charybdis they would have to go the island of the cattle of the sun. She warns them not to touch the cattle as they would mean his doom.
  • At dawn Odysseus prepares to leave. He warns the men that there will be dangers ahead, telling them about the sirens but purposefully leaving out Scylla and Charybdis
  • When they neared the sirens the men plugged their ears and tied Odysseus to the mast.
  • The louder the song got the more he struggled, but the men kept tying him tighter. Meanwhile Odysseus describes the beautiful song he is hearing.
17 of 34

Book 12 (cont.)

  • When the island is out of sight he is released. The men are scared of what they might see next so Odysseus encourages them.
  • They row faster and see Charybdis on their left, it is full of debris from other ships.
  • While they are looking at the whirlpool, Scylla eats six of the men.
  • Odysseus hears their cries for help but has the men row faster.
  • Soon they are out of danger and closer to the cattle of the sun. Odysseus warns them that they can not stop at the island, as they will find "nothing but fatal trouble".
  • Eurylochus curses him, as the men can not row through the night. He suggests they stop and don't touch the cattle, eating from their own stores.
  • The crew all agree so they land on the island. Ody. makes them swear not to touch the animals.
  • The men all ate and cried over the deaths of the eaten men.
  • Thanks to storms, they are stranded on the island for 20 days. Soon they grow short of supplies and fishing offers little sustenance. 
  • One day, Odysseus went to pray to the gods by himself. While he was away, Eurylochusencourage the the crew to kill the cattle, and to make offerings to the gods.
18 of 34

Book 12 (cont.)

  • Odysseus wakes up to the smell of smoke, he prays to Zeus whilst cursing his misfortune.
  • The Sun was angry at the men and he asks Zeus for revenge
  • Zeus tells him that he would destroy Odysseus' ship once they went out to sea.
  • When Odysseus approached his men, he saw the hides of the cattle. 
  • They feasted for 6 days and left on the 7th. Soon after Zeus sent a lightning bolt that split the ship in two.
  • Odysseus climbed onto the mast and tied it to the keel, creating a makeshift raft.
  • His men were all dead and the wind sent him back to Scylla and Charybdis. He just missed the whirlpool by grabbing hold of a fig tree. He waited for the remnants of the ship to return to the surface and jumped back on it.
  • Scylla fortunately did not see Odysseus, and he was left floating. Finally he reached the island of Calypso. This is the end of his story.
19 of 34

Book 17

  • At dawn, Telemachus tells Eumaius that he needs to go to town so that Penelope knows he is all right, and that the beggar should be led into town as well.
  • Odysseus agrees and says that he might find some merciful people in town. 
  • Telemachus is seen by Eurycleia, the nurse, who runs up to meet him.
  • Pen. then sees him, she is happy Tel. is safe and wants to hear of any news about Ody.
  • Telemachus tells Penelope to bathe and pray, he wants to get Theoclymenos
  • He avoids the suitors and runs into Theoclymenos, who had been led to his house by a sailor.
  • Telemachus tells the sailor to watch the gifts from Menelaus until it's safe.
  • He leads Theoclymenos into his house to Penelope. 
  • They tell her that Nestor knew nothing of Odysseus but Menelaus told them that Odysseus was trapped on the island of Ogygia with the Goddess Calypso
  • Penelope is upset by this, but Theo. swears that Ody. is on Ithaca planning his revenge.
  • She replies that if this is the truth she will give him lots of rewards.
  • The suitors are competing and then come inside to feast. The swineherd leads Ody. into town.
  • Eumaius tells him not to beg but Odysseus asks for a walking stick.
  • They travel to the city and cross paths with Melanthius who taunts them, calling them "scurvy types" and Odysseus a "pig."
20 of 34

Book 17 (cont.)

  • Ody. hides his anger as Melanthius kicks him. Eumaius is outraged by this behaviour and asks Odysseus to stay away from town.
  • Mel. taunts him and tells him that Ody. died at sea and that the suitors are going to kill his son.
  • Mel. leaves. They arrive at the hall of Odysseus where the minstrel, Phemius, is singing.
  • Odysseus remarks at the beauty of his hall and Eumaius advises him that it is not safe for a beggar to go in. So Eumaius goes in first.
  • While Eumaius speaks, Odysseus' dog, Argos, perks up it's ears. He is sitting in a pile of his own dung, waiting for his master to return. 
  • Odysseus says that is is sad such a fine looking dog is being neglected, Eumaius says that the servants are lazy without a master to tend to them. The dog dies when they leave. :(
  • Telemachus sees the pair entering the hall and calls Eumaius over to eat.
  • Odysseus enters later and Telemachus gives the beggar meat and bread, he blesses his son.
  • Athene whispers to Odysseus suggesting that he begs from the suitors, to judge what kind of men they are.
  • Some of the suitors are nice and some do not give him anything.
21 of 34

Book 17 (cont.)

  • Melanthius tells Penelope that he saw Eumaius leading a beggar into the house. Antinous lashes out at Eumaius, wanting to know why he brought a beggar in. 
  • Eumaius is about to reply when Tel. interrupts, saying that Antinous is a trouble-maker.
  • Tel. stands up to the suitor and tells him he has no place to throw people out.
  • Antinous shouts back that he gave his footstool and a good gift to the beggar, other suitors only gave bread.
  • Ody. says that Antinous should give more than others as he has more wealth anyway.
  • Then Ody. begins telling his false tale, Antinous is annoyed by it and says that Ody. has gotten enough from everyone else because they are generous with someone else's food.
  • Ody. says he has "more looks than heart." This makes him very angry, he hits Ody. with the stool. Ody. shakes his head and remains calm, he speaks to the crowd says that Antinous hit him for being hungry, and scolds the suitor.
  • Antinous tells him to be quiet or be beaten. Others tell him off for being so rude to a guest.
22 of 34

Book 17 (cont.)

  • Tel. is sitting still but is angry. 
  • Pen. curses under breath, she tells her maid, Eurynome, that Antinous is the worst of the lot, she then asks Eumaius to bring Ody. to her for questioning.
  • Eumaius says whilst the beggar is enchanting he may bring false news of her husband.
  • Pen. tells him to bring him to her so she doesn't have to deal with the suitors rowdiness. 
  • Eumaius has the beggar come to Penelope.
  • Odysseus says the suitors worry him as they are so violent. He tells Eumaius to have Penelope wait until sundown, then he will come to her.
  • Penelope asks why Eumaius has returned by himself and he explains that the beggar believes it would be wiser if they were not seen together by the suitors. Penelope agrees that this is wise.
  • Eumaius rejoins Telemachus, he tells him that he has to go and attend to his swine.
  • The suitors continue to drink and dance well into the evening.
23 of 34

Book 18

  • Another beggar tries to move Ody., who frowns and says that there is room for two men. 
  • The beggar, Irus, gets angry and challenges him to a fight.
  • Antinous laughs at the idea and tells everybody, he says that whoever wins the brawl can sit and dine with them.
  • Ody. says he doesn't want to fight, but will do it as he is hungry.
  • Tel. tells him he will watch his back and stop any foul play from the suitors.
  • Athene gives Ody. extra strength and bulk so when he removes his shirt they are stunned.
  • Irus panics and Antinous mocks him, saying that he will be sold as a slave if he won't fight.
  • Ody. decides to only hurt Irus a little. They fight and Ody. breaks the beggar's jaw.
  • The suitors find this very entertaining. Antinous gives Ody. some food.
  • Amphinomos (the kindest suitor) gives Ody. wine. Ody. tells him that his hands are clean and that no man should break the law of the land and should stop before there is vengeance.
  • This startles the suitor, who then wants to leave - he is stopped by Athene. 
  • Pen. enters the room, she has been prompted by Athene too but without her knowing. The goddess wants Ody. to see how beautiful his wife is.

24 of 34

Book 18 (cont.)

  • Pen. tells Eurynome that she wants to be seen among the suitors. The maid tells her to bathe, as it looks as though she has been crying.
  • Pen. agrees and asks for her maids to come with her, so she is not alone among the men.
  • She falls asleep and the gods make her more attractive.
  • Penelope wakes up and gets ready, she goes into the hall. She chastises Tel. for letting the beggar be treated so badly. Tel. says he has no control over the men.
  • Eurymachus interrupts and says that her beauty will bring even more suitors to the palace. She replies that her beauty was lost the day her husband went to Troy.
  • Pen. recounts how Ody. told her to take a new husband if he was still gone when Tel. got his first beard. She says that this is soon, but their behaviour is still inappropriate.
  • Ody. laughs at how his wife toys with the suitors. Antinous responds that she should accept their gifts.
  • All the suitors present her with gifts and she takes them to her chambers.
25 of 34

Book 18 (cont.)

  • The suitors party into the night and Ody. tells the maids to tend to the fires so that they can tend Penelope as well. Melantho and other maids laugh at him, she ridicules the beggar.
  • Melanthius (her brother) calls her a **** and he says he will inform Tel. of her behaviour.
  • The maids are shocked and leave.
  • Athene wants Ody. to be ridiculed some more and so she baits him with Eurymachus, offering employment but withdrawing, saying Ody. would prefer begging as it's easier.
  • Ody. replies with a challenge. If they compete he would win when Ody. returns. Eurymachus shouts at him and throws a stool, but Ody. hides behind Amphinomos, it hits a wine steward who spills the drink.
  • Tel. advises that they go home to their beds and the suitors glare at him.
  • Amphinomos says they should have one more drink then return home. They mix the wine then leave to their beds.
26 of 34

Book 19

  • Ody. tells Tel. to hide the weapons so the suitors cannot use themTel. obeys and tells Eurycleia to shut the women in their chambers. She is happy that he is finally taking action on all the antics going on between the maids and the suitors.
  • Tel. gives her the beggar as a torch bearer, she is moved by his stately speech.
  • Ody. tells Tel. to be quiet because he is going to test Pen. and all the maids.
  • Tel. does what he's told and goes to his chambers. 
  • Pen. steps out of her room looking "like a goddess."
  • Melantho sees Ody. again, she calls him a goat and threatens to burn his bum with the torch. Ody. warns her that everyone comes upon hard luck eventually. He was a wealthy man one but now he is a beggar, she ought to be careful.
  • Pen. overhears their conversation, she tells off Melantho and gets a skin for Ody. to sit on.
  • She asks him to speak of where he is from, but he says won't recall things that make him weep.
  • Pen. replies she too has been in grief since Ody. left. She talks of how she deceived the suitors for four years through her trick with the loom, but they caught her at work one night. 
  • She asks Ody. to tell his tale and he recounts the false story of how he saw Ody. cast out to sea by a strong gale. He tells her that he was host to Ody. for 12 days until the winds were more favourable. 
  • Pen. believes him and she weeps and Ody. feels her pain. She asks for proof that he was host to him. He describes what he wore and his messenger. Pen. recognises the description.
27 of 34

Book 19 (cont.)

  • Ody. tells her not to cry. He tells the story of the cattle of the sun and how Ody. was supposed to come to Ithaca. He says he heard this from the king with whom he stayed with last. Pen. says that if this is true they would love him!
  • She tells him that Ody. won't be coming back and tells the maids to bathe the beggar and give him better clothing. She says the lives of men are short.
  • Ody. does not want a bath or bedding but she insists. He submits to being bathed by Eurycleia. 
  • She washes his feet and begins moving upward, but Ody. realises she will recognise a scar on his thigh that he got from a boar. 
  • Eurcleia sees the scar and turns to Penelope but Athene makes sure that she does not notice.
  • Ody. pulls Eurycleia up to him and threatens to kill her if she doesn't stay quiet. 
  • Eurycleia is stunned by his tone but still promises to reveal all of the disloyal maids to him.
  • Pen. asks if she could ask one more thing. She asks if she should stay with her son or marry. She tells Ody. of a dream she had that 20 fat geese (the suitors) were killed by an eagle.
  • Ody. asks how the dream could be read any differently.
  • Pen. reveals tomorrow she will have a contest between the suitors to see who can string Ody.'s bow and shoot through 12 axeheads. The prize is her hand in marriage.
  • Ody. says not to delay the contest, she says that he is a great comfort to her. She wishes he could comfort her longer but she has to sleep. 
28 of 34

Book 20

  • Ody. makes his bed outside the entrance and cannot sleep. He sees many women going to the beds of the suitors and has to stop himself from stopping them.
  • Athene comes to him and asks why he cannot sleep. Ody. tells her that he is worried that he is only one man. She says that having her by his side means he could beat 50 bands of men.
  • Pen. can not sleep much either and prays to Artemis that she be killed rather than married. During her prayer she sees a vision of Ody. causing her to cry out.
  • Pen.'s shout wakes Ody. and he prays to Zeus for a sign.
  • Zeus hears his prayer, he releases a roll of thunder. A slave working hears the thunder and she prays that today is the last day she has to work for the suitors.
  • Ody. hears this and feels better.
  • Tel. wakes up and asks Eurycleia how his guest is. He accuses his mother of being unfair because the beggar is sleeping on the floor.
  • Eurycleia explains that the beggar wouldn't take a bed. Tel. demands the maids clean the house before the suitors return. 
  • The swineherd returns and asks Ody. if the suitors were respectful of him, Ody. replies with a request that Zeus makes them pay for their actions.
  • Melanthius returns and taunts Ody. again. Ody. is silent but he is getting more and more angry. 
29 of 34

Book 20 (cont.)

  • The cattle herd, Philoetius, arrives and asks who the beggar is. He welcomes him as a friend and wishes him luck. He tells him that the life of a cattle herder is difficult, especially with the suitors. Ody. reassures him that Ody. will return. Eumaius and Philoetius echo his pledge.
  • The suitors are coming together to plot against Tel. Amphinomos speaks against them and says they should just go and feast. 
  • Tel. has Ody. sit next to him at the feast. He says he will protect him from any suitors.
  • Antinous says they shouldn't pay attention to Tel.
  • Meanwhile, cows are being sacrificed and Athene wants Ody. to be offended even more. She tells a suitor to throw a cow hoof at Ody. It misses. Another suitor says no one should touch the beggar but says that it is obvious Ody. won't return and that Pen. should get remarried.
  • Tel. replies that while he won't stop his mother's marriage, he won't force it on her either. 
  • Athene makes the suitors laugh uncontrollably.
  • Theoclymenus warns them that he has foreseen the suitors dripping with bloodEurymachus says that the he is wrong and should be sent outside. Theoclymenus warns that he sees damnation for all of them and he leaves.
  • The suitors try to provoke Tel. but he ignores them. Meanwhile Pen. watches in silence.
30 of 34

Book 21

  • Athene looks at Pen. and feels sorry for her. Pen. brings out the bow and gets her maids to bring out the 12 axeheads.
  • She enters the hall filled with suitors and states their challenge. 
  • She has Eumaius carry the equipment into the courtyard. 
  • Antinous tells Philoetius to stop crying. He knows that the task is difficult, but he makes it sound even harder to intimidate the other suitors.
  • Tel. laughs then covers it up by saying Zeus made him a half-wit. He says he would like to try to string the bow himself. He tries three times and almost does it on the fourth, but he stops with a look from Ody. The crowd laugh at Tel. in his youth.
  • Antinous tells them to go one man at a time, he think that if he goes last the bow will be the most supple.
  • The first suitor fails and says that no one will be able to do it. Antinous tells him he is just a weakling. Melanthius tells him to warm and grease the bow. All the suitors fail.
  • Eumaius and Philoetius leave together and Ody. follows.
  • He asks if they would stand by Ody. and they both say yes. He reveals himself and promises marriages and gifts to them both, they rejoice and cry with happiness.
  • Ody. tells them to stop and drift back inside separately. He tell Eumaius that when he is inside he should give the bow a try.
31 of 34

Book 21 (cont.)

  • Philoetius locks all the doors and tells the women to shut themself away.
  • Eurymachus picks up the bow but cannot string it. He is humiliated and curses.
  • Antinous says that as it is a holiday they should feast - delaying the contest for a day.
  • Just then Ody. speaks out and asks if he can try. Antinous replies in a violent manner calling Odysseus mad.
  • Pen. tells Antinous he is being rude and that the beggar should be allowed to try. 
  • Eurymachus responds that they would be shamed if he could do it and Pen. says why should he care if he is shamed, he has a bad reputation anyway.
  • Tel. suddenly stands up to his mother. He says, "no man here has more authority than I do" - his speech shocks Pen. who goes to her chamber when he tells her to.
  • The swineherd gives the bow to Ody. and the suitors all taunt him.
  • Ody. tells Eumaius to make sure the women are locked away.
  • He takes time to examine the weapon and the suitors laugh at his seriousness.
  • He strings the bow in one motion "as a musician would an instrument." 
  • Zeus lets out a clap of thunder. Ody. shoots through the axes.
  • He and Tel. ready themselves for battle.
32 of 34

Book 22

  • Ody. jumps out of his rags and begins shooting arrows at all the suitors. He kills Antinous.
  • The suitors look for arms but cannot find the weapons, Ody. hid them earlier. 
  • They yell and Ody. tells them that it is over. They are dumbfounded.
  • Only Eurymachus speaks and tells Ody. that everything bad that happened was the fault of Antinous - so now he has got his revenge. But they will have to fight their way out!
  •  Eurymachus tries to rally the suitors to go after Ody. but he is shot in the liver.
  • Amphinous rushes to Ody. but Tel. hits him in the back. Tel. goes to get more weapons.
  • Tel. returns with shields and armour and arms the two men while Ody. picks off suitors.
  • The suitors see a window and try to get through it, Melanthius says that it is too narrow but he will scale the wall and bring back weapons.
  • When Ody. sees armed men he knows there has been treachery. Tel. tells him he forgot to lock the store room and they see Melanthius returning with more weapons.
  • Ody. sends Eumaius and Philoetius to stop Melanthius. They tie him to the ceiling beam of the storeroom and lock him inside.
  • Athene enters in the form of Mentor but Ody. guesses that it is her.
  • One of the suitors, Agelaus, cries out to Mentor telling him that Ody. is in the wrong and he should fight with the suitors.
33 of 34

Book 22 (cont.)

  • Agelaus rallies the suitors and they throw spears at Ody. at the same time.
  • The spears miss and Ody. and his companions fling their spears killing 4 more suitors.
  • They pick up their spears and kill again. Ody. kills Agelaus and Tel. another.
  • Athene begins to make the suitors scatter. Leodes, a prophet, clings to Ody.'s knees and begs for forgiveness. Ody. replies that if he was the diviner of the crowd he would have foreseen this revenge. He chops off his head.
  • Then Phemius also begs by clinging to Ody.'s knees, as he was forced to serve the suitors. Tel. calls across and tells his father to spare the minstrel and herald. They both leave.
  • Ody.'s Tel. to get the nurse Eurycleia. The nurse sees Ody. covered in blood and gore and starts crying. Ody. asks her who of the women are innocent.
  • 12 of the 50 maids are corrupt. She tells him to go to Penelope, but he says it is not yet time.
  • He tells Tel. to have the servants clean up the dead bodies.
  • When it is clean he kills the treacherous maids, calling them sluts, and he hangs them one by one in the courtyard.
  • Then Melanthius is brought out. His nose and ears are ripped off and they tear his genitals off for the dogs.
  • Ody. wants the house cleansed of the bloodshed, he says he will only change once the palace has been cleansed with brimstone smoke.
34 of 34



Thanks :)


this was really helpful as the book can be quite confussing :)

really great summaries, perfect for last minute revision ;)

Similar Classical Civilization resources:

See all Classical Civilization resources »See all resources »