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The Odyssey

“Let them all die so, all who do such things. But my heart breaks for Odysseus, that seasoned veteran cursed by fate so long, far from his loved ones still, he suffers torments.”

The Odyssey is an epic written by Homer of Ancient Greece, which tells the tale of Odysseus, a warrior who was stranded, unable to get home after the ten year long Trojan War. The epic showcases the cunning and witty mind of Odysseus, while also painting him as a human with faults. As we read through, we get a deeper look on the struggles of Odysseus, his wife Penelope fighting off suitors and his son Telemachus desperately trying to get his dad back home.

The epic is divided into 24 “books”, with all of them being divided into different categories. The first 4 books, also called the Telemachy, focus on his son, and are told in his perspective. During the start of the books, Odysseus’s protectress, who is none other than the goddess of wisdom, Athena, urges Telemachus to find his father, disguised. She also accompanies Telemachus throughout his journey. Meanwhile, Odysseus has to deal with the problems the gods are sending his way. He is held captive for seven years on an island, offered immortality and life with a goddess, which he refuses in favour of his home. He slays monsters, and faces an infamous cyclope, Polyphemus, from under whose claws he escapes with his cunning strategy. He refers to himself as “nobody”, and after finding an opportunity to do so, he blinds Polyphemus with a stake. The cyclope’s neighbours rush to his aid, however they leave once the giant claims he was attacked by “nobody”. During his perils, almost all his fleet is destroyed, yet Odysseus manages to stumble upon a group of people willing to return him to his home, to Ithaca, where he will be the king. After another ten years on top of the Trojan War, Odysseus finally returns home. Disguised, he slays Penelope’s suitors, finally reuiniting with his family.

The Odyssey conveys an important message of family, from how Penelope constantly evades and tricks her suitors to how Odysseus refuses immortality for his home and his family, while also giving us an intriguing story of somebody never yielding and becoming who they need to be in the end.

In pop culture, fragments of the influential Odyssey can be found everywhere. In modern English, the word “Odyssey” has come to mean a long, perilous journey. There are many direct and some more vague parallels in media. A more direct parallel would be Ulysses by James Joyce, which not only shares many similarities with the Odyssey, but also is the Latin word for Odysseus. There are also many shows and movies that have come out and are yet to come out based directly on Odysseus.

All in all, it’s safe to say Homer’s Odyssey has influenced literature, arts and even modern media in a permanent way. The marks left by Odysseus will likely forever be a part of our world.

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