One hell of a sailor

Odysseus, a legendary hero and an ingenious man...

After his catalytic contribution to the Trojan War, with his inspiration of the Trojan Horse, a wooden structure which the Greeks used to infiltrate Troy, and a sample of our hero's strategic intelligence, the Trojan War comes to an end.

Odysseus begins his journey back to his homeland along with his comrades.

Tragically, after many adventures and losses, he is the only one who manages to return back to his homeland, Ithaca.

During his long voyage, Odysseus' bravery and intelligence is proven many times over.
But... was it bad luck that Odysseus' unfortunate wandering lasted ten whole years, or was there a reason for this?

ancient Greek ship

But... was Odysseus so unlucky after all, or there was a reason for this unfortunate wandering that lasted ten whole years?

THE ARDUOUS JOURNEY HOME

After the end of the Trojan war, Odysseus, like everyone else, began his long journey home, to the island of Ithaca. And yet, everyone managed to return to their loved ones except Odysseus who wandered for ten whole years through seas and countries far away from home, enduring many hardships until finally reaching Ithaca.

Starting from Troy, Odysseus had 12 ships at his disposal in which his comrades fought, and fell. This was of course no accident, seeing as the Gods of Olympus were very angry for the burning of their temples in Troy by the Greeks.

So, they sent their way strong and wild winds so as to punish them for their hubris by making their journey back home impossible.

Odysseys' trip

The Cicones

When Odysseus’s ships were sailing in the Aegean, the gods sent wild winds to push them north into the land of the Cicones.

There, Odysseus and his men attack and fight some of the native Cicones, snatching animals and wine, and sitting by the beach to eat and drink. But when Odysseus tells his men that it is time to leave, they refuse, as the food is too good and the wine too sweet.

Shortly, all the Cicones gather and attack them together, killing many while the others quickly boarded the ships and left in a wild storm. Evidently, the lack of prudence and sobriety had cost many good men their very lives…

The lotus eaters

During their journey the strong winds blowing north pushed the ships away, in Africa. And so, Odysseus and his men arrived in the land of the Lotus Eaters.

Once ashore Odysseus sent three of his warriors to see what kind of people lived in this country. There, his men met the Lotus Eaters who offered them persimmons to eat, later revealed to be enchanted fruit!

Because of this enchantment, the men soon forgot their homeland and refused to leave the country of the Lotus Eaters.

Odysseus went to find them and took them back by force, immediately ordering the ships to sail.

According to Homer, it would seem to be quite a tragedy for someone to forget the place from which they came as well as their destination…

Polyphemus the Cyclops

Odysseus was known for being quick-witted even in the face of adversity.

After traveling for many days, the wind pushed their ships to the island of the Cyclops (Sicily).

After disembarking they went out and discovered a mighty cave close to the beach. Inside, they found milk, cheese, lambs and goats to eat.

But then Cyclops Polyphemus, son of Poseidon, who had only one eye, returned to his cave and discovered Odysseus and his men.

He shut the door of the cave with a huge rock and ate some of the men, saving the rest for later.
The next day Odysseus offered Polyphemus  sweet wine (the famous red wine, "Mavroudi" that is cultivated in several parts of Greece such as in Kea island).

Nobody, is my name, he replied, and Polyphemus answered "You, Nobody, I will eat you last".

Then the Cyclop continued to drink until finally he fell asleep.

Odysseus then grabbed a branch and nailed it into the eye of Polyphemus. The Cyclop jumped up screaming and shouting for help.

The other Cyclops ran to his cave, "What happened, Polyphemus?", they asked.
"Nobody blinded me!" answered Polyphemus.

"As nobody has blinded you, why are you shouting?" they wondered, and quickly left, making no sense of the Cyclop's words.

The next morning, blind Polyphemus opened the door of the cave and stood at the exit with his arms outstretched waiting to catch Odysseus and his men.
But Odysseus, ingenious as he was, had tied his men under the bellies of the largest rams and he himself hung from the hair of the largest animal.

The Cyclop was stroking the rams' backs as they came out of the cave, and did not realize that there were people underneath.

When everyone was safely out of the cave, they ran to the ships and went away.

Island of Aeolus

Then they arrived to the island of Aeolus, the God of the winds. Aeolus welcomed them and hosted them for about a month.

When it was time for them to leave, the God Aeolus blessed Odysseus' journey with a favorable wind and handed him a sac where all the unfavorable ones were confined, so he could return immediately to Ithaca.

However, as they were approaching Ithaca, Odysseus' men opened the bag, causing a storm that destroyed 11 ships and swept away Odysseus to the island of Laestrygones.

Modern-day Greeks use the expression "opening the sac of Aeolus" to describe adverse situations with uncontrollable consequences (similar to the expression "opening a can of worms").

Fleeing the Laestrygonians

In the island of Laestrygonians Odysseus and his men were unwelcome.

As our hero and his comrades were approaching the harbor, the Laestrygonians, these wild and tall giants ran up against them, screaming and throwing boulders on the ships.

The rocks broke and sank the ships and the wild Laestrygonians ate all the men who were close.
Only Odysseus' ship survived. He and his men quickly left the land of the wild Laestrygones.

The Sorceress Circe

The Greek hero and his men were driven to the island of Circe by the wind.

Odysseus then asked some of his men to go and ask where they were.
The men soon found Circe’s luxurious palace. Upon their arrival, the immortal sorceress offered them to feast and drink, unbeknownst to them that her goods would magically turn them into pigs, punishing them for their greedy appetite.

Only one of them managed to escape and went back to inform Odysseus. Without hesitation, he grabbed his sword and entered Circe's palace, being immune to her magic with the help of god Hermes.

Amazed, Circe quickly became fond of Odysseus who eventually forced her to turn his comrades back to humans again.

They stayed in the island of Circe for a long time. When they decided to leave, Circe advised Odysseus to go to underworld and meet prophet Tiresias who would tell him how to get to Ithaca safely.

The Journey to the Underworld

Odysseus and his men arrived to underworld, a place no one ever dared trespass.

After a while the prophet Tiresias came to meet Odysseus and he asked the prophet what he has to do in order to get back home.

Tiresius said to him: "Poseidon hates you, because you blinded Cyclops Polyphemus, his son.

However, take care not to disturb the oxen of the Sun god, when you go to his island, and you will arrive at Ithaca one day".

The island of Sirens

Leaving underworld, Odysseus and his men were drawn to the island of Sirens.

Τhese zoomorphic creatures would enchant sailors with their sweet song and when they approach, they would eat them.

Fortunately, Circe had advised Odysseus to wax his men's ears so as to drown out the sirens' songs, and the men managed to escape the Sirens' call.

Scylla and Charybdis

They then approached the Strait of Scylla and Charybdis, the mythological sea monsters who made sailing through the strait almost impossible.

From one side of the narrow waterway, Charybdis would create whirlpools that would sink the ships, while on the other side, Skylla, curled up in her cave, would stretch out her six terrible heads, and eat the sailors.

"Caught between Scylla and Charybdis" as the proverb goes, Odysseus decided to pass by Charybdis, sacrificing some of his men instead of risking sinking his ship, this way choosing the lesser of two evils.

The cattle of Helios

After many nights at sea, Odysseus and his remaining comrades arrived to the island of the Sun god.

Remembering prophet Tiresias' advice to stay clear of the oxen of the Sun god, Odysseus begged his men to leave the island. But they were very tired and did not accept.

When they ran out of food, they fasted for a few days. One day, however, when Odysseus was asleep, they slaughtered some oxen and roasted them. When Odysseus woke up it was too late.

Leaving the island of the Sun, Zeus (the father of all gods) sent them a wild storm. An asteroid hit the ship and shattered it. Everyone drowned. Only Odysseus escaped.

Holding onto a board, he spent ten whole nights in the sea until finally being taken to the island of nymph Calypso.

Calypso

The immortal nymph Calypso took worn-out Odysseus to her cave and took care of him but would not let him go --keeping him prisoner for seven whole years, and dreaming to make him her immortal husband.

Finally, goddess Athena felt sorry for him and begged her father, Zeus, to help him.

Zeus sent Hermes (the messenger god) to Calypso and ordered her to let Odysseus go.

Our hero was once again on his way back home.

Back in Ithaca

After ten years of hardship, Odysseus finally arrives to Ithaca.

Once there, the goddess Athena approached him and informed him that his palace was filled with many suitors who wished to marry his wife, Penelope. Only she was waiting patiently for him to return.

Odysseus then entered his palace, seeing all the suitors eating and drinking.
Meanwhile, Athena put it in Penelope's mind to bring the bow of Odysseus, his arrows and twelve axes, which had a hole at the top.

Penelope ordered for the axes to be set in order, and made an announcement:

“Listen, Suitors! Whoever manages  to bend the string of this bow and throw an arrow, which will pass through the holes of the twelve axes, he will become my husband".

Eager, all the suitors, one after the other, began to try, but no one was able to stretch the string.
Odysseus then asked to be tested as well.

He grabbed the bow, bent the string and threw an arrow, which passed like lightning through the holes of all the axes.

The moment Penelope realizes the winner is in fact her long-lost husband is undoubtedly one of the best part of the Odyssey.

LESSONS FROM THE LIFE OF THE GREEK HERO

Odysseus, the King of Ithaca, is known for his unparalleled wit that helped end the long Trojan War, and his bravery that got him through all the trials he had to face.

Odysseus was the hero that many writers were inspired by. He was a model of perseverance, courage and intelligence.

Fairly, the Odyssey is considered the best work of fiction of all time.
Odysseus remained fearless throughout his journey as his love of returning home to his beloved wife and son kept him focused on his goal.
During the trip, the difficulties he faced were enormous. He made superhuman efforts and eventually succeeded.

All people are endowed with the virtue of perseverance, patience and bravery. It is enough for people to know themselves and to use their virtues wisely.

In the case of Odysseus, there were many moments when his knees bent from fear and despair. The courage to continue one's struggle is given to those who have the willpower. Although the collective effort is necessary to achieve what one seeks, their personal courage and unwavering will is what will help them achieve their goals.

Strength and patience are not talents, they are not the acquisition of knowledge. It is the dominance upon our inner world that motivates us to achieve our goals.

Persistence is often a stronger tool than talent and no one is born talentless.

Everyone has a special gift, but the fact that only a few people succeed in climbing the summit of success proves the importance of not giving up.

ancient Greek ship

The moral of the story is simple: Have faith and keep on going.