The Odyssey takes place a decade after the citadel of Troy is sacked. It focuses on
the journey of Odysseus from Troy to his island of Ithaca. While away, his wife Penelope
is being courted by a crowd of unruly suitors who are literally eating the family “out of
house and home.” She wards them off by having them wait for her to finish weaving a
blanket for Odysseus’ father, but she unravels it every night. Telemachus, Odysseus’ only
son who he has not seen since he left for the war, is the only one left to guard the fort.
Young and inexperienced, he is really no challenge to the suitors.
The story actually begins with the Telemachia (story of Telemachus). Deeply
bothered by the disrespect of the crowd in his house, and commanded by Athena,
Telemachus sets off to find word about his father’s whereabouts and health. Penelope is
kept in the dark of the whole but the suitors learn of his journey and conspire to kill him
on his way back home so that they may marry his mother and take his household. With
Athena’s protection the entire time, Telemachus travels to the homes of Nestor and
Menelaus. The former does not have much information to offer, but the latter tells what
he has learned from the Old Man of the Sea about Odysseus and then lets Telemachus
Book five introduces Odysseus when Hermes is sent to release Odysseus from
Calypso’s island. Odysseus builds a raft and travels to the land of the Phaiakians. En
route, his ship is smashed by Poseidon, who is angry with him for hurting Polyphemos.
He arrives at the island and is taken in by Nausikaa, who is under the influence of
Athena. He enters the city and ends up at the knees of King Alkinoos. They feast and
play games in which Odysseus excels and are later sung to by a singer. The songs are
about Odysseus and the War and they cause him to weep. Eventually, he reveals his
identity and tells the story of his long journey from Troy to their island. In order, he tells
them of the Kikonians, lotus eaters, Cyclops, Aiolos, Laistrygones, Circe, Hades, Sirens
(after a return to Circe), Skylla and Charybdis, island of Helios, and then Kalypso. They
then offer him a high place in the city, and the hand of Nausikaa, but instead he asks for
safe passage back to Ithaca. They drop him off on the island with his gifts as he sleeps.
On their way back, Poseidon turns the Phaiakian ship to stone, for he is angered at the
safe return of Odysseus.
Athena shrouds Odysseus in cloud so that he will not be bothered while he sleeps.
She disguises herself as a young boy and eventually reveals to him the truth about where
he is and the situation in Ithaca. She disguises him as an old beggar and tells him to stay
with his swineherd for a while. There, Odysseus tests the swineherd’s loyalty and is
briefed of the situation in Ithaca. Telemachus arrives and when they are alone together,
Odysseus reveals himself to his son. The two begin plotting an attack on the suitors and