Odysseus: A Greek Epic Hero
Odysseus was a king of Ithaca who fought in the Trojan War
and wandered for ten years afterward. He was the son of
Laertes and Anticlia. He married Penelope, daughter of
Icarus. Their son Telemachus was born just before the
Trojan War began.
Odysseus was a strong and valiant warrior. He was the
cleverest and craftiest man in the Greek army. Late in the
war, he captured a Trojan seer, who told the Greeks what
they had to do to win . Odysseus made sure that these
things were done. He and Diomedes entered Troy in disguise,
and carried off the Palladium, an image of Pallas Athena.
As long as the Trojans had it, the city could not be taken.
He brought Achilles' son, Pyrrhus, to Troy to take his
father's place. He brought Philoctetes with the bow of
Hercules, to Troy. Without that bow, the Greeks could not
take Troy. Odysseus invented the wooden horse, which Epeus
built, and he was one of the men inside the gorse on the
night of Troy's fall.
When Odysseus and his Ithacan company started home in their
ships, a storm blew them off their course. Odysseus did not
get home for ten years, and lost all his men in the
meantime. Homer's Odyssey tells the story of his
adventures: how he escaped death from the Cyclops, the
giant Lastrygonians, Scylla, and the Sirens; how he
outwitted Circe; and how he traveled even to the land of
the dead beyond the Ocean Stream.
When Odysseus finally came home to Ithaca, he had to
disguise himself as a beggar, because his house was filled
with violent and dangerous men who wanted to marry his
wife, Penelope. He revealed his identity only to Telemachus
and to his faithful swineherd, Eumaeus. Penelope had held
off her suitors as long as she could, hoping always that
Ulysses would come back. At last she was forced to set a
contest among them. The man who could string Odysseus' bow
and shoot an arrow through twelve rings would marry her.
All failed, and then the disguised Odysseus took the bow,
strung it, and shot an arrow through every ring. Then he
suddenly turned the bow against the suitors, and killed
every one of them.. He was able to recover his wife and his
kingdom and lived to be an old man.
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