The Journey Of Odysseus And Telemachos
In "The Odyssey" written by Homer and translated by Richard
Lattimore, several themes are made evident. They are
conceived by the nature of the time period, and customs of
the Greek people and molded and shaped the actual flow of
events and outcomes of the poem. Beliefs of this
characteristic were represented by the sheer reverence
towards the gods and the humanities the Greek society
exhibited, and are both deeply rooted within the story.
In the intricate and well-developed plot of "The Odyssey",
Homer harmonized several subjects. One of these, was the
quest of Telemachos, (titled "Telemachy") in correlation
with the journey of his father. In this, he is developed
from a childish, passive, and untested boy, to a young man
preparing to stand by his father's side. This is directly
connected to the voyage of Odysseus, in that they both lead
to the same finale, and are both stepping stones towards
wisdom, manhood, and scholarship. Through these voyages
certain parallels are drawn concerning Odysseus and
Telemachos: the physical journeys, the mental preparations
they have produced, and what their emotional status has
resulted in. These all partake an immense role in the way
the story is set up, stemming from the purpose of each
character's journey, their personal challenges, and the
difficulties that surround them.
The story commences when Odysseus, a valiant hero of the
Trojan war, journeys back home. Together with his
courageous comrades, and several vessels, he set sail for
his homeland Ithaca. Fated to wander for a full ten years,
Odysseus's ships were immediately blown to Thrace by a
powerful storm. The expedition had begun.
Upon this misfortune, he and his men started a raid on the
land of the Cicones. However, this only provided them with
temporary success. The Cicones had struck back and defeated
a vast majority of Odysseus's crew. This was their first of
many disastrous experiences to come.
Storms then blew his ships to Libya and the land of the
Lotus-eaters, where the crew was given Lotus fruit from
which most lost their entire memories from home. Odysseus,
and the others who had not tasted it, recovered the sailors
by force, and set sail again, westward, this time to the
island of the Cyclops, a wild race of one-eyed giants.
Leaving most of his men in a sheltered cove, Odysseus then
entered the island with one crew only. They wandered
around, encountering, and foolishly entering an immense
cave, awaiting the owner. Moments later, a Cyclops named
Polyphemos, son of Poseidon, entered and pushed a huge
bolder covering the entrance to the cave. Upon this, he
immediately ate two sailors, and promised to eat the others
in due time. The morning came, and Polyphemos had promptly
eaten two more seamen, against the will of Zeus. Odysseus,
soon realized that killing him asleep would do no good
since the mouth of the cave was still inescapable. The
captain had then devised a new plan. When Polyphemos
returned that evening, Odysseus showered the monster with
wine until he had fallen under a drunken spell. Then, with
the help of his companions took a sharp pole and rammed it
into his large eye, blinding him instantaneously. As the
crew sailed away into the vast dimensions of the sea,
Odysseus had unwisely revealed his name in taunting the
poor beast, boasting his excessive pride. Polyphemos then
made a prayer to his father, asking to punish the man who
had caused him this harm.
Several days later Odysseus and his men arrived at the
island of Aeolus, keeper of the winds. There, they stayed
for about one month, and departed, in sight of the
long-awaited Ithaca. However, before they left, Odysseus
was presented with a container of winds, carrying each but
the needed West wind. As Ithaca approached, the crew not
knowing the contents of the "skin", opened it up and
released all of the winds, depositing the ships back at the
island of Aeolus, who refused to help them any further.
Setting sail once again, the group headed back west, where
they had come across the Island of the Laesrtygonians, a
savage race of cannibals. Everyone, but Odysseus, lined
their ships at the harbor, covered with rocks. The entire
party was attacked and eaten by the Laestrygonians, who had
bombarded them with giant boulders. Having but one vessel
left, Odysseus sailed his ship to the Island of Dawn,
inhabited by the sorceress Circe.
A group of men were sent to explore the island, who were
then lured, feasted, and the turned to swine by Circe.
Knowing this Odysseus went after her, and on his way
encountered Hermes who gave him a potion to withstand the
spell. Circe tried, and then she failed. Odysseus had then
requested for his crew to be turned back to normal. She
complied, and eventually housed Odysseus and his shipmates
long enough for him to father three children. Homesick and
distraught, Odysseus was then advised by Circe to search
the underworld for Teiresias, to tell him his fortune, and
how to appease Poseidon.
Odysseus agreed and made a trip to the underworld, where he
discovered many of his dead companions from Troy, and most
importantly, Teiresias. With his new knowledge, he returned
to Circe, which had provided him with just the information
he needed to pass the Sirens. They then departed from the
island and continued on there journey, ears filled with wax.
What Odysseus was about to encounter next would be a very
difficult task. He needed to direct his ship through a
straight, between two cliffs, on one side the whirlpool
Charybdis, on the other, a monster Scylla. Trying hard to
avoid Charybdis Odysseus came too close to Scylla, and six
members of his ship suffered the consequences. As the
journey continued the Island of Helios stood in path.
Helios was the sun-god, and nurturer of the cattle of the
gods. Knowing this, but at the same time extraordinarily
hungry, Odysseus waited for his sea-mates to fall asleep
and slaughtered several of the cattle. This was much
considered a lack of respect not only to Helios, but to the
rest of the gods as well.
Zeus, angered by his gesture, struck his ship with thunder,
destroying the entire thing and killing the rest of the
crew except for Odysseus, which floated off to the Island
of Ogygia, where he would there spend the next seven years,
made a lover, by the sea nymph Calypso. Upon Poseidon's
departure to Ethiopia, Zeus had then ordered that Calypso
release Odysseus, who gave him an ax. With this, he
constructed a float, and continued his expedition. Back
from his trip, Poseidon, saw Odysseus floating in the ocean
and felt compelled to drown him, which he almost did, if it
was not for the goddess Ino, who had spared him a magic
veil. He tied this to his waist, and swam to a beach where
he immediately fell asleep.
The next morning he was awoken by maidens playing ball
after doing the wash. There he saw Nausikaa, daughter of
king Alkinoos. Odysseus gently supplicated to the princess.
She first took him to the inhabitants of the island, the
Phaiakians, and then Alkinoos, the king. There he listened
to Odysseus's stories, and presented him with lavish gifts
and a furnished ship back to Ithaca. Resenting this fact,
Poseidon turned the new crew into stone for their
This is the time, nearly twenty years after his father's
departure, Athene wisely advises the worried, and still
immature Telemachos to go in search of his father.
Telemachos agrees with her orders, and before his departure
he makes it clear to the suitors (robbing his home and
proposing marriage to his mother Penelope) that he wants
them all out of his house.
He then requested a ship and twenty men, and sailed off to
the Island of Pylos. There he was immediately greeted by
Nestor, in the middle of offering 81 bulls to Poseidon.
Peisistratos, son of Nestor, then offered some intestines
to Telemachos and Athene as far as sacrificing it in hopes
of a safe journey. This was ironic since in reality, Athene
was controlling his journey, and on the other hand, moments
ago, Poseidon, was in fact destroying the journey of his
father. Nestor, once seeing that his guests were finished
feasting, asked of their identities. Once he was
recognized, Telemachos asked Nestor about his father.
Nestor rambled on and said nothing of real importance to
Telemachos. At this point Telemachos became pessimistic,
and Athene reassured him with an analogy of Agamemnon's
short journey, and it's consequences. Still emotionally
unstable, Telemachos used this opportunity to speak of
Menaleus, Agamemnon's brother.
Nestor agreed that Menaleus may be more knowledgeable that
he, and kindly provided him with a chariot, so that he
could travel to Sparta to speak with him, accompanied by
Peisistratos. He arrived at Sparta two days later, sleeping
in the house of Diocles the first night, and arriving by
nightfall the second day. He reached the island just in the
middle of a double marriage ceremony of Menaleus's daughter
At this point, Homer cleverly compared Menaleus to Odysseus
in the reader's mind by suggesting the similarities between
the both in background, and "undoubtedly" survival. He also
used this scene to emphasize Telemachos's emotional
instability as he burst out crying at the mention of his
father's name. The night ended and Telemachos was finally
noticed to be Odysseus's son by Helen, Menaleus's wife.
Once this took place, he conclusively mentioned his purpose
in visiting: To find information about his father. Menaleus
answered Telemachos by speaking of his journey from Troy,
and reassuring Telemachos of his father's wit and
cleverness, and almost certain survival.
After the men finished talking, Menaleus showered him with
compliments and gifts (one refused, one accepted), and then
Telemachos left, feeling good about himself once again.
After this event, the scene changes back to Ithaca where
the suitors were planning their ambush on the young prince.
Telemachos went back home, only to find out that his father
had already arrived before him. This sets Odysseus
(disguised as a beggar) and Telemachos up for the big scene
against the suitors, where father and son, side by side,
rid Ithaca of its cancerous cells, and reunite the "royal"
family. Odysseus then appeased and sacrificed to the god
Poseidon in the name of his misbehavior.
As Homer makes it apparent, there are other underlying
themes embedded in the story that would just confuse the
reader if they were not there. An example of this is the
emotional aspects of both characters. If one does not
understand this key element, there is no way that the
sequence of events would cohere. "Why didn't Telemachos
look for his father earlier? Why did Penelope wait twenty
years to consider remarrying? How did this affect Odysseus
in his journey?". These are questions that would go
unanswered unless the reader reaches within the emotions of
In the case of Telemachos, his emotions shaped his well
being. For example, had it not been for Athene giving him
confidence, by no means would he ever have thought of
taking such a voyage, hence, Telemachos would have never
participated in his "final test" against the suitors
either. His sorrow and anger from the loss of his father
and his mother constantly being attacked and proposed to by
piranha-like suitors were also driving forces towards his
journey. Some of these are brought out in different
situations, both positive and negative, such as Menaleus's
mention of his father, which caused a sudden out-burst of
tears, and the proud and accomplished feeling he received
from leaving Sparta..
Odysseus's situation was only slightly different. He, like
Telemachos had his worries about family-life, and his
kingdom at stake, but also had concerns about his wife,
possibly triggered by the mention of Agamemnon's by
Proteus, who was killed by the hands of his own wife. These
factors probably had taken their toll on Odysseus. At the
same time he had the wrath of Poseidon to contend with.
Another factor which could have also lead to this distress
could have been his visit to the underworld, and in his
entire journey, losing friends and comrades regularly.
The last object of these journeys and possibly the most
important to the reader, is comprehending how these travels
actually led to the final test: The battle against the
suitors. This is considered the poem's mental perspective.
Odysseus had many things to overcome before he would be
ready to take on this responsibility. His journey prepared
him for that. For one, if he had not have perfected his
tolerance abroad and finely tuned his hubris problems there
would have been no possible way for him to undertake a role
such as the beggar, where he must be constantly enduring
both verbal and physical attacks. There is also no way that
Odysseus could have sacrificed and begged forgiveness to
the sea-god Poseidon if he had not learned his lesson about
respect from Polyphemos and Zeus (eating Helios's cattle).
These factors play an immense role in the outcome of the
poem. If it had not been for these events, the story could
never have taken place.
The same circumstances applied for Telemachos as well. His
goal was to reach a level of adulthood and to stand by his
father's side, to mature into a man, and most importantly
to gain respect, and to withhold and protect family kleos.
This happened when at first Athene inspired him to go in
search of his father. At that stage he was an inactive, and
boyish young prince. When the challenges rose, however
(assisted by Athene), Telemachos rose to meet those
challenges. His first items of business were to set the
suitors straight at home. Although he was not completely
effective, he surprised them a great deal with his
authority, and even his own mother in later books. That
proved that Telemachos was gaining a new awareness, not
only about his father, but about the kingdom, his mother,
and the role he needed to partake. By the end of his long
emotional journey, Telemachos realized what it took to be a
man, which could not have been possible without his
escapades to Pylos and Sparta.
In "The Odyssey", Homer created a parallel for readers,
between Odysseus and Telemachos, father and son. Telemachos
was supposedly learning the role of his father, the king of
Ithaca, to follow in the footsteps. The two are compared in
the poem from every aspect. However, in analyzing "The
Odyssey", one may also presume that Homer had not intended
for Telemachos to be as great a hero as his father. This
may be due to the fact that, for example, he never had a
Trojan War to fight, his setting is in a time of peace
unlike his father's, and more notably- although matured,
Telemachus never really learned true leadership or chivalry
as did his father. Homer has presented the world with
poetry so unique and classic, so outstanding and awesome,
that generations to come will challenge themselves
interpreting them until the end of time.
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