The Odyssey Book 1: Summary & Quotes

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  • 0:04 '~'Sing In Me, Muse'~'
  • 1:00 Discussing Odysseus' Fate
  • 1:45 Telemachus Speaks With Athena
  • 3:23 Telemachus Banishes…
  • 3:54 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Erica Schimmel

Erica has taught college English writing and literature courses and has a master's degree in children's literature.

The Trojan War is over, but Odysseus still has not made his way home. This lesson will summarize Book 1 of Homer's ancient epic poem 'The Odyssey' and take a look at some important quotes.

''Sing In Me, Muse''

Homer's epic poem The Odyssey begins in Book 1 with a request. The narrator opens by asking the Muse to ''Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story'' of Odysseus, our Greek hero. Odysseus and his men traveled far and wide during their journeys to and from battle in Troy. The Trojan War is now long over, and all the men have either returned, or died trying to reach, home. All the men, that is, except Odysseus.

As Homer, the narrator, asks the Muse to guide his words, we learn the story will begin years after the war has ended. Although Odysseus had managed to survive many dangers on his journey home, the gods were with him - all except Poseidon. In his anger, Poseidon kept Odysseus from reaching home. Odysseus has been detained by Calypso, a beautiful nymph who has fallen in love with him and held him captive on her island, Ogygia. Now, however, Poseidon is visiting another land while the gods of Olympus have a meeting.

Discussing Odysseus's Fate

While speaking with her father Zeus, the ''father of gods and men,'' Athena, the ''grey-eyed goddess,'' begins pleading Odysseus's case. All Odysseus wants is to return home to Ithaca, but Calypso will not let him leave her island. Zeus of course remembers Odysseus, claiming there ''is no mortal half so wise'' Poseidon has been holding a grudge against Odysseus for poking out the eye of a cyclops, but it is high time he got over his anger.

Excited by Zeus's agreement, Athena quickly proposes he send Hermes to tell Calypso to release Odysseus, while Athena herself travels to speak with Odysseus's son, Telemachus. Disguised as Mentes, an old family friend, Athena dashes down to Ithaca, where suitors have overrun Odysseus's home, eating his food and courting his wife, Penelope.

Telemachus Speaks with Athena

Telemachus is watching the suitors, daydreaming about what would happen if his father returned and ''drove these men like dead leaves through the place, recovering honor and lordship'' when he notices the disguised Athena at the door. Quickly, he jumps up to greet her, and invites her to join in on the feast. He seats them away from the suitors so they can better talk.

After the suitors have eaten their fill, Telemachus comments that it is easy for the men to carelessly make themselves at home in another man's house. Things would be different if his father returned, but ''he is lost; he came to grief and perished, and there's no help for us in someone's hoping he still may come.''

In answer to Telemachus's questions, the disguised Athena tells him she is the sailor Mentes, and she visited after hearing Odysseus had returned. Although she sees this rumor was not true, she reassures Telemachus that ''never in this world is Odysseus dead - only detained somewhere.''

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