The Odyssey Book 7: Summary & Quotes

Instructor: Erica Schimmel

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

In this lesson, we will look at Book 7 of Homer's epic, ~'The Odyssey.~' Odysseus seeks help in returning home from the king and queen of the Phaeacian people, Alcinous and Arete.

Entering The City

Odysseus was praying to Athena while waiting in a grove near the city of the Phaeacians at the opening of Book 7 in Homer's The Odyssey. The grove belongs to the king Alcinous, father to Nausicaa. This beautiful princess helped Odysseus by giving him clothing and food after a terrible storm left him stranded on the coast. Now, he must approach her parents and ask for aid in his journey to return home. Rather than enter the city together, Nausicaa tells Odysseus to wait in the grove until she and her maids make it home.

Once enough time has passed, Odysseus leaves the grove and heads towards the city. As he walks, ''Athena poured a sea fog around him,'' ensuring nobody will delay him. Disguised as ''a small girl child, hugging a water jug,'' Athena advises Odysseus not to stare or ask questions of the townspeople since ''they do not care for strangers in this neighborhood; a foreign man will get no welcome here.''

When they arrive, Athena tells Odysseus he should seek the dearly loved queen, Arete, for ''no grace or wisdom fails in her.'' Winning her over will greatly increase the ''chances are that you shall see your friends under your own roof, in your father's country.''

Odysseus Meets Alcinous and Arete

Odysseus is awed by Alcinous's beautiful and rich home when he enters. Not only is the house filled with beautiful treasures, but it is also surrounded by orchards with trees that are full of fruit year-round. Odysseus gazes at the richness surrounding him, the ''gifts of heaven to Alcinous'' before going in to where the king, queen, and guests are feasting.

Odysseus is ''still in the cloud Athena cloaked him in'' as he makes his way towards Arete. Only when he throws his arms around her knees does the fog evaporate. Kneeling before Arete, Odysseus asks the gods to bless them, and begs them to help him return home.

Alcinous gives Odysseus a seat next to his throne. He orders food, and when Odysseus finishes eating, they all give a toast to Zeus. After the toast, Alcinous tells the guests they may leave. In the morning, however, they will sacrifice to the gods and ''put our minds upon the means at hand to take him safely, comfortably, well and happily, with speed, to his own country.''

Alcinous wonders whether Odysseus is actually a god - if so, the gods have changed their practices, since ''until now, they have shown themselves in glory.'' Quickly, Odysseus assures him that he is merely a man ''like those men who suffer the worst trials that you know.'' And, as a man, he suffers a great deal now from hunger, and wishes to eat and thus not think of his troubles.

All those listening agree ''he must have passage.'' The guests finish their wine and return home, leaving Odysseus with Alcinous and Arete.

A Fuller Version of His Story

After everyone has left, Arete suspiciously asks Odysseus to tell them more, because she has recognized the clothing he wears ''to be her own fine work, done with her maids.'' Odysseus responds by telling her more about his troubles.

He tells her about being held captive by Calypso for seven years after ''all my shipmates, friends were drowned, while I hung on the keelboard of the wreck and drifted nine full days.'' Despite her love, and promises that she would make him immortal, though, he never stopped wanting to go home to his wife, Penelope.

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