Table of Contents
- Lotus Eaters: Overview
- Lotus Eaters Summary
- Significance of the Lotus-Eaters
- Lotos-Eaters of Alfred Tennyson
- Lesson Summary
Who are the Lotus Eaters in the Odyssey by Homer? The Lotus Eaters are important figures in Homer's epic poem. There are additional Lotus Eaters Greek mythology stories, including one that features the goddess Artemis. In the Odyssey specifically, the Lotus Eaters are mysterious people who live on a small island. They regularly consume lotus plants that cause them to live in a perpetual state of bliss. Their lifestyle causes them to lose all sense of urgency. Odysseus and his men spend some time on the island of the Lotus Eaters.
The Odyssey was probably composed around the 8th century BCE. It is attributed to the poet Homer, but details of its composition are not entirely clear. The Odyssey is set directly after the events of Homer's Iliad and it follows the character of Odysseus as he strives to return home from Troy. His journey is perilous and full of misadventures. Many important figures from Greek mythology appear in the Odyssey, including Cyclopes, Sirens, Scylla and Charybdis, and the Lotus Eaters.
While the Lotus Eaters have become quite famous in the years since the Odyssey was first written, they actually appear for only a very small portion of the story: around one page. In Book IX of the Odyssey, Odysseus begins telling the story of his experiences over the past ten years. He explains how he and his men visited a number of different islands on their quest to find a way home. One of those islands was the home of the Lotus Eaters. Odysseus' Lotus Eaters summary is brief and to the point.
Odysseus and his men alight on an island and have a meal there. He sends three men out to explore and orders them to report back with more information. They soon meet a group of people who appear human. These people are friendly and cause them no harm. They offer lotus plants to Odysseus' men, who gratefully eat them. Upon eating the plants, the men find that they are so delicious that they lose all interest in returning home and want only to remain with the Lotus Eaters forever. Odysseus goes out and finds his men, forcing them back onto their boats. He swiftly leaves the island before his entire journey can be brought to a halt. This is one of the ways that Odysseus shows that he is a good leader.
How do Odysseus and his men arrive on the island? They are actually lost in a storm for several days before finally finding calm seas and the island of the Lotus Eaters. They do not know precisely where they are. The next day, however, they sail to the island of the Cyclopes. So where is the Land of the Lotus Eaters? In the context of the story, the Land of the Lotus Eaters is located somewhere in the Mediterranean and is relatively close to Sicily, commonly accepted to be the island of the Cyclopes. However, other legends have identified the Land of the Lotus Eaters as Djerba in Tunisia. Sicily and Djerba are around 500km apart, which is much too far to sail in a single day. What islands Homer had in mind when he wrote the Odyssey, if he had any real islands in mind at all, cannot be known with certainty.
The Lotus Eaters are implied to subsist primarily or even entirely on lotus plants. These plants have a narcotic effect that makes the Lotus Eaters happy and complacent. There has been much debate over the years surrounding what plant the Lotus Eaters were actually consuming. A compelling argument can be made that the word ''lotos'' in Greek was actually referring to opium poppies. Whether or not the lotus plants referred to in the Odyssey were meant to be a real-life plant, they certainly have similar effects to a number of drugs. Within the story, the lotus plants symbolize addiction: the lotus plant represents too much of a good thing.
The Lotus Eaters are a very minor part of the Odyssey, but they have become important in the cultural imagination. In the context of the Odyssey, the Lotus Eaters are just one of many stumbling blocks that Odysseus encounters on his journey home: almost everyone he meets does something that prevents or delays his return to Ithaca. The phrase ''to eat lotus'' was used for many years to indicate forgetfulness in reference to the Lotus Eaters in the Odyssey and in Greek mythology more generally.
''The Lotos-eaters'' is a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, an English poet. The poem is a retelling of the story of the Lotus Eaters from the Odyssey. The first part of the poem describes the experience of Odysseus' men arriving on the island and consuming the lotus plant. Tennyson says that while they all feel love for their missing spouses and children and a longing for home, the journey home seems so odious that none of them is willing to undertake it. The second part of the poem is essentially a long song in praise of the lotus, ending with the decisive rejection by the sailors of any journey home: ''O, rest ye, brother mariners, we will not wander more.''
The Lotus Eaters are a group of people that Odysseus and his men meet in Homer's Odyssey. The encounter with the Lotus Eaters is as follows:
The lotus plant may have been based on several real plants, some of which have narcotic effects. The plants represent addiction, or too much of a good thing for Odysseus and his men. Despite the fact that the Lotus Eaters appear only in a very small part of the Odyssey, stories about the Lotus Eaters have continued to appear throughout the years, including in the famous poem ''The Lotos-eaters'' by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
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