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Lotus-Eaters in the Odyssey

Sasha Blakeley, Jennifer Carnevale
  • Author
    Sasha Blakeley

    Sasha Blakeley has a Bachelor's in English Literature from McGill University and a TEFL certification. She has been teaching English in Canada and Taiwan for seven years.

  • Instructor
    Jennifer Carnevale

    Jennifer taught 9th grade ELA and AP Literature for over 8 years. She has a dual master's in English Literature and Teaching Secondary Ed from Simmons University and a BS in Psychology. She is a full-time senior content writer and certified AP Test Reader.

Read a summary of the lotus eaters in the Odyssey. Learn about the land of the lotus eaters, their significance in Greek mythology, and the lotus plant. Updated: 05/08/2021

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Lotus Eaters: Overview

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 and Greek Mythology

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.

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Lotus Eaters Summary

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.

Who Are the Lotus Eaters?

The Lotus Eaters feature in Book XI of the epic poem

The Lotus Eaters are figures from Greek mythology

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.

Where Is the Land of the Lotus Eaters?

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.

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