The Odyssey

The Opening Words of The Odyssey

The Odyssey, an ancient Greek epic poem written by Homer, is based on the life of a great Trojan War hero named Odysseus. This classic tells the story of a man and his courageous, cunning escape from numerous adversaries, and how he managed to survive using his knowledge, wisdom, perseverance and fierce determination to return to his homeland of Ithaca, his wife Penelope, and his son Telemachus. He encounters various cities, people, creatures, monsters, gods, supernatural forces, and seemingly impossible challenges, all which play a specific role in his prolonged journey. The excitement and elevated drama of The Odyssey make this story one of the most beloved of all time. However, one of the most amazing aspects of this work is the way in which the story is delivered. Homeric epics are full of epithets, descriptive language, familiar mythological references, personifications of the natural world, and much more. The entire story is laid out in beautiful language, each word full of meaning. In fact, the very first passage from Homer’s great epic poem The Odyssey is essentially the entire story summarized and condensed into one stanza, which Homer achieves through his command of language and symbolism.
Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns
driven time and again off course, once he had plundered
the hallowed heights of Troy.
Many cities of men he saw and learned their minds,
many pains he suffered, heartsick on the open sea,
fighting to save his life and bring his comrades home.
But he could not save them from disaster, hard as he strove—
the recklessness of their own ways destroyed them all,
the blind fools, they devoured the cattle of the Sun
and the Sungod blotted out the day of their return.
Launch out on his story, Muse, daughter of Zeus,
start from where you will—sing for our time too.”

--Homer, The Odyssey (Book 1, lines 1-12)

Almost immediately, we are introduced to Odysseus, the main...