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Invitation to World Literature



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A rocky Greek island, much like Odysseus' beloved Ithaca. Odysseus traveled from island to island during his voyage, which mirrors real sailors' experiences at that time. They sailed from island to island trading and exploring.
Image ©Yuriy Chertok, 2010. Used under license from Shutterstock.com
A statue of Poseidon, Greek god of the sea and brother of Zeus. Odysseus blinds Poseidon's son, Polyphemos, a Cyclops, and, in revenge, Poseidon sentences Odysseus to wander, sending many storms to trouble him on his return voyage.
Image ©Clara, 2010. Used under license from Shutterstock.com
David Damrosch talks about this image
Athena, the great Greek goddess of justice and warfare. She was Odysseus' patron goddess, guiding him through many dangers and appealing to Zeus to suspend the punishment of Poseidon.
© 2010 JupiterImages Corporation
David Damrosch talks about this image
A Greek vase from the fifth century BCE that shows Odysseus tied to the mast of his ship as he sails past the Sirens, whose song lured many sailors to their deaths. Odysseus was a popular subject for art in ancient Greece, and his story was told on many vases.
© 2010 JupiterImages Corporation
The blinding of Polyphemos, a Cyclops. This grotesque creature, whose one great eye sat in the middle of his forehead, was a son of Poseidon, which may have given him the freedom to kill strangers who landed on his island. This European etching, made over a thousand years after the story was first told, shows the enduring popularity of The Odyssey.
© 2010 JupiterImages Corporation
Penelope at her loom. As she waited for her husband, Odysseus, to return from Troy, Penelope fended off the young men demanding her hand (and her property and money) in marriage by saying she could not think of remarrying until she had woven a shroud for her father-in-law. Each day she wove, and each night she unraveled her weaving, keeping the suitors at bay for years.
© 2010 JupiterImages Corporation
The goddess Circe, with the sailors on Odysseus' ship whom she has turned into pigs. Readers have long argued over whether she was justified in doing so. The men did abuse her hospitality by overeating, but did Circe really turn them into pigs as just deserts, or did she do it to keep Odysseus from leaving her?
© 2010 JupiterImages Corporation
After testing him to make sure he was really her husband and not someone in disguise, Penelope rushes to Odysseus to hold him close. After twenty years of separation and danger, the two are at last reunited, and they eagerly resume their life together.
Before Odysseus can settle down in his kingdom of Ithaca once more, he must get rid of the hundreds of suitors who have been abusing his hospitality, threatening his wife and son, and challenging his authority. He, with help from Athena, Telemachus, and Laertes, kills them, in the climax of the epic's final chapter. Here he strings the bow that only he is strong enough to bend and shoot, a test that Penelope has set up as a game.