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Invitation to World Literature

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Glossary

audio-iconAchilles
The greatest of the Greek warriors at Troy, Achilles deliberately chose a short life and a hero’s death over a long life of average distinction. He meets Odysseus in the underworld, where his existence seems very grim. But Achilles is glad when Odysseus tells him that Achilles’ son has carried on as a hero in battle on earth, leading to his own likely early death.
audio-iconAgamemnon
The king of Mycenae and leader of the Greek army at Troy. Unlike Odysseus, Agamemnon was betrayed by his wife. She took a lover while Agamemnon was fighting at Troy, and together they killed Agamemnon when he returned home. His spirit meets with Odysseus in Hades.
audio-iconAntinous
The worst of the suitors and the first to die by Odysseus’s hand.
audio-iconAthena
Daughter of Zeus and goddess of wisdom and battle. Athena is Odysseus’ patroness, and she helps him and his son Telemachus through their trials, eventually bringing Odysseus home to Ithaca.
audio-iconCalypso
The nymph who falls in love with Odysseus when he lands on her island, and who keeps him prisoner there for seven years as her lover until Zeus sends the god Hermes to tell her to let Odysseus go. The Odyssey begins at this point in the story, and earlier events are told in flashbacks.
audio-iconCirce
A goddess who turns Odysseus’ crew into pigs, then keeps Odysseus on her island as her lover for a year.
audio-iconIthaca
The island kingdom of Odysseus.
audio-iconMenelaus
King of Sparta, Menelaus is Agamemnon’s brother. His wife Helen was spirited to Troy, thus causing the Trojan War when the Greeks go to get her back. Now back home, Menelaus helps Telemachus in his journey.
audio-iconNausicaa
The Phaeacian princess who finds Odysseus washed up on the shore of her home and convinces her father to allow Odysseus safe passage back to Ithaca in Phaeacian ships.
audio-iconOdysseus
Ruler of Ithaca, Greek veteran of the Trojan War. Sentenced by Poseidon to be kept from his home and family for ten years after the war, Odysseus is constantly hampered in his return by gods, goddesses, monsters, and the weather, overcoming all with his wit and determination.
audio-iconPenelope
Wife of Odysseus, Penelope spends ten years fending off the 108 men who clamor for her hand in marriage. She remains faithful to her husband, for whom she is a match when it comes to wit and cleverness.
audio-iconPolyphemos the Cyclops
Son of Poseidon, Polyphemos does not observe the laws of hospitality when Odysseus lands on his island. He imprisons Odysseus and his men and plans to eat them all. Odysseus escapes by blinding the Cyclops, thus earning Poseidon’s wrath.
audio-iconPoseidon
God of the oceans, he curses Odysseus for blinding his son, Polyphemos the Cyclops. Poseidon enlists the help of gods and nature to keep Odysseus from returning home.
audio-iconSirens
Creatures whose song is so beautiful no human man can resist it; they sing to sailors, luring their boats to crash on the rocky shores of their island. Odysseus has his men tie him to the mast of his ship and cover their own ears as they sail past, so that Odysseus can hear the song without dying.
The Suitors
The 108 men living in Odysseus’ palace at Ithaca for ten years, waiting for Penelope to accept one of them as her husband. They break the laws of hospitality by ruining Odysseus’ kingdom, eating everything in sight and laying the palace and the land to waste with their selfishness. They are also rude to Telemachus and disrespectful of Penelope, which guarantees their destruction when Odysseus returns home.
audio-iconTeiresias
A great, blind prophet whom Odysseus meets in the underworld (Hades) and who tells him how to get back to Ithaca and how to communicate with the spirits of the dead.
audio-iconTelemachus
Odysseus’ son. Telemachus was just an infant when his father left to fight the Trojan War, but he realizes he cannot wait for his father’s return to take control of his own fate and become a man in his own right.
Troy
The great city on the coast of Asia Minor (today’s Turkey) and to the east of Greece where the Trojan War was fought to return Helen to her husband Menelaus.
audio-iconZeus
Greatest of all gods, Zeus sometimes helps Odysseus but allows Poseidon to dam up the harbor of the Phaeacians who have finally given Odysseus a ship in which to go home.