SUMMARY OF THE ODYSSEY
1. The story opens with a conclave of the gods; Athene asks why Odysseus is kept prisoner by Calypso. Zeus answers, "Because he blinded Polyphemus, the son of Poseidon, and Poseidon keeps a grudge against him." Then Athena goes to Ithaka, and finds the house of Odysseus full of a horde of bullies who have quartered themselves there until Penelope should choose one for a husband. She meets his son Telemachus, and hears all about it and advises him to call a public meeting and then to go to Pylos in search of news. He enters the hall and asserts himself for the first time - he is still a boy - to the surprise of his mother and the wooers alike.
2. He calls a town-meeting, and complains of the doings of those men. One of them, Antinous, answers in violent words, and there is a debate. Telemachus goes down to the seashore and there Athena meets him and promises her help. In the shape of Mentor she procures a ship and a crew and they embark in the night.
3. The ship reaches Pylos, and they are entertained by King Nestor. The king does not know anything about Odysseus but his rambling recollections help us to understand parts of the story of Troy which lies behind this. Athena flies away in tho shape of a sea-eagle, but Telemachus remains; and next day Nestor sends him to Sparta in charge of his eldest son.
4. Menelaus entertains them and tells more about the Trojan war and its results. Helen enters and guesses that this is Telemachus. Menelaus says he knows nothing of the fate of Odysseus, except that he was told by a sea-goddess, that he was held prisoner by Calypso. While they are busy at dinner, the wooers in Ithaka hear that he has found a ship and gone; they are furious and decide to lie in wait for him and murder him on the way home.
(Note: while the wooers are holding their watch and while feasting is going on in Sparta - that is, while nothing is happening in the story of Telemachus - Homer takes his chance to tell what is happening to Odysseus.
5. The gods hold a meeting and decide to send Odysseus home again. Hermes, the King's messenger of Heaven is dispatched to Calypso's island and in an amusing scene he gives her the message from Zeus. Odysseus builds a raft, or rather a rude vessel, and voyages over stormy seas, until he is cast ashore on the island of Phaeacia, and falls asleep in the bush.
6. He is awakened by the voices of girls at play, and comes forward to find the King's daughter, Nausicaa, with her maidens, who had come to the sea-shore to wash the soiled linen in their washing-tanks. Nausicaa gives him food and clothes and leads him to the city.
7 He enters th palace of King Alcinous, who receives him hospitably and promises him a safe-conduct to his own country.
8. Next day games and sports are held, in which Odysseus takes part. This is a piece of comedy; all the persons' names are inventions and the song which the minstrel sings afterwards raises unquenchable laughter. He then sings of the Trojan War and Odysseus is deeply moved, the King sees this, and asks his host who he is.
9. "I am Odysseus" , he answers and tells the long story of his adventures: The Lotus-Eaters and the dramatic tale of Cyclops the Goggle-eye, and the marvellous escape from his cave.
10. Next he describes how he visited the Island of the Winds and how Aeolus bottled up all the winds in a bag except the West Wind, which was to blow him home; how the sailors undid the bag to see what was in it and winds came out and blew them to the island of Circe the witch; how Circe turned the men into pigs, and how Odysseus made her turn them back into men. There they stayed for a year, then Circe let them go and they passed the land of eternal night.
11. And visited the kingdom of the dead, where Odysseus talked with the souls of ancient heroes and women of old days, and Teiresias the seer told him how he would come to die in the end, and his mother's ghost was there and told him of his father.
12. After leaving the kingdom of the dead, he tells how he passed the isle of the Sirens with their beautiful song, which attracts all who hear it; how he plugged the men's ears with wax and made them tie hin to the mast that he might hear the song himself, telling them to row away whatever he says or does. Thus they escaped this peril, and passed next between Scylla and Charybdis; they kept clear of Charybdis and her whirlpool, and rowed past Scylla's cave. Scylla is a monster with 6 heads at the end of 6 long necks and she caught up 6 men, one with each head, while the rest escaped. They reached the island of the Sun, and the men offended the Sun by killing his cattle; so when they sailed away Zeus struck the ship with a thunderbolt and all were drowned except Odysseus. That brings him to the shore of Phaeacia where he now is.
13. The Phaeacians convey Od. to Ithaka. (Poseidon turns the returning vessel into stone) . Athena meets Odysseus in Ithaka, and tells him what has been going on. She bids him first visit his old swineherd, Eumaeus.
14. He does so , and there is a charming description of this faithful old man and their long talk together. Then they go to sleep and Homer takes the opportunity to carry us to Sparta.
15. He describes how Telemachus came home; and while he voyages, Homer fits in an evening talk when the swineherd tells Odysseus about his wife and his father, gives the sad story of his own life. They go to sleep, and we return to Telemachus, who is now landing on the coast at dawn.
16. Telemachus makes his way to the swineherd's hut, and there father and son meet. Telemachus describes the goings-on of those who were wooing his mother, and the father makes himself known to his son. The wooers learn, from their spies, that Telemachus has returned, and they are dismayed.
17. Telemachus returns to his mother, and afterwards Odysseus and, the swineherd go down to the great house. The old hound Argos hears his master's voice and pricks up his ears and dies of joy; he is the first who knows Odysseus. Then Odysseus enters the hall, and the bullies treat him rudely.
18. Irus the town beggar comes in and provokes Odysseus to fight; Odysseus gives him a gentle tap and breaks his jawbone, and there is great merriment in the hall. Penelope comes into the hall and reproaches the wooers for their behaviour.
19. In the evening Odysseus tells his son to remove all the arms and armour from the hall. Penelope comes and questions Odysseus but she does not recognize him. He tells a tale of his travels, partly true and partly invented, for he cannot reveal himself yet. After their talk she tells her old nurse to wash his feet, the nurse feels on his leg the scar of an old wound, and knows him, for she nursed him as a baby and knew him well. He warns her to say nothing and his wife does not notice. Then they talk, and his wife asks him to interpret a dream, and tells him of a plan she had to put an end to the wooing. She would set them a shooting match with her husband's great bow.
20. In the morning Odysseus is heartened by good omens. The faithful drover Philoetius comes in from the mainland. The banquet is prepared for the wooers on this feast day of Apollo. A bird of omen sent by Zeus deters the suitors from the plan to kill Telemachus. The soothsayer Theoclymenus who had come back with Telemachus from Pylos prophesies doom, but the wooers take no notice.
21. Penelope brings down her husband's great bow and the quiver full of arrows, and Telemachus sets up a long row of axes in the floor, each with an opening in the blade. Penelope tells them that Odysseus was accustomed to shoot an arrow through and promises to marry the one who can string the bow and shoot through the axes. Telemachus tries first, and almost strings the bow; then at a nod from his father he leaves it for the others. While they are trying to string the bow, Odysseus goes outside and reveals himself to the drover and swineherd who promise to stand by him. They return to the hall and find that no-one could string the bow. Odysseus asks if he may try and with the greatest of ease he strings the bow, and shoots the first arrow through the holes.
22. Now he takes up another arrow, and shoots Antinous, the wooers' ringleader. There is great consternation and they look around for arms but find none. Odysseus shoots them one by one, and meanwhile Telemachus runs to the storeroom and brings armour for himself and his father and the two men. A terrible fight follows and all the wooers are slain.
23. The old nurse is sent for Penelope, tells her that her husband is in the house, and all the bullies are dead. Penelope cannot believe it, but she comes down to see; she is afraid of being tricked and she dares not acknowledge her husband. He smiles and says "We have secrets which only we know". She sets a little trap for him: she tells the maids to lay him a bed on his old bed-stead outside the door of the chief room. He says "Who has moved my-bed! That could hardly be done, for the bedpost was a tree rooted in the ground!" Then his wife is convinced and falls into his ams.
24. The souls of the dead men are escorted down to Hades by the god Hermes, and tell their fate to the souls of the heroes there. Odysseus goes with his son to the farm of old Laertes his father. Meanwhile Antinous' father has aroused the people to revolt; Odysseus and his people await attack from the kinsmen of the dead. As they meet, Athena comes down from heaven and reconciles both parties in peace together.