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ODYSSEUS

Real Name: Odysseus

Occupation: King of Ithaca (c. 1190-1160 BC), Warrior, General of the Greek forces at Troy

Legal Status: Citizen of Ithaca in the Twelfth Century BC

Identity: The general populace is unaware of the existence of Odysseus except as a semi-legendary character of mythological origin.

Other Aliases: Ulysses (Roman version of name), ďNobodyĒ

Place Of Birth: Ithaca (now part of modern Greece)

Place Of Death: Ithaca (now part of modern Greece)

Marital Status: Married

Known Relatives: Sisyphus (father, deceased), Anticlea (mother, deceased), Laertes (foster father, deceased), Autolycus (grandfather, deceased), Hermes  (great-grandfather), Ctimene (half-sister), Penelope (wife), Telemachus, Acusilius (sons), Telegonus (son by Circe), Polypoetes (son by Callidice),

Group Affiliations: Commander of the Greek Forces at Troy

Base of Operations: Ithaca (now part of modern Greece); formerly Mobile; formerly Troy (now part of modern Turkey)

First Appearance: (historical) The Illiad, Eighth Century BC, (modern) Thor I Annual 8

History: Odysseus is the maternal grandson of Autolycus, the King of Thieves, a son of Hermes, the god of thieves. His father was wily King Sisyphus of Corinth who once held the god of death, Thanatos, prisoner. Sisyphus had seduced Anticleia while she was married to Laertes, King of Ithaca, who then raised Odysseus as his own son. Odysseus had been named by Autolycus and received his first longbow from King Iphitus of Oechalia. He valued the bow so much that he hung it in a prominent place in his kingdom and never hunted with it although he was reputed to be the only person who could string it. As a youth, he was schooled by the wise Mentor who was the goddess Athena in disguise or the Eternal with that name.

As a young prince, Odysseus vied for the hand of Helen, a daughter of Zeus, but he was also aware that her stepfather, Spartan king Tyndareus, was worried about a war that might erupt over the hand of Helen. Odysseus offered his talent as a cunning advisor to Tyndareus and had him exact a vow from the suitors to defend the union of Helen to who would be her husband. In return, Tyndareus asked for the hand of Penelope, Tyndareusí niece, in return. As a result, Tyndareus was able to get the suitors to pledge to defend Helenís marriage to the Mycenaean Prince Menelaus. Odysseus married Penelope and they had a son, Telemachus.

Menelaus soon had to call on Odysseus after Paris, a Trojan Prince, abducted Helen while arbitrating peace between Sparta and Troy. Realizing what Meneleusís visit would involve and wishing to avoid being drafted into war, Odysseus pretended to be psychologically disturbed by sowing his farms with salt and using a horse and cow yoked to his plow.  Accompanying Menelaus was Palamedas who decided that Odysseus was faking his madness.  He placed Odysseusí infant son in the path of the plow and Odysseus veered off to avoid hurting him. As a result, he foiled his own ruse.

Despite his reluctance to war, Odysseus likewise had to trick into combat Achilles of Phthia to participate in the ensuing war. Achilles had been hidden by his mother, the goddess, Thetis, in female attire among the daughters of King Lycomedes of Scyros. Odysseus arrived with a cartload of weapons under a pile of dresses and as the girls took and admired the dresses. Odysseus then had a martial trumpet blown in the palace; Achilles took a sword for himself out of habit to defend himself and henceforth revealed his true identity by accident.

Odysseus continued to use his cunning to prepare for war, but in an attempt to avoid bloodshed and return to Ithaca as quickly as possible, he accompanied Menelaus to meet with King Priam of Troy to personally request the return of Helen under a sign of peace. Antenor, one of the Trojan elders, backed Odysseus in hoping to avoid war, but then Priam had to honor Helenís request for asylum under rules of hospitality, Odysseus returned to the Greek battlements with hostile intent and quickly slew Palmedas for luring into the war that was now unavoidable.

Commanding twelve shiploads of men from Ithaca, Cephallenia and Zacynthus, Odysseus proved himself to be one of the prime movers of the Trojan War. Diomedes of Argos assisted him in many of his plans, especially in spying upon the Trojan forces. They succeed in capturing Dolon, a Trojan spy and coerced him into the positions of allies of the Trojans before killing him. With that info, they led a successful raid on the forces of King Rhesus of Thrace and stole his horses. He came into conflict with Ajax of Salamis over who among them more deserved the armor of Achilles after he was killed. The armor was given to Odysseus before a council of Greek judges and Ajax took his life after losing the right to the armor. Odysseus then honored Ajax by providing him decent funerary rites to prove he held no grudge against the fallen hero.

In order to finally conquer Troy, Odysseus captured Helenus, a Trojan prince, and forced him to reveal the oracles concerning the fall of Troy.  Helenus revealed that Troy could only be taken with the help of Achilles and Hercules removing the statue of Athena from the Trojan Palladium. Since both heroes were long dead, Odysseus forced the prophecy into existence by tapping into their legacies. He returned to Scyros and located Neoptolemus, Achillesís young teenaged son, and gave the youth his fatherís armor to fight with the Greeks. On the return to Troy, he returned to Lemnos to fetch Philoctetes, who possessed the arrows of Hercules dipped in the poisonous blood of the Hydra. Philoctetes owed no allegiance to the Greeks for deserting him, but Odysseus gained his trust after laying the blame of his exile on Agamemnon.  Returning to Troy, Odysseus then invaded the Trojan Palladium disguised as a beggar and successfully stole the statue of Athena, who was patron goddess of Ithaca loyal to the Greek forces. In the act of stealing the statue, he was observed by both Hecuba, Queen of Troy and Helen herself who concealed his activities upon realizing that Troy would fall soon. 

In finally entering Troy, Odysseus masterminded his greatest trick of deceit ever, a master effort of subterfuge that would be marveled by military leaders for generations. While watching the Greeks returning their horses into the city, Neoptolemus made a comment about hollowing out one of the horses and wearing it as a disguise into Troy. The idea inspired Odysseus to create a great wooden horse to carry several warriors inside the city. (One account claims the inspiration came from the Asgardian Loki who had arrived during these events with the thunder-god Thor through caverns under Asgard in the Twentieth Century). With the Greek forces faking a retreat, Odysseus entered the huge Wooden Horse that the Trojans believed to be a gift to Athena. It was brought into the city to replace their stolen statue, and later under cover of darkness, Odysseus sneaked out and signaled the Greek forces to return and sack the city opened toward them. Trojans loyal to Odysseus, such as Antenor, were spared by hanging panther skins on their doors as signs to the Greeks to be left untouched. Odysseus had no mercy on the other Trojans and slew all of the heirs to Troy, including Astyanax, the infant son of Prince Hector. He would have killed Queen Hecuba, but she saved herself by revealing that she had never revealed his theft of Athenaís statue. He took her as a concubine instead and defended her honor by slaying King Polymnester of the Bistones who came to seize her.

Although Poseidon supported the Greeks out of hatred of the Trojans, he was offended when Odysseus forgot to honor him for his victory. He levied a curse on him to never return home as Odysseus wandered the Mediterranean Sea for over ten years as he was kept at sea by storms and winds. Poseidonís curse on Odysseus was two-fold when the wayward king landed on the island home of Poseidonís son, Polyphemus, a Cyclops. Blinding Polyphemus in order to escape, Odysseus returned to his ship as storms continually kept him off course and forced him to encounter such beasts such as Scylla, Charybdis, The Sirens and the Laestrygonians. He encountered King Aeolus of Aeolia who controlled the winds and beseeched him for help. Aeolus calmed all the winds, but the east wind, Eurus, to blow him home and contained the others in a huge flask. He instructed Odysseus to free the other winds only once he returned home. However, as his ship finally neared home, Odysseus was asleep and his men wondering what he was keeping in the flask opened it and freed the winds, which then blew Odysseus and his ship and crew away from Ithaca once more.

Odysseus and his crew eventually became shipwrecked at Aeaea, the island home of Circe, the goddess of magic, near Latium. Circe tried to be a good hostess to the starving sailors, but was offended by their uncouth and barbarian ways. Comparing them to pigs, she turned them into pigs, but Odysseus came searching for his missing men and encountered the god Hermes instead. Hermes gave Odysseus moly to protect him from Circeís spells and convinced him to stand his ground and not show to fear before Circe. Approached in this manner, Circe became impressed by Odysseus and transformed his men back to normal. They stayed with her for several years and forgot their desires until Hermes convinced her to set them free. During the time Odysseus stayed here, one of his men, Elpenor, slid off the roof of Circeís hamlet and died in the fall. His body remained undiscovered for several months. (According to some accounts, Odysseus might have encountered the Eternals Makkari and Sersi who often acted as representatives to the gods themselves).

Under Circeís directions, Odysseus sailed west to the river Acheron that flowed from the Underworld into the land of the Cimmerians on Earth. Using rites Circe had showed him, he called upon the spirits of the dead for guidance. The ghost of the dead seer, Teiresias, instructed him to sail for Thrinacia and that his death would come from the sea among several other predictions. Odysseus also met the ghost of Achilles and told him of the bravery of his son, Neoptolemus, at Troy. He also met the ghost of his mother, Anticlea, who told him that his wife was waiting for him despite numerous suitors. Agamemnonís ghost also told of his murder and informed him to travel in secret and Elpenorís ghost requested Odysseus to locate his body and give him a proper burial.

Momentarily returning to Aeaea for Elpenorís funeral, Odysseus advanced on to Thrinacia where Teiresias had warned him not to disturb the cattle of Helios that grazed there.  Odysseusís crew, consumed by hunger, meanwhile ignored him and slew a few of the cows for food. The sun-god, Helios, complained to Zeus who sent a storm to further delay Odysseusís ship and destroy it. Odysseus was the only survivor by being the only one who did not tasted the stolen meat. Lashed to keel of his ship, he drifted to Ogygia, the island home of the goddess Calypso and her sisters, the Oceanides. Protecting him from Poseidon, she kept him for a while and nursed him to full health She even offered to make him a god, but he refused her. Eventually growing tired of him, Calypso reported to Zeus that she believed he had suffered enough. Hermes instructed her to let him sail for home, but Poseidon once more interfered and deterred him with another storm. Odysseus was rescued and spirited away by the sea-spirit, Leucothea, who had been the Theban princess Ino in life. She took him to Scherie, the home of the Phaeacians, who lived in the good graces of Poseidon.

Carried home to Ithaca, Odysseus was met by Athena who reminded him of Agamemnonís warnings. One of his servants, Eumaeus, helped to conceal his identity as Odysseus met his son, Telemachus, who was now a grown man. Realizing that countless suitors stood in their way of restoring order to the land, he continued to hide his identity from Penelope as she vowed to marry the one man who could string the bow her husband had received from Iphitus and use it to fire an arrow through the handles of twelve axes. No man could even string the bow until Odysseus, still disguised as a homeless person, strung the bow before the eyes of the stunned suitors. As Telemachus and Eumaeus sealed the courtyard to keep the suitors from escaping, Odysseus revealed his identity and slew all the suitors who had been pillaging his land as well as the servants had aided them.

The numerous deaths did not sit well with Odysseusís elders or countrymen considering many of the suitors came from powerful local families and from abroad. Fearing he had opened a cause for another war, the elders called upon Neoptolemus to arbitrate the volatile situation, but the young prince wanted Odysseusís land for himself and dragged out and instigated many of the hostilities. Odysseus finally realized what was occurring and exiled the young troublemaker from his kingdom.

Still disguised as Mentor, Athena, however, told Odysseus that he would have to be absolved of the murders by the King of Thesprotia. Along the way, he checked on the welfare of his own cattle kept grazing near Elis and was detained there by King Polyxenus who wanted to hear of his adventures. In Thesprotia, he learned that the king had died some time before and had left Queen Callidice without an heir to the throne. He married her for the sole reason of serving as king of the area long enough to end the dissension there and give her a son, Polypoetes, who would be her successor so that he could return to Ithaca.

Odysseus returned to Ithaca and had another son by Penelope named Acusilaus. Circe, meanwhile, had borne him a son too named Telegonus. Wishing to meet his father, Telegonus left Aeaea and ended up landing at Ithaca without realizing it. Raiding the land for provisions, he was met by Odysseus in combat and killed him without knowing he was his father. Odysseus ended up dying from a spear tipped in the venom of a stingray that actually fulfilled Teiresiasís prediction of Odysseusís death coming from the sea. Realizing his grievous error, Telegonus took Odysseusís body and family back to Aeaea for the funeral. Circe and Telemachus reportedly became lovers, and Penelpe became the beloved of Telegonus after regain her youth by Circeís spells.

Height: 5í8Ē

Weight: 210 lbs.

Eyes: Brown

Hair: Brown

Strength Level:  Odysseus possesses the normal human strength of a man of his size, height and build who engages in extensive regular exercise.

Known Superhuman Powers: None

Abilities:  Odysseus was an exceptionally crafty and wily ruler with the ability to use his wits to escape or survive virtually any obstacle. He was also a brilliant swordsman, archer and a strategic genius in warfare.  He was also an eloquent speaker gifted in the practice of arbitration.

Pets: Odysseus owned a hound named Argus endowed with great tracking ability. The hound stayed alive for much of Odysseusís absence from Ithaca and died of old age only after loyally waiting for his master Odysseusís return to Ithaca.

Comments: The use of the name ďGreekĒ here is topical since that term did not yet exist in Odysseusís time. In that age, the Greeks usually referred to themselves as Hellenes, Achaeans, Dorians, Ionians, Thessalians and Argives depending on the region of their birth. The use of the term ďGreeksĒ would not become in to use until after the Byzantine Empire (circa the Fifteenth Century AD). 

It is also claimed that among the ghosts who Odysseus recognized was Hercules, the son of Zeus. His presence is unexplained considering his later godhood. It could, however, have been Hercules of the Dactyl tribe who left Crete and arrived in Elis where he instituted the first Olympic Games, but it is also theoretical that the shade seen on the Underworld was actually the mortal half of Hercules.

There is one story about Odysseus that cannot be reconciled with his history. It claims that he had killed Penelope for being unfaithful and that he had sent her body back to her father, Icarius, in Sparta. He then married the daughter of King Thoas, an ally of Troy and died in Aetolia of old age. Since this account denies Penelopeís reputation of faithfulness and even makes her the mother of the goat-god Pan (who actually lived as early as the war with the Titans), it may be a local legend invented by the Aetolians to connect themselves to Odysseus by confusing Penelope with Penelope, the daughter of King Dryops.

Odysseusís story was very faithfully created in the 2000 TV-miniseries Odysseus starring Armand Assante as the lost hero and the wonderful Isabella Rosselini as Athena. Although some events were dropped or over-simplified for the sake of the story, this movie is much superior to the 1953 version starring Kirk Douglas as the hero.