Odysseus (called Ulysses in Latin) was the son of Laertes and was the ruler of the island kingdom of Ithaca. He was one of the most prominent Greek leaders in the Trojan War, and was the hero of Homer's Odyssey. He was known for his cleverness and cunning, and for his eloquence as a speaker.

Odysseus was one of the original suitors of Helen of Troy. When Menelaus succeeded in winning Helen's hand in marriage, it was Odysseus who advised him to get the other suitors to swear to defend his marriage rights. However, when Menelaus called on the suitors to help him bring Helen back from Troy, Odysseus was reluctant to make good on his oath. He pretended to have gone mad, plowing his fields and sowing salt instead of grain. Palamedes placed Odysseus' infant son in front of the plow, and Odysseus revealed his sanity when he turned aside to avoid injuring the child.

However reluctant he may have been to join the expedition, Odysseus fought heroically in the Trojan War, refusing to leave the field when the Greek troops were being routed by the Trojans, and leading a daring nocturnal raid in company with Diomedes. He was also the originator of the Trojan horse, the strategem by which the Greeks were finally able to take the city of Troy itself. After the death of Achilles, he and Ajax competed for Achilles' magnificent armor; when Odysseus' eloquence caused the Greeks to award the prize to him, Ajax went mad and killed himself.

Odysseus' return from Troy, chronicled in the Odyssey, took ten years and was beset by perils and misfortune. He freed his men from the pleasure-giving drugs of the Lotus-Eaters, rescued them from the cannibalism of the Cyclopes and the enchantments of Circe. He braved the terrors of the underworld with them, and while in the land of the dead Hades allowed Thiresias, Odysseus' mother, Ajax and others to give him adivice on his next journey. They gave him important advice about the cattle of the sun (which Apollo herds), Scylla and Charybdis and the Sirens.

From there on the travels were harder for Odysseus, but they would have been much worse of it wasn't for the help of the dead. With this newly acquired knowledge, he steered them past the perils of the Sirens and of Scylla and Charybdis. He could not save them from their final folly, however, when they violated divine commandments by slaughtering and eating the cattle of the sun-god. As a result of this rash act, Odysseus' ship was destroyed by a thunderbolt, and only Odysseus himself survived.

He came ashore on the island of the nymph Calypso, who made him her lover and refused to let him leave for seven years. When Zeus finally intervened, Odysseus sailed away on a small boat, only to be shipwrecked by another storm. He swam ashore on the island of the Phaeacians, where he was magnificently entertained and then, at long last, escorted home to Ithaca.

There were problems in Ithaca as well, however. During Odysseus' twenty-year absence, his wife, Penelope, had remained faithful to him, but she was under enormous pressure to remarry. A whole host of suitors were occupying her palace, drinking and eating and behaving insolently to Penelope and her son, Telemachus. Odysseus arrived at the palace, disguised as a ragged beggar, and observed their behavior and his wife's fidelity. With the help of Telemachus and Laertes, he slaughtered the suitors and cleansed the palace. He then had to fight one final battle, against the outraged relatives of the men he had slain; Athena intervened to settle this battle, however, and peace was restored.

Based on the Genealogical Guide to Greek Mythology,
by Carlos Parada

Odysseus was king of Ithaca and leader of the Cephallenians against Troy. He invented the construction of the WOODEN HORSE as a stratagem to take Troy. As other ACHAEAN LEADERS Odysseus was confronted, after the sack of Troy with a hard return and sedition at home. On his return to Ithaca he killed the many SUITORS OF PENELOPE, who had been wasting his property during his twenty years long absence, and for that massacre he was condemned to exile by King Neoptolemus of Epirus.

The Oath of Tyndareus.

When Helen was to be married many suitors came from all Greece wishing to win her hand, and among them Odysseus. King Tyndareus, Helen's father or stepfather, feared that the preference of one might provoke the enmity of the others, and so Odysseus promised that, if Tyndareus would help him to win the hand of Penelope, he would suggest a way by which there would be no dispute among the suitors. When Tyndareus agreed, promising to help him, Odysseus told him to exact an oath from all the SUITORS OF HELEN that they would defend the favoured bridegroom against any wrong that might be done him in respect of his marriage.

So when Menelaus won the hand of Helen, all accepted it in virtue of the oath, and thus Odysseus married Penelope, who was the prize for such a wise advice.

But later, when the seducer Paris took Helen from King Menelaus of Sparta, the kings of Greece, being bound by the Oath of Tyndareus, were forced, summoned by Menelaus and his brother Agamemnon, to join the alliance which sailed from Aulis to Troy in order to demand the restoration of Helen and the property, either peacefully or by force.

The Oath against Odysseus.

Thanks to the idea of the oath Odysseus won Penelope, but when war threatened against Troy, the same oath played against him bounding him to join the coalition that was gathering at Aulis. And as there are those who prefer quiet life at home to any glory that war might give, Odysseus, being one of those, was reluctant to join the army.

Conflict with Palamedes.

It was then that Palamedes, the inventor of the dice, came to Ithaca to persuade Odysseus to join the expedition against Troy. But Odysseus, not wishing to go to the war, feigned madness. Palamedes, then, snatching Odysseus' son Telemachus from Penelope's bosom, drew his sword as if he would kill him, and fearing for the life of the child, Odysseus confessed that his madness was pretended, and he consented to go to war.

Death of Palamedes.

Because Palamedes, through his smart move, forced Odysseus to go to war, he was later stoned to death through the machinations of his victim Odysseus. For when a Trojan was made prisoner, Odysseus compelled him to write a letter of treasonable purport which seemed to be sent by King Priam to Palamedes; and having buried gold in the quarters of Palamedes, he dropped the letter in the camp. Agamemnon read the letter, found the gold, and delivered up Palamedes to be stoned as a traitor.

However, it has also been said that Palamedes was drowned by Odysseus and Diomedes, while he was fishing.


Odysseus was part of the embassy which demanded the restoration of Helen and the property from the Trojans, and he also was among them who came to beg Achilles to return to the fight, promising him the seven tripods, the seven women, the seven cities and all the other gifts, including Achilles' sweetheart Briseis, that Agamemnon offered Achilles, should he left his wrath aside.

Fetches the bow of Heracles, which Philoctetes now owns.

After the death of Achilles and Hector Troy still could not be taken. So new prophecies were uttered concerning the fall of Troy, and the seer Calchas prophesied to the Achaeans that Troy could not be taken unless they had the bow and arrows of Heracles fighting on their side. On hearing that, Odysseus and Diomedes (or some say Neoptolemus) went to Philoctetes in Lemnos, and having by craft got possession of the bow, they persuaded him to sail to Troy.

Helenus is forced to tell the Achaeans
how Troy can be taken.

And then Calchas said that only Helenus, the Trojan seer, knew the oracles that protected the city. So Odysseus captured him and, having brought him to the camp, the seer disclosed the oracles, and following them Odysseus brought Neoptolemus to Troy, and stole the Palladium from the city.

Dispute with Ajax.

When Achilles died his arms were offered as a prize to the bravest, and Ajax and Odysseus competed for them. Odysseus was preferred by the judges, and, as a revenge, Ajax planned an attack on his own army. But Athena drove him mad, and he slaughtered the cattle with the herdsmen, taking them for the Achaeans. And when he came to his senses he slew himself.





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