Homer's Odyssey, Book 1: An Odyssey is a Long-Ass Voyage

Updated November, 2018

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"An epic poem is, at its root, simply a tale that is told ... For this hero, mere survival is the most amazing feat of all." -- Emily Wilson, in the introduction of her translation of The Odyssey.

Yo Mu, that guy Ulysses, who conquered Troy? The one who lost his men at sea, the dipshits who fatally pissed off Hyperion the Sun God for feasting upon his cattle? On his way home, Ulysses shacked up with lovely Calypso, or was "detained” by the Goddess anyway, who craved him as a husband.

"See now, how men lay blame upon us gods for what is after all nothing but their own folly,” groused Athena at the God's weekly meet. Aegisthus killed Agamemnon and banged his wife! How did he think he would not be struck down for those sorts of shenanigans?

At Athena's urging, all the Gods came to agree, however, that Ulysses should return home—all the Dieties except for Poseidon, who continued to delight in tormenting U, still pissed at the might man for having blinded an eye of Poseidon's son, the Polyphemus king of the Cyclopes. But Poseidon could be mollified, the group knew.

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Mercury would campaign Calypso to free Ulysses from her clutches, while Athena herself traveled to Ithaca, U's home, to rally his son Telemachus to rid his father's home of all the greedy suitors to his mother, and to go search for his father.

See, young prince Telemachus was hanging around the fam's castle, increasingly fed up with all these sycophantic suitors sucking up to Mom, Penelope, and wearing down his long-lost father's riches with all their feasting, dancing, and having their hands washed by his family's servants. These suitors were all like "Telemachus, you old man be dead. Get over it."

So sweet goodess Athena rolls into the castle, pulling the prince aside and asking what up with all this?

Athena convinced Telemachus to go find out what happened to his father, and either to bring him home or to let his Mom know once and for all of her husband's death. So despite derision from the suitors, who had a vested interest in letting things be, Telemachus set sail to search for his pop. Athena gave the boat a fair wind that "bellied out" the sails and pushed it to the first destination, Pylos, home of the mighty charioteer Nestor.

Young Telemachus, not being cultivated at idle chitchat, was intimidated by Nestor. But Athena reassured him. His cause was just, the words he would need would come to him. "Some things, Telemachus," she said, "will be suggested to you by your own instinct, and heaven will prompt you further; for I am assured that the gods have been with you from the time of your birth until now."

Troy was a shitshow, Nestor recalled to Telemachus. So many battles, so many raids for plunder, so many dead. For nine years, Nestor, Ulysses and their men "wove a web of disaster" for the Trojans. Nestor was tight with U then, but after the battles, he beat a quick retreat, leaving Ulysses behind, fate unknown.

Nestor urged to go see Menelause. Menelause, after the battles he shared with Nestor and U, had taken too long to return to return home, instead spending time collecting gold from far off lands. In the absence of Menelause’s brother, Agamemnon who was murdered by Aegisthusm and his wife, whom he seduced. Agamemnon's son Orestes took revenge, murdering both of them.

Let that be lesson to you, boy, not to stay away from the home too long, especially as the suitors are getting e e more bold in U's absence.

"Press him yourself, to tell the whole truth. He'll never lie. The man is far too wise,” Nestor said.

They were to take off in the morning. But first, to celebrate Telemachus journey and his favor from the goddess Athena, a feat was in order, to start the day.

“Now I will sacrifice a yearling heifer, broad-browed and still unyoked, and gild her horns with gold to bless your journey,” Nestor proclaimed, and a feast ensued:

When the rites were finished, mighty Thrasymedes struck. The axe sliced through the sinews of the neck. The cow was paralyzed. Then Nestor’s daughters and his sons’ wives, and his own loyal queen, Eurydice, began to chant. The men hoisted the body, and Pisistratus sliced through her throat. Black blood poured out. The life was gone. They butchered her, cut out the thighs, all in the proper place, and covered them."

After the feast, Nestor equipped Telemachus and his men with a carriage and horses to help him on his way.

Sources: Emily Wilson's translation of Homer's "The Odyssey" and the audio edition on Audible, translated by Robert Fagles.