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Study Guide


(Lombardo trans.)


From the reading and class discussion, know the following places, people, and terms:


Mt. Olympus Ithaka Pylos Sparta Ogygia Scheria Hades Thrinacia Thesprotia


Zeus Hera Athena Poseidon

Hermes Ares Aphrodite Hephaestus Hades Dawn (Eos)

Characters in Ithaca:

Odysseus Telemachus Penelope Laertes

Eurycleia Eumaeus Mentes Mentor Phemius

Melanthius Melantho

The Suitors Antinous Eurymachus Irus

Characters in Telemachus' Travels:

Nestor Peisistratus Menelaus Helen

Eidothea Proteus Theoclymenus

Characters in Scheria:

Nausicaa Alcinous Arete Euryalus Demodocus

Characters and events on Odysseus' Travels:

Cicones Lotus-Eaters Cyclopes Polyphemus

Aeolus Laestrygonians Circe Land of Dead

Elpenor Tiresias Anticleia Agamemnon Achilles Ajax

Sirens Scylla Cattle of Helios storm Charybdis Calypso Phaeacians


oral poetry rhapsode parataxis formulaic

patronymic epithet simile apostrophe catalogue

proem in medias res invocation of Muse


Homer (ca. 750 BC), Odyssey

(Lombardo trans.)


1. Outline Telemachus' attitude toward Odysseus in Book 1. Why does it fluctuate?

2. What parallels exist between Orestes' situation and Telemachus'?

3. How do we view Penelope in these books? Brave? Resourceful? Prudent? Grieving? What do others think of her? What does she think of herself?

4. What do we learn about Odysseus in Books 1 through 4? about his predicament? his character? his family's attitude toward him?

5. Compare Athena's reception in Ithaca (Bk 1, lines 103-341) with Telemachus' reception in Pylos and Sparta.

6. Why does Homer take Telemachus to a person (Nestor) who knows nothing about Odysseus' whereabouts?

7. What does Telemachus learn about homecomings from Helen and Menelaus?

8. Does Telemachus change between Books 1 and 4? If so, how?


1. The name Calypso means "to cover or hide" and is related to the word for burying someone. What indications are there that Od has died or is in a world where there is no time?

2. What induces Nausicaa to approach a completely bedraggled stranger, not to mention, to offer to marry him?

3. To what extent is the the palace of Alcinous and Arete (7.89-140) human, divine, or neither? To what extent are the Phaeacians civilized or not?

3. How are the three stories which Demodokos sings in Book 8 relevant to the rest of the Odyssey?

4. Outline the progress of Odysseus from captivity on Ogygia to rehabilitation on Scheria, from a person whose whereabouts are known only to the gods to one whose full identity is revealed just before the end of Book 8.

BOOKS 9-12

1. What are some of the things which make a good story?

2. Who makes a good story-teller and a good audience? How does Odysseus show an awareness of his audience as he tells his tale?

3. Does Odysseus follow the 'Heroic code' on his adventures? Does he learn a new way to live his life?

4. Are Odysseus' stories folktales or myths?

BOOKS 13-16

1. Why does Athena decide to put away her wrath and decide to help Odysseus? Could this reconciliation have happened any earlier in Odysseus' wanderings? Why or why not?

2. Compare the stories of Theoclymenus and Eumaeus. Why do their stories move Tel and Od, respectively. Why are they appropriate at this moment in the poem?

3. What are the signs in Bk 15 that Telemachus is now mature and ready to meet his father in Bk 16.

4. By what sign does Telemachus recognize his father?

BOOKS 17-20

1. How do Melanthius and Antinous treat Odysseus? Why do they treat him this way? How does their behavior contrast with Eumaeus, Tel, and Penelope's?

2. Are all the suitors to blame. Should they all be killed in book 22?

3. What is the significance of the dog Argos?

4. Outline Penelope's attitude toward the Stranger as they change from moment to moment. Why does it keep changing?

BOOKS 21-24

1. What part gets played in Book 21 by crying and laughter?

2. How has Telemachus' relationship changed with his mother since Book 1?

3. Why is the token of the bed, as far as Penelope is concerned, the best possible sign of Od's identity?

4. Compare the simile in 23.240-46 with the one at 19.118-126. Why are they appropriate in their contexts? What, if any, connection do they have with Odysseus?

5. Do lines 24.173-75 correspond with what actually happened in Book 21? Why does Amphimedon give this version of the story?

6. Is Odysseus justified in testing his father? Why or why not?


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