Some Other Odysseus


Odysseus Rides a turtle (6th Century BCE Black Figure Skyphos)
Odysseus Rides a turtle (6th Century BCE Black Figure Skyphos)


When Odysseus reveals himself to Telemachus in book 16, his son at first balks, certain that this man in front of him is a god or some delusion.  Odysseus responds memorably (16.204):


“No other Odysseus will ever come home to you”

οὐ μὲν γάρ τοι ἔτ’ ἄλλος ἐλεύσεται ἐνθάδ’ ᾿Οδυσσεύς,


I have long discussed this with my students as doing double work in the Odyssey:  (1)it speaks to concerns of identity and sameness and the difficulty of knowing who anyone is at any time; and (2) it also allows our narrator to ‘wink’ at the audience who have been treated to a bit of a carnival ride during the epic as they figure out which Odysseus this is who is going to come home.

Ancient myth and literature present us with many different Odysseis (the plural of Odysseus) and one of the great achievements of our Odyssey may just be the creation of a complex hero within and against these parameters.  Close readings of the epic can find that there are hints of these other traditions, these other Odysseys and Odysseis everywhere.

So, occasionally we will be posting on this theme:


1. First we discussed how Aeschylus had Odysseus dying from complications associated with being defecated upon by a bird.

2. Then we noticed that the epic mentions that Odysseus has a sister

3. We also considered how Telemachus’ bath in book 4 led to a grandson for Odysseus in the Hesiodic tradition.

4. Here’s a rumination on the politics and geography in the Odyssey

5. And a beginning count of Odysseus’ children

6. The Evidence for Odysseus’ Children, Part 1: Eustathius, Hesiod and Dionysus of Halicarnassos

7. Odysseus’ Children with Penelope (yes, more than one!)

8. An Epigram from the Greek Anthology about Odysseus seeing his mother, Antikleia

9. Odysseus’ Children, Part 3: The Sons of Kirke, (except Telegonos)

10. The Sons of Odysseus, Part 4: Telegonos

11. The Sons of Odysseus, Part 5: Kalypso’s Brood

12. Odysseus Tries to Stab Diomedes in the Back

13. Odysseus’ Children Part 6

11 thoughts on “Some Other Odysseus

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  10. Jim

    Longtime LH reader and friend, thrilled to have discovered your blog (the post to which LH links already has a few paragraphs I intend use — with full attribution of course — not only in the book I’m currently writing but In the very chapter I’m currently writing, likely within the next thousand words): I do believe you’d enjoy Theodore Rexroth’s essay on The Odyssey</i in his Classics Revisisted:
    The adventures of The Odyssey are fantastic, but their denouement is pure fantasy. Odysseus’ return and slaughter of the suitors is the most outlandish thing in Greek literature. No custom like it is known in the mercantile Levant of Homer’s time, nor in the similar societies of the South Seas in the recent past. We have no reason to believe that a wife whose husband had abandoned her for twenty years would remain faithful, that she would be persecuted by a mob of suitors who would move into her home and struggle with one another for her hand and consume her substance. Nor has there ever been any legal code or custom that would justify the husband in mercilessly slaughtering them all when he showed up incognito after twenty years.

  11. Jim (comments on LH and "jamessal" and so probably should do so here henceforth)

    Obvious a few html typos, the most important being that the second paragraph is meant to be a blockquote, from the essay I think you’ll enjoy if you haven’t already ready it.

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