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

9 responses

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