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Added on 11th June 2020

Author Homer
Oral poetry Late 8th century BCE

A Greek epic poem from the oral tradition about the adventures of the Greek hero Odysseus.


The Odyssey recounts the adventures of the Greek hero Odysseus over the 10 years it takes him to return home to Ithaca after the fall of Troy. Odysseus and his men encounter many dangers on their journey including the Cyclops, the sorceress Circe, the Sirens, the sea monsters Scylla and Charibdis and a visit to the underworld. Meanwhile back in Ithaca rowdy young suiters are besieging Odysseus' faithful wife Penelope and making themselves comfortable in his palace, whilst Odysseus son, Telemachus searches for news of his father. When Odysseus finally returns home unrecognised he kills the suitors and reveals his true identity.

Why we chose it

Along with the Iliad, the Odyssey is also a central part of the western classical tradition. Many of its episodic adventures are well known in their own right such as the tricking of the one-eyed Cyclops Polyphemus and the binding of Odysseus to the mast of his ship so that he can hear the bewitching song of the Sirens.

Where it came from

The Odyssey is an epic poem in the oral tradition. At some stage in the late 8th century BCE the poem was written down in Homeric Greek. Like the Iliad before it, the Odyssey has a full cast of heroes and bickering Olympian Gods interfering in the lives of the mortal characters. Scholars have also commented on similarities with poems from other traditions such as Gilgamesh who also undertakes an epic journey including a visit to the underworld.

Where it went next

The Odyssey ends with Odysseus' safe return home. Different elements of the story have inspired artists and authors for centuries from sculptors to painters and from poets to novelists. The Cohen Brothers' comedy crime film O Brother Where Art Thou set in rural Mississippi in the 1937 is based on the Odyssey as is James Joyce's masterpiece Ulysses.

Associated stories

The Odyssey follows the story of one of the Greek heroes on his journey home after the fall of Troy. The Aeneid, Virgil's epic poem written in Latin, traces the flight of Aeneas from the defeated city of Troy to establish the city of Rome.

Added on 11th June 2020

Author Homer
Oral poetry Late 8th century BCE