The Odyssey Book Summary - The Odyssey Book explained in key points
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The Odyssey summary

Homer

The Ancient Greek Epic Poem About A Hero's Journey Home

4.6 (70 ratings)
22 mins

Brief summary

The Odyssey is an ancient Greek epic by Homer that tells the story of Odysseus' ten-year journey home from the Trojan War. Filled with adventure and mythology, it is considered one of the greatest works of Western literature.

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    The Odyssey
    Summary of 5 key ideas

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    The long road home

    "Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns."

    In the tradition of classic epics, Homer's Odyssey begins by invoking the Muse. He asks her to tell of Odysseus, the crafty Greek hero who endured many trials while returning home after the Trojan War. 

    The story begins a decade after the conclusion of the war, when all other Greek warriors, apart from Odysseus, have made their way safely home. Odysseus, however, is stranded on the distant island of Ogygia, where the nymph Calypso, keen on keeping him as her lover, holds him captive and won't allow him to depart.

    Finally, the gods rule that Odysseus should be allowed to return home, and they decide to intervene. They send messenger god Hermes to free him from Calypso. Meanwhile, Athena, daughter of Zeus, travels to Odysseus’s home of Ithaca disguised as Mentor, an old friend of Odysseus. She wants to encourage Odysseus's son Telemachus to stand up to the unruly scores of suitors courting his mother Penelope, telling him, “Dear child, you’ll be no coward nor thoughtless ever again.” 

    Emboldened by Athena, Telemachus confronts the suitors, demanding they leave. They stubbornly refuse. So Telemachus decides to set sail in search of his father. Before he departs, however, he visits his father’s friends Nestor at Pylos and Menelaus at Sparta. They share fond tales of Odysseus's exploits during the Trojan War and assure Telemachus that his father lives, trapped with Calypso.

    Meanwhile, Penelope’s suitors plot to ambush Telemachus on his return. Penelope is distraught at learning of the attack, but reassured by a dream-vision from Athena. The stage is set for Odysseus’ long-awaited homecoming.

    After the gods decree that Odysseus may leave Calypso’s island, she reluctantly helps him build a raft. She provides supplies but no crew. But ocean god Poseidon holds a grudge against Odysseus – we’ll later learn why – and spitefully wrecks the raft with a storm. Odysseus swims for two days until reaching the Phaeacians’ island.

    Phaecian princess Nausicaa discovers Odysseus collapsed on the shore. She gives him food, drink and directions to the royal palace. Following her guidance, Odysseus impresses the king and queen with his eloquence and good manners. After properly hosting him, they ask for his story.

    Odysseus describes being Calypso’s prisoner and surviving Poseidon’s storm. The Phaeacians promise him safe passage home. Elated, Odysseus begins to recount his painful ten-year journey since his victory in Troy.

    ANALYSIS

    A major early theme in the Odyssey is the high cost of war, here illustrated in the ongoing suffering Odysseus endures in simply attempting to return home from Troy. In his kingdom of Ithaca, order unravels, with over 100 suitors occupying his palace and attempting to win his queen while Odysseus the king is absent. Hospitality and xenia (ritual friendship) prove vital as Telemachus visits those who had formerly hosted his father.

    The temperamental Greek gods frequently interfere in human lives, sending omens, dreams, or direct aid. Yet they often quarrel among themselves over mortals' fates. While Zeus and Athena favor Odysseus, Poseidon hinders his journey out of vengeance.

    Odysseus himself displays his signature craft, cunning, and warrior spirit in each challenge. But the nostos, his long and painful homecoming voyage, continues to be delayed by misfortune and the whims of gods and men. Still, Odysseus perseveres with wit and grit toward Ithaca, eager to return to his beloved Penelope.

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    What is The Odyssey about?

    The Odyssey (c. eighth century BC) is one of the foundational works of Western literature. The ancient Greek epic chronicles the arduous 10-year journey of hero Odysseus as he strives to return home from the Trojan War. Battling vengeful gods, mythical monsters, and the siren call of temptation, Odysseus's quest is not just for Ithaca, but for identity and meaning in a turbulent world.

    The Odyssey Review

    The Odyssey (8th century BCE) is an epic poem that recounts the journey of Odysseus as he tries to return home after the Trojan War. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • With its rich mythology and fantastical adventures, it transports readers to a world of gods, monsters, and heroic feats.
    • By exploring themes of loyalty, bravery, and the power of cunning, it offers timeless lessons on the human condition.
    • Through its captivating storytelling and vivid descriptions, it sparkles with imagination and keeps readers engrossed in its unforgettable tale.

    Who should read The Odyssey?

    • Adventurers who love an epic travel story
    • Fans of fairy tales, fantasy, and mythology
    • Students of classic literature

    About the Author

    Homer (c. eighth century BC) was the most famous of the ancient Greek poets. His twin masterpieces, The Odyssey and The Iliad, are celebrated as cornerstones of Western literary tradition. The classic themes of his work – such as war, fate, love, and honor – continue to captivate readers to the present day.

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    The Odyssey FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Odyssey?

    The main message of The Odyssey is the power of perseverance and the importance of home.

    How long does it take to read The Odyssey?

    The reading time for The Odyssey varies depending on the reader's speed, but it typically takes several hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Odyssey a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Odyssey is a classic epic that is definitely worth reading. It offers a captivating adventure and insights into the human experience.

    Who is the author of The Odyssey?

    Homer is the author of The Odyssey.

    What to read after The Odyssey?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Odyssey, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Iliad by Homer
    • Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder
    • Ulysses by James Joyce
    • Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
    • Travel Light by Light Watkins
    • Mythos by Stephen Fry
    • Atomic Habits by James Clear
    • The Republic by Plato
    • On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
    • Sexual Detox by Tim Challies