Backgrounds to "The Cyclops Adventure" in Book Nine of The Odyssey

The Progress of Odysseus's adventures to Phaecia:

  1. The Raid on the Ciconens (in Book Nine)
  2. The Lotus Eaters (in Book Nine)
  3. The Cyclops (in Book Nine)
  4. Aeolus, Laestrygonians, Circe's Island (one year)
  5. Hades
  6. Sirens, Scylla and Charybdis, Oxen of the Sun
  7. Calypso's Island (seven years)
  8. Nausicaa and the Phaecians
  9. Ithaca and Penelope 

Book Nine: Ismarus, the Lotus Eaters, and the Cyclops 


The escape from the Cyclops is Odysseus' most famous achievement, and his survival can be attributed to his intelligence (metis). You defeat overwhelming force by out thinking it, by seizing the passing moment and adapting to circumstance. Odysseus must use disguise and eventually violence to achieve his end. 

Close Reading:

  • Odysseus identifies himself before the Phaecians (9. 20-40)
  • What does the episode with the Kikonens tell us about the mentality of Odysseus and his men right after they had left Troy after ten years of war? (9. 45-80)
  • What is the symbolic meaning of the storm which strikes Odysseus and his men after they pillage the Kikonens on Ismaros? (9. 80)
  • What is the symbolic meaning of Odysseus' episode among the Lotus Eaters (9. 80-115)
  • How is the island of the Cyclops described? (9. 115-150)
  • Look at the Odysseus' description of the mouth to the Cyclops cave. (9. 185-95)

What interpretation of the Cyclops story can be derived from considering the strange, nightmarish details Homer weaves into its fabric? (8. 260-620)

If one looks at the peculiar details of the scene, one can compose an elaborate metaphorical response to the story. What should we make of:

  • The abundance of milk and cheese, lambs and kids within the cave (9. 290-305)
  • Polyphemus drunken lack of xenia: he likes to eat his guests instead of eating with them. (9. 310-395)
  • Odysseus resists the temptation of stabbing Polyphemus in the liver. (9. 395-405)
  • Odysseus' plan of action: the blinding of drunken Polyphemus with what amounts to a sailing ship's mast (plan: 9. 405-525)
  • Odysseus gets the Cyclops drunk on wine. (9.470-483)
  • The blinding of the one-eyed monster. (9.495-528)
  • The ridiculous trick of Odysseus calling himself 'Nobody' so that the Cyclops cries for help are ignored by his neighbors: "Nobody hurt me!" (9. 485-495; 9. 528-548)
  • The escape of the sailors beneath and between the monsters' legs clutching the ram's bellies (9. 548-620)
  • Odysseus' mistake: telling Polyphemus his name (9. 615-695)
  • Polyphemus' prayer to his father, Poseidon- the god of the sea (9. 695-715)

Paragraph Question:

What is Homer's artistic intention in Book Nine of The Odyssey
What does Odysseus need to learn in order to find his way home?
What is Homer telling us about the nature of Greek civilization's greatest heroes?

Odysseus Paragraph:

Now remember the essay question for the paper due Thursday at 3:30 p.m.:

Essay Comparing Achilles and Odysseus:

Due Thursday at 3:30 pm will be your essay on Homer's great epic heroes Achilles and Odysseus. Your task is to compare the way that Homer characterizes Achilles and Odysseus, and then draw conclusions about Homer's evaluation of the values of Greek culture which these two men embody. How does Homer celebrate human heroism yet also point out its tragic consequences?

Can you come up with a thesis statement that explains Homer's purpose in putting these two heroes back to back in The Iliad and The Odyssey? What strengths and weaknesses of character do both men exhibit? Who has the best chance at success? Why?

Thesis Statement: