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Book 13

The Odyssey – Book 13 Odysseus Lands in Ithaca (Context)


·        Alcinous, moved by Odysseus's harrowing tale, promises that each Phaeacian man will give him a gift to build up wealth for his return to Ithaca.

·        They feast all the next day while Alcinous' men prepare the ships. Odysseus is impatient to leave.

·        Alcinous' men row him to Ithaca during the night as Odysseus sleeps on the ship, and we're kind of surprised he actually made it home this time.

·        They land on a rocky grotto, unload the still sleeping Odysseus, and leave him on the shore with all his treasure.

·        Up in the clouds, or wherever it is that gods hang out, Poseidon sees Odysseus in Ithaca and approaches Zeus angrily. He wants Odysseus to suffer.

·        Zeus tells him that he is a god and therefore may take his revenge against a mortal any time he wants.

·        So Poseidon finds the Phaeacians' returning ship, which is almost back to its homeland, and turns it into stone. Where it promptly sinks.

·        Alcinous, seeing this happen, remembers the prophecy we heard in Book VIII (that his ship would be turned to stone and mountains thrown up around his island if his people were nice to strangers) and promptly whacks himself on the forehead.

·        Meanwhile, Athene, up to her old tricks again, conjures a grey mist to hide Odysseus while he sleeps.

·        When he wakes, Odysseus doesn't recognize his home and has no idea where he is. He thinks the Phaeacians have deceived him.

·        After he counts his treasure and realizes none of it is stolen, Athene tarts herself as a shepherd and approaches him.

·        They have a little exchange, and Odysseus makes up an elaborate story about being a hunted man from Crete who fought in the Trojan War and just escaped a ship of pirates.

·        Athene, highly amused, reveals her true form and has a hearty laugh. Then she comments that Odysseus is indeed a master liar (which is a compliment).

·        We learn that Odysseus thought himself abandoned by the goddess after the Trojan War, but is pleased to discover that she's been the one following him around and putting protective clouds over him.

·        Athene reaffirms that this land is Ithaca. She lifts the protective cloud so he can see clearly that this is indeed his beloved homeland.

·        They stash the treasure safely in the grotto and start planning revenge.

·        Athene tells Odysseus she will disguise him as a beggar, because she is the master of disguises and no one likes to look too closely at beggars anyway. She orders him to go see his swineherd in the forest while she flies to Sparta to call Telemachus home.




Odysseus’ Tale to Athene

Book 13 Lines 291 – 441 – Find evidence for:

a)     This is not their first conversation

a.      “You were gracious to me in the old days” – Shared past

b.     “You were always an obstinate, cunning and irrepressible intriguer”


b)    Athene praising Odysseus

a.      “In the world of men you have no rival in judgement and argument”


c)     How Odysseus and Athene share similar qualities

a.      Both cunning

                                          i.     “You were always an obstinate, cunning and irrepressible intriguer”

                                        ii.     “And here I am once more to contrive a cunning scheme”

b.     Both in disguise

c.      “We both know how to get our own way”


d)    That they are very fond of each other

a.      “You were gracious to me in the old days”

b.     “I cannot desert you in your misfortunes”

c.      “Decided on our best course of action” – “Our” not “Your”

d.     “Smiled and caressed him with her hand”


e)     Athene providing Odysseus with advice and information

a.      She will help him to hide the treasures

b.     Athene tells Odysseus to go to Eumaeus’ hut in disguise as a beggar

c.      “Tell not a single man or woman you are back”


f)      A running comparison between Odysseus and Agamemnon

a.      Agamemnon had people celebrating his arrival home after the Trojan War

b.     Odysseus has the warning and divine patronage (unlike Agamemnon)

c.      Athene mentions Penelope is still loyal to Odysseus whereas Clytaemnestra was not loyal to Agamemnon




How do the Gods intervene in Human Affairs?

Dreams (sending dreams to mortals)

Athene appears to Nausicaa (6)

Omens (natural phenomena)

Zeus sends eagles to Ithaca (2)

Zeus sends thunder (12)

Portents (supernatural events)

Meat makes noises when being roasted (12)


Circe prophesises the rest of Odysseus’ journey (12)

Calypso prophesises misery (5)

Appears as themselves

Hermes (10)

Athene (13)

Appears in disguise

Athene as Mentor, Mentes, Telemachus, young girl on Phaeacia (7), spectator at Phaeacian games (8), shepherd (13)

Put ideas into mortal’s heads

Athene – Nausicaa (to find Odysseus), Odysseus in shipwreck (to hold onto rocks), olive stake (Metis was Athene’s mother)

Rescue mortals from danger

Athene, River god and Ino (5)

Zeus (12)

Hermes (10)

Enhance the appearance of mortals

Athene – Odysseus (6)

Circe and Calypso – make him more desirable

Persuade other gods to act on their behalf

Athene persuades Zeus

Hyperion blackmails Zeus

Disguise mortals

Athene disguises Odysseus as a beggar (13)

Athene disguises Odysseus with mist (6)

Use mortals as their agents

Odysseus missionary journey to spread cult of Poseidon

Athene using Nausicaa to help Odysseus (6)

Zeus uses Odysseus to punish Suitors for bad Xenia


Fantasy vs Reality



Fantasy creatures – Cyclopes, Laestrygonians, Sirens, Scylla, Charybdis etc.

Time is allocated for

Fantasy places – Aeolia, Aeaea, Underworld, Thrinaciae, Island of Lotus Eaters

Locations – Sparta, Pylos, Ithaca

Gods acting amongst men – Athene, Ino, River God, Hermes, Poseidon, Zeus

Oikos on Ithaca – Household and everything it contains

Magical objects – Bag of wind, Ino’s veil, Moly (antidote to Circe’s magic)

Burial practices demonstrated - Elpenor

No language barrier

Real (or human) characters – Menelaus, Ajax, Eurycleia

Magic in general – Circe turning the crew into pigs, Phaeacia mist, Athene’s special makeovers

Trade and professions – Swineherds, social status between kings and slaves

Phaeacia – Transitional place between fantasy and reality