The Odyssey Study Guide Free

The Odyssey
The Odyssey Study Guide Free

The Odyssey – Telemachus, Odysseus, Penelope, and Thermopylae

Odyssey has been gone for 20 years–10 fighting at Troy and 10 trying to return home. Now he is back.

His wife Penelope and son Telemachus are being pestered by suitors, ignorant aristocrats who want to marry her. With Athena’s help, he disguises himself and goes to the hut of his faithful swineherd Eumaeus.


Like other Homeric heroes, Odysseus longs for kleos (glory won through great deeds) and nostos (homecoming). He enjoys his luxurious life with Calypso but eventually wants to return to Ithaca. Even during his stay with the Phaeacians and Circe’s island, he thinks of home.

One of the most important themes in The Odyssey is that Odysseus tries to help his crewmen whenever possible. He saved the men from the lotus plants and later he saved his son Telemachus when he was being attacked by the suitors. He also tried to keep his identity a secret from his wife Penelope, but she found out anyway.

Penelope’s wit helped her to keep the suitors at bay, but she eventually had to choose between them. She came up with a contest to determine who would marry her. She would give the prize to the man who could string the bow of the bow that belonged to her king father. Odysseus was able to string the bow, but he did so only after a few attempts.

In his quest for kleos, Odysseus encountered many dangers and obstacles. He survived being swept away by Scylla and Charybdis, but he lost many of his men in the process. He tried to avoid the suitors by feigning madness, but this did not work.


Homer’s presentation of Penelope, Odysseus’s wife, begins with her in a state of profound social displacement. She is alone in a house to which she has at best a doubtful claim and in a world of male dominance in which she is at once cognitively and societally lost. In her first appearance she utters a simple but devastating question: “Why am I here?”

Her characterization is then established through her response to the singer Phemios. Modulating the formulaic opening that characterizes powerful speech among men, she addresses him with honorific expressions of respect and praise, and then questions him with a probing metis of insinuating skepticism:

The climactic battle in Book XIV brings Penelope together with Telemachus once more. Having been driven to Ithaca by an omen of two fighting eagles, Telemachus is now convinced that his father has returned from the war and that he has a plot to destroy the suitors.

As a result, he carries out a plan to slaughter the suitors and hang twelve of them, including his loyal swineherd Eumaeus. Then he reveals himself to Penelope, whom he is not at first sure she recognizes. He is not merely seeking vengeance for her son’s murder but a way of restoring his fortunes, and his story ends with him being restored to his position in the Greek royal court and reunited with his family.


As the Odyssey progresses Telemachus demonstrates that he is a maturing young man. He possesses assertiveness, valor, and decisiveness, all traits that will be helpful in the battles ahead. He also demonstrates his willingness to learn from his mistakes and his strong sense of responsibility, qualities that will help him become a great leader.

Despite the fact that Odysseus has been gone for decades, Telemachus maintains a high level of self-respect and steadfastness. He is proud of his accomplishments and the fact that he has not been corrupted by the suitors, as many other men would have been. Odysseus is impressed by his son’s tenacity and the way that he handles himself in the face of adversity.

Telemachus makes the journey to Pylos and Sparta in order to find out more about his father’s whereabouts. He visits the kings Nestor and Menelaus, who have no idea of what happened to Odysseus. However, they provide him with the resources he needs to rid his palace of the suitors.

Once at home, Telemachus sets up a test for the suitors in which they must shoot an arrow through twelve ax heads using Odysseus’ old bow. The winner of this competition will be Penelope’s new husband. Odysseus feigns ignorance of the rules but approves of the test.

The Suitors

After fighting for the Greeks in the Trojan War, Odysseus departed from Ithaca for home. He left behind his wife Penelope and son Telemachus. During his long absence, 108 unmarried men took up residence in his palace and vied for his wife’s hand in marriage. The men abused their power and betrayed the bonds of hospitality, and the goddess Athena sent Odysseus to punish them.

Disguised as a beggar, Odysseus enters the palace and is met with abuse and insults. His only ally is his nurse, Eurycleia, who does not reveal his identity. Penelope takes an interest in the stranger and decides to hold a bow contest. She will marry the man who can string her husband’s great bow and fire an arrow through a row of twelve axes, a feat that only Odysseus has ever accomplished.

When all the suitors have fallen, Odysseus reveals himself and is welcomed by his loving family. The epic poem’s central theme is spiritual growth and the triumph of love over fear and hate. The suitors’ punishment serves as a warning to those who challenge rightful authority or betray the bonds of hospitality.

The Battle of Thermopylae

The Battle of Thermopylae

Thermopylae is a narrow, mountainous pass (literally meaning “hot passes”) that runs east-west and connects Central and Southern Greece. It’s one of the few choke points in North Greece and it’s where any army coming from the north would have to pass. Leonidas stationed 1000 Phocian volunteers on the heights to guard this path. A Malian, Ephialtes, offered to lead them in return for a prize. So, at the start of the battle, no one was surprised when the Persians poured through.

The Spartans were enraged at the loss of their brothers at Marathon and they wanted to punish the invaders. Leonidas hoped that by taking a stand at Thermopylae they could buy enough time to raise the remaining Greek forces and launch a full scale assault on the Persians’ rearguard.

The Odyssey is an epic poem told in a conversational style that’s both personal and universal. It’s a tale of exile, longing, temptation, patience and cunning. It is the timeless tale of every man’s journey to ‘home’ – be it spiritual or physical. Odysseus’s story helped inspire countless creative retellings through the centuries, from films like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Paris, Texas to O Brother, Where Art Thou? and the superhero Batman.

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