The Odyssey Character List

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The Odyssey Character List

Odysseus

fought among the other Greek heroes at Troy and now struggles to return to his kingdom in Ithaca. husband of Queen Penelope and the father of Prince Telemachus. Though a strong and courageous warrior, he is most renowned for his cunning.

Telemachus

Odysseus's son. He is a natural obstacle to the suitors desperately courting his mother, but despite his courage and good heart, he initially lacks the poise and confidence to oppose them.

Penelope

Wife of Odysseus and mother of Telemachus. Mourns for the husband who left for Troy twenty years earlier and never returned. Beautiful and loyal to her husband.

Athena

Daughter of Zeus and goddess of wisdom, purposeful battle, and the womanly arts. Assists Odysseus and Telemachus with divine powers throughout the epic, and she speaks up for them in the councils of the gods on Mount Olympus. She often appears in disguise as Mentor, an old friend of Odysseus.

Poseidon

God of the sea. As the suitors are Odysseus's mortal antagonists, he is his divine antagonist. He despises Odysseus for blinding his son, the Cyclops Polyphemus, and constantly hampers his journey home. Ironically, Poseidon is the patron of the seafaring Phaeacians, who ultimately help to return Odysseus to Ithaca.

Zeus

King of gods and men, who mediates the disputes of the gods on Mount Olympus. He is occasionally depicted as weighing men's fates in his scales. He sometimes helps Odysseus or permits Athena to do the same.

Antinous

Suitor: Leads the campaign to have Telemachus killed. Unlike the other suitors, he is never portrayed sympathetically, and he is the first to die when Odysseus returns.

Eurymachus

Suitor: manipulative and deceitful. His charisma and duplicity allow him to exert some influence over the other suitors.

Amphinomus

Suitor: a decent man seeking Penelope's hand in marriage. He sometimes speaks up for Odysseus and Telemachus, but he is killed like the rest of the suitors in the final fight.

Eumaeus

Shepherd: Along with the cowherd, helps Odysseus reclaim his throne after his return to Ithaca. Even though he does not know that the vagabond who appears at his hut is Odysseus, Eumaeus gives the man food and shelter.

Eurycleia

Nurse: nursed Odysseus and Telemachus when they were babies. She is well informed about palace intrigues and serves as confidante to her masters. She keeps Telemachus's journey secret from Penelope, and she later keeps Odysseus's identity a secret after she recognizes a scar on his leg.

Melanthius

He is a treacherous and opportunistic goatherd who supports the suitors, especially Eurymachus, and abuses the beggar who appears in Odysseus's palace, not realizing that the man is Odysseus himself.

Melantho

Maidservant in Odysseus's palace. Like her brother, Melantho abuses the beggar in the palace, not knowing that the man is Odysseus. She is having an affair with Eurymachus.

Calypso

The beautiful nymph who falls in love with Odysseus when he lands on her island-home of Ogygia.

Polyphemus

Odysseus comes to his island soon after leaving Troy. He imprisons Odysseus and his crew and tries to eat them; son of Poseidon

Circe

The beautiful witch-goddess who transforms Odysseus's crew into swine when he lands on her island. Lives with her for a year

Laertes

Odysseus's aging father, who resides on a farm in Ithaca. In despair and physical decline, Laertes regains his spirit when Odysseus returns and eventually kills Antinous's father.

Tiresias

A Theban prophet who inhabits the underworld. Meets Odysseus and shows him how to get back to Ithaca and allows Odysseus to communicate with the other souls in Hades.

Nestor

King of Pylos and a former warrior in the Trojan War. Like Odysseus, he is known as a clever speaker. Telemachus visits him to ask about his father, but he knows little of Odysseus's whereabouts.

Menelaus

King of Sparta husband of Helen, he helped lead the Greeks in the Trojan War. He offers Telemachus assistance in his quest to find Odysseus when Telemachus visits him

Helen

Wife of Menelaus and queen of Sparta. Helen's abduction from Sparta by the Trojans sparked the Trojan War. Her beauty is without parallel, but she is criticized for giving in to her Trojan captors and thereby costing many Greek men their lives. She offers Telemachus assistance in his quest to find his father.

Agamemnon

Former king of Mycenae and commander of the Achaean forces at Troy. Odysseus encounters his spirit in Hades. He was murdered by his wife, Clytemnestra, and her lover, Aegisthus, upon his return from the war. He was later avenged by his son Orestes. Their story is constantly repeated in the Odyssey to offer an inverted image of the fortunes of Odysseus and Telemachus.

Nausicaa

The beautiful daughter of King Alcinous and Queen Arete of the Phaeacians. She discovers Odysseus on the beach at Scheria and, out of budding affection for him, ensures his warm reception at her parents' palace.

Alcinous

King of the Phaeacians, who offers Odysseus hospitality in his island kingdom of Scheria. He hears the story of Odysseus's wanderings and provides him with safe passage back to Ithaca.

Arete

Queen of the Phaeacians. She is intelligent and influential.

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