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Characters in The Odyssey

Achilles
Greatest warrior of the Trojan War.
Aigisthos
Took Agamememnon’s wedded wife for himself despite warnings from Hermes. Killed by Agememnon’s son, Orestes, in revenge.
Athena
Virgin goddess of wisdom, practical arts, and war. Athena sprang fully formed from Zeus’s head.
Calypso
Daughter of Atlas who offered Odysseus immortality if he would remain with her on the island of Ogygia.
Clytaemnestra
Daughter of Leda, sister of Helen, wife of Agamemnon. Clytemnestra never forgave Agamemnon for sacrificing their daugther Iphigenia to Artemis. With her lover, Aegisthus, she plotted to murder Agamemnon. Later their son, Orestes, killed her to avenge Agamemnon’s murder.
Eurycleia
Odysseus’s trusted housekeeper.
Hermes
Greek messenger of the gods and the patron of all travelers, merchants, rogues, and thieves. Also responsible for leading dead souls to the Underworld.
Menelaos
King of Sparta; husband of Helen. When Paris and Helen left for Troy, Menelaos called on Helen’s former suitors to help bring her back. After the Trojan War was over, Menealous forgave Helen and welcomed her back.
Mentor
Friend and comrade to Odysseus who was entrusted with Odysseus’s house in his absence.
Nestor
Friend and comrade of Odysseus during the Trojan War.
Odysseus
King of Ithaca who led the Greeks in their defeat of the Trojans during the Trojan War. The gods punished Odysseus for his brutality at the war’s end by sentencing him to wander the oceans for ten long years before finding his way home again.
Orestes
Agamemnon’s son who killed Aigisthos in revenge.
Penelopeia
Wife of Odysseus who waited twenty years for his return from the Trojan War. During this time many suitors attempted to take Odysseus’s place. She warded them off by saying she needed to finish weaving a shroud for Laertes, although each night she unraveled the day’s work.
Poseidon
God of the sea and of earthquakes; son of Cronus and Rhea and brother of Zeus. A violent and powerful god who was involved in many battles. His chief weapon was the trident, a three-pronged spear.
Telemachos
Loyal son of Odysseus and Penelope.
Zeus
The principal god of the pantheon and the ultimate ruler of heaven and earth and of all gods and humankind. Son of Rhea and Cronus; husband of Hera.

 

 

 

Focus Questions

Book I - What Went On in the House of Odysseus

  1. What did Orestes do? Why would the Greeks consider this act honorable?
  2. What has been happening in Ithaca during Odysseus’s absence?
  3. What does Athena do in Ithaca? How does she appear?
  4. How does Athena’s visit change Telemachos’s behavior?

Book II – How the Council Met in the Market-place of Ithaca; and What Came of It

  1. Why are there so many men at Odysseus’s house?
  2. What has Penelopeia been doing in order to avoid selecting a husband? How was she caught?
  3. What plan does Telemachos form? How does Athena help him?

Book III – What Happened in Sandy Pylos

  1. How was Telemachos greeted by Nestor?
  2. What news does Nestor share with Telemachos?
  3. How does Athena reveal her true identity?

 

 

 

Vocabulary in Book I - What Went On in the House of Odysseus

  1. Anguish (noun): severe mental or physical pain or suffering.
  2. Comely (adj): pleasant to look at; attractive.
  3. Cyclops (noun): from Greek mythology a member of a race of savage one-eyed giants.
  4. Divination (noun): the practice of seeking knowledge of the future of the unknown by supernatural means.
  5. Gallant (adj): brave; heroic; chivalrous.
  6. Gallant (noun): a man who is charmingly attentive to women.
  7. Immortal (adj): living forever.
  8. Imperishable (adj): indestructible.
  9. Indignant (adj): feeling or expressing anger, especially at unjust or mean action.
  10. Lament (noun): a passionate expression of grief.
  11. Loom (noun): an apparatus for making fabric by weaving yarn or thread.
  12. Minstrel (noun):a medieval singer or musician.
  13. Mortal (adj): subject to death.
  14. Nymph (noun): a mythological spirit of nature imagined as a beautiful maiden.
  15. Peril (noun): a situation of serious and immediate danger.
  16. Perish (verb): suffer complete ruin or destruction; die.
  17. Piteous (adj): deserving or arousing pity.
  18. Prophet (noun): a person who predicts the future.
  19. Rabble (noun): a disorderly crowd.
  20. Relish (noun): great enjoyment.
  21. Reproach (verb): express one’s disapproval of or disappointment with.
  22. Rhetoric (noun): the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing.
  23. Scarce (adj): rarely found; (of a resource) insufficient for the demand.

Book II – How the Council Met in the Market-place of Ithaca; and What Came of It

  1. Antediluvian (adj): belonging to the time before the biblical flood.
  2. Besiege (verb): surround (a place) with armed forces in order to capture it or force it to surrender.
  3. Brine (noun): seawater.
  4. Cajole (verb): persuade (someone) to do something by sustained coaxing or flattery.
  5. Coffer (noun): a small chest for holding valuables.
  6. Delude (verb): persuade (someone) to believe something incorrect; mislead.
  7. Denounce (verb): publicly declare to be wrong or evil.
  8. Dolorous (adj): feeling great sorrow or distress.
  9. Implore (verb): beg earnestly or desperately.
  10. Importunate (adj): persistent or pressing.
  11. Inflame (verb): intensify or aggravate.
  12. Inquire (verb): ask for information.
  13. Intolerable (adj): unable to be endured.
  14. Jeer (verb): make rude and mocking remarks at someone.
  15. Libation (noun): the pouring out of a drink as an offering to a deity.
  16. Lissom (adj): slim, supple, and graceful.
  17. Lofty (adj): of imposing height; noble; elevated.
  18. Meditation (noun): a discourse expressing considered thoughts on a subject.
  19. Mock (verb): tease scornfully; ridicule.
  20. Novice (noun): a person new to and inexperienced in a job or situation.
  21. Nuisance (noun): a person or thing causing inconvenience or annoyance.
  22. Omen (noun): an event regarded as a sign of future good fortune or evil.
  23. Prognostication (verb): foretell; prophesy.
  24. Redress (verb): remedy or set right.
  25. Retribution (noun): punishment inflicted in the spirit of moral outrage or personal vengeance.
  26. Revel (verb): engage in lively and noisy festivities.
  27. Scepter (noun): a staff carried by rulers on ceremonial occasions as a symbol of sovereignty.
  28. Wit (noun): the capacity for inventive thought and quick understanding; keen intelligence.
  29. Woo (verb): try to gain the love of (a woman).
  30. Wrath (noun): extreme anger.

Book III – What Happened in Sandy Pylos

  1. Arduous (adj): difficult or tiring.
  2. Beseech (verb): ask (someone) fervently for something.
  3. Cavalier (adj): showing a lack of proper concern.
  4. Cavalier (noun): courtly gentleman.
  5. Embark (verb); begin (a new project or course of action).
  6. Keen (adj): eager; enthusiastic.
  7. Ordain(verb): (of God or fate) decide in advance.
  8. Pauper (noun): a very poor person.
  9. Plunder (verb): enter forcibly and steal goods from, especially during war or civil disorder.
  10. Portent (noun): a sign or warning that something momentous or disastrous is likely to happen.
  11. Providence (noun): the protective care of God or of nature as a spiritual power.
  12. Reckless (adj): without thought or care for the consequences of an action.
  13. Renown (noun): the state of being famous.
  14. Traverse (verb): travel across or through.
  15. Vouchsafe (verb): give, grant, or disclose in a gracious or condescending manner.