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The Adventures of Odysseus
by [?]


Of all the heroes that wandered far and wide before they came to their homes again after the fall of Troy, none suffered so many hardships as Odysseus.

There was, indeed, one other man whose adventures have been likened to his, and this was Aeneas, a Trojan hero. He escaped from the burning city with a band of fugitives, his countrymen; and after years of peril and wandering he came to found a famous race in Italy. On the way, he found one hospitable resting-place in Carthage, where Queen Dido received him with great kindliness; and when he left her she took her own life, out of very grief.

But there were no other hardships such as beset Odysseus, between the burning of Troy and his return to Ithaca, west of the land of Greece. Ten years did he fight against Troy, but it was ten years more before he came to his home and his wife Penelope and his son Telemachus.

Now all these latter years of wandering fell to his lot because of Poseidon’s anger against him. For Poseidon had favored the Grecian cause, and might well have sped home this man who had done so much to win the Grecian victory. But as evil destiny would have it, Odysseus mortally angered the god of the sea by blinding his son, the Cyclops Polyphemus. And thus it came to pass.

Odysseus set out from Troy with twelve good ships. He touched first at Ismarus, where his first misfortune took place, and in a skirmish with the natives he lost a number of men from each ship’s crew. A storm then drove them to the land of the Lotus-Eaters, a wondrous people, kindly and content, who spend their lives in a day-dream and care for nothing else under the sun. No sooner had the sailors eaten of this magical lotus than they lost all their wish to go home, or to see their wives and children again. By main force, Odysseus drove them back to the ships and saved them from the spell.

Thence they came one day to a beautiful strange island, a verdant place to see, deep with soft grass and well watered with springs. Here they ran the ships ashore, and took their rest and feasted for a day. But Odysseus looked across to the mainland, where he saw flocks and herds, and smoke going up softly from the homes of men; and he resolved to go across and find out what manner of people lived there. Accordingly, next morning, he took his own ship’s company and they rowed across to the mainland.

Now, fair as the place was, there dwelt in it a race of giants, the Cyclopes, great rude creatures, having each but one eye, and that in the middle of his forehead. One of them was Polyphemus, the son of Poseidon. He lived by himself as a shepherd, and it was to his cave that Odysseus came, by some evil chance. It was an enormous grotto, big enough to house the giant and all his flocks, and it had a great courtyard without. But Odysseus, knowing nought of all this, chose out twelve men, and with a wallet of corn and a goatskin full of wine they left the ship and made a way to the cave, which they had seen from the water.

Much they wondered who might be the master of this strange house. Polyphemus was away with his sheep, but many lambs and kids were penned there, and the cavern was well stored with goodly cheeses and cream and whey.

Without delay, the wearied men kindled a fire and sat down to eat such things as they found, till a great shadow came dark against the doorway, and they saw the Cyclops near at hand, returning with his flocks. In an instant they fled into the darkest corner of the cavern.