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Summary of Odyssey Book IX

What Happens in the Ninth Book of Homer's Odyssey

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Odysseus and His Men Blinding Polyphemus, Laconian black-figure cup, 565-560 B.C.

Odysseus and His Men Blinding Polyphemus, Laconian black-figure cup, 565-560 B.C.

PD Bibi Saint-Pol. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Odyssey Study Guide Contents

The 9th Book of the Odyssey begins with Odysseus answering Alcinous' question about his identity. Odysseus then starts the saga of his adventures since leaving Troy.

Kikones

The first hurdle comes when the Greeks in Odysseus' company plunder the land of the Kikones and then decide they want more. By dawdling, they allow time for armed men to arrive and kill a number of Odysseus' men.

Lotus-Eaters

The survivors go to the land of the Lotus-Eaters. The lotus is a powerful narcotic-type plant that makes those of Odysseus' men who eat it not want to leave the island. Ordering the rest of the men not to touch it, Odysseus binds those who have already eaten it and sails off.

Goat Island

The third stop is sometimes called Goat Island and is very near the Cyclops' island. The Greeks dine on wild goats and wine from the Kikones' plunder.

Polyphemus

The next day, Odysseus takes 12 of his crew to the nearby island of the Cyclops, carrying some special wine as a gift. When they arrive the Cyclops are pasturing their sheep. The Greeks enter a cave where there are cheeses and lambs the Greeks want to steal. Odysseus wants them to wait to meet the Cyclops. They light a fire, burn an offering, and wait until the Cyclops returns. When he comes in with his animals, he pulls an enormous stone slab against the opening to form a door Odysseus and all his men would be unable to move. The Cyclops asks the strangers who they are. Odysseus answers that they are Greeks from Troy and that they want his help.

The Cyclops replies that he doesn't care what Zeus says about helping strangers and picks up two of Odysseus' companions for his dinner. After the Cyclops goes to sleep, Odysseus begins to plot how to save their lives and get out of the cave.

The next morning, the Cyclops eats another two men and leaves the cave with his flock, pulling closed the stone slab door. Odysseus and his men cut off a length of an olive tree and form it into a pointed spike. When their weapon is completed, they hide it among the piles of dung.

When the Cyclops returns, he eats two more men. Odysseus offers him his special wine, which the Cyclops accepts and then promises to eat Odysseus last as an exchange gift. He also asks for Odysseus' name, which Odysseus gives as "Outis" 'No One'. The Cyclops falls asleep drunk.

The Greeks char the point of the spike in the fire and then the men ram it into the Cyclops' eye until it pops out. The Cyclops roars and calls for his brothers. When they come near, they ask him, Polyphemus, what happened. Polyphemus says that "no one" has hurt him. The other Cyclops say he must deal with the gods, then, and leave.

Just because he's injured doesn't mean he can ignore the needs of his flock, so the next day he lets them out, feeling the fleece on each as it passes. In this way he would have detected the Greeks if they had walked out, but Odysseus had tied them to the bellies of sheep. After they get out undetected, they hurry off with the sheep.

Odysseus shouts taunts at Polyphemus who hurls a hilltop in his direction. The Greeks race away and urge Odysseus not to incite the giant, but Odysseus doesn't listen and tells the Cyclops his name.

The Cyclops makes a prayer to his father to keep Odysseus from reaching his home and to make him lose all his companions.

Odysseus burns a ram as an offering to Zeus and the Greeks leave the next morning.

Book VIII Summary|Book X

Read a Public Domain translation of Odyssey Book IX.

Next: Major Characters in Book IX, Notes Book IX

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