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Summary of Odyssey Book X

What Happens in the Tenth Book of Homer's Odyssey

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Odyssey Study Guide Contents

In Book X, Odysseus continues his tale for the Phaeacians:
His crew next sails to the island of Aeolia where Aeolus lives. They stay a month so Odysseus can tell the tales of Troy and the returns of the Achaean leaders. Odysseus then asks permission to leave and for provisions, which Aeolus generously provides. He includes a bag of the winds tightly sealed so Odysseus can release them as needed. Odysseus and his men set sail. On the 10th day, they spot Ithaca. Then Odysseus falls asleep. While he sleeps some of his men discuss the likelihood that Odysseus' special bag contains gold and silver he is keeping from his men, so they open the bag, releasing all the winds.

Storm-tossed they are blown back to Aeolia. Aeolus refuses to help again. Instead, he orders them off the island because they are cursed by the gods.

They row for a week until they reach Telepylus in the land of Laistrygonians (Laestrygonians), (cannibals ruled by Antiphates). All the ships save Odysseus' moor together in a harbor. Three men land. The Laistrygonian king eats one of the scouts. The other Greeks run for the ships. The Laistrygonians smash the 11 ships that are in the harbor so they can feed on the men. Odysseus orders the men on his ship, which is only safe for the moment, to row.

They next land on Aiaia, Circe's island. They rest a couple of days and then Odysseus scouts the island for sign of human habitation. When he finds it, he returns to the ship. He feeds and revives the men on a stag he has found and shot. He and Eurylokhos split the men between them and draw lots to see which half will go. Eurylokhos gets the nod. Eurylokhos and his 22 men are worried after the Laistrygonians and don't really want to go, but do so, anyway.

They see wild animals that should, but don't attack and they hear Circe's singing, so Polites urges that they should go towards it since it sounds like the voice of a goddess. Eurylokhos fears a trap and doesn't go in with the other men.

Circe wines and dines them on drugged matter and then turns them into swine and puts them in a sty.

Eurylokhos runs to the ship to report what happened.

Odysseys heads to Circe to see what he can do. Before arriving, he runs into Hermes who warns him that he needs a special flower for protection. He gives further specific instructions: When Circe starts to chase him outside, he is to draw his blade. When she offers to have sex with him, he is not to accept until he has exacted a binding oath not to trick him. He must then have sex. He gives Odysseus the magical flower and disappears.

Circe offers Odysseus drugged wine, which he drinks with impunity. She then tries to shuffle him off to the sty, but he draws the blade against her throat. She wants to know who he is and why he's not sluggish. She figures he is Odysseus and asks him to make love.

Odysseus says he won't unless she swears a binding oath, which she does. After the sex, Circe's nymphs bathe and feed Odysseus, but he doesn't seem to enjoy it. Circe wonders why he still distrusts her.

Odysseus says that he puts his men first and he wants them to be freed. Circe obliges. Then all the men are summoned to her home. Circe wants Odysseus to stay and the men are willing, so they stay a year.

One of the men makes Odysseus think about moving on. Odysseus asks Circe for help, which she grants, but tells him he'll never reach home if he doesn't first go to the Underworld, and talk with Tiresias. He must make appropriate libations and sacrifice, and for this Circe supplies the required black ewe and ram. Before the men leave, one of the men, Elpenor, climbs to the rood and falls off.

Book IX Summary|Book XI

Read a Public Domain translation of Odyssey Book X.

Next: Major Characters in Book X, Notes Book X

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