BOOK IX – THE VOYAGE OF ODYSSEUS
Cicones, Lotus Eaters and Polyphemus
After leaving Troy, Odysseus and his squadron of ships raided the land of
the Cicones. This proved to be a disastrous campaign and they suffered heavy losses.
Leaving this country, they were still faced with a severe storm and they
eventually made land in Lotophagi (the Lotus eaters). This is a strange country, but the inhabitants appeared friendly and they encouraged Odysseus’ crew to eat of the lotus, a local plant.
Those that consumed this flower lost all memory of home and loyalty. Odysseus along with some of his men who had not been exposed to the plant was hard pressed to rescue the seamen who had been affected by this narcotic.
They hastily left Lotophagi and traveling west, they arrived at the land of
the Cyclops, a barbarous race of one-eyed giants. In search of provisions, Odysseus and a small band of twelve men went ashore and they found a huge cave clearly belonging to a shepherd, and they went inside
to await the owner. The cave’s owner was Polyphemus, the son of Poseidon, who was famous for his taste for human flesh.
When he returned, he drove his flock of large sheep into the cave and sealed
the entrance with a huge stone door. When Polyphemus discovered Odysseus and his men in his cave, he immediately devoured two of them.
In defiance of Zeus, Polyphemus intended to consume all the men and ate a
further two in the morning. Odysseus and his men were trapped for they did not have enough strength to move the stone door.
In order to save the situation, Odysseus would have to call on his cunning again and he devised a plan.
That evening, he engaged Polyphemus in conversation and induced the Cyclops
to consume so much wine that he fell into a drunken sleep.
Odysseus’ men had already sharpened a pole, and whilst Polyphemus slept, they blinded him. The giant screamed with pain and rage, but he could not find his assailants. Before the giant had passed out, Odysseus had told the dull-witted giant that his name was ‘Nobody’. Hearing Polyphemus screaming, the other Cyclops came to his aid, but when he told them that ‘Nobody’ was responsible, they assumed that this was the work of the gods and left him.
Next day, the Cyclops opened up the cave to allow his sheep to graze and
Odysseus and his men escaped by clinging to the underside of the sheep to avoid detection.
As Odysseus left the shores of this land, he shouted out to the Cyclops that
his name was Odysseus. Polyphemus called out to his father Poseidon to avenge this deed.