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Odyssey

The Odyssey is one of the most important works of the Western Canon and is the second-oldest known Western work (after ‘The Iliad,’ also by Homer). The book begins ten years after the end of the Trojan War, and King Odysseus has still not returned to his island home of Ithaca from the war. Odysseus' son Telemachus is around 20 years old and sharing his father's house with his mother, Penelope, and a boisterous crowd of 100+ young men, known as "the Suitors," each of whom desires to persuade Penelope to marry them, all the while enjoying the hospitality of Odysseus' palace household and eating up his wealth. The gods intervene at this point to enable Odysseus to make his return. Odysseus makes his way to the island of Phaecia where he tells his hosts the tale of his long, ten year, adventure-wracked journey home. After this, Odysseus sails to Ithaca, reunites with his son and, together, they slay the Suitors in a bloody battle royal in the palace. The goddess Athena, Odysseus' protectress, intervenes at the end to ensure peace between the returned Ithacan king and his subjects. The work is noteworthy on many levels, including the important roles of women and lower-ranking men, and its non-linear plot. The story is epic and the word “odyssey” has, itself, come to mean an epic voyage or journey.

Timeline Original novel and abridged version (Kingfisher Epics)
Grades 6–12
Characters 31
Number of Timeline Events 34
Duration 2 weeks to 1 semester

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Sample Timeline Events

Breaking News! Homeric Descriptions Illuminate Characters!

Athene - bright-eyed, flashing eyes, daughter of Zeus; Odysseus – noble, nimble-witted, patient, great, stalwart, resourceful; Poseidon - sable locks, earthshaker, Girdler of the Earth; Penelope – wise, prudent; Alcinous – good, divine; Arete - white-armed; Menelaus - red-haired, great, sublime; Calypso – lovely, fair, divine; Telemachus – wise; and others. Yet for unsavory characters, he uses none. Homer has a powerful way of describing characters. In an essay of no more than 150 words, in the voice of your character, discuss how and why the author uses descriptors to illuminate how he sees characters in positive and negative lights.

What to do With Odysseus? The Gods Decide!

On Mount Olympus many of the gods and goddesses gather to discuss the end of the Trojan War and what has happened to the Greek warriors on their homeward journeys. All have been accounted for and perished or made it safely home, except for one -- Odysseus, the King of Ithaca. Athene pleads for Odysseus safe return to his home, and Zeus allows her to proceed with her attempt, although her uncle, Zeus' brother Poseidon, is dead-set against it. The gods send their messenger, Hermes, to Calypso's island to persuade her to release Odysseus, while Athene travels to Ithaca to prod Odysseus' son, Telemachus, into a renewed search for his father.

Huge Storm Hits Returning Fleet

On their way home from their victorious siege of Troy, and subsequent destruction of that City, the Greek ships are scattered by a tremendous storm sent by Zeus and Athene. Many soldiers lost their lives as their ships sank and many others will take years to reach their homes.

The Raid on Ismarus

The same wind that Odysseus and his men sailed on from Troy, brought them to Ismarus, the city of the Cicones. Odysseus decides to sack the city, destroying its defenders and taking their wives and treasure. Odysseus' men delayed boarding their ships to party on shore, allowing the Cicones to gather their neighbors and attack the Achaeans, killing six men per ship. Odysseus and his men finally made their escape, with heavy hearts for the 72 men they had lost.

A Narrow Escape from the Lotus Eaters

After departing Ismarus, 13 days of fierce storms sent by Zeus drove Odysseus and his crews to the Land of the Lotus eaters. A small party sent by Odysseus to investigate the island and its inhabitants got themselves into a bind when they ate the sweet honeyed Lotus flower. It made them forget about family and home and everything, in fact, except staying and eating more of the Lotus. Odysseus had to forcibly take the men and carry them back to the ships and make their escape before they all succumbed to the drug-like effects of the Lotus eaters.

A Wild Weekend With a One-Eyed Warrior

Soon after sailing from the Land of the Lotus eaters, Odysseus' ships reach Hypereia, the land of the Cyclopes -- giant, ogre-like, inhospitable creatures. The land is rich in fruits and goats and the Achaeans attempt to find out what types of men were the Cyclopes. Polyphemus, a son of Poseidon and one of the Cyclopes, captures Odysseus and 12 of his men who were on the reconnaissance with him. Trapped in the Cyclopes cave, Odysseus is forced to watch as Polyphemus devours six of the Greeks, and saves the others for later meal. In desperation, as the Cyclopes drunkenly slept the third night, the Greeks shoved a burning log into the monster's eye, blinding him. When Polyphemus rolled the great rock from the cave entrance, the remaining Achaeans escaped by riding beneath the Cyclopes' sheep and ran back to their ship to sail away. Poseidon is further enraged by Odysseus' conduct.

The Great Wind Bag

Following the adventure with the Cyclopes, Odysseus' crews reach the floating island of Aeolia. A favorite of the gods, Aeolus, lived there with his wife and six sons and six daughters (all paired off and married to one another). The Achaeans spent a month in feasting with their friendly hosts, at which time Odysseus asked Aeolus for help in continuing their journey home. The old man gave Odysseus a large leather bag made from the flayed skin of a whole oxen. in it, Aeolus had imprisoned all the winds, because he had been given the position of Warden of the Winds by the gods. Sending a great west wind behind them, Aeolus saw them off. However, after nine days, and within sight of Ithaca, the men decided to open the bag to see what riches were in it; and instead they unleashed all the great winds at once and the squadron was driven all the way back to Aeolia! The Warden and his family were astonished and did not help a second time, figuring the Achaeans must have angered the gods.

Disaster Befalls the Ithacans at Laistrygonia!

Seven days after forging ahead out of Aeolia a second time, the Acahaeans land at Telepylus on Laistrygonia, an island of giant-like men. Odysseus sends out a three-man reconnaissance party who encounter Antiphates, the chief of the island. The giant promptly devours one of the men and the others race back to the ships, pursued by all the thousands of giants of the island. Unfortunately, 11 of Odysseus' ships' captains had anchored their boats in a tight cove and those Ithacans could not escape the boulders and spears of the giants. All were lost, and only Odysseus (who had kept his ship out of the cove and in open water) and his crew managed to make it out alive and sail away.

The Dalliance with Circe

With his last ship and men, Odysseus lands on Aeaea, the island home of the beautiful goddess Circe, daughter of the Sun, Helios. She is a dangerous maiden, however, and turns half of the Achaeans into swine and imprisons them. Odysseus sets out to free them and on his way is met by the god Hermes, who gives Odysseus a potion to make him immune to Circe's drugs. The goddess is amazed at Odysseus' power and falls in love with him. For a year, Odysseus and Circe are lovers and the Ithacans eat and drink merrily with their goddess-hostess and her servants. Finally, Odysseus asks for Circe's help in getting home and the goddess reluctantly but faithfully aids the Greeks, first instructing them to make a call on Hades.

Breaking News! Gods and Mere Mortals Mingle!

Gods and goddesses play a large role in The Odyssey. Sometimes, they even take human form and interact directly with the people. In an essay of no more than 150 words, in the voice of your character, discuss the roles of Fate (what the gods decide to do, to impact) and Free Will (what the men and women are able to control on their own) as Odysseus makes his way home during these nine years.


Unit Personas

1. Agamemnon 17. Laertes
2. Alcinous 18. Melanthius
3. Amphinomus 19. Menelaus
4. Antinous 20. Mentor
5. Arete 21. Nausicaa
6. Athene 22. Nestor
7. Calypso 23. Odysseus
8. Charybdis 24. Penelope
9. Circe 25. Polyphemus
10. Eumaeus 26. Poseidon
11. Eurycleia 27. Scylla
12. Eurylochus 28. Sirens
13. Eurymachus 29. Teiresias
14. Helen 30. Telemachus
15. Hermes 31. Zeus
16. Ino


Each Discourse unit provides an interactive, social media platform and accompanying curriculum to create a collaborative and entertaining educational experience.

Each unit includes the following:

  • Unit overview
  • 30-40 characters for students to role-play
  • Timeline Events that not only focus on the relevant events of the unit in study, but also encompass the cultural and broader events of the time period, thus providing context for the unit
  • Breaking News events with original source documents
  • Profile information about each character (teacher only)
  • Page for students to determine their relationships to each other character in the unit (auto-graded)
  • Period-relevant items for students to Like or Dislike based on their character (auto-graded)
  • Opportunity for students to create events and send private messages while role-playing their character
  • Advertisements appropriate for the time period; some include original video or music
  • Grading matrix for the role-playing (auto-completed as applicable)
  • A game-like trophy system that awards student progress
  • Teacher product instructions
  • Student use instructions
  • Teachers have access to the Discourse unit and students’ work for one year after the initial set-up date.
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