P to Peitho Pelasgians to Phaedrias Phaeo to Pitys Plataea to Polyphemos 2 Polyxena to Pyxis 2

Polyphemos (1)Polyphemus

The Cyclopes son of Poseidon (lord of the Sea) and the nymph, Thoosa.

After leaving the destroyed city of Troy, Odysseus and his twelve ships were blown off course to the country of the Cyclopes; they beached their ships in a natural harbor and when Dawn arrived, they feasted on goats that the nymphs had driven from the hills to the shore where the sailors had camped; Odysseus and his men could see the smoke from hearth fires but did not know who the inhabitants of the land might be.

On the following day, Odysseus took his ship and ventured down the coast to seek out the natives; they came to a place where they could see a cave with goats and sheep in a fenced yard; in the distance they could see a monstrous man herding his flocks; Odysseus took twelve of his crewman and went ashore to investigate; Odysseus had the feeling that the monster-man would be wild and lawless so he took some food and a skin of very strong wine with him; they found the cave of the monster-man well stocked with cheese, milk and pens full of lambs and kids; Odysseus’ companions wanted to simply steal the food and make a hasty retreat back to their ship but Odysseus decided to wait for the monster-man to return and see if gifts of food would be offered without resorting to theft.

When the Cyclopes, named Polyphemos, returned to the cave, he made such a ruckus that Odysseus and the twelve sailors retreated into the shadows and hid; they watched as the one eyed man separated the males and females and herded the females into the cave; he then rolled a giant stone in front of the cave entrance and began to milk the sheep and goats; when he finished his chores, the Cyclopes lit a fire and finally saw Odysseus and the other men hiding in the recesses of the cave; he asked if they were pirates or traveling on business; Odysseus, in his most eloquent style, told the Cyclopes of their plight and asked for the hospitality that any god fearing man (or monster-man) would provide; the Cyclopes said that he was better than the gods and would offer no hospitality.

At that moment, Polyphemos snatched up two of the sailors and dashed them on the floor, spilling their blood and brains, and proceeded to eat them; Odysseus and the other men helplessly cried out to Zeus for mercy but Polyphemos was oblivious to their lamentations and laid down to sleep; Odysseus thought of pulling his sword and attacking Polyphemos but then realized that if the Cyclopes died, the trapped sailors could not move the giant stone that sealed the cave; Odysseus waited for Dawn and an hoped for an opportunity to escape certain death.

When Polyphemos awoke he went about his morning chores and, when he had finished milking his goats and sheep, killed and ate two more of Odysseus’ men; he then moved the giant stone at the entrance of the cave and went outside to tend his flocks; Polyphemos replaced the stone trapping Odysseus and the eight surviving men inside the cave; Odysseus began to devise a plan of escape; he took a large tree trunk that was in the cave and sharpened one end and hardened the point with fire; the sailors drew lots and four men were chosen to help Odysseus wield the tree sized spear when the proper time came to attack Polyphemos.

When Polyphemos returned to the cave, he brought his entire flock, males and females, inside for the night; he tended to his milking chores and then effortlessly killed and ate two more sailors; Odysseus boldly filled a bowl with the very potent wine he had brought along and offered it to Polyphemos; the Cyclopes took the wine and drank it down; the wine had been a gift to Odysseus and was so strong that it had to be watered down with twenty portions of water in order to make it suitable for any civilized man to drink; Polyphemos explained that Cyclopes made wine but the wine Odysseus had given him was surely made where nektar and ambrosia flow in abundance; he asked for more wine and, after three bowls, tried to engage Odysseus in conversation; he asked Odysseus what his name was and promised to give him a guest-gift in exchange for the wine; Odysseus cleverly said that his name was Nobody (Ουτις); Polyphemos said that he would eat Nobody after he had eaten the other men and that would be his guest-gift.

Polyphemos then passed out from the wine and vomited bile and meat on the cave floor; Odysseus and his men heated the point of the tree they had sharpened and poised it in front of Polyphemos’ eye; as the men pushed the searing point of the tree into Polyphemos’ eye, Odysseus used his weight to spin the giant spear so that it would penetrate as deeply as possible; Polyphemos awoke with a scream and pulled the deeply imbedded point from his ruined eye; his cries drew the attention of the neighboring Cyclopes and they converged at the cave entrance and asked why Polyphemos was screaming in the night; “Nobody is trying to kill me,” Polyphemos answered; the other Cyclopes returned to their homes thinking that Polyphemos was suffering from madness; they urged him to call upon his father, Poseidon, for help.

Odysseus then had the six remaining men tie three rams abreast and then strapped each man to the belly of the center animal; he chose the largest ram in the flock for himself and hid beneath it in a similar manner; when Dawn arrived, Polyphemos opened the cave entrance and carefully felt the backs of all the sheep as they went outside; the men under the tethered sheep were safely outside when the ram carrying Odysseus came to the entrance; Polyphemos recognized the ram by its thick, luxurious fleece and wondered why the noble beast was the last to leave the cave; Polyphemos assumed that the ram was mourning the injury to its master’s eye and Polyphemos assured the ram that he was going to kill and eat Nobody for the foul deed.

When Odysseus was a safe distance from the cave, he untied the other men and proceeded to drive Polyphemos’ flock to the ship; Odysseus signaled the men to quietly load the animals on board so that Polyphemos and the other Cyclopes would not hear them; when the ship was a little distance from the shore, Odysseus could not contain his pride and anger, he called out to Polyphemos and said that the wrath of the gods had been justly administered and that good men had been the instrument of divine retribution; Polyphemos lifted a stone the size of a mountain peak and blindly threw it at the ship; the stone grazed the ship and the wave it created pushed the ship back to the shore; the men rowed frantically to get the ship back to the open water before Polyphemos could hurl another bolder; when they were twice the previous distance from the shore, Odysseus again wanted to taunt the blinded Cyclopes; the other sailors tried to restrain Odysseus but his proud heart would not be silent; he shouted to Polyphemos that he was Odysseus, the sacker of cities from the island of Ithaka (Ithaca), and that he should have killed the evil Cyclopes instead of just blinding him.

Polyphemos then realized that his blinding had been foretold by a prophet; he had always been on the lookout for a man named Odysseus but he had been tricked by clever words and missed the prophetic signs; Polyphemos raised his arms to heaven and called upon his father to bring down his vengeance on Odysseus, to kill all his men, to bring turmoil to his household and to delay his homecoming for many years; Poseidon heard his son’s plea and made it all come to pass.

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P to Peitho Pelasgians to Phaedrias Phaeo to Pitys Plataea to Polyphemos 2 Polyxena to Pyxis 2


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