Odysseus, along with Theseus and Hercules, is one of the most famous heroes of Greek mythology. He is the main character of Homer’s second epic poem, The Odyssey, which follows Odysseus as he attempts to return to his home, Ithaca, after the Trojan War ends. He also plays a lesser role in Homer’s Iliad, which follows the famous war between the Trojans and the Greeks.
Those who have read the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan will definitely recognize some of the monsters and enemies Odysseus encounters in his long trip home.
The second book of the Percy Jackson series, The Sea of Monsters, has the most references to Odysseus because Percy’s best friend, Grover, is trapped in “the Sea of Monsters.” This sea is said to be the same sea Odysseus, Jason, Aeneas, and all the other Greek heroes sailed through, but currently resides in the Bermuda Triangle off the coast of Florida.
Lotus Eaters - credits: classical-inquires.chs.harvard.edu
When Odysseus and his men encounter the Island of the Locus Eaters, he sends two men to scout the area. When they don’t return, he goes after them and finds them hopelessly addicted to the lotus plant, a plant that makes the eater lose all grip on reality. Odysseus has to drag the scouts back to the ships so they can move on.
In The Lightning Thief, Percy Jackson book 1, Percy, Annabeth, and Grover visit the “Lotus Hotel and Casino” in Las Vegas. The hotel has a similar effect as the plants in the Odyssey, forcing teenagers to forget who they are. Percy realizes something is wrong when he sees people from all different time periods, and is able to convince Annabeth and Grover to escape.
Polyphemus - credits: mythologysource.com
Odysseus and his men then stop at an island populated with many Cyclopes. They discover wine and cheese in an empty cave, and feast until the owner returns, a huge Cyclops named Polyphemus. Polyphemus eats two of Odysseus’s men until Odysseus gets Polyphemus drunk then stabs him in the eye, calling himself “Nobody.” Therefore, when Polyphemus yells out “Nobody blinded me!” no one comes to his aid. Odysseus and his men then hid under sheep to escape. While escaping in his ship, Odysseus gloats and tells Polyphemus his real name, giving Polyphemus the ability to curse him.
In The Sea of Monsters, Percy and his friends must rescue Grover from the cave of Polyphemus. Percy hides under a sheep to get inside the cave, while Annabeth distracts Polyphemus by calling herself Nobody. With the help of Tyson and Clarisse, they are all able to escape Polyphemus and the island. However, while escaping, Clarisse does the same thing as Odysseus and gloats about their escape to Polyphemus, resulting in him throwing a rock that sinks their ship.
Aeolus - credits: poetryintranslation.com
When Odysseus and his men stop on the island of Aeolia, home to the god of the winds, Aeolus, he gives Odysseus a bag full of winds to help him and his men sail to Ithaca faster. However, his men become greedy and open the bag, which releases the winds at once and they end up back at Aeolia.
The bag of winds given to Odysseus is similar to a thermos given to Percy in The Sea of Monsters by the god Hermes before he begins his quest. It helps Percy a lot during his travels towards the Sea of Monsters until it is opened too much during the encounter with Scylla and creates a huge storm.
Odysseus and the Laestrygonians -credits: commons.wikimedia.org
The next stop for Odysseus and his men is the Island of the Laestrygonian giants who eat all but one of Odysseus’s ships.
Laestrygonian giants appear many times throughout Percy Jackson and the Olympians and the continuation series, The Heroes of Olympus. Most notable is their first appearance at the beginning of The Sea of Monsters, where a group of the giants manages to infiltrate Percy’s school disguised as visiting students. They join a dodgeball game and attack with flaming dodgeballs until Percy, Tyson, and Annabeth are able to defeat them.
Circe - credits: commons.wikimedia.org
Odysseus and his remaining men then reach Aeaea, ruled by the sorceress Circe. She turns some of his men into pigs, but Odysseus is spared by eating a magical herb called moly, given to him by Hermes. When he attacks Circe, she is impressed by his courage, falls in love with him, and agrees to turn the pigs back to men.
Annabeth and Percy also visit Circe’s island in The Sea of Monsters. Percy is immediately turned into a guinea pig (Circe changed to these because they are less messy) while Annabeth is given a makeover. Annabeth fights Circe and gives Percy some multivitamins from Hermes that turn him back into a human.
The Sirens and Ulysses by William Etty- credits: wikidata.org.
Next, Odysseus and his men encounter the Sirens. His men put beeswax in their ears, but he asks them to tie him to the mast so he can hear the Sirens sing.
In The Sea of Monsters Percy and Annabeth also encounter the Sirens, and Annabeth asks Percy to tie her to the mast like Odysseus so she can hear them sing. However, she is able to escape his ropes and almost swims to her death before Percy is able to save her.
Scylla and Charybdis
Scylla and Charybdis - credits: medium.com
Odysseus’ ship then sails through a narrow strait, between the two monsters Scylla, a six-headed monster, and Charybdis, a whirlpool. He goes closer to Scylla and she eats six of his men, but the rest survive.
The characters encounter Scylla and Charybdis in The Sea of Monsters. Clarisse sails her ship closer to Charybdis to shoot her with cannonballs, but the cannonballs shoot back towards the ship instead. The whirlpool pushes the boat towards Scylla and she eats some of the soldiers on the ship. She grabs Percy’s backpack, but he is able to get away.
Calypso - credits: symbolreader.net
Odysseus continued alone after all his men perish, and ends up on Ogygia, the home of the nymph Calypso. She tries to seduce him, but he eventually leaves after seven years.
Percy also ends up in Ogygia after blowing up a mountain in The Battle of the Labyrinth, Percy Jackson book 4. Calypso nurses him back to health and tries to convince him to stay, but he leaves to fight Kronos. Leo Valdez also lands in Ogygia after an explosion on the Argo II in House of Hades, Heroes of Olympus book 4. He falls in love with Calypso and vows to rescue her after defeating Gaea.
While Odysseus has more adventures not mentioned here, it is clear many of his enemies are present in Percy Jackson and the Olympians, the same as many of the enemies of Theseus and Hercules. There is a reason these three heroes are some of the most well-known heroes of Ancient Greece. They show strength, determination, intelligence, and courage unlike many others—except maybe Rick Riordan’s demigods.
The Acropolis of Athens - credits: edibejko/Pixabay.com
Greece is perhaps best known for its famous heroes, but the country has even more to offer! Want to see the birthplace of Greek mythology, and follow in the footsteps of your favorite characters, from mythology and Percy Jackson? Book a tour on our website today to experience the amazing culture of Greece!