U is for Ulysses


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Not the book by James Joyce, but Ulysses is the Latin name for Odysseus, the King of Ithaca, a small Ionian island near Kefalonia.

His claim to fame is the length of time (10 years) it took him to return home to Ithaca after the 10 year Trojan War. Hence the poem “Odyssey.”

Because Odysseus is taking such a long time to return home, his wife Penelope is having trouble fending off potential suitors.

Why is it taking her husband so long to return?

Well, seven years were spent in captivity on the island of Ogygia, where Calypso keeps making advances on him, which he gallantly refuses (wow – a man spurning advances from a woman???).  Eventually Calypso lets him go, after the God Hermes instructs here that “Enough is enough.”  She helps him build a raft, gives him food, water and clothing and off he goes.  But the God Poseidon doesn’t like this, thus wrecks the raft.  Odysseus swims to shore and finds himself on the island of Scherie, home of the Phaeacians.

Here he recounts his story of the Trojan War to them.

The Phaeacians are skilled mariners and return Odysseus safely to Ithaca in the dead of night.  Instead of returning straight to Penelope, he disguises himself as a beggar (remember she’s got all these suitors bothering her?). He arrives at the palace where a servant cleans him up, but this servant recognises Odysseus because of a huge hunting scar on him.  He swears the servant to secrecy.

The next day, there is an archery competition (arranged by the Goddess Athena) for the Suitors to partake in for Penelope’s hand.  Odysseus also takes part.  The bow used is Odysseus’s original bow and therefore obviously he performs the best (stringing it and shooting the arrow through a dozen axe heads).   Once he’s won this, he turns the bow on the Suitors and kills them all, plus hangs 12 household maids who had betrayed Penelope, had sex with the Suitors or both.  Other people in Ithaca who dared to betray Odysseus are also slain and Ithacais returned to its rightful rulers once more.

Lesson?  If your other half goes missing for 10 years or more, there’s probably a damn good explanation for it, so give him/her a chance.



  1. You have to know this stuff in mythology. Why? Because what woman or man these days would wait 10 minutes to return home without crapping a brick, throwing a fit, and filing for a divorce? lol

    Great story, by the way.

  2. Yes – very true! We can indeed learn a lot about relationships through Greek Mythology (refer to my Oedipus post).