Odysseus: The protagonist of the poem and the king of Ithaca. Odysseus has been away from home for twenty years, the first ten of which were spent fighting heroically in the Trojan War. Since the fall of Troy, he has been trying desperately but has been unable to return home. With the help of the goddess Athena, he finally makes it home and reunites with his family.
Telemachus: The son of Odysseus and Penelope. After undergoing his own important journey into manhood, he helps his father restore order to Ithaca.
Penelope: The faithful, long-suffering wife of Odysseus. Though she does not know whether Odysseus is alive or dead, she manages to evade marriage for many years through clever ploys. When they are finally reunited, she is overjoyed.
Athena (also called Pallas): The goddess who often appears in the form of an old man named Mentor, from which the English word “mentor” derives. She aids and guides the hero and his son through their many struggles.
Zeus: Athena’s father and king of the gods. He generally supports Athena in her efforts to help Odysseus get home.
Poseidon: The god of the sea. He is angry with Odysseus for blinding his son, the Cyclops Polyphemus, and creates obstacles to keep the hero from getting home.
Polyphemus: The Cyclops son of Poseidon. He captures Odysseus and some of the hero’s crew in his cave. Odysseus escapes by driving a hot poker into Polyphemus’s single eye and blinding him.
Calypso: The lonely goddess who traps Odysseus on her island, Ogygia, because she wants to marry him.
Antinous and Eurymachus: The two most wily and aggressive of Penelope’s suitors. They are the first to be slain by Odysseus.
Eupithes: The father of Antinous. After the massacre of the suitors, he seeks revenge and is slain by Laertes.
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