Ulysses (myth)

Ulysses, or Odysseus was a king of Ithaca and one of the heroes of the Trojan war. He sailed with twelve ships in the Greek expedition against Troy. Through the ten years' siege, he was celebrated for sagacity, eloquence, and courage. He was prudent also and was chosen frequently to act the part of a spy. After the fall of Troy he attempted to return to Ithaca, but, owing to the enmity of Poseidon, he was doomed to ten years' wandering before he reached home again. The experiences and advantages of these ten years form the subject of the Odyssey. He was thrown on the coast of Africa; visited the country of the Cyclops in Sicily, and the Aegean Isle where Circe turned his companions into swine; passed Scylla and Charybdis; and, after a great variety of ad­ventures, at last drew near his own island of Ithaca. Meanwhile his wife Penelope had spent the twenty years of her husband's absence in the care of her son Telem­achus and in outwitting the suitors who swarmed the royal palace and insisted on her making a selection among them, as­suring her that Ulysses was dead. Penelope had proved faithful, however. Telemachus, on arriving at man's estate, had gone in search of his father; but, guided by Miner­va, returned just at the right moment. He found his father, disguised by Minerva as a beggar, with Eumaeus, the swine-herd. Ulysses made himself known to his son, and the two laid a plan whereby they might pun­ish the suitors who had lorded it over the palace and tormented Penelope. A trial of skill was arranged among them, Penelope agreeing to accept that one as her husband who should shoot an arrow through twelve rings hung in line. Ulysses was admitted as a beggar and storyteller, a common union of professions at that time. Telemachus provided a bow formerly used by his father and removed all other weapons. But not one among the company could string the bow. Even Telemachus failed. The old beggar asked to be allowed to try. All de­rided him except Telemachus, who urged that he be permitted to try. So Ulysses took the bow. He strung it with ease, and, be­fore anyone could stop him, he had shot an arrow through the twelve rings and aimed another at the throat of one of the suitors. With the aid of Telemachus, Eu­maeus, and another faithful follower, the suitors were all slain and Ulysses came to his own again.