"ὣς τότε μὲν πρόπαν ἦμαρ ἐς ἠέλιον καταδύντα
ἥμεθα δαινύμενοι κρέα τ᾽ ἄσπετα καὶ μέθυ ἡδύ·
οὐ γάρ πω νηῶν ἐξέφθιτο οἶνος ἐρυθρός,
ἀλλ᾽ ἐνέην· πολλὸν γὰρ ἐν ἀμφιφορεῦσιν ἕκαστοι
ἠφύσαμεν Κικόνων ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἑλόντες.165
Κυκλώπων δ᾽ ἐς γαῖαν ἐλεύσσομεν ἐγγὺς ἐόντων,
καπνόν τ᾽ αὐτῶν τε φθογγὴν ὀίων τε καὶ αἰγῶν.
ἦμος δ᾽ ἠέλιος κατέδυ καὶ ἐπὶ κνέφας ἦλθε,
δὴ τότε κοιμήθημεν ἐπὶ ῥηγμῖνι θαλάσσης.
ἦμος δ᾽ ἠριγένεια φάνη ῥοδοδάκτυλος Ἠώς,170
καὶ τότ᾽ ἐγὼν ἀγορὴν θέμενος μετὰ πᾶσιν ἔειπον·
‘ἄλλοι μὲν νῦν μίμνετ᾽, ἐμοὶ ἐρίηρες ἑταῖροι·
αὐτὰρ ἐγὼ σὺν νηί τ᾽ ἐμῇ καὶ ἐμοῖς ἑτάροισιν
ἐλθὼν τῶνδ᾽ ἀνδρῶν πειρήσομαι, οἵ τινές εἰσιν,
ἤ ῥ᾽ οἵ γ᾽ ὑβρισταί τε καὶ ἄγριοι οὐδὲ δίκαιοι,175
ἦε φιλόξεινοι, καί σφιν νόος ἐστὶ θεουδής.’
ὣς εἰπὼν ἀνὰ νηὸς ἔβην, ἐκέλευσα δ᾽ ἑταίρους
αὐτούς τ᾽ ἀμβαίνειν ἀνά τε πρυμνήσια λῦσαι.
οἱ δ᾽ αἶψ᾽ εἴσβαινον καὶ ἐπὶ κληῖσι καθῖζον,
ἑξῆς δ᾽ ἑζόμενοι πολιὴν ἅλα τύπτον ἐρετμοῖς.180
ἀλλ᾽ ὅτε δὴ τὸν χῶρον ἀφικόμεθ᾽ ἐγγὺς ἐόντα,
ἔνθα δ᾽ ἐπ᾽ ἐσχατιῇ σπέος εἴδομεν ἄγχι θαλάσσης,
ὑψηλόν, δάφνῃσι κατηρεφές. ἔνθα δὲ πολλὰ
μῆλ᾽, ὄιές τε καὶ αἶγες, ἰαύεσκον· περὶ δ᾽ αὐλὴ
ὑψηλὴ δέδμητο κατωρυχέεσσι λίθοισι185
μακρῇσίν τε πίτυσσιν ἰδὲ δρυσὶν ὑψικόμοισιν.
ἔνθα δ᾽ ἀνὴρ ἐνίαυε πελώριος, ὅς ῥα τὰ μῆλα
οἶος ποιμαίνεσκεν ἀπόπροθεν· οὐδὲ μετ᾽ ἄλλους
πωλεῖτ᾽, ἀλλ᾽ ἀπάνευθεν ἐὼν ἀθεμίστια ᾔδη.
καὶ γὰρ θαῦμ᾽ ἐτέτυκτο πελώριον, οὐδὲ ἐῴκει190
ἀνδρί γε σιτοφάγῳ, ἀλλὰ ῥίῳ ὑλήεντι
ὑψηλῶν ὀρέων, ὅ τε φαίνεται οἶον ἀπ᾽ ἄλλων.
Hunting and feasting for one day. Then Odysseus sails with one ship to the land of the Cyclopes.
The Greeks feast all day and drink the red wine they plundered from the Cicones. Looking across the water, they see smoke rising from the island of the Cyclopes and hear the bleating of sheep and goats. We can imagine the curiosity building in the mind of Odysseus, and sure enough, the next morning he calls an assembly, proposing that he and the men on his ship sail across to reconnoiter.
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Lines 175–176 also appear verbatim at 6.120–121 and 13.201–202. Like the stranger who lands on the shores of Scheria and Ithaka, Odysseus is curious but also aware of the possible dangers that might await him. We know, as he does not, that these creatures are not even human, much less hospitable. The anthropological exploration continues.
Odysseus and his crew arrive on the island of the Cyclopes to find a telling scene. Near the water is a lofty cave, overgrown with laurel, the first we have seen since Book Five, when Hermes arrived at the cave of Calypso. Comparing the two caves is instructive. The earlier episode opens with the nymph inside the cave, spinning and singing, a threatening combination in the Odyssey:
πῦρ μὲν ἐπ᾽ ἐσχαρόφιν μέγα καίετο, τηλόσε δ᾽ ὀδμὴ
κέδρου τ᾽ εὐκεάτοιο θύου τ᾽ ἀνὰ νῆσον ὀδώδει 60
δαιομένων: ἡ δ᾽ ἔνδον ἀοιδιάουσ᾽ ὀπὶ καλῇ
ἱστὸν ἐποιχομένη χρυσείῃ κερκίδ᾽ ὕφαινεν.
ὕλη δὲ σπέος ἀμφὶ πεφύκει τηλεθόωσα,
κλήθρη τ᾽ αἴγειρός τε καὶ εὐώδης κυπάρισσος.
ἔνθα δέ τ᾽ ὄρνιθες τανυσίπτεροι εὐνάζοντο, 65
σκῶπές τ᾽ ἴρηκές τε τανύγλωσσοί τε κορῶναι
εἰνάλιαι, τῇσίν τε θαλάσσια ἔργα μέμηλεν.
ἡ δ᾽ αὐτοῦ τετάνυστο περὶ σπείους γλαφυροῖο
ἡμερὶς ἡβώωσα, τεθήλει δὲ σταφυλῇσι.
κρῆναι δ᾽ ἑξείης πίσυρες ῥέον ὕδατι λευκῷ, 70
πλησίαι ἀλλήλων τετραμμέναι ἄλλυδις ἄλλη.
A great fire was burning in the hearth, and the sweet smell
of split cedar and sweetwood wafted across the island
from their fires. Inside, the goddess sang in a lovely voice
while she was weaving, back and forth with a golden shuttle.
Around the cave a forest flourished,
of alder, black poplar, and fragrant cypress,
and birds with spreading wings made their nests there,
horned owls and hawks and long-beaked sea birds
like ravens but doing their work on the water.
And across the opening of the hollow cave
a vine flourished, heavy with ripened grapes.
Next to it were four fountains, all in a row, running
with shining water, turned to flow in different directions.
Everything about this venue is redolent with feminine seductiveness. As enclosed spaces, caves can be threatening to men in the poem, a physical symbol of the oblivion portended in the nymph’s name, Καλύψω, “I will smother.” The combination of fragrance, shiny things, and ambrosia—soon to be served to Hermes by the nymph (5.93)—is often associated with trickery in the Odyssey. The lush vegetation hints at unrestrained fertility, yet the fountains suggest that there is some kind of order imposed, perhaps by goddess’s voice, which seems to float over it all. Singing in the Odyssey is gendered, the male bards offering narratives of the famous deeds of gods and heroes, while the females make mysterious music that seems to carry a power threatening to men. The former contribute to the human project of civilization, creating kleos with its attendant status; the latter send out alluring sounds that surround the listener, blurring the outlines of human order. Calypso, Circe, and of course the Sirens, all sing enticingly (5.61; 10.221; 12.44, 184–191). When he crawls onshore at Scheria, Odysseus is on the alert for just this sort of threat:
ὤ μοι ἐγώ, τέων αὖτε βροτῶν ἐς γαῖαν ἱκάνω;
ἦ ῥ᾽ οἵ γ᾽ ὑβρισταί τε καὶ ἄγριοι οὐδὲ δίκαιοι,
ἦε φιλόξεινοι καί σφιν νόος ἐστὶ θεουδής;
ὥς τέ με κουράων ἀμφήλυθε θῆλυς ἀυτή:
νυμφάων, αἳ ἔχουσ᾽ ὀρέων αἰπεινὰ κάρηνα
καὶ πηγὰς ποταμῶν καὶ πίσεα ποιήεντα.
ἦ νύ που ἀνθρώπων εἰμὶ σχεδὸν αὐδηέντων;
Ah me, what sort of people live here?
Are they savage and fierce and lacking justice
or hospitable to strangers and possessing of godly minds?
That’s the voice of girls wafting around me,
or nymphs, who haunt the steep summits of the mountains
and springs of rivers and grassy meadows.
Am I near people who speak my language?
The cave of Polyphemus, by contrast, sends mixed signals. Hollow and dark, its edges softened by laurel, the space radiates danger for men. Its immediate surroundings are more reassuring: in front of the opening, flocks rest tranquilly in a space fenced—and thus structured—by large boulders, pines, and oaks, much like the pens of human shepherds. But this is no ordinary herdsman. He is πελώριος, “huge,” “monstrous,” the word used elsewhere to describe Skylla (12.87) and the beasts that faun on Circe (10.219). Not only is he monstrous, but apart (ἀπόπροθεν), alone (οἶος). Both words resonate with the typical isolation of the hero, separated from his fellow humans by his enormous gifts and often by his arrogant temperament. For a male hero, to be alone follows, as we have said, from his inborn nature.
So far then, the language signals a curious amalgam, a monstrous yet potentially heroic shepherd, living in a dangerously feminine cave, we might say. The next verses add to the crosscurrents, pressing the non-human aspect of the Cyclops:
ἀνδρί γε σιτοφάγῳ, ἀλλὰ ῥίῳ ὑλήεντι
ὑψηλῶν ὀρέων, ὅ τε φαίνεται οἶον ἀπ᾽ ἄλλων.
For indeed he was a monstrous wonder to behold, not like
a bread-eating human, but rather a woody peak
in the tall mountains, that appears alone, apart from the others.
With Odysseus and his crew on the threshold of the cave, Homer paints a complex portrait of the creature they are about to meet. He is frightening, to be sure, physically intimidating, sharing with Calypso and the Lotus Eaters the potential for erasing the Greeks from human memory. And yet, his tidy husbandry of flocks hints that the role of chaos monster might not quite fit him.
Nagler, M. 1996. “Dread Goddess Revisited.” In Schein, S. 1996. Reading the Odyssey. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 141–162.
Schein, S. 1996. Reading the Odyssey. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 22–23.
Thalmann, W. 1992. The Odyssey: An Epic of Return, 47–50. New York: Twayne Publishers.
Tracy, S. 1990. The Story of the Odyssey, 31–33. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Van Nortwick, T. 1980. “Apollonos Apate: Associative Imagery in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes 227–292.” Classical World 74, 1–5.
_______________. 2008. The Unknown Odysseus: Alternate Worlds in Homer’s Odyssey, 50–53. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
163 νηῶν ἐξέφθιτο: “had been used up out of the ships.” ἐξέφθιτο is 3rd singular pluperfect passive > ἐκφθίνω.
164 ἀλλ᾽ ἐνέην: “but there was [still some wine] in it,” ἐνέην > ἔνειμι.
164 πολλὸν: supply οἶνον.
165 ἠφύσαμεν: “we drew off,” i.e. took for ourselves, plundered. The verb elsewhere refers to the drawing of water on shore for use on shipboard (Authenrieth ἀφύσσω).
165 ἑλόντες: temporal, “when we captured.”
166 ἐγγὺς ἐόντων: “nearby” (literally, “being near”)
167 καπνόν … φθογγὴν: supply a verb like “perceiving” (implied by ἐλεύσσομεν), of which these are the objects.
168 ἐπὶ … ἦλθε: tmesis (separation of the preposition and verb in a compound verb).
171 ἀγορὴν θέμενος: “having called an assembly.” θέμενος = ποιησάμενος, a poetic usage (Authenrieth τίθημι).
174 οἵ τινές εἰσιν: indirect question, introduced by πειρήσομαι. τῶνδ´ ἀνδρῶν is proleptic: “I will inquire of these men, who they are,” rather than “I will inquire who these men are.” πειράομαι (> πειράω) + genitive, “to examine, inquire of”
175–176 ἤ … ἦε: “whether…or…”
178 ἀμβαίνειν: ἀναβαίνειν
178 ἀνά … λῦσαι: tmesis > ἀναλύω, "to loosen, undo, unbind"
180 τύπτον: = ἔτυπτον (as in line 104)
181 ἐγγὺς ἐόντα: see line 166.
182 ἐπ᾽ ἐσχατιῇ: “at the furthest point” or “on the border”
184 περὶ: adverbial, “nearby”
185 δέδμητο: pluperfect passive > δέμω without the augment, as usual in Homer: “had been built”
189 πωλεῖτ᾽: = ἐπωλεῖτο, imperfect > πωλέομαι.
189 ἀθεμίστια ᾔδη: “was a lawless character” (literally, “knew lawless things”). οἶδα can be used to describe a person’s character or disposition, a use specific to Homer (Authenrieth εἴδω).
190 θαῦμ(α) ἐτέτυκτο πελώριον: “he had been fashioned as a gigantic wonder,” i.e. “he was shaped like,” pluperfect passive > τεύχω. Wilson translates, "in his build he was a wonder, a giant."
192 ἀπ᾽: “apart from” (LSJ ἀπό A.I.2)