An Inland Odyssey

But Odysseus’ wanderings were not over. Teiresias’ prophecy and later sources tell that, as reparation for killing the suitors, Odysseus was exiled for another ten years, leaving Telemachus to rule Ithaca. As Teiresias instructed:

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You must set out on a journey, taking a well-shaped oar, until you come to a land of men who know nothing of the sea, eat nothing seasoned with salt and know nothing of red-cheeked ships or well-shaped oars, which are to ships as wings are. When another traveller approaches you, remarking on the winnowing fan that you are carrying on your shoulder, you must plant your well-shaped oar hard in the earth and make rich offerings to Lord Poseidon – a ram, a bull, a rutting boar. Then return home and offer a hundred victims to the deathless gods, who live in the broad heavens, making sacrifice to each in order. Death will come to you from the sea, a peaceful death, in glistening old age with your people rich around you.

A prophecy proclaimed that Odysseus would die at his son’s hand, so before his return Telemachus was banished. Then unexpectedly Telegonus, whom Circe had borne to Odysseus, arrived at Ithaca searching for his father. In his ignorance Odysseus thought Telegonus was a pirate; Telegonus thought Ithaca was Corfu (and so fair game for plunder); blows were exchanged; Telegonus speared Odysseus with a sting-ray’s spine; and by the sea, as his muscles cramped, the hero’s life ebbed from him

A fragment of the lost epic poem, the Telegony, completes the story. When he realized his error, Telegonus transported his father’s body along with Penelope and Telemachus (now recalled from exile) to Aeaea, where Circe made them all immortal. Telegonus married Penelope, while Telemachus married Circe. What happened next is lost even to mythology.

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