1. ODYSSEUS

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This is the story of Odysseus, the most famous of all the Greek heroes, of his wars and his wanderings. This story of Odysseus begins with his son, the youth who was called Telemachus.

It was when Telemachus was just a month old that a messenger came from Agamemnon, the Great King, ordering Odysseus to come to fight in the war against Troy that the Kings and Princes of Greece were about to wage. The wise Odysseus, foreseeing the disasters that would happen to everyone who entered that war, was reluctant to go. So when Agamemnon’s messenger came to the island of Ithaka where he was King, Odysseus pretended to be mad. The messenger, Palamedes, almost believed he was mad indeed, because he did something that no man ever saw being done before. He took a donkey and an ox and yoked them together to the same plough and began to plough a field. When he had ploughed a furrow he sowed it, not with seeds that would grow, but with salt. When Palamedes saw him doing this he was nearly persuaded that Odysseus was mad. But to test him he took the child Telemachus and laid him down in the field in the way of the plough. Odysseus, when he came near to where the child was lying, turned the plough aside and thereby showed that he was not a mad man. Then he had to take King Agamemnon’s summons. Agamemnon’s order was that Odysseus should go to Aulis where the ships of the Kings and Princes of Greece were being gathered. But first he was to go into another country to seek the hero Achilles and persuade him also to enter the war against Troy.

So Odysseus said goodbye to his infant son, Telemachus, and to his young wife Penelope, and to his father, old Laertes. He said goodbye to his house and his lands and to the island of Ithaka where he was King. He summoned a council of the chief men of Ithaka and told them to look after his wife and his child and all his household, and then he took his sailors and his soldiers with him and sailed away. The years went by and Odysseus did not return. After ten years the City was taken by the Kings and Princes of Greece and the war came to an end. But still Odysseus did not return. Then minstrels came to Ithaka with word of the deaths or the homecomings of the heroes who had fought in the war against Troy. But no minstrel brought any word of Odysseus, of his death or of his appearance in any land known to men. Ten years more went by. By this time that infant son Telemachus who he had left behind, had grown up and was a strong and determined young man.