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The Wine Red Sea:  Journeys of Odysseus
© Copyright 2014 - 2018 by Peter J Ponzio

Odysseus Revealed, Book VIII

Odysseus' account begins when he and his men make a raid on the Cicones, killing the men and taking their wives and plunder.  Odysseus urged his men to leave, but his crew, not being satisfied, stayed to continue their rapacious ways.  The surviving Cicones gathered together and recruited more men, attacking Odysseus and his men.  Finally, Odysseus and his men fought their way to the ships and sailed away, losing six men from each vessel. While piracy was acceptable in ancient Greece and the Mediterranean in general, Odysseus and his men certainly did not act like good guests, and were punished for their indiscretion. As Odysseus and his men continued their voyage, they arrived at the land of the Lotus-eaters ten days after escaping from the Cicones. Being somewhat more careful than they were in the land of the Cicones, Odysseus sent out a scouting party of three men to discover what lay ahead of the fleet.  When the three men did not return, Odysseus brought the men back to the ship.  The men did not return willingly, as Odysseus describes: So off they went and soon enough they mingled among the natives, Lotus-eaters, Lotus-eaters who had no notion of killing my companions, not at all, they simply gave them the lotus to taste instead. . . Any crewmen who ate the lotus, the honey-sweet fruit, lost all desire to send a message back, much less return. . . (IX 102-107) The tale of the Lotus-eaters may, at first, seem strange.  Why not stay in this land of lassitude with no cares and no threats of bodily harm?  Odysseus makes it clear that a life such as this was not for him: “Quick, no time to lose, embark in the racing ships!/so none could eat the lotus, forget the voyage home” (IX 115-116).  Odysseus, the man of many travels is concerned with getting home after spending so many years away from Ithaca. The theme of travel continues in the Odyssey (it has since been adapted to convey general travel commentaries), in part because of the fantastic adventures experienced by Odysseus and his crew, in part because of the restlessness that imbues the character of Odysseus.
The land of the Lotus-eaters