The son of Laertes and Anticlea, and king of Ithaca. He was of divine descent on both sides through his father's grandfather Arceseus who was the son of Zeus and Eurydea, and on his mother's side who was in accordance to one version of the story of divine origin through her father who was the son of Hermes. Autolycus was Odysseus's grandfather. His youthful years were spent with Autolycus where he distinguished himself in the boar hunt and later met Iphitus who gave him as a gift a remarkable bow and arrows that belonged originally to Apollo. As soon as he came of age he assumed the throne of Ithaca while his father was yet alive. A suitor of Helen as well, after she wed Menelaus he took as wife Penelope, daughter of the King Icarius. From their marriage they had one son, Telemachus. When he was summoned to take part in the expedition against Troy, Odysseus feigned madness, but Palmedes soon exposed the trick, and he was forced to participate in the expedition. He set sail with twelve ships having accompanied Menelaus to Troy on a mission beforehand to seek the return of Helen by negotiations. He had previously succeeded in getting Achilles away from the court of king Lycomedes in Scyros where Achilles had been in hiding. In the siege of Troy he distinguished himself as both a warrior and an able negotiator, putting his wit and cunning to good use when bloodshed could be avoided. He thus once entered Troy disguised as a begger to gather intelligence, and was recognized by Helen who, however, did not betray him. But he also had some unpleasant aspects to his character. Wishing to avenge himself on Palamedes who had seen through his feigned madness thus forcing him to come to Troy, he accused Palamedes unjustly of betraying the Greeks to the Trojans with the result that he was slain by his fellow countrymen. When Achilles was killed, he received his armour. And he also hid in the Wooden Horse that brought about the fall of Troy. After the destruction of Troy, Odysseus set out on the home journey but it was fated that his journey would last for many years and he would suffer numerous adventures. Thus the storm first cast him on the shore of the Cicones where he lost many of his companions, then he went on to Libya to the home of the Lotus eaters where by eating certain plants they fell into forgetfulness. Thence he arrived in the country of the Cyclopes, in Sicily, where Polyphemus devoured many of his companions [p. 71] before he was able to blind the Cyclops after intoxicating him with wine. But Polyphemus was the son of Neptune, and the god began to hound him by raising terrible storms in his path. Dragging himself from the sea, Odysseus reached the island of Aeolus, where the chief of the winds gave him a bag within which were enclosed all the adverse winds so that he could henceforth sail without danger. His companions, however, released the bag and the winds carried his ships to the island of the Laestrygones, cannibal giants who destroyed eleven of his twelve ships on the rocks where his men were devoured except his own crew. Thence he reached the island of Circe. There the enchantress turned his companions into swine, he alone being spared through the intervention of Hermes. But Odysseus forced Circe to restore the human form of his companions, then lived with the enchantress for a year. She directed him to visit Hades, where he conversed with the shades of his lost comrades, his fellow warriors, his mother, and others. Odysseus then moved on and succeeded in passing the treacherous narrows of Scylla and Charybdis, and survived the Sirens, coming to Thrinacia where, in spite of warning, his company killed the cattle of Helios. This sacrilege brought about the destruction by a thunderbolt of his ship and of all his companions. Odysseus alone was borne on the wreckage to Ogygia where the nymph Calypso received him hospitably and where he lived for seven years. He left Ogygia on a small raft and finally reached the land of the Phaeacians where he met Nausicaa, daughter of the Phaeacian king Alcinous who received him hospitably at his palace. The king was very moved by his story and after Odysseus finishes his tale, he is carried in a ship of the Phaeacians to Ithaca where he is left asleep on the beach. In Ithaca, Odysseus was disguised as an old beggar and entered his palace with the help of his son to whom he had revealed himself, and slew all the suitors of Penelope in a shooting spree. Then he revealed himself to Penelope who had remained faithful for so many years awaiting his return.
Concerning the end of Odysseus, there are many variations of the story. According to one version, he remained for the rest of his days in Ithaca, but according to another, he departed for Thesprotia where he married the queen Callidice after whose death he returned to Ithaca. He was accidentally killed by the spear of Telegonus, his son by Circe, who had set out on a quest to find him. Telegonus had not recognized his father. Odysseus became the objet of worship and had a sanctuary in Sparta, as well as a monument in Eurytane of Arcadia, and was given divine honours in Trampya of Epirus. Odysseus embodied the heroic ideal as conceived by the Greeks, he represented Greece itself and supplemented that other hero Achilles. Cunning as he should be, intelligent, able to control his anger and subdue his feelings, he was generous, full of invention, and relied more upon the turn of the mind than on physical strength. A superb sailor, Odysseus was in short the hero whom all Greeks wished to imitate. As for his sea adventures, there are serious scholars today who maintain that he had gone as far as America itself. A favourite subject for the vase painters, Odysseus is depicted in countless vases portraying some scene of his manifold adventures. He is also depicted in many bas reliefs. [pp. 70-71]
[Kyriazis, Constantine D. Eternal Greece. Translated by Harry T. Hionides. A Chat Publication.]