Meaning of Nostos in the ‘Odyssey’ by Homer
The ic poem of Odysseus starts a decade after his homeland Troy in Ithaca is captured. Meanwhile, in Odysseus’s palace, a large contingent of suitors have just arrived and made themselves comfortable so as to court Odysseus’s better half, Penelope. Penelope, however, is not interested in getting married again and thus keeps the suitors in waiting while their son Telemachus looks for a justifiable cause and good enough reason to send them away from their palace. As all this is happening, Antinous plots to assassinate Telemachus and take away his resistance in the palace. This is one of the important reasons why Odysseus has to come back home so that he can reclaim his former glory, save his wife and son form the threats and harassments they are facing.
Odysseus, however, is lost in the Mediterranean and is struggling to come back home. Odysseus is cornered on the isle of Ogygia by the fairy Calypso and all the while he is wishing to return back to his family but lacks the means to since he has lost his ship and crew. The Olympus gods meanwhile continue with their debate on what to do with Odysseus. On the other hand, Athena decides to pay Telemachus a visit and help him. She succeeds to convince Telemachus to reprimand the contingent of suitors behaving rowdily and later on convinces him to make a journey to Sparta and Pylos. It is while there that Telemachus finds out that his father is still alive and captured by Calypso. As Telemachus organizes to return, Antinous accelerates his plan to assassinate him.
It is Zeus who takes the initiative of rescuing Odysseus from Calypso’s isle and grip by sending Hermes to plead with Calypso to let Odysseus go. Odysseus sets his sail home, but almost immediately, Poseidon shipwrecks him because he had made him angry by blinding Polyphemus the Cyclops, Poseidon’s son. In spite of all the goodies Calypso promises Odysseus, we see that his attachment to his wife Penelope is so strong and his spirit is so low since most of the time he is thinking and longing for his motherland. This is another important that makes his homecoming must. After being rescued from Calypso, Athena comes forth to the rescue of Odysseus and takes him to Scheria Island where, Princess of Phaeacians, Nausicaa finds him. After revealing his identity to the Queen and King, both agree to assist him to go back home; but first, they want to hear his side of the story.
Odysseus then narrates the months of traveling through Calypso’s island, then to Scheria. He starts with his journey to Lotus Eater’s land, then his journey and fight of wits with Polyphemus. He narrates his time with Circe, their love affair together with the trip past the Sirens with their tempting calls. His trip to the underworld, talk with Tiresias the prophet and fight with Scylla the sea monster. After completing his tale, Odysseus returns to Ithaca searches for Eumaeus and with Emaeus’s support, he looks for Telemachus, revealing himself to him. They then plot to slay the suitors and repossess their palace, which is his major and very important reason for his homecoming.
Odysseus appears as a beggar at the palace and is treated poorly. He is recognized by his nurse, Eurycleia, but doesn’t reveal she knows him. Penelope notices the beggar as well and believes he could be Odysseus, though she isn’t sure. She organizes an archery contest, and the winner will marry her. Only Odysseus is able to string his bow and shoot an arrow via a dozen axes. All the suitors fail and Odysseus turns the bow, killing all of them. Eventually, Odysseus reveals who he is and reunites and rejoices with his family, which was his goal all along. He afterward pays his father, Laertes a visit having successfully repelled the infuriated families of the murdered suitors. Later on Athena turn-ups and finally peace is reinstated to Ithaca with the coming to a close of the epic. Thus Odysseus is contented to achieve his most important quest for coming back home.
Marigo, Alexopoulou. The Theme of Returning Home in Ancient Greek Literature: The Nostos of the Epic Heroes. New York: Hackett Publishing, 2009.