The Odyssey Fate and Divine Intervention Quotes

Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns
driven time and again off course, once he had plundered
the hallowed heights of Troy.
Many cities of men he saw and learned their minds,
many pains he suffered, heartsick on the open sea,
fighting to save his life and bring his comrades home.
But he could not save them from disaster, hard as he strove –
the recklessness of their own ways destroyed them all,
the blind fools, they devoured the cattle of the Sun
and the Sungod blotted out the day of their return.
Launch out on his story, Muse, daughter of Zeus,
start from where you will – sing for our time too.

– Homer

The Odyssey, Book 1, lines 1-12. These are the opening words to Homer’s masterpiece, The Odyssey, one of the most important and enduring works of Western literature. We get a brief synopsis of the story of the epic poem. It chronicles the long journey home of Odysseus, after his time spent fighting in the Trojan War. There is much foreshadowing in the passage. We learn that Odysseus is driven off course many times on his perilous voyage home. He also tries to bring home his comrades, but fails. They are killed by the god Helios for their reckless action in consuming his cattle. At the beginning of the poem the narrator invokes the Muse – the Muses were ancient Greece’s goddesses of literature, science and the arts. The poet asks the Muse for inspiration to learn about the "man of twists and turns" and his arduous journey home. Written in the late 8th or 9th century BC, The Odyssey remains one of the all-time greatest quest stories.

"Ajax, now, went down with his long-oared fleet.
First Poseidon drove him onto the cliffs of Gyrae,
looming cliffs, then saved him from the breakers
he’d have escaped his doom, too, despite Athena’s hate,
if he hadn’t flung that brazen boast, the mad blind fool.
‘In the teeth of the gods,’ he bragged, ‘I have escaped
the ocean’s sheer abyss!’ Poseidon heard that frantic vaunt
and the god grasped his trident in both his massive hands
and struck the Gyraean headland, hacked the rock in two,
and the giant stump stood fast but the jagged spur
where Ajax perched at first, the raving madman –
toppling into the sea, it plunged him down, down
in the vast, seething depths. And so he died,
having drunk his fill of brine."

– Homer

The Odyssey, Book 4, lines 560-573. Proteus the sea god and seer speaks to Menelaus about the death of Little Ajax (also known as Ajax the Lesser). We hear how Ajax was doomed by his excessive pride. He angered Poseidon with his boast "in the teeth of the gods…I have escaped the ocean’s sheer abyss." So the god of the sea drowned him for his hubris. Proteus’ story refers to Little Ajax, son of Oileus, not to be confused with Telamon’s son, Great Ajax, who killed himself after the fall of Troy. The story goes that Little Ajax tried to rape King Priam’s daughter Cassandra in the temple of Athena, where she took refuge. When the Achaeans failed to punish him, Athena had wind storms blow him off course on his way home. Having almost reached home, Poseidon killed Little Ajax.