Structure in Odyssey, Books 9-12

William Thalmann’s model: The journey begins and ends in a city: in the first, Odysseus conquers, while in the second, he supplicates.

Each of Odysseus’ trials is a variation on the theme of hospitality and feasting. He is offered hospitality, but only if he stays and does not travel on to his final destination; he is threatened with the perverse feasts of monsters; and his crew violates the divine sacrifices and guest-gifts of the gods.

The journey to the underworld stands at the center of Odysseus’ wanderings, because here he confronts the extremes of death and exile. And only here does he learn, ironically, of home.

As a result, Odysseus' wanderings move in chiastic pattern where each element mirrors previous ones; thus, Odysseus thematically repeats his journey in reverse after he visits the underworld.

Key Themes unifying the journey:

    1. Entrance to a city
    2. Forgetting of home
    3. Man-devouring
    4. Crew violates a prohibition and brings divine wrath
    5. Man-devouring
    6. Sings/ Tempts not to return

a. Cicones

entrance to a city

b. Lotus eaters

forgetting of home

c. Cyclopes (Kyklopes)


d. Aeolus – The King of the Winds

crew violates prohibition



f.Circe (Kirke)

tempts not to return

Underworld Journey

f. Sirens

tempts not to return

e. Scylla (Skylla)


d. Helios – Cattle of the Sun

crew violates prohibition

c. Charybdis


b. Calypso (Kalypso)

forgetting of home
a. Phaeacians entrance to a city

"All manner of thing shall be well/ When the tongues of flame are in-folded/ Into the crowned knot of fire/ And the fire and the rose are one." -- T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding