Odyssey, Book 9, lines 182 - 215

The Cave of the Cyclops

by Homer

Shipwrecked and alone, as the story begins Odysseus has been invited by Nausicaa, the daughter of Alcinous, ruler of the Phaeacians, to her father’s house. In the King’s hall after dinner, he has revealed his identity and been asked to tell the story of his travels since the fall of Troy.

First, he and his fleet sacked the city of the Cicones, allies of the Trojans. But his forces were confronted by reinforcements from the hinterland and driven off with the loss of seventy-two men. Then, after a brief landfall at the land of the Lotus-eaters, whose food robs men of memory and energy, he came to the land of the Cyclopes. Leaving eleven of his twelve ships on a safe island, he sailed on to explore the island where these strange giants live.

The exceptionally powerful Ismaric wine that Odysseus takes with him, each measure needing to be diluted with twenty measures of water, will play an important part later in the story.

The translation is by Samuel Butler, 1835-1902, the English novelist and man of letters.

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“ἀλλ᾽ ὅτε δὴ τὸν χῶρον ἀφικόμεθ᾽ ἐγγὺς ἐόντα,
ἔνθα δ᾽ ἐπ᾽ ἐσχατιῇ σπέος εἴδομεν ἄγχι θαλάσσης,
ὑψηλόν, δάφνῃσι κατηρεφές. ἔνθα δὲ πολλὰ
μῆλ᾽, ὄιές τε καὶ αἶγες, ἰαύεσκον: περὶ δ᾽ αὐλὴ
ὑψηλὴ δέδμητο κατωρυχέεσσι λίθοισι
μακρῇσίν τε πίτυσσιν ἰδὲ δρυσὶν ὑψικόμοισιν.
ἔνθα δ᾽ ἀνὴρ ἐνίαυε πελώριος, ὅς ῥα τὰ μῆλα
οἶος ποιμαίνεσκεν ἀπόπροθεν: οὐδὲ μετ᾽ ἄλλους
πωλεῖτ᾽, ἀλλ᾽ ἀπάνευθεν ἐὼν ἀθεμίστια ᾔδη.
καὶ γὰρ θαῦμ᾽ ἐτέτυκτο πελώριον, οὐδὲ ἐῴκει
ἀνδρί γε σιτοφάγῳ, ἀλλὰ ῥίῳ ὑλήεντι
ὑψηλῶν ὀρέων, ὅ τε φαίνεται οἶον ἀπ᾽ ἄλλων. δὴ τότε τοὺς ἄλλους κελόμην ἐρίηρας ἑταίρους
αὐτοῦ πὰρ νηί τε μένειν καὶ νῆα ἔρυσθαι,
αὐτὰρ ἐγὼ κρίνας ἑτάρων δυοκαίδεκ᾽ ἀρίστους
βῆν: ἀτὰρ αἴγεον ἀσκὸν ἔχον μέλανος οἴνοιο
ἡδέος, ὅν μοι ἔδωκε Μάρων, Εὐάνθεος υἱός,
ἱρεὺς Ἀπόλλωνος, ὃς Ἴσμαρον ἀμφιβεβήκει,
οὕνεκά μιν σὺν παιδὶ περισχόμεθ᾽ ἠδὲ γυναικὶ
ἁζόμενοι: ᾤκει γὰρ ἐν ἄλσεϊ δενδρήεντι
Φοίβου Ἀπόλλωνος. ὁ δέ μοι πόρεν ἀγλαὰ δῶρα:
χρυσοῦ μέν μοι ἔδωκ᾽ ἐυεργέος ἑπτὰ τάλαντα,
δῶκε δέ μοι κρητῆρα πανάργυρον, αὐτὰρ ἔπειτα
οἶνον ἐν ἀμφιφορεῦσι δυώδεκα πᾶσιν ἀφύσσας
ἡδὺν ἀκηράσιον, θεῖον ποτόν: οὐδέ τις αὐτὸν
ἠείδη δμώων οὐδ᾽ ἀμφιπόλων ἐνὶ οἴκῳ,
ἀλλ᾽ αὐτὸς ἄλοχός τε φίλη ταμίη τε μί᾽ οἴη.
τὸν δ᾽ ὅτε πίνοιεν μελιηδέα οἶνον ἐρυθρόν,
ἓν δέπας ἐμπλήσας ὕδατος ἀνὰ εἴκοσι μέτρα
χεῦ᾽, ὀδμὴ δ᾽ ἡδεῖα ἀπὸ κρητῆρος ὀδώδει
θεσπεσίη: τότ᾽ ἂν οὔ τοι ἀποσχέσθαι φίλον ἦεν.
τοῦ φέρον ἐμπλήσας ἀσκὸν μέγαν, ἐν δὲ καὶ ᾖα
κωρύκῳ: αὐτίκα γάρ μοι ὀίσατο θυμὸς ἀγήνωρ
ἄνδρ᾽ ἐπελεύσεσθαι μεγάλην ἐπιειμένον ἀλκήν,
ἄγριον, οὔτε δίκας ἐὺ εἰδότα οὔτε θέμιστας.”

“When we got to the land, which was not far, there, on the face of a cliff near the sea, we saw a great cave overhung with laurels. It was a station for a great many sheep and goats, and outside there was a large yard, with a high wall round it made of stones built into the ground and of trees both pine and oak. This was the abode of a huge monster who was then away from home shepherding his flocks. He would have nothing to do with other people, but led the life of an outlaw. He was a horrid creature, not like a human being at all, but resembling rather some crag that stands out boldly against the sky on the top of a high mountain. I told my men to draw the ship ashore, and stay where they were, all but the twelve best among them, who were to go along with myself. I also took a goatskin of sweet black wine which had been given me by Maron, son of Euanthes, who was priest of Apollo the patron god of Ismarus, and lived within the wooded precincts of the temple. When we were sacking the city we respected him, and spared his life, as also his wife and child; so he made me some presents of great value—seven talents of fine gold, and a bowl of silver, with twelve jars of sweet wine, unblended, and of the most exquisite flavour. Not a man nor maid in the house knew about it, but only himself, his wife, and one housekeeper: when he drank it he mixed twenty parts of water to one of wine, and yet the fragrance from the mixing-bowl was so exquisite that it was impossible to refrain from drinking. I filled a large skin with this wine, and took a wallet full of provisions with me, for my mind misgave me that I might have to deal with some savage who would be of great strength, and would respect neither right nor law.”