What is the Definition and History of the Odyssey?

Scene based on the Odyssey: John William Waterhouse (1849-1917), 'Ulysses and the Sirens' (1891).
Scene based on the Odyssey. John William Waterhouse (1849-1917), 'Ulysses and the Sirens' (1891). Public Domain. By John William Waterhouse (1891). Courtesy of Wikipedia.


Odyssey is a word used as a synonym for an arduous journey or quest. It comes from the work of the same name that is attributed to Homer. Homer, or whoever wrote the great epic poems of ancient Greece, wrote about the Trojan War in two important books about ancient Greek and Trojan heroes, the Iliad and the Odyssey. The latter describes Odysseus' voyage home at the end of the Trojan War.

To give an idea of how difficult was the original odyssey, the Trojan War took a seemingly interminable decade, after which it took another 10 years for Odysseus to return home to Ithaca. When near the start of his return, Odysseus lost many of his men to the Cyclops Polyphemus, Odysseus poked out the eye of the Cyclops, earning for himself the enmity of the god of the seas on which Odysseus was trying to sail home. On the course of Odysseus' journey, he encountered angry gods, storms, witches with transformational potions, the Underworld, and wily rocks that aimed to crush any passing boat. Even when Odysseus reached his home island of Ithaca, he wasn't done. After 10 years there had been some changes and Odysseus had to prove himself.

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The Stanley Kubrick movie 2001: A Space Odyssey was about a futuristic odyssey or quest in space. The Odyssey refers to the Greek epic poem attributed to Homer describing events from the past, legendary history of the Greeks.