The Odyssey, Book X




Book Excerpt


Originally recited by the bard Homer in towns and villages all over Greece, The Odyssey was finally written down in the 8th century BCE. Ulysses, or Odysseus', adventures on the way home from the Trojan War have so fired the imaginations of later generations that the very word "odyssey" has entered our lexicon. In Book Ten, Odysseus has almost made it home with the help of a bag of winds given to him by the Wind God when his crew open the bag and the ship veers off course. They land on an island of Giants where the men are massacred and all their ships except Odysseus’ own are destroyed. Things go from bad to worse when they escape the Giants only to end up on the island of the sorceress Circe, who turns the crewmen into pigs with her magic wand. While fun to read, these episodes raise serious questions such as: How should a leader address the fears and limits of his followers? Should one trust the hospitality of strangers?

Full Text*

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The Odyssey, Homer, tr. Robert Fagles (Penguin Classics, 1999).




Crisis and ConflictExclusion and BelongingLeadership and Responsibility

Big Questions

How should we respond to crisis?How do we respond to strangers?How does a person become a leader?What do we expect from the people we lead? What do we expect from our own leaders?What is my responsibility to the people I lead?What makes a good leader?

Sample Discussion Questions

  1. How does Ulysses feel at the beginning of the book?
  2. How does Ulysses respond to Circe’s treatment of his men?
  3. How does Ulysses communicate with Circe and with his men? What is effective and what is less effective in his communication?
  4. Do you think Ulysses was a good leader in this situation? Why or why not?
  5. How should we respond to strangers?
  6. How should leaders respond to crisis?
  7. What are leaders’ limitations?
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