Zeus: Zeus is the ruler of the gods. His will prevails in all things. He is diplomatic at times, and balances Poseidon’s anger with Athena’s compassion. He eventually agrees with Athena, and so Odysseus is allowed to return home.
Poseidon: Poseidon is the god of the sea. He hates Odysseus because Odysseus hurt one of his creations, Polyphemous the Cyclops. Poseidon tries many times to destroy Odysseus, but is unsuccessful. Zeus’ will is that Odysseus’ is returned to his family, but as a concession, his homecoming is made difficult.
Athena: Athena is the Goddess of wisdom, and Odysseus’ patron goddess. She favors him in all things, and is the one who arranges his return to Ithaca and destruction of the suitors who wronged him. Athena also helps Odysseus’ son Telemachus, in the disguise of Mentor, to find his adulthood and prepares Telemachus to help his father when he finally comes home.
Circe: Circe is a lesser goddess who lives on an island with enchanted animals. She tricks some of Odysseus’ men and turns them into pigs, but when Odysseus overcomes her, she becomes kind and hospitable.
Calypso: Calypso is another lesser goddess who lives alone on an island. She captures Odysseus, and keeps him a prisoner for several years. Odysseus lives on her island as a loved guest, but she will not let him leave until Athena begs for his release at the beginning of the novel. Calypso is lonely and possessive, but truly cares for Odysseus, and so she is benevolent to him when he leaves the island by Zeus’ decree.
Odysseus: The title character and hero of the Odyssey. His only goal is to return to his home of Ithaca, and he stops at nothing to achieve his goal. He is intelligent and crafty, and saves himself from many situations by using his wits. Odysseus is tested many times during his homecoming, by monsters that almost destroy him and pleasant situations that could keep him safe and secure. However, he forsakes everything for Ithaca, and thanks to the help of Athena, his patron Goddess, he is able to return to his home and regain his wealth and status.
Telemachus: Telemachus is Odysseus’ son. At the beginning of the Odyssey, Telemachus has never met his father, and is bossed around by his mother’s suitors. Athena helps him to gain courage and become a man by traveling to find out more about his father. When Odysseus returns, Telemachus has fully grown up, and they are able to work together to slaughter the men who tried to destroy their home.
Penelope: Penelope is Odysseus’ wife, and remains loyal to him even when his own son has left him for dead. She tricks the suitors many times so that she does not have to marry any of them, and is the head of the household until Telemachus finds his maturity. Near the end of the novel when Odysseus returns in disguise, he tests Penelope and she remains faithful to him, and is rewarded when Odysseus’ regains his status.
The Lotus-Eaters: The Lotus-Eaters are another group of people that tries to make Odysseus forget about his home by pleasant means. The lotus that they offer is a drug, and only a few of Odysseus’ crew are affected, but they are rescued.
Polyphemous the Cyclops: Polyphemous is a Cyclops, a man with one eye. When Odysseus and his crew invade his house when he is not home, they expect that his rules of hospitality are the same as the Greeks, and that Odysseus is justified in eating the Cyclops’ sheep and cheese. However, Polyphemous does not share the same customs, and instead eats Odysseus’ men. Cyclopes are descendants of Poseidon, and so he shelters them. When Odysseus blinds Polyphemous and escapes with his men, he angers Poseidon, which is the cause behind Odysseus’ years of sailing for his home.
The Suitors/Antichloos: The suitors want Penelope to remarry because they believe that Odysseus is dead. They waste Odysseus’ food and hospitality, feasting in gluttony while waiting for Penelope to choose one of them. Antichloos is the main suitor, and thinks of several evil plots, one of these being to kill Telemachus when he is sailing to Pylos. The suitors are punished by Odysseus after he reveals himself by completing a task that none of them could do, shooting Odysseus’ bow, and this demonstrates that the suitors are quite unworthy people.
Nausika: Nausika is the daughter or Alkinoos and Arete, the rulers of Phaiakia, the country where Odysseus landed after leaving Calypso’s island. She is kind to him and tells him what to do so he will be treated well by her parents. She wants to marry him, but does not do anything manipulative to try to win him, and so she lets him go out of loyalty and friendship.
Eureklya: Eureklya is Odysseus’ old nurse who still serves Penelope. She is one of the only loyal serving women, because many of them have been promiscuous with the suitors. She is the first non-god to recognize Odysseus, and is a strong woman.
Eumaios: Eumaios is a loyal pig keeper of Odysseus, and Odysseus stays with him during his first night in Ithaca.