A question from Connor: Do you know how Odysseus died or did he die?
This is a wonderful question because it has two answers (at least).
Nowadays everyone is very interested in The News, "Reality" Shows (not so real), and Finding Out What Really Happened. The ancient Greeks were interested in good stories-- the more, the better. So if two good stories happened to pop up about one event, there was reason to rejoice.
...death will come to you off the sea,
a death so gentle, and carry you off
when you are worn out in sleek old age
Your people prosperous all around you
All this will come true for you as I have told.
(Book 11, lines 134-136, translation Lombardo)
This prophecy comes from Tiresias, a blind seer (get it?) who is always right about the future. So even though Homer never tells the actual death of Odysseus in the Odyssey, we expect that this must have been what happened.
Story Number Two (more popular): Odysseus, while he was on his voyage back to Ithaca, stopped and met the sorceress Circe (SIR-see). They had a romantic affair and Circe had a son from Odysseus, whose name was Telegonus (Tell-EH-guh-nuss). When Telegonus grew up, he wanted to meet his father. His adventure, called the Telegoneia (Tel-eh-guh-NAY-uh), was told by the poet Eugammon (You-GAM-un) of Cyrene (Sigh-REE-nee). Unfortunately, the poem itself wasn't copied down enough to make it to the present day. We know it only through book reports.
Telegonus has a temper and is interested in war, so when he comes to Ithaca (not knowing it's his father's home), he and his army attack the island. Odysseus, who had been on an adventure in Northern Greece, defends his homeland. In the battle, Telegonus kills Odysseus with a spear point made out of a stingray spine. Telegonus does not find out who Odysseus is until O's death.
Distraught, Telegonus takes Odysseus, along with O's wife Penelope and son Telemachus (Tel-EH-muh-kuss), back to Circe. Circe gives all three of the family immortality.
So what's the "real" story? Here's a way to think about it: all those TV shows have a special adventure for their heroes every single week (for me it was Space Ghost and Speed Racer-- for you, say, Kim Possible or the X-Men). Or a mystery every week that needs to be solved. In real life, adventures don't come around very often-- maybe once a year, if that. So what's the "real" adventure? What's up with the dozen plots to destroy the world, every week?
We like good stories, too. The more the better.
photo: Odysseus (seated) and Tiresias.