Ancient Greek History: Odysseus or Ulysses - Fact or Fiction?

Ancient Greek Legends: Odysseus

Odysseus (Latin: Ulixes, English: Ulysses) king of Ithaca, is one of the most famous characters in ancient Greek legends, not only for his triumph in the Trojan War but also because of his long journey to return back home. Odysseus played such a lead role in two of the most famous epic tales of Greek mythology, so that it should hardly be surprising that the stories of Odysseus influence later culture.

 Ancient Greek History: Odysseus or Ulysses - Fact or Fiction?

As a warrior at Troy (he was among those who hid in the famous Trojan Horse), Odysseus is cunning and ingenious, but also loaded with his share of pride and human failings. During his journeys, he confronts many famous characters of ancient mythology, from the monstrous one-eyed Cyclops to the tempting (and deadly) Sirens. He is by turns aided and thwarted by the whimsies of Zeus, Poseidon and other Greek gods.

Ancient Greek History: Odysseus or Ulysses - Fact or Fiction?

After 20 years of (10 for the war and 10 for the trip back) he returns to his long-waiting wife, Penelope, and slays the greedy suitors who have besieged her. Odysseus’s mighty deeds and all-too-human weaknesses have made him a favorite with scholars and storytellers down through the years. Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s Ulysses was one of the best-known poems of the 1800s, and James Joyce’s groundbreaking novel Ulysses used Homer’s adventures as the inspiration for a modern-day tale set in Dublin.

Ancient Greek History: Odysseus or Ulysses - Fact or Fiction?

Although history can’t tell us for certain whether there was an actual Greek king of Ithaca named Odysseus, we also don’t have reason to believe there wasn’t. Certainly the tales told about him in Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey epic tales, were purely fiction, but they were also full of real people, places, and events. There is no conclusive archaeological or historical evidence to support the story. The names, places and events associated with Odysseus are not known to have been recorded in ancient times. None has been discovered consequently.

Surprisingly, it’s actually more likely that Odysseus himself was a real person than his storyteller, Homer, who is considered by most scholars to have been a fictitious name attached to the works of multiple poets. The story is at the most imaginative, a fabulous tale of persistence, courage and bravery.