|The Story of Greece|
|by Mary Macgregor|
| Stories from the history of ancient Greece beginning with mythical and legendary stories of gods and heroes and ending with the conquests of Alexander the Great. Gives short accounts of battles and sieges, and of the men who made Greece a great nation. Ages 10-14 |
ODYSSEUS ESCAPES FROM THE CAVE
 ODYSSEUS was determined that he and his comrades should escape from the
cave of the dread Cyclops. Hour after hour he pondered how he might
persuade the giant to let them go, but at length he thought, "I will
not persuade him, I will force him to let us go."
At that moment, his eye fell upon a great staff or club in a corner of
the cave. He bade his companions make a sharp point to it. When this
was done he hardened it in the fire and then hid it from sight.
The day passed slowly, but at length evening came and Polyphemus
returned to the cave. His guests shrank into the farthest corner as
the giant began his supper, but ere he finished, he again stretched out
his hand, seized two of his prisoners, and devoured them. Then
Odysseus offered him a draught of wine which he had brought with him
Deep drank the giant, and ere he fell into a sound sleep he turned to
Odysseus saying, "No Man, thee will I eat last in return for thy gift
Odysseus waited until he saw that Polyphemus was fast asleep, then he
bade his comrades put the point of the great staff in the fire. When
it was red hot he told them to thrust it deep into the eye of the
giant. So great was the pain that the Cyclops heaped up from his sleep
and hurled away the staff, uttering loud cries of agony.
The giants who dwelt on the mountains round about heard the voice of
Polyphemus, and together they hastened to the doorway of the cave.
 "What hath so distressed thee, Polyphemus," they cried, "that thou
criest thus aloud through the immortal night and makest us sleepless?
Surely no mortal driveth off thy flocks against thy will; surely none
slayeth thyself by force or craft?"
"No Man is slaying me by guile, nor at all by force," answered
Polyphemus, proud even in his pain.
"If no man is harming thee, it may be that Zeus has sent sickness
upon thee," answered the giants. "Pray thou then to thy father
Poseidon for aid. As for us, we will go back to our slumbers."
Odysseus laughed to himself as he heard their retreating feet, for now
he was sure that he would be able to save himself and his comrades.
When morning dawned, Polyphemus, still groaning with pain, groped his
way to the door. Having found it he pushed the stone a little way to
the side to allow his flocks to pass out of the cave. To make sure
that his prisoners did not escape with the animals, he sat down by the
entrance and touched the back of each ram as it passed. But Odysseus
had tied his followers with osier twigs beneath the rams, and so, in
spite of the care of the giant, all his prisoners escaped. Odysseus
himself was the last to leave the cave, holding fast to the fleece of
the largest ram.
No sooner had Odysseus rejoined his companions than he loosened the
twigs with which he had bound them. Then together they ran to the
shore, driving before them many of the giant's best sheep. These they
took on board their ship, and then rowed out some way from land.
Polyphemus soon found that he had been outwitted, and he began to
stumble down toward the sea.
When Odysseus saw him, he bade his men rest on their oars, while he
spoke to the giant in a loud voice.
"Cyclops," he cried, "so thou wert not to eat the company of a weakling
by main might in thy hollow cave. Thine evil deeds were very sure to
find thee out, thou cruel man,
 who hadst no shame to eat thy guests
within thy gates, wherefore Zeus hath requited thee and the other
In his rage Polyphemus took a great rock off the top of a mountain and
hurled it in the direction from which the voice came. The rock fell
near to the bow of the ship, so that the waters rose and pushed the
vessel toward the shore.
But Odysseus seized a pole and swiftly thrust the ship back from the
land. Then he bade the sailors pull for the open sea with might and
When the ship was once more some distance from the shore, Odysseus
taunted the giant yet again with his evil deeds.
"Cyclops," he cried, "if any one of mortal men shall ask thee of the
unsightly blinding of thine eye, say that is was Odysseus who blinded
it, the Waster of Cities, son of Laertes, whose dwelling is in Ithaca."
Then the giant, in impotent anger, stretched out his hands to the
heavens and cried, "Hear me, Poseidon, girdler of the earth, god of the
dark hair, if indeed I be thy son. . . . Grant that he may never come to
his home, even Odysseus, waster of cities, son of Laertes, whose
dwelling is in Ithaca; yet if he is ordained to see his friends and
come into his well-builded house and his own country, late may he come,
and in evil case, with the loss of all his company, in the ship of
strangers, and find sorrows in his house."
And so it came to pass, even as the Cyclops prayed, for only after many
wanderings did Odysseus reach his home, to find it in the hands of
those who prayed that the king might never return to Ithaca.
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