Home  »  The World’s Wit and Humor  »  Odysseus’s Trick on Polyphemus

The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Lucian (c. 125–after 180)

Odysseus’s Trick on Polyphemus

From “Dialogues of the Sea-Gods”


Polyphemus.Oh, father, what have I endured at the hands of the cursed stranger, who made me drunk and put out my eye, assaulting me when I was lulled to sleep!

Poseidon.Who dared to do this, my poor Polyphemus?

Polyphemus.In the first instance, he called himself Outis; but when he had got clear away, and was out of reach of my arrow, he said that his name was Odysseus.

Poseidon.I know whom you speak of—him of Ithaca, and he was on his return voyage from Ilium. But how did he do it, for he is by no means a man of too much courage?

Polyphemus.Returning from my accustomed attending of my flock, I caught a number of fellows in my cave, evidently having designs on my herds; for when I placed the stone block against the door—the rock is of huge size—and had lighted the fire by igniting the tree which I brought from the mountain, evidently they appeared to be trying to conceal themselves. Well, when I had got hold of some of them I devoured them for a pack of thieves, as was reasonable. Hereupon that most villainous rascal, whether he was Outis or Odysseus, pours out a sort of drug and gives me to drink—sweet, indeed, and of delicious smell, but most insidious, and which caused great disorder in my head; for, immediately upon my drinking, everything seemed to me to be in a whirl, and the cave itself was turned upside down, and I was no longer at all in my senses; and at last I was dragged down into sleep. Then sharpening the bar, and igniting it besides, he blinded me as I slept, and from that time I am a blind man, at your service, Poseidon.

Poseidon.How soundly you slept, my son, that you did not jump up while you were being blinded! But as for this Odysseus, then, how did he escape? For he could not—I am well assured that he could not—move away the rock from the door.

Polyphemus.Yes, but it was I who removed it, that I might the better catch him as he was going out; and, sitting down close to the door, I groped for him with extended hands, letting only my sheep go out to pasture, after having given instructions to the ram what he was to do in my place.

Poseidon.I perceive: they slipped away unnoticed, under the sheep. But you ought to have shouted, and called the rest of the Cyclopes to your aid.

Polyphemus.I did summon them, father, and they came. But when they asked the sneaking rascal’s name, and I said it was Outis, thinking I was in a mad fit, they took themselves off at once. Thus the cursed fellow tricked me with his name; and what especially vexes me is, that he actually threw my misfortune in my teeth. “Not even,” said he, “will your father Poseidon cure you.”

Poseidon.Never mind, my child, for I will revenge myself upon him; he shall learn that, even if it is not possible for me to heal the mutilation of people’s eyes, at all events the fate of voyagers is in my hands. And he is still at sea.