Fates In the Odyssey: Odysseus’ Destiny

Fate in the Odyssey showed how Odysseus suffered during his long journey back to his home in Ithaca. As fate is described as the development of occurrence beyond a person’s control, it is determined by a supernatural power and is subject to change at this powerful being’s desire. Continue to read and discover how fate was demonstrated in the Odyssey and how it affected the course of events in Odysseus’ journey and life.

Fates in the Odyssey

In ancient Greek, they had a habit of creating deities to represent concepts. Fate was personified by the three Moirai or Moerae, namely, Clotho, Atropos, and Lachesis. They are the keepers of a person’s destiny, and they control people’s lives from the very moment that they are born to the time they die. It is stated that they were three of the six children of Zeus, the king of the gods, and their mother being Themis, the goddess of justice.


The three fates represent birth, life, and death. Clotho was known to be the spinner of the thread, which represents a person’s life. Lachesis measures the thread for each person, indicating the length of a person’s life. Meanwhile, Atropos was responsible for cutting the thread, indicating when the person’s life would end.

The Greeks feared the Moirai as a fate in the mythology. Aside from being depicted as people with unflattering appearances, the fact that they were the ones believed to control someone’s death made them frightening to many.

Controlling the Olympian Gods

Fate in the Odyssey quotes that the fate of the hero Odysseus was also seen as controlled by the Olympian gods, who either supported and protected him or were angry with him. These gods played a big part in the hero’s misadventures during his journey. They intervened repeatedly throughout the epic and primarily determined the fate of Odysseus.

The sea god Poseidon was invoked by his son Polyphemus the Cyclops to seek revenge for what Odysseus did to him. The sea god complied and allowed Odysseus’ travel to take several years as a punishment. Zeus, the king of the gods, also changed the course of events by punishing Odysseus, especially his men, for killing Helios’ golden cattle.

However, in the end, Zeus was also the one who decided to allow Odysseus to return to his home in Ithaca. He also revealed the hero’s fate, as told by Hermes, that on the twentieth day, Odysseus will reach the land of Phaeacians. He was pertaining to the storm that brought Odysseus to the island.


Meanwhile, the goddess of wisdom Athena, who was one of the constant supporters of Odysseus in the Odyssey, makes things easier for him by frequently aiding him using her divine powers, and this helped the turn of events to be in a positive way. She was the one who begged Zeus, her father, to persuade Calypso to release Odysseus when he was held captive by the beautiful nymph.

Athena also acted as a guardian to Odysseus’ family while he was away. She helped Odysseus scope out the situation in Ithaca when she disguised him as a beggar as he got home, and she assisted Odysseus and Telemachus in carrying out their plans for the suitors.

Throughout the poem, as Odysseus faced different battles along the way, there were gods and goddesses who intervened and change the hero’s destiny. However, keep in mind that the reaction of the gods still depended on Odysseus’ actions as fates characteristics are viewed as the consequences that are dealt out due to one individual’s certain actions.

Fate and Free Will

Free will in the Odyssey is a critical aspect associated with fate. Free will was shown whenever a character would have to make a decision, whereas fate referred to the consequences he had to face because of his actions. Free will enables people to be responsible for their own actions, whereas fate lies in the control of divine intervention.

Free will and fate are connected and viewed as a cause-and-effect process in ancient Greek. However, fate did not just happen. It was engineered by the gods who interfered to make such things happen, but given that mortals were unaware of these plans, the events appeared to be fate. Free will was depicted as having full authority over someone’s life, including their decisions, aspirations, and direction.

Blinding Polyphemus

One example from the poem was the moment when Odysseus blinded Polyphemus the Cyclops. He exercised his free will by blinding the cyclops to be able to escape from the cave. However, as a consequence, Poseidon avenged what he did to Polyphemus and made Odysseus’ journey back home full of adversity.

This became one of the infamous and important underlying themes in the poem, the revenge in the Odyssey—and that is Odysseus’ fate. His journey was treacherous and prolonged as he chose to act out his free will in an erroneous way.


When Odysseus’ men butchered and ate the cattle owned and beloved by the sun god, Helios. Even though they were warned not to touch those, because of their hunger, they did it anyway. They choose to follow their free will and garnered the wrath of Helios, not thinking of how they would get punished.

As a result, the gods again intervened and, once more, changed their fate. Zeus destroyed their ship and killed all of them, leaving only Odysseus alive and washed ashore in Ogygia, the island that was ruled the nymph Calypso.

Detemination as Will

Calypso in the Odyssey inhabited the island when she was banished as a punishment for supporting her father. Odysseus was held captive by the beautiful nymph for seven long years. She fell in love with him and offered to marry him in exchange for a promise of immortality, but Odysseus refused the offer as he yearned to return to his wife in Ithaca.

Calypso did not lose hope, she enchanted and seduced him, and most of the time, she put him under a spell and enticed him with her offerings. However, Odysseus was still unhappy and miserable, preferring to return home. As Athena saw this, she asked Zeus to save him from Calypso. Zeus then commanded the messenger of gods, Hermes, to convince Calypso to free Odysseus.

Calypso obeyed the king of the gods and did not refuse, even though it was against her will. She aided Odysseus off the island by helping him to build his boat and giving him supplies and favorable winds on his journey.

In Odysseus’ journey, Calypso’s role in the Odyssey was also significant as she helped him to prepare for the impending trouble that was waiting for him. Calypso allowed Odysseus to travel back with full strength as she served as a constant reminder of everything Odysseus longed for back at home, which created a deep desire in his heart to return to Ithaca.

In a summary, Odysseus was given the capacity to choose not to yield to the temptation that Calypso proposed. Odysseus displayed loyalty in the Odyssey, which resulted in the gods’ collaboration to let Calypso release him. This is another instance where a mortal’s fate was changed by divine influences because the mortal followed his free will.

Lack of Control

Fate in the Odyssey was demonstrated by the Olympian gods who get to decide what should befall Odysseus and whether he will ever reach his home. Odysseus does not and cannot control his own fate. Odysseus was given numerous opportunities to get home as Zeus revealed that it is his will that Odysseus should reach his home safely, possessing treasures, but without his beloved crew, hence fate.

In some instances, fate was shown using the birds in the Odyssey. They served as a symbol that foreshadowed something that was bound to happen. They were considered transient messages from the gods.

In Book 19 of the poem, Penelope had a dream about birds. She stated that an eagle swooped down on her twenty pet geese and killed them all. The bird eagle was interpreted as Odysseus, and the geese were the suitors who Odysseus planned to massacre. These birds demonstrated the suitors’ fate because of their bad behavior.

Homer uses the help of the muses in the Odyssey, whom he invoked to give guidance to be able to recount the tale and the ultimate destination of Odysseus and his men on their journey, which is fate. Homer asked the muse Calliope for skill, knowledge, inspiration, and even the right emotion to finish the poem.


Fate in the Odyssey played a big part in the epic poem as it determined how the story unfolded and what happened to Odysseus and the other characters in the course of events. Here’s a quick recap of what we covered:

  • Odysseus’ fate was controlled by the divine intervention of the Olympian gods.
  • Free will was depicted as having complete authority over one’s self.
  • Revenge was one vital part of the Odyssey.
  • Birds in the Odyssey were considered transient messages from the gods.
  • Homer invoked a muse and ask guidance to be able to tell the fate of the hero, Odysseus.

Fate is one of the main themes that was tackled in the Odyssey, which we can say was truly entertaining. It is another one of the reasons why this poem is truly epic!

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