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Polyphemus (also Polyphemos), a character in Greek Mythology, is a Cyclops, the one-eyed son of Poseidon and Thoosa. He also plays a pivotal role in Homer's Odyssey.

Polyphemus in Homer's Odyssey

In the story of Homer's Odyssey, a scouting party led by the Trojan War hero Odysseus lands on the Island of the Cyclopes and ventures upon a large cave. They enter cave and proceed to feast on some food they find there. Unknown to them, this cave is the home of Polyphemus who soon comes upon the trespassers and traps them in his cave. He proceeds to eat several crew members, but Odysseus devises a cunning escape plan.

To make Polyphemus unwary, Odysseus gives him a barrel full of very strong, unwatered wine. When Polyphemus asks for Odysseus' name, Odysseus tells him "ουτις," a name which is translated as "Noman" or "Nobody," but which has been used allusively by later authors. Once the giant falls asleep, Odysseus and his men use a spear that had been hardened in the fire to destroy Polyphemus' only eye. He yells out to his fellow Cyclopes that "Noman" ("Nohbdy" in Robert Fitzgerald's translation) hurt him; the others take this to mean that Polyphemus has lost his mind, since he's being attacked by "nobody". They also conclude his condition is a curse from a god, and so they do not intervene. In the morning, Odysseus ties his men and himself to the undersides of Polyphemus' sheep. When the Cyclope lets the sheep out to graze, he feels their backs to ensure the men aren't riding out, but doesn't feel the men underneath.

Once the sheep (and men) are safely out, Polyphemus realizes that the men aren't in his cave. As Odysseus and his men sail away, he boasts to Polyphemus that "Noman didn't hurt you, Odysseus did!" Unfortunately, Odysseus didn't realize that Polyphemus was the son of Poseidon; Odysseus had already earned the enmity of that god, by defiling his temple in Troy and devising the sack of Troy, a city that held Poseidon in greatest esteem (although Poseidon had largely fought on the side of the Greeks during the Iliad). Polyphemus then casts a curse upon Odysseus, spiced with a hefty rock that he throws after the ship; for this, Poseidon causes Odysseus a great deal of trouble throughout the rest of the Odyssey.