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Who is Tiresias in the Odyssey?

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Tiresias is a character from Homer’s Odyssey. He is also well-known for Sophocles’ Antigone and Oedipus the King, and Ovid’s Metamorphoses. In Homer’s epic poem, the protagonist meets Tiresias in the underworld. Odysseus visited Tiresias on the underworld threshold. The latter predicted a safe return for the hero. Also, he provided him with advice on the way.

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In Homer’s Odyssey, Tiresias is an inhabitant of the underworld. He is the only figure to possess complete memory and consciousness in the underworld. That is by the grace of Persephone. He is a prophet from who Odysseus learned about the fate of his home. He also learned whether he would be able to return to his fatherland.

On Circe’s advice, Odysseus went to Hades. Circe told the king that Tiresias would provide him with the information about his journey home. Summoning Tiresias, Odysseus makes sacrifices to the dead. The shadows crowd around him. He sees his crew member among them, who asks him for a proper burial. Then, the king sees the prophet. Odysseus asked for Tiresias’ help. The prophet told him that Odysseus would not have a peaceful journey home. As Odysseus blinded the Cyclops, Poseidon has been holding a grudge at him. Yet, Tiresias says that Odysseus will return home, despite the obstacles.

The Athenian painter Nicias painted Odysseus summoning the shadows of the dead. This painting was quite famous in antiquity. The king of Pergamum Attalus offered a considerable sum of money for it. But the artist refused the money and donated his work to his hometown. An antique painting has been preserved and now is in the Louvre Museum. The work depicts Odysseus talking with the soothsayer Tiresias’ shadow.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Who is Tiresias in the Odyssey'. 28 January.

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