A Sea of Troubles: Looking into the wine-dark waves of the Odyssey
by Ed Fluegel

Posiedon, lord of the sea, is the most powerful and persistent antagonist of the island-king Odysseus, whose trials are framed by a nautical journey. The sea poses a fierce challenge and causes the death of many of Odysseus's men, but it is also a space that has none of the carnal excesses and traps that are found on land. That the sea is Odysseus's true home was assumed by Tennyson, who sends the aging Odysseus out upon it once more at the end of his life. Although the sea is certainly not the true home of Homer's Odysseus, it plays a more important role than that of some trivial transporting medium that simply moves the hero from one challenge to another. Despite the wrath of Posiedon, the sea is a place of relative safety, until the final storm leaves Odysseus to cling to the mast alone. Most of the danger comes to the ship-bound Odysseus when land intrudes, in the form of Polyphemous's hurled boulder, or the crashing rocks of Charybdis, or the attempts of the sirens to lure the ship to land. While the landscape of the Odyssey and the particular locales in it have been discuseed, little attention has been paid to the omnipresent sea. This essay considers the complex role it plays in the Odyssey.