Polites (friend of Odysseus)

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In Greek mythology, Polites (Ancient Greek: Πολίτης), the friend of Odysseus, was a minor character in the epics by Homer.


Polites was a member of Odysseus's crew.[1] Odysseus refers to him as his dearest friend, though he is only mentioned twice, once as part of Eurylochus's scouting group on Circe's island (he is one of the first to enter Circe's palace) and then when, after a year, he convinces Odysseus to leave Circe. He is killed either by Scylla or the lightning bolt that Zeus throws at Odysseus' ship for his crew eating the cattle of Helios.

Polites features more prominently in some versions of the folk tale known as The Hero of Temesa, which recounts the tale of one of Odysseus's crew (in some sources unnamed, but in others, including in the retelling by Strabo,[2] identified as Polities) who was killed on the island of Temesa and returned as a vengeful ghost. Various sources give different accounts of the death --some say he was stoned after raping a woman, others simply claim he was murdered by the locals-- but in all versions, the ghost threatened the populace and extracted a high tribute in exchange for a more peaceful coexistence until he was defeated by a visitor to the island, sometimes identified as Euthymus of Locri, a boxer and Olympic victor.[3] Because the ghost is sometimes described as wearing a wolfskin, scholar David Odgen speculates that "we are probably dealing with a monster that is mixanthropic: partly human and partly animal, a wolf-man..." and thus an early classical example of a werewolf story.[4]


  1. ^ Homer, Odyssey 10.224
  2. ^ Strabo (1924). Jones, H. L. (ed.). Geography. Vol. 3. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-99201-6.
  3. ^ Nicholson, Nigel (2013). "Cultural Studies, Oral Tradition, and the Promise of Intertextuality". American Journal of Philology. 134 (1): 9–21. doi:10.1353/ajp.2013.0006.
  4. ^ Ogden, David (March 7, 2021). The Werewolf in the Ancient World. Oxford University Press. pp. 137–166. ISBN 978-0198854319.