The Iliad's decade-long war, fought far from our hero's home shore of Ithaca, has ended. Ten years have passed since the Greek victory, and the surviving soldiers have returned to their homes - all except Odysseus, whose ships are lost and his men are dead. He is alone, held captive by the nymph Calypso.
Meanwhile, Odysseus' wife Penelope, and son Telemachus, wait in Ithaca for his return. Penelope is surrounded by suitors, who are eager to presume Odysseus dead and marry her. Telemachus is given a divine hint that Odysseus is alive, and that the suitors must be expelled in time for his return. Telemachus travels to Sparta, where he learns how his father's cunning helped to win the war - including a rather important subterfuge involving a wooden horse.
The Gods convene to discuss what should be done. Poseidon has cursed Odysseus so they don't invite him to their meeting. They agree that Odysseus must be allowed to return home, and Zeus commands Calypso, against her will, to release him.
Odysseus builds a boat and sails for Scheria, but Poseidon catches up with him and sinks his ship. Odysseus struggles to shore, and meets the Phaeacian King without revealing his identity. The King agrees to offer him a ship. The Phaeacians throw a feast and games in his honour, and a bard begins to tell stories of the Trojan War. Upon hearing these, Odysseus shows emotion, and the Phaeacians grow suspicious of his identity. Odysseus reluctantly reveals who he is, and proceeds to tell them his story.