On this calyx krater, we see Odysseus and his men blinding the one-eyed Cyclops, Polyphemus.
In Book 9 of Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus and his men reach the land of the Cyclopes, an uncivilised, monstrous land. Odysseus leads some of his men into the cave of Polyphemus the Cyclops, who lives here. The men are terrified as they watch Polyphemus devour a couple of their comrades, and he then places a large rock in the entrance to the cave so they cannot escape. They remain trapped in the cave, terrified, as Polyphemus sleeps. After a few more of his men have been eaten, Odysseus devises a cunning plan to successfully escape. They burn the end of an olive tree, get Polyphemus so drunk that he passes out, and then they ram the sizzling tree into his single eye.
Homer uses vivid language here to make the pain seem realistic- ‘twisted it in his eye till the blood boiled up’, ‘the scorching heat singed his lids…while his eyeball blazed’.
Odysseus tells the Cyclopes that his name is ‘Nobody’, so when the other Cyclopes hear Polyphemus shrieking ‘Nobody is hurting me!’, they do not think to help. Odysseus then ties himself and his crew to the underbellies of his sheep, so when he lets his sheep out, he is unaware that Greeks are leaving. It is only when they are leaving in their boats that Odysseus declares his identity. However, Polyphemus is the son of the Sea-God Poseidon, who will avenge this brutality.