Polyphemus: the mythical Cyclops in Ulysses' adventure

Polyphemus is a mythical character from Greek mythology. Described as having incredible strength and a single eye in the middle of his forehead, he is best known for his role in the adventures of Odysseus, the legendary hero of the Trojan War. In this article, we'll explore who Polyphemus is, his role in Odysseus' adventures and the significance of his character in mythology and literature.


Who is Polyphemus?

Physical description

Polyphemus is described as a giant Cyclops, with incredible physical strength and a single eye in the middle of his forehead. According to legend, he stands some six meters tall, and is therefore considerably larger than the average human. He is described as having uncombed hair and a bushy beard.

Mythological origins

Polyphemus is a character from Greek mythology. He comes from the works of Hesiod and Homer, two ancient Greek poets. According to Hesiod, Polyphemus is the son of the sea god Poseidon and the nymph Thoosa. In Homer's Odyssey, Polyphemus is described as the son of Poseidon and of an unknown mother.

Personal characteristics

Polyphemus is considered to be a rather brutal and barbaric character. He is often described as violent towards humans. He is egocentric and thinks only of himself, endangering Ulysses and his companions when he captures them.

Polyphemus and the adventures of Ulysses

Meeting Ulysses

Polyphemus meets Ulysses and his companions on their way to Ithaca, their home. Polyphemus, seeing the men walking on his island, decides to capture them to eat later.

Capture of Ulysses' companions

Polyphemus captures Ulysses' companions and locks them in his cellar. He then prepares to eat them, but Ulysses and his companions devise a stratagem to free themselves.

Ulysses' stratagem to defeat Polyphemus

Ulysses gives Polyphemus a few glasses of wine, which he drinks unsuspectingly. Once the Cyclops has fallen asleep, Ulysses and his companions blind him by burning his only eye with a sharpened stick.

The blinding of Polyphemus

The blinding of Polyphemus is a defining moment in Ulysses' adventures. The cyclops screams in pain and calls for help from his fellow cyclops. Ulysses and his companions escape from Polyphemus' cellar, clinging to the underside of the Cyclops' sheep belly, to avoid being caught.

The meaning of Polyphemus

Symbolism in mythology

Polyphemus represents arrogance and cruelty. He also symbolizes ignorance and lack of education, as he is primarily obsessed with his own well-being. His blindness can be interpreted as divine punishment for his cruel actions towards humans.

Perception of Polyphemus throughout history

Polyphemus has been used as an inspiration by many artists and authors at throughout history. For example, in classic literature, the character of Don Quixote is compared to Polyphemus for his lack of discernment and his tendency to put himself in danger.

Place in contemporary literature

Polyphemus is often used as a reference character in fantasy and science fiction works. He is often presented as a monster in these works, representing terror and violence. For example, the Warhammer universe often uses cyclops as enemies for players.


Polyphemus is an important mythical character in Greek mythology and in literature. His role in the adventures of Ulysses has left its mark on minds for centuries, and continues to be a source of inspiration for contemporary artists. Although often seen as a brutal and arrogant character, Polyphemus' meaning is more complex and can represent the ignorance and cruelty inherent in certain aspects of humanity.