Homer’s The Odyssey is the Western Ur-text of exile and of the paradoxical desire to return to a home that may or may not still exist. On the one hand, Odysseus’ journey home is thwarted by Poseidon, and exile can only be endured – indeed, the capacity to do so is one of the core characteristics of Odysseus as a Greek hero. But there is also the sense that Odysseus, reacting against this subjection, actively invites danger along the way – taunting the Cyclops or insisting on hearing the sirens’ song.
This division between the longing for home (nostos) and the lure of adventure is clear in the map series created from both versions of the poem. In the maps generated out of Robert Fagles’ translation, 'royal palaces' and 'shepherds’ huts' sit alongside the 'caves of witches and giants'. But in the maps from Samuel Butler with their proliferation of ‘houses’ domesticity comes to the fore, attesting to Butler’s own reading of the poem as ‘franchement bourgeois & unheroic’. According to Butler, Ulysses (Odysseus) is a ‘servants’ hall hero’.