Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns
driven time and again off course, once he had plundered
the hallowed heights of Troy.
Many cities of men he saw and learned their minds,
many pains he suffered, heartsick on the open sea,
fighting to save his life and bring his comrades home.
But he could not save them from disaster, hard as he strove –
the recklessness of their own ways destroyed them all,
the blind fools, they devoured the cattle of the Sun
and the Sun God blotted out the day of their return. . . .
from the prelude to Homer’s Odyssey, trans. by Robert Fagles
Bob Fitzgerald, press secretary: So that’s what we know at the present time, though of course we’re still examining various documents and talking to Odysseus to see what else he can tell us. As you can imagine, after the many pains he suffered, heartsick on the open sea, some of his recollections are more clear than others. Yes, go ahead. In the back.
Reporter 1: Bob, you’re saying–was it ten years it took them to get back after the Trojan War ended?
Fitzgerald: Yes, that is correct. That should be clear from the timeline in your briefing materials. And just to keep the record straight, nobody else made it back. Odysseus is the lone survivor of the mission.
Reporter 1: I just want to follow up here if I could, because a number of military experts, as you know, have questioned just how it could have taken experienced sailors ten years to go just a few hundred miles from one spot in the Mediterranean Sea to another.
Fitzgerald: We have not been able to assemble a full narrative yet, but from what we’re hearing, Odysseus and his men met with a number of strange events during their return from Troy. According to our information, a number of the men were at one point turned into pigs, and others seem to have become addicted to a local drug known as a lotus. They encountered violent storms and–
Reporter 2: Bob, these storms, are they the storms allegedly caused by this god that supposedly hated Odysseus?
Fitzgerald: Let me check on that. As you see from the briefing materials, a number of gods, goddesses, demigods, and other deities were involved in these proceedings and I want to be very careful trying to distinguish among them. I mean, you not only have your major gods like Zeus and Poseidon, but you have your minor gods like Ino and Aeolus and so many others, and we’re just not ready to comment as to the extent of their involvement.
Reporter 3: Bob, was this Ino the one who had the alleged romantic liaison with Odysseus? Or was that Nausicca? And just to follow up, I’m wondering if there’s been any kind of statement from his wife about these affairs?
Fitzgerald: Just to clarify, Ino was the sea nymph who lent Odysseus her scarf when he was caught in turbulent waters. And no, we have no comment at this point from uh, Mrs. . . uh . . .
Reporter 4: Penelope.
Fitzgerald: Right. Penelope. I’m sorry. We’re dealing with a lot of names here.
Reporter 4: Bob, do you have any more details on this Cyclops character, the one with I believe one eye, or this Circe, the so-called sorceress who supposedly detained Odysseus for some period of months or years? We’ve made numerous inquiries and none of the locals on those islands can confirm any of this. A few of the tribal elders are dismissing this as just more propaganda.
Fitzgerald: I really don’t want to get into speculating on each of these alleged events, saying there was a Cyclops or there wasn’t a Cyclops, or whether he had one eye or two eyes or how many eyes, until we’ve had a chance to complete our debriefing and–
Reporter 4: Was there cannibalism involved there, and if so, wouldn’t that be a clear violation of the Geneva Conventions?
Fitzgerald: You’re referring to cannibalism on the part of the Cyclops?
Reporter 4: Right, the Cyclops.
Fitzgerald: Again, I think we’re getting way ahead of ourselves here and. .
Reporter 5: But Odysseus is claiming, is he not, that a number of these men who are MIA were killed and eaten by this Cyclops, correct?
Fitzgerald: That is his contention. If we could, let’s move on. Yes. Right here.
Reporter 6: Bob, shifting to another subject for a moment, what can you tell us about this “plundering the hallowed heights of Troy”? As you know, some sources are saying that at the very least, plundering hallowed heights demonstrates a lot of cultural insensitivity. We’re getting reports of many civilian casualties on those heights, and there’s been some question raised as to the possibility of war crimes.
Fitzgerald: We believe that all the Trojans on those hallowed heights were armed combatants. Odysseus and his men took every precaution to protect the civilian population, but it’s not always crystal-clear in these situations. The fog of war is always a factor, even when you’re on hallowed heights.
Reporter 7: Bob, when you say that the Sun God “blotted out the day of their return,” are you saying that we have no information as to the day of their return, or that the information has been lost, or do you have contradictory accounts–
Fitzgerald: According to the account we have, the Sun God was a major factor certainly in reducing morale and combat readiness vis-a-vis Odysseus’ unit. For reasons we haven’t been able to ascertain, he basically harassed and eventually destroyed them over the ten-year period that you see there in your timeline. Next question?
Reporter 8: I’m struck by your statement that “the recklessness of their own ways destroyed them all.” Aren’t we really blaming the victims here? Is the President comfortable with characterizing these men as “blind fools”?
Fitzgerald: I want to clarify that statement based on some new information we’ve received. Rather than “recklessness of their own ways destroyed them all,” I think it’s more accurate to say that “inadvisable behavior based on a series of misjudgments certainly contributed to the tragic circumstances that ensued.”
That’s all we have for now. Thank you for your questions.