The first line speaks of the man, Ulysses, and designates his main attribute by a word, which may be translated
resourceful, though some grammarians construe it otherwise. Thus we are told at the start of the chief intellectual trait of the Hero, who "wandered much," and who, therefore, had many opportunities to exercise his gift. In the second line our attention is called to the real starting point of the poem, the taking of Troy, which is the background of the action of the Odyssey, and the great opening event of the Greek world, as here revealed. For this event was the mighty shake which roused the Hellenic people to a consciousness of their destiny; they show in it all the germs of their coming greatness. Often such a concussion is required to waken a nation to its full energy and send it on its future career.
Note that Ulysses is here stated to be the taker of Troy, and this view is implied throughout the Odyssey. Note Achilles is the final Greek hero; he perished without capturing the city, and in his hands alone the Greek cause would have been lost. The intellectual hero had to come forward ere the hostile town could be taken and Helen restored. Herein the Odyssey does not contradict the Iliad, but is clearly an advance beyond it.
But Troy is destroyed and now the second grand question of the Greeks arises: How shall we get back! Only one half of the cycle is completed by the conquest of the hostile city; the second half is the restoration. For this disjunction from Hellenic life, brought about by war, is not only physical but has become spiritual. The theme, therefore, deals with the wise man, who, through his intelligence, was able to take Troy, but who has now another and greater problem—the return out of the grand estrangement caused by the Trojan expedition. Spiritual restoration is the key-note of this
Odyssey, as it is that of all the great Books of Literature.