Odysseus ultimately departs Hades, terrified by all the dead shouting about him. The protagonist, Odysseus, and his crew enter the Underworld in Homer's epic poem, The Odyssey. Circe, the sea witch, directs their voyage and orders them to offer a sacrifice at the gateway to the kingdom of the dead. When they arrive at the River Styx, where passengers crossed into Earthly Paradise if they were virtuous; or into Tartarus, the darkest part of Hell, if they had been wicked, Odysseus has himself weighed against a pair of scales and found wanting. He then refuses to leave his ship without seeing Persephone, the queen of the Underworld. She tells him she will let him see her again if he returns within one year. If he does not, she says she will never see him again.
Odysseus sets off on foot through the Underworld with only his faithful dog, Argos, for company. He comes upon two groups of prisoners: those who have not yet been judged and are still waiting to find out what fate awaits them, and those who have been sentenced to death and are now being led to the place where they will be killed. At each stage of his journey, Odysseus tries to convince the guards guarding the different areas to free these people, but they always tell him that they cannot do so unless their commander, Zeus, orders it.
A second instance of Odysseus' heroic character occurs in Book 11, when Circe instructs Odysseus to travel to the underworld, Hades, to confront the dead prophet, Teiresias, about Odysseus' fate. If Odysseus succeeds in this task, he will be able to return to Ithaca with news about how he can recover his estate.
Odysseus obeys Circe's command and travels to the underworld. There he meets two people: Teiresias, who tells him that he must sacrifice a black sheep and a phoenix before he can learn the truth about his fate; and Proteus, who is able to change his shape at will and who warns Odysseus not to trust Circe or anyone else while he is away on this mission.
After these encounters, Teiresias dies. Now knowing what he has to do, Odysseus returns to Circe's palace and asks her for more time so that he can complete the mission as requested by the god. But she refuses to give him more time because she wants to kill him himself. However, before he can do so, her servants tie her up and put her in a ship bound for Crete, where her father, Zeus, will judge whether she is guilty of murder or not.
Odysseus journeys to the Land of the Dead in order to meet with the prophet Tiresias. When he arrives, he performs a blood sacrifice in order for the spirits of the deceased to rise from the depths of Hades. Only then can Tiresias see their future together.
Odysseus then asks Tiresias whether Penelope will ever remarry. The old man replies that she will one day marry an excellent husband who will take care of her and provide her with children. This prophecy moves Odysseus so much that he weeps openly before the gods.
As soon as his tears have washed away his sins, Odysseus receives permission from Zeus to return to Ithaca. He travels through the underworld again and returns to the surface world on the island of Ogygia, where he finds Penelope still waiting for him despite knowing that he has been gone for ten years. She has fallen deeply in love with another man during that time but promises not to do so again if only he will come back.
They are married again and this time stay together forever, which is what Odysseus wanted all along.
Circe offered Odysseus sacrifice blood to deliver to the residents of the Underworld, allowing them to communicate with him. Odysseus objected, claiming that no mortal could visit the Underworld. Circe assured him that the winds would steer his ship.
Elpenor, one of the first ghosts he communicates with, begs him not to leave him unburied and unmourned. Odysseus agrees to bury his friend and then continues on with his mission.
This scene comes from Homer's Odyssey. It takes place about ten years after the war between Troy and Greece had ended. Odysseus has been driven off course while sailing home from Troy and has landed in the land of the dead. There he meets with several of his former comrades from the Trojan War and also has a vision of his future wife, Penelope. After speaking with the prophets Teiresias and Charon, who represent the two sides in the battle between good and evil, he returns to the land of the living.
Some scholars believe this scene was likely based on an actual event during Odysseus' life. They say it may have taken place around 460 B.C. During a night out at sea with his men, Odysseus is approached by the ghost of one of them who dies without being mourned. The man tells Odysseus that he should return home because his family needs him.
Odysseus agrees and leaves the beach but soon finds himself driven off course again.