When Ulysses, who was the king of Ithaca,
was coming home from the Trojan War, he lost
his way. After a very long voyage, and a
great many hardships, he came with his men,
one day, to the floating island of King
Here they were hospitably received. In fact,
King Aeolus kept them at his palace and
entertained them for a month. When they were
ready to start out again, on their way home,
King AEolus gave Ulysses a great leather
bag, made of an ox-skin, and tied with a
silver rope. In this bag were all the winds
except one. That one wind was the west wind,
which King Aeolus had purposely kept
outside, so that it might blow the ship
home; for Ithaca was toward the east.
When the sailors saw King Aeolus hand over
this great leather bag to Ulysses, they did
not know what was in it, but thought it must
be something very valuable, probably gold.
Then noticing the shining silver rope with
which it was bound, they began to wonder if
they could not undo the knot.
Ulysses, seeing their curious glances, and
feeling a little suspicious of them, made up
his mind that he would sit up all night,
every night, and steer the ship himself.
They started off, with the west wind blowing
gently, and all going well. For nine days
and nine nights they sailed straight east,
till they could see the mountain peaks of
Ithaca. All this time, Ulysses had been at
the helm, for he felt more and more
suspicious of the sailors.
Meanwhile, the sailors whispered among
themselves that Ulysses was going home with
a great bag of treasure, and that it was not
fair that they should have nothing. They
could see more and more of the shores of
Ithaca. Even the smoke from their own
firesides came in sight, and that was a
sight they had not seen before for many long
But Ulysses could not keep awake any longer.
When he saw land in sight, and knew that the
voyage was almost over, he was so completely
tired out that he sank down by the rudder
where he stood, and fell asleep. This gave
the sailors the opportunity they had been
watching for. They sprang to the bag the
moment that the eyes of Ulysses were closed,
and untied the silver rope.
Out rushed the winds, and struck the ship
from all ways at once. The ship spun around
like a top, and the sea was churned into a
fine spray which flew so high and so thick
that it was like a blinding snowstorm. Then,
being blown along by a gale from the east,
Ulysses and his men finally found themselves
once more at the Island of the Winds.
But as King AEolus would not help them a
second time, they had to make the best of
it, and take the winds as they came. It was
a long, long time after that, before they
saw their homes again.
The Legend and Myth of Aeolus
The Myth of Aeolus
The story of Aeolus is featured in the book
entitled Favorite Greek Myths by Lilian
Stoughton Hyde, published in 1904 by D. C.
Heath and Company.