Laestrygonians

...

The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the angry Poseidon -- do not fear them:
You will never find such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not set them up before you.
Constantinos Kavafis, Ithaca

The Laestrygonians (or Laestrygones, Laistrygones, Laistrygonians, Lestrygonians) (gr. Λαιστρυγόνες) were a mythological tribe of gigantic cannibals.

In the Odyssey

In the Odyssey (book 9), Odysseus and his company, with a dozen ships, arives at "the rocky stronghold of Lamos: Telepylus, the city of the Laestrygonians.' Lamos is not mentioned again, perhaps being understood as the founder of the city.

In this land a man who could do without sleep could earn double wages; once as a herdsman of cattle and another as a shepherd, since they worked by night as they did by day.

The ships entered a harbour surrounded by steep cliffs, with a single entrance between two headlands. The captains took their ships inside and made them fast close to one another, where it was dead calm. Odysseus kept his own ship outside the harbour, moored to a rock. He climbed a high rock to reconnoitre, but could see nothing but some smoke rising from the ground. He sent two of his company with an attendant to investigate the inhabitants.

The Laestrygonians attacking ships

The men followed a road and eventually met a young woman, who said she was a daughter of Antiphates, the king, and directed them to his house. However when they got there they found a gigantic woman, the wife of Antiphates. She called her husband, who immediately left the assembly of the people and upon arrival snatched up one of the men and started to eat him. The other two men ran away, but Antiphates raised a hue-and-cry, so that they were pursued by thousands of Laestrygonians, cyclopes, not men. They threw vast rocks from the cliffs, smashing the ships, and speared the men like fish.

Odysseus made his escape with his single ship; the rest of his company was lost. The surviving crew went next to the island of Circe.


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