Dr. Diane Thompson, NVCC, ELI
The Table of Contents will guide you to useful background information about Homer, Troy, the Troy Cycle, Epic poetry, and the Iliad as well as the Odyssey. I encourage you to read through all of this material before you begin to read the Odyssey. The information on the Troy Cycle will give you a context for the Odyssey--it was only one of several epics about the Trojan War.
I suggest reading through the lists of characters in advance to get your bearings before plunging into the text. You can return to these lists as you read Homer. Because the story of the Iliad (a battle at Troy) precedes that of the Odyssey (a Greek veteran of the Trojan War wandering home), it really helps to get some familiarity with the Iliad before reading the Odyssey.
In the first yellow box below, I have links to several different summaries of the Iliad. In order to appreciate the long tradition of Troy stories to follow, it is very important to have a firm grasp of who is doing what to whom and why in the Iliad.
I have included a list of summaries of the Odyssey in the second yellow box below. I suggest selecting and reading a summary first and then reading Homer.
(c) Thompson: 7/10/98; updated: 01/18/2012