Growing on, and forming almost the entire diet of the inhabitants of an un-named island in the Mediterranean off the coast of North Africa, the Lotus plant is infamous for its powerful stupefying effects.
The people who live on this island have no recognizable culture other than consumption of the Lotus plant, extreme lassitude and a certain lazy friendliness to outsiders. The only known name for them is that given them in contempt by Ulysses, Lotus-Eaters.
Basically, the Lotus-Eaters live an idyllic life of being perpetually stoned. No wonder they so offended a man of action like Ulysses.
Tradition holds that this is the day that the Odyssey ended: that Ulysses returned to Ithaca, recruited his son and other allies, and tricked his wife’s suitors before slaughtering them all. Along the way, he was also reunited with, in order, his dog (who died of old age shortly thereafter), his father, his childhood nurse, and finally, his wife, Penelope, the most faithful woman in all of Greek Myth.
Twenty years after his departure for the ringing fields of windy Troy, the very last of the Danaans returned home. The age of myth in Greece, as we know it, ended shortly thereafter, with the final triumph of the wiliest and most determined of all the heroes of Greece.
Call him Odysseus or Ulysses, there’s never been any denying his cunning or his pride – and this particular incident in his legend displays both to full advantage.
It so happened that Ulysses’ ship was on course to pass by the island of sirens – horrible monsters who used their bewitching song to lure sailors to their deaths (they ate them, and not in the good way). Ulysses decided that he wanted to be the first man to hear their song and live.
This is how he did it: he commanded his men to tie him to the mast, then to stop their ears with wax, and to neither remove the wax nor let him loose until such time as the island was out of sight. His plan worked to perfection, and he remains the only man to have heard the sirens sing and lived to tell the tale.