Lotus Eaters and Lotos Eaters redirects here. For other uses, see The Lotus Eaters.
In Greek mythology, the Lotophagi (Greek , lotus-eaters) were a race of people from an island near North Africa dominated by "lotus" plants. The lotus fruits and flowers were the primary food of the island and were narcotic and addictive, causing the people to sleep in peaceful apathy.

In the relevant part from the Odyssey, Odysseus tells how adverse north winds blew him and his men off course as they were rounding Cape Malea, the southernmost tip of the Peloponnesus:

"I was driven thence by foul winds for a space of nine days upon the sea, but on the tenth day we reached the land of the Lotus-eaters, who live on a food that comes from a kind of flower. Here we landed to take in fresh water, and our crews got their mid-day meal on the shore near the ships. When they had eaten and drunk I sent two of my company to see what manner of men the people of the place might be, and they had a third man under them. They started at once, and went about among the Lotus-Eaters, who did them no hurt, but gave them to eat of the lotus, which was so delicious that those who ate of it left off caring about home, and did not even want to go back and say what had happened to them, but were for staying and munching lotus with the Lotus-eaters without thinking further of their return; nevertheless, though they wept bitterly I forced them back to the ships and made them fast under the benches. Then I told the rest to go on board at once, lest any of them should taste of the lotus and leave off wanting to get home, so they took their places and smote the grey sea with their oars." (Odyssey IX, translated by Samuel Butler)

Which "lotus" did the Lotus-eaters eat?

The Greek word lôtos can refer to several different plants:

It is the last of these, or another member of the genus Ziziphus, that is traditionally taken to be the plant meant in the Odyssey.

Herodotus mentions the Lotophagi in his description of North Africa and identifies the lotus as a plant similar to the date palm .

Recent studies have shown that the blue water-lily of the Nile, Nymphaea caerulea, also known as the blue lotus (already known under this name to the Greeks), is another candidate. It can be processed to be used as a soporific and, in some formulations, has psychedelic properties. It is very common in Egyptian iconography which suggests its use in a religious context.

Island of the Lotus-eaters

Not every reader of the Odyssey searches for the geographical location of the land of the Lotus-eaters, a nine-days' rough crossing from Cape Maleia: "There is no geography here, only mythology", Gerald K. Gresseth remarked of the Sirens' site in the same book.

The island of the Lotophagi may be the modern Djerba. It is a likely candidate because there are very few islands on the North African coast; however, Herodotus says that the Lotophagi live on a peninsula, not an island: There is a headland jutting out into the sea from the land of the Gindanes; on it live the Lotus Eaters, whose only fare is the lotus. The lotus fruit is the size of a mastich-berry: it has a sweet taste like the fruit of a date-palm; the Lotus Eaters not only eat it, but make wine of it."
On the other hand, according to the Periplous of Pseudo-Skylax, the so called lotus-eaters live in a penninsula in the Illyrian territory. This would mean that Oddyseus did not get lost in the Mediterranean Sea, but in the Adriatic Sea instead.

Further, according to W. W. How and J. Wells in A Commentary on Herodotus: "Λωτοφάγοι. The tribal name has been displaced by the descriptive 'Lotophagi'; probably the 'Lotus-eaters’'are really (in whole or in part) the Giridanes, who are mentioned by no other ancient geographer except Stephen of Byzantium, following H. Pliny (v. 28) calls the 'Lotus-eaters' Machroae, of which name some think H.'s [Herodotus'] Μάχλυες (c. 178) a blundering corruption. H. is precise in describing the lotus, because of its legendary fame in Homer (Od. ix. 84 seq.) as causing forgetfulness of home and family; Polybius (xii. 2) describes it even more fully. It is a species of thorn tree, the jujube (Zizyphus vulgaris) of the genus Rhamnaceae, to which the English buckthorn belongs, with a fruit like a plum in size and shape, which is eaten, especially when dried. The Egyptian lotus (ii. 92. 2 n.) is quite distinct. See Rawlinson ad loc. for six different kinds of lotus. A sort of wine is still made from the fruit. The σχι̂νος is the lentisk tree."

Modern references to the lotus eaters

In modern usage, people who frequently daydream or think of impractical ideas can be called "lotus-eaters".

"The Lotos-Eaters", which retains the original spelling, is a celebrated poem written in 1833 by Alfred Lord Tennyson based on the passage from the Odyssey mentioned above, though in Tennyson's version, Odysseus does not feel bound to force the lotus-eaters to return to their homeland.

In Robert E. Howard's novelette "Xuthal of the Dusk", Conan finds the lost city of Xuthal, where he encounters the last descendents of a once-great civilization, who spend most of their time in a drug-induced haze. Only Conan and his companion, Natala, escape. In other Conan stories, Howard refers to lotuses of various colors having various narcotic effects.

"This Side of Paradise" is a Star Trek episode in which Captain Kirk has to rescue his crew and a planetary colony from alien spores that cause them to enjoy only lackadaisical hedonistic pursuits. When the USS Enterprise arrived, they found essentially an island of the Lotus-eaters, and his crew became infected as well. It was up to Kirk (in the role of Odysseus) to forcefully break them out of their euphoric state and bring them back to reality.

It is also notable that the city of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, is nicknamed "Lotus Land" in reference to the laid-back philosophy of the city's inhabitants. This nickname is also attributed to drug use and acceptance in Vancouver, especially of marijuana. Thus the society of Vancouver is likened to that of the Lotophagi.

The name "[The] Lotus Eater[s]" has often been used for bands, films, works of literature, and so on. See The Lotus Eaters for a list.

The fifth episode of James Joyce's Ulysses is referred to as "The Lotus Eaters".

In his novel Brave New World, Aldous Huxley makes reference to a substance with a similar quality which he calls "soma". This is provided to the populace by the government to keep them pliant and happy and not to question the autocracy.

In the short story "The Lion of Comarre" by Arthur C. Clarke (a companion to "Against the Fall of Night"), the term Lotus-Eater refers to the inhabitants of the legendary mechanical city of Comarre. The city is comparable to the island of the Lotus Eaters except in a science-fiction sense: the city houses a machine which can determine one's deepest desires and project them into one's mind when one falls asleep, allowing one to live a second life of infinite luxury. Legend has it that of all the explorations into the mysterious city, none returned.

The protagonist of Barbara Cooney's award-winning picture-book Miss Rumphius (published in 1982 by The Viking Press of New York City) ends her extensive worldwide travels in the Land of the Lotus Eaters, where she hurts her back.

In 1998, Dead Can Dance created a song titled "The Lotus Eaters".

The 2008 album Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds includes the song "Night of the Lotus Eaters".

The 2008 album Watershed by Opeth includes the song "The Lotus Eater".

The book series Percy Jackson and the Olympians makes references to a lotus hotel and casino filled with luxury rooms and state-of-the-art video games that make a person never want to leave.

The Radio Tales drama "Homer's Odyssey: Tale of the Cyclops" is a dramatic retelling of the portion of Homer's epic poem featuring the clash at Ismarus, the cyclops Polyphemus, and the Lotus eaters. The drama first aired via National Public Radio on January 4, 2000.


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