What Happened on Ismarus in Homer’s “The Odyssey”?

After Odysseus and his fleet landed on Ismarus, his men plundered the city, killed the male inhabitants, took the women of the town as captives and feasted and lingered on the beach, not listening to Odysseus’ commands to leave. While the men were distracted, the survivors of the raid were able to call for help from further inland. As dawn came, the main fighting force of the land attacked Odysseus’ men, who were able to escape in the morning after suffering heavy losses.

The events on Ismarus, a city of the Cicones, took place after the fall of Troy while Odysseus and his fleet were on their voyage home. The Ismarus account occurs in the ninth book of Homer’s epic poem, “The Odyssey.”

Written in Homeric verse, it is Odysseus himself who recounts his misadventures to Lord Alcinous. According to his story, he and his men sacked Ismarus with relative ease and were able to split the plunder, including the women, equally among themselves. He ordered his men to leave immediately, but they instead chose to feast on wine, sheep and cattle that they took from the city. This later turned out to be a very bad decision, since Odysseus lost six men from each ship of his fleet when the trained fighting men of Cicones attacked and drove them out.