Odysseus is the king of Ithaca during the time of the Trojan War. He is the only son of Laertes and Anticleia. His wife is Penelope, the daughter of Icarius. Together, they had a son, Telemachus.
After Paris fled with Helen to Troy, Agamemnon and Menelaus journeyed to gather the forces of Greece. When they arrived in Ithaca, Odysseus pretended to be mad. Penelope had just borne him a son, and he definitely did not want to leave.
At the arrival of the great kings, Odysseus headed to his fields and began to sow them with salt. As a test of his sanity, Menelaus placed Telemachus before the plow, and Odysseus immediately turned the team to avoid him. With the truth about his sanity revealed, Odysseus was forced to make the voyage to Troy.
As the Greeks were later searching for Achilles, it was Odysseus who discovered him. When they came to Lycomedes' court, the young Achilles was disguised as a girl. Odysseus was not fooled, however. He had one of his own soldiers sound the call to war, and Achilles immediately ripped off his clothes and grabbed some nearby armor. Now discovered, Achilles was forced to sail for Troy as well.
During the voyage from Greece, Philoctetes was abandoned on an island at the urging of Odysseus, who could no longer take the complaints and the stench from Philoctetes' infected foot.
Before the Greek ships landed in Troy, Odysseus, because of his clever nature and gift for speaking, accompanied Menelaus as an ambassador. He was also part of the embassy, which tried to convince Achilles' to return to battle in the tenth year.
Other than this latter embassy, Odysseus is primarily featured in the Iliad when he and Diomedes snuck into Troy to scout out the town. Together, they captured Dolon, a Trojan spy. In an attempt to save his life, he tells them about Rhesus and his horses. They then kill him. Then, they raid the camp of the Trojan ally Rhesus, and they steal his famous horses.
When Achilles died from an arrow shot by Paris, there was a huge battle for the corpse. Eventually, Odysseus and Ajax managed to carry it from the battle and back to the ships. Both Odysseus and Ajax claimed his armor.
In order to prevent bloodshed, Odysseus proposed to let the other kings decide. Ajax agreed. He was certain that he would win, because he had fought so hard for so long, and he was closer to Achilles than Odysseus had been. The two pleaded their cases before the judges, but Odysseus was by far the better speaker. Ajax could not match his eloquence.
The armor then was awarded to Odysseus, and Ajax fled the camp in anger. After he committed suicide, it was Odysseus, who persuaded Agamemnon and Menelaus to allow the body to be buried.
Towards the end of the war, Odysseus had the idea to capture Helenus, a Trojan seer. When the Greeks asked him when Troy would fall, Helenus gave them a series of conditions, which must be satisfied before the Greeks could have their victory. Among the conditions were that Neoptolemus and Philoctetes must be persuaded to fight for the Greeks. Odysseus was instrumental in the return of both, although Philoctetes by nefarious means. All of these conditions were met, but still Troy did not fall.
As the Greeks began to despair, it was Odysseus who allowed them finally to return home. He came up with the idea for the Trojan horse, and led the picked soldiers hidden inside.
For Odysseus' return from the war, click here.