A quick summary of Greek mythology is in order here. Ulysses, generally called Odysseus in English language texts, was one of the main protagonists of Homer's Illiad, the story of the Trojan War. However he was the central character in the Odyssey, the story of his epic 10-year voyage home from the war. One of the many adventures Odysseus has on that long journey is when he visits the land of the Cyclopes. The story goes that he took just one ship from his fleet, and landed close to a cave where a Cyclops named Polyphemus lived. He took 12 men and entered the cave, where he was trapped and had half his men eaten by their unwilling host. Odysseus succeeded in blinding the one-eyed giant and escaped with the remainder of his party, and as he sailed away the furious Polyphemus hurled enormous rocks in the direction of the ship, which only narrowly escaped. This is the story referenced in this most unusual set from Atlantic.
As you can see, the set is basically the raft pictured above, plus the two human figures and the giant pictured below, together with figures from the Atlantic sets of Greek Army and Greek Life in the Acropolis. We must assume that one of the figures is Odysseus himself, perhaps the one holding the large bow, and the other man is an unnamed crew mate. Both are really nicely done, in the same style as the rest of the Greeks range, and neither figure has ever been available except in this set. Their costume may be more theatre than history, but they have plenty of charm, although at 26mm tall they are a bit oversized for ancient Greeks, heroic or not. It should be noted that the second pose is nothing like that depicted on the back of the box, which was clearly done before the end product was produced. The drawn figure seems to be operating the tiller, whereas the actual figure makes sense using the large paddle provided. Both men have mould marks on their backs, as was common at the time, but like the rest of the product there is almost no flash, and they are nicely produced.
The Cyclops has knees slightly bent but still stands 75mm tall, so obviously dominates the human characters and the vessel, as he should. The story has him eating two men whole as a meal, so clearly he must be an enormous creature such as this. Classical and more modern depictions usually show him nude, but Atlantic have been more coy and given him a loin cloth. The features on this model do not match many of the classical depictions, but obviously there is enormous room for artistic licence here, and we thought he looked great; certainly well sculpted as a human form, and with a credible face. The boulder he holds is about the size of a man, and he really looks like he is about to throw it.
And so we come to the main piece here, the raft. You can get an idea of how it is built from the image of the sprue and the back of the box, but it is a moderately complex model, having not only the basic planks but also a handrail all round, a mast with sail, a tiller and a few items of 'baggage'. The raft is designed to be very basic, looking like it was put together in a hurry. It is 113mm in length and 64mm wide, and the mast stands 95mm tall. It is quite an easy model to make, and a fun little thing when it is done. The planks have a number of holes drilled to take various items of baggage pictured below, being a bundle held by straps, an animal skin for drinking water and a large amphora. There are three of each. Also supplied are circular tripod stands for the amphorae, to allow them to stand, although in reality when on a ship they would be set in sand or racking. The animal skin object is intended to hang from the end of a pole on the raft. The raft is intentionally crude, but why it was chosen is a puzzle. The Odyssey states our hero escaped on a ship, described as 'blue-painted', and no mention of a raft. Clearly a ship would be a much more ambitious model, which perhaps explains the reasoning behind this, so while it is a cute model it does not make much sense really.
This is a lovely product, and very rare these days as it went out of production in the early 1980s. To the modern modeller the raft may have little obvious value, but the figures and accessories are nice, and what diorama would not benefit from a 6 metre giant hurling a large rock around? The Greek Army and Acropolis figures may be more filler than anything else, and the raft does not relate to the legend at all, yet this is a great little collection of plastic which appeals to the small child in all of us.