Nostos means homecoming, usually by sea, which became an important theme of an ancient Greek epic poem. Plutarch, a great ancient Greek writer, collected 78 essays and transcribed speeches in his work Moralia. He recorded one of the Spartan woman who sent her son to the battle ground with the farewell ''Come back with your shield -- or on it.’’. She hoped her son would fight well, die in the battle if it was inevitable, and never go against his fate. Most importantly, she wanted him to return home even if he was not able to return alive, to complete his Nostos.
The most famous Nostos is Homer's The Odyssey, where the main hero, Odysseus, tries to return home by sea after battling in the Trojan War. He is challenged by many temptations through his journey but he overcomes every ordeal to return home. He acquired a new identity through these journey by doing so.
Another Greek tragedy, Oedipus Rex, written by Sophocles, also depicts how man is naturally and fatefully attracted to returning home. Oedipus returns home without knowing he has done so. By returning home, his journey has a trajectory which draws a circle. House or hometown is the starting point and the end point of the whole epic. Like migration, life has a circular structure. Another big theme in Oedipus Rex is the incestuous relationship between Oedipus and his mother. Sigmund Freud defines a child's feelings of desire for his or her opposite-sex parent and jealousy and anger toward his or her same-sex parent as an Oedipus complex following the King Oedipus’ name. Perhaps the attraction and desire toward his mother can be another form of Nostos for Oedipus. When the child is fully grown up, he desires to go back to his home (archetype). Is mother another name for home for the Oedipus?
Though completing Nostos, the Greeks were seeking to integrate their experiences of upheaval and alienation into meaning and identity. They transformed their longing to belonging and their pain to understanding by the act of returning.