Book 1 - Coming Soon
The start of Book 2 is centered on a Prince with an unmatched confidence. The son of Odysseus, Prince Telemachus, calls the first assembly since his father’s departure and takes the scepter with great command. He takes the stand and makes bold accusations against the elders of Ithaca for allowing the suitors to plunder his family’s wealth. At the conclusion of his speech he throws the scepter and breaks into tears. The next to take the stage is Antinous who combats Telemachus’ accusations by describing the actions taken by Penelope that have enabled the suitors to remain in the home of Odysseus. It is at this point where we first hear about Penelope’s ploy to deceive the suitors by unraveling the web she had weaved during the day, at night. From Antinous’ point of view, Penelope has brought this upon herself for leading on the suitors. He then recommends Telemachus to go home and tell his mother that she must pick a suitor or else the plundering will remain. Knowing how his mother still grieves for his lost father, Telemachus responds with great disapproval of his suggestion beginning with “Antinous, how can I drive my mother from our house against her will, the one who bore me, reared me too?”(Book 2, 144-145) and then concluding with “Zeus will pay you back with a vengeance- all of you destroyed in my house while I go scot-free myself!” (Book 2, 162-163). After this rebuttal, Zeus sent two eagles from the mountain range as a sign that was immediately read by Halitherses. The old warrior sees that Odysseus is near and he agrees with the Prince that the suitors must be stopped immediately. After this comment he is met with great criticism by Eurymachus who claims there is nothing to fear. The prince then steps in and reveals his plan for the Odyssey of his own. He announces that he is sailing off to find news of his father and if he really is dead then he will return home and “raise his grave-mound, build his honors high with the funeral rites that he deserves- and give [his] mother to another husband”(Book 2, 247-249). The only additional support he receives is from Mentor before Leocritus breaks up the assembly and sends the rest of the elders to scatter. The Prince then retreats to the beach to pray to the god, who is Athena, who had come to him the day before. He is met with reassurance for his journey and the instructions to gather the supplies needed for the voyage. He is assaulted with insults by the suitors when he returns to the home of Odysseus, but he pays no mind to their harassment. Finally, after putting the suitors to sleep, Athena leads the Prince to the vessel and his crew. With a tribute to the gods and libations poured, the voyage begins by the lead of the Prince and the disguised Athena taking the pilot’s seat.
After setting sail Telemachus, his men and Athena (disguised as mentor) arrive to the island of Pylos. They reach the island while the native people are sacrificing bulls to Poseidon. Athena encourages Telemachus and motivates him to speak with Nestor the king of Pylos. “ Telemachus, no more shyness, this is not the time! We sailed the seas for this, for news of your father – where does he lie buried? What fate did he meet? We’ll make him yield the secrets of his heart. Press him yourself to tell the while truth: he’ll never lie – the man is far too wise” (16-22). King Nestor welcomes Telemachus to his feast and makes sure he is well fed. After feasting Telemachus asks about his father. Nestor tells him that after the war the Menelaus decided to leave with his men immediately while Agamemnon stayed in Troy to make a sacrifice for Athena. Nestor went back with Menelaus and all their ships arrived home safely. Nestor then goes on to tell Telemachus about Agamemnon murder by his wife. After a long conversation Telemachus begins to leave, but Nestor offers Mentor(Athena) and him a bed for the night. Athena reveals herself by transforming into an eagle. “With that the bright-eyed goddess winged away in an eagle’s form and flight” (415-416). Astonished that Telemachus has Athena by his side, Nestor offers some words of encouragement to Telemachus as well as a sacrifice for Athena. “The old king astonished by what he’d seem, grasped Telemachus’ hand and cried out to the prince, ‘Dear boy – never fear you’ll be a coward or defenseless, not if at your young age the gods will guard you so. Of all who dwell on Olympus, this was none but she, Zeus’ daughter… And I will make you [Athena] a sacrifice, a yearling heifer’” (420-429). After this they all go to sleep. In the morning Nestor offers up yet another sacrifice and gives Telemachus horses to ride into Sparta, as well as Peisistratus, Nestor’s son, to go with him.
Telemachus and Pisistratus arrive at Menelaus and Helen’s mansion where they are welcomed, pampered, and fed even though the royal couple is preparing for their own children's weddings. After they eat, Menelaus mentions how although he is very wealthy, he is troubled by the loss of his many men. He especially speaks of feeling the most remorse and sorrow for Odysseus. He does not know whether Odysseus is dead or alive but when he sees how moved Telemachus is, he makes the prediction that he is the son Odysseus left in Ithaca as a baby. More stories are told about Odysseus. These stories bring more tears to Telemachus’ eyes. Helen later gives out wine. “Then Zeus’ daughter Helen thought of something else. Into the mixing-bowl from which they drank their wine she slipped a drug, heart’s-ease, dissolving anger, magic to make us all forget our pains… (Homer 131; lines 243-246)”
Menelaus then spoke about Odysseus' masterful work with the Trojan horse. “Scaring his own body with mortifying strokes, throwing filthy rags on his back like a slave, he slipped into the enemy’s city, roamed its streets- all disguised, a totally different man, a beggar, hardly the figure he cut among Achaea’s ships. That’s how Odysseus infiltrated Troy. (Homer 132; lines 273-278)”
Telemachus says it's time to slee, so he and Pisistratus sleep outside in the colonnade while the royal couple goes to their bedroom.
At dawn, Menelaus tells Telemachus what he knows about Odysseus' fate. Menelaus continues to share a story about how Eidothea, the sea-nymph, helped him escape the island of Pharos and helped him return back to Sparta. Menelaus also mentions how Proteus told him that Odysseus was still imprisoned by Calypso on her island. After hearing this news, Telemachus and Pisistratus get back to their ship to journey back to Ithaca.
Back in Ithaca, the man who lent the ship to Telemachus wants it back and asks the suitors if they know when it will return. This is the first time the suitors know that Telemachus is missing. Penelope also hears about it for the first time and is distraught. The suitors plan to ambush and murder Telemachus on his return. They sail out to wait in a cove. Penelope is comforted by a dream phantom of her sister, Iphthime, to reassure her of Telemachus’ safety. Penelope’s feelings of being afraid and worried of what may happen to his son are understandable seeing as how her husband has been missing for so long and she cannot bare to lose her son as well. “ ‘Oh herald, why has my child gone and left me? No need in the world for him to board the ships, those chariots of the sea that sweep men on, driving across the ocean’s endless wastes… Does he want his very name wiped off the earth?’ (Homer, 147; line 796-800)
The Olympian gods, with the exception of Poseidon, meet again in council about Odysseus’s fate. Athena pleads with Zeus to help Odysseus escape from Calypso, the nymph who imprisoned him. Zeus reassures Athena that Odysseus will return home and that the suitors will not harm Telemachus. Zeus then commands Hermes, the messenger of the gods, to travel to Calypso’s island to tell the nymph that Odysseus must leave.
While Odysseus is elsewhere on the island, weeping as he usually does, Hermes meets with Calypso to tell her that she must release Odysseus. Calypso is initially enraged that she must end her affair with Odysseus.
you are, you gods! You unrivaled lords of jealousy—
scandalized when goddesses sleep with mortals,
openly, even when one has made the man her husband.”
(Page 156, Lines 130-133)
With this comment, she points out the unfairness the gods have shown, as gods are free to have affairs with mortals, but goddesses are not. Despite this, Calpyso obeys the will of Zeus and agrees to let Odysseus go.
After Hermes leaves the island, Calypso informs Odysseus that he is free to return home, and she promises that she would not plot anything to harm him. Calypso admits her jealousy, saying that it does not seem right for Odysseus to choose a mortal woman, Penelope, over both a beautiful and immortal goddess as well as the offer of immortality. Nevertheless, over the next few days, Calypso helps Odysseus make his boat and gives him the necessary supplies for his voyage.
As Odysseus is sailing towards the Phaeacians’ island, Poseidon spots him and becomes furious that the rest of the gods changed Odysseus’s fate without him.
“Just look at him there, nearing Phaeacia’s shores
where he’s fated to escape his noose of pain
that’s held him until now. Still my hopes ride high—
I’ll give that man his swamping fill of trouble!”
(Page 161, Lines 317-320)
Even though Poseidon realizes that Odysseus is fated to return home, he still is set on making the journey back to Ithaca as difficult as possible for the war hero. Poseidon then casts colossal waves to crash down on Odysseus’s ship.
The goddess Ino, who lives in the depths of the sea, saw Odysseus struggling in the storm and gives him a scarf that saves him from drowning after his ship is wrecked. Athena also comes to help Odysseus by stopping the winds and commanding them to rest. When Odysseus comes near to the mouth of a river, he prays to the river’s god to stem his current and rescue him from the sea. Odysseus then is able to reach the shore safely, and he returns Ino’s scarf by dropping it into the sea. Odysseus walks into the forest, and making a bed for himself, is finally able to sleep.
After Athena makes Odyssey sleep in the woods of Phaeacia, she flew to the sleeping house of King Alcinous. There, she inspired his beautiful daughter Nausicaa to wake in the morning and go to the river to wash her clothes. The next morning, Nausicaa with her maids left to wash her clothes in the river and Odysseus awoke to the sound of the girls. Seeing the princess, Odyssey begged her to have compassion with him and told his tale as to how he came to the island. The princess took compassion as he is a stranger and strangers must never be turned away; she gave him clothes and oil to cleanse himself and said she would show him to town. After Odysseus bathes and Athena made him appear more majestic, Nausicaa began to depart, only to stop and tell Odysseus that they must not go into the city together. In order to reach her father’s house they must past the shipyard, where she was afraid of the gossip and scandals that will ensue if the men saw her with Odysseus. He was to wait in a grove and give her time to reach home. She then gave him specific instruction that when he reaches the house, he was to directly go to her mother and grasp her knees, begging for compassion and assistance to return home. As Nausicaa left Odysseus in the grove, he prayed to Athena, who heard his prayer but does not appear due to fear. She knew Poseidon was still planning revenge against Odysseus and would not stop until Odysseus reached Ithaca.
“… And out he stalked / as a mountain lion exultant in his power / strides through wind and rain and his and his eyes blaze / and he charges sheep or oxen or chases wild deer / but his hunger drives him on to go for flocks, / even to raid the best-defended homestead.”
Page 172, lines 142-147
“‘it’s Olympian Zeus himself who hands our fortunes out, / to each of us in turn, to the good and bad, / however Zeus prefers . . . / He gave you pain, it seems. You simply have to bear it.’”
Page 174, lines 206-209
Following Odysseus’ run in with Nausicaa, the Phaeacian princess, at the river Odysseus begins his journey to the castle to meet King Alcinous. On his way to the palace Athena, disguised as a little girl, helps Odysseus by drifting “a heavy mist around him, shielding him from any swaggering islander who’d cross his path” (Homer 180). Athena as well instructs Odysseus to make his appeal to the queen Arete who will know how to get him back to Ithaca. As Odysseus arrives the Phaeacian’s are honoring the sea god Poseidon. While in Alcinous’ palace Odysseus becomes overwhelmed with the beauty of it all, “a rush of feelings stirred with his heart, bringing him to a standstill” (Homer 182). As recommended by Athena Odysseus immediately throws himself at Arete’s feet. As soon as he arrived King Alcinous believed Odysseus to be a god. However Odysseus puts down this notion by telling them he is not. Following Odysseus’ plea the king and queen agree to send him off with a ship so that he can return. Later on in that evening Arete sees Odysseus wearing the cape and shirt that she made for her daughter and becomes very skeptical. She interrogates Odysseus asking “Who are you? Where are you from? Who gave you the clothes that you’re wearing now? Didn’t you say you reached us roving on the sea?” (Homer 187) Odysseus was then forced to tell of his journey yet he still does not reveal his true identity through all of this. Odysseus as well prevented the princess from getting in trouble for escorting him to the palace. King Alcinous in the end appreciates Odysseus’ honesty and offers him Nausicaa’s, the princess, hand in marriage.
The citizens of Phaeacia are gathered to learn about their guest, and disguised Athena helps to spread the word. Alcinous instructs the people to prepare a ship for their guest’s voyage home, and they will then have a feast before setting sail. A blind bard is brought in for entertainment, and he starts to sing the song of The Strife Between Odysseus and Achilles. Odysseus is very emotional during the story and tries to cover up his tears. Alcinous notices this, and decides to hold contests instead.
The men compete in several games including a footrace, wrestling, and jumping. Some of the contestants encourage Odysseus to compete, but he is reluctant to do so. One of the men named Broadsea than begins to taunt Odysseus. Odysseus responds to Broadsea and says, “Not even a god could improve those lovely looks of yours but the mind inside is worthless.” (Book 8, line 203) Odysseus picks up a discus and easily out throws the rest of the contestants. When Odysseus challenges the contestants to another competition the games conclude, and dancers are brought in for entertainment.
The bard then tells the tale of The Love of Ares and Aphrodite Crowned with Flowers, and everyone on the island is rejoiced. The dancing continues, and Odysseus remarks that they are the greatest he has even seen. Odysseus is then given many gifts, including a bronze and silver sword from Broadsea, who apologies and wishes him good luck. The gifts are placed in an elegant chest and it is secured tightly. He then takes a bath and says farewell to Nausicaa, King Alcinous’s daughter. The people have a feast, where Odysseus instructs a herald to take a good piece of meat to the bard Demodocus.
Odysseus praises the singer, saying, “I respect you, Demodocus, more than any man alive- surely the Muse has taught you, Zeus’s daughter, or god Apollo himself.” (Book 8, line 546) Odysseus then asks him to sing the tale of Troy. Odysseus becomes emotional again and melts into tears. This is compared to a woman crying over her dying husband. It is stated that, “Seeing the man go down, dying, grasping for breath, she clings for dear life, screams and shrills…” (Book 8, line 591) Alcinous is once again the only one to notice and instructs the bard to stop his singing. He then asks his guest to reveal his identity and tell his story, which Odysseus starts to begin.
In book 9 titled, In the One-Eyed Giant's Cave, Odysseus finally reveals his identity to his Phaeacian hosts and begins to tell his tale of struggle and suffering. This pariticular book truly depicts the humanity in the hero as he faces temptation and succumbs to his foolish hubris. He begins by mentioning the raiding of the Cicones in which he urged to his crew to depart after a successful sacking "but would they listen? Not those mutinous fool!" (pg 213), as he exclaimed. Sure enough they paid the price for their neglect and many men were killed. This proved to be a forshadowing of irony for later on while on the island of the cyclops, Odysseus' crew urged him as well to take what they found from the cave of Poseidon's son Polyphemus, and head back to the ship. Unfortunately Odysseus, "would not give way-not until I saw him, saw what gifts he would give" (pg 218), said Odysseus. Before this they were thrown off course and landed on the island of the lotus-eaters, where crew members of Odysseus had fallen victim to temptation and had eaten the fruit, ridding them of all desire to return home. Odysseus was sure to drag them back to the ship, knowing he would need all his men to complete this journey.
Once they departed and landed on the island the entered the cave of Polyphemus, the cyclops son of Poseidon, and ate his cheeses and sheep as they awaited the monsters return. When the giant returned he showed no mercy and made his meal of human flesh, two men at a time. After witnessing this grotesque display of ruthlessness, Odysseus began to hatch a plan to free him and his comrades from this grip of evil. The plan was set to ram a stake into the beasts eye once he was drunk off of the wine gifted to Odysseus from Apollo's preist. Thsi would take craftiness which Odysseus displayed when Polyphemus asked him his name after drinking the wine and Odysseus replied nobody. So when the cyclops fell asleep in his drunken stupor and Odysseus and his men drove the stake home into his eye, Polyphemus cries for help were heard but disregarded because how could one help you when nobody did anything.
As Odysseus escaped under the belly of Polyphemus' sheep and made his way back to his ship he could not control his mortal pride and fell into hubris when he exclaimed, "cyclops-if any man on the face of the earth should ask you who blinded you, shamed you so-say Odysseus, raider of cities, he gouged out your eye, Laertes' son who makes his home in Ithica." (pg 227) This proved disastrous as witnessed from the Polyphemus prayer to his father Poseidon, "If I really am your son and you claim to be my father-come, grant that Odysseus, raider of cities, never reaches home. Or if he's fated to see his people once again and reach his well-built house and his own native country, let him come home late and a broken man-all shipmates lost, alone in a stranger's ship-and let him find a would of pain at home!"
Odysseus and his men are arriving at the Aeolian Island, home of Aeolus. Aeolus hosted them for one month and when Odysseus wanted to leave he was presented with a sack of powerful winds. For Aeolus was the king of the winds. Then he set them on their way using the west wind to guide them home toward Ithaca. On the tenth day of sailing they could finally see their home. Unfortunately, Odysseus fell asleep and his crew thought he was hiding treasure from them. They were convinced that the sack of winds contained gold and silver and there jealously got the best of them. They opened the winds and it sent a storm pushing them back to the home of Aeolus. When they went back on Aeolia, King Aeolus to ask for more help he responds with “away from my island-fast-most cursed man alive! It’s a crime to host a man or speed him on his way when the blessed deathless gods despise him so. Crawling back like tis-it proves the immortals hate you! Out-get out!”(Homer 232-233). Seven days later of rowing brought them to the Laestrygonian land. When they went to go see who lives there, they discovered that they were on the land of the giants who eat humans. The King Antiphates made many of Odysseus’ men dinner. The rest of the crew raced back to the ship, but only Odysseus’ ship made it out. The rest were sunk and became dinner for the giants. The next island they reach is the Aeaean Island, home of the nymph Circe. Once they came up with a plan, some of the men prepared to enter the island. Enchanted by Circe, they followed what she said and ended up being drugged and she then turned them into pigs. When Odysseus found out his crew were turned into pigs, he went to go save them. While on route, Hermes appeared to him as a young boy and told him to eat a drug called moly to protect him from Circe’s power. When he approached Circe, he overpowers her and forces her to change his men back into human form. Then he and his crew live in luxury for a year while Odysseus is Circe’s lover. When he is persuaded to head home he says to Circe “Circe, now make good a promise you gave me once-it’s time to help me home. My heart longs to be home, my comrades’ hearts as well. They wear me down, pleading with me whenever you’re away.” (Homer 245). Reluctantly, she tells him that to get home he must visit the underworld and see the blind profit Tiresias. The next morning as they are preparing to leave, one young comrade, Elpenor, got drunk and fell from the roof and broke his neck. They soon left to finish their journey but never gave Elphnor a proper burial.
As book 11 commences, Odysseus’ journey continues. He finds himself on the land of the underworld. Earlier in the poem, Circe orders Odysseus to execute sacrifices in order to call upon the dead. Each of the shades of the dead are ghosts, who are present in the underworld. Each of the ghosts drink blood and then speak with Odysseus. As this is done, Elpenor is the first to respond to the calling. This man was previously a crewman for Odysseus before he fell of Circe’s roof, broke his neck, and passed away. Elpenor requests that he receive an adequate burial with a mound back at Circe’s Island. This would require Odysseus to go back to Circe’s Island, but he agrees to do so. Meanwhile Poseidon is infuriated that his son, Polyphemus, was blinded by the Achaeans. This information is conveyed by the prophet Tiresias to Odysseus. Tiresias then tells Odysseus that he will one day return home to his wife and recollect his land from the relentless suitors. In addition, Tiresias tells Odysseus that he will be heading to the seas again to seek a faraway land and make appends with Poseidon. When Odysseus should reach Thrinacia, Tiresias cautions him not to become physical with any of the flocks near the sun, otherwise he will endure an immensely difficult return with the loss of his men. Odysseus then calls upon other spirits after Tiresias exits the land. Odysseus is then able to speak with his spirited mother, Anticleia. She informs him on the status of Ithaca and her death was due to the sadness she experienced while waiting for him to return to Ithaca. She also tells him that Telemachus is not able to ward off the suitors himself. Seeing his mother’s shade was shocking as he did not know she had passed away. After this conversation, Odysseus is introduced to the spirits of several men who share their heroic stories about their personal lives and the way they died. After these conversations, Odysseus desires sleep and asks the Phaeacian hosts for permission. However, the Queen and King stress to Odysseus that he should continue conversing. They are interested in knowing if Odysseus met any of the men who died at Troy in Hades. Odysseus then speaks to the spirit of Agamemnon, who shares that he was murdered by the hands of his wife Clytemnestra. After this conversation, Achilles asks Odysseus about his son, Neoptolemus. Odysseus then tries to talk with the Achaean Ajax, who killed himself after he was defeated in a match with Odysseus. However, Ajax denied speaking and left on his way. Among the many men, Odysseus speaks to King Minos, Heracles and Orion. He observes Sisyphus struggle to push a rock up a hill after it rolls down after every attempt. Odysseus sees Tantalus taunted by hunger and thirst as he sits in a pool of water with grapes overhanging the area. When Tantalus attempts to snatch a grape, they are elevated and become out of reach and whenever he tries to drink the water, it becomes too shallow to reach. Odysseus becomes bombarded with souls who wish to speak about their relatives in the living world. Odysseus is quickly overwhelmed and startled and wastes no time returning to his ship and crew and leaves the land.
"I reassured the ghost, but he broke out, protesting, 'No winning words about death to me, shining Odysseus! By god, I’d rather slave on earth for another man—some dirt-poor tenant farmer who scrapes to keep alive—than rule down here over all the breathless dead.'" Book 11 lines 547-558
"'Stand clear, put up your sword; let me but taste of blood. I shall speak true.'" Book 11, lines 106-7
Odysseus and his crew return back to Aeaea to bury his crewman Elpenor. They also met with Circe, who warned them about the obstacles ahead. Circe tells Odysseus, “First you will raise the island of the Sirens, those creatures who spellbind any man alive, whoever comes their way.” (12.44-46) She warns him that the Sirens will lure him and his crew to the island, but they can avoid this if they put beeswax in their ears. Odysseus can also live to tell the story by having his crew tie him to the mast while they pass the island. After they pass the island, Circe advises the men that there are two routes they can take back home. One route involves the Clashing Rocks, which are moving rocks that prevent anything from passing. The other route contains Scylla, a sea monster, and Charybdis, a whirlpool. Odysseus chooses the second route, and Circe recommends them to not fight them and not to kill Helio’s cattle in Thrinakia.
Odysseus and his crew leave the next, and followed all of Circe’s directions when they passed the island of the Sirens. However, Odysseus and his crew fight Skylla, but six members of his crew die. Eventually, they make it to Thrinakia. Odysseus wants to avoid the island, but his crew convinced him to stop for the night. Unfortunately, a storm begins and lasts for a month. The crew was starving, but Odysseus would not let them kill the cattle. Eurylochos, a crewmember, rebelled against Odysseus and rallied the crew to kill Helio’s cattle. Helios told Zeus what happened, and Zeus punished the crew by hitting the ship with a lightning-bolt. Odysseus explains that “[Zeus] cut short [the crew’s] journey forever.” (12.452) Odysseus was the only person to survive, but ends up back by Scylla and Charybdis. He manages to escape them, but is then trapped on Calypso’s island.
In this book of The Odyssey, what we have all been waiting for finally awaits. Alcinous has listened to Odysseus’ tale and his quite moved by it that he send him home with gifts and his crew of men. Thanks to Alchinous’ crew Odysseus finally returns to Ithaca. Odysseus departs from Scheria in the night with the help of the Phaeacians who kindly leave him and the gifts they were traveling with in Ithaca as soon as they arrive there. However, Poseidon like he does so well notices that Odysseus has made it back to Ithaca and with rage, punishes the Phaeacians for helping him. He does this by turning their ship to stone just as they are about to arrive on their ship back in Scheria. He fulfills the prophecy from Book 8. “Surging close abreast, the earthquake god with one flat stroke of his hand struck her to stone, rooted her to the ocean floor and made for open sea.” (13. 184-187) Odysseus finally wakes in Ithaca, though very confused and fearful that the Phaeacians lied to him and brought him to an unknown place. Athena, reassures him, while remaining in disguise as a shepherd, that it is indeed Ithaca. She then tells him that he should remain hidden in the hut of the swineherd, Eumaeus, until it is time for him to punish the suitors to his wife. Urging Odysseus on yet again, Athena says to him when he hesitates with the suitors, “Surely I’ll stand beside you, not forget you, not when the day arrives for us to do our work. Those men who court your wife and waste your goods? I have a feeling with some splatter your ample floors with all their blood and brains. Up now quickly.” (13. 449-453) Athena also fills Odysseus in on the whereabouts of his son Telemachus and disguises him as a vagabond so no one sees who he truly is.
In Book fourteen Odysseus arrives at the Swineherd’s home, located in the forest, which is swarmed with many pigs that are being guarded by dogs. As Odysseus arrives, he is disguised as a beggar and finds Eumaeus outside his hut that is unaware that this is his master. Although, unaware of who Odysseus is he invites him inside and offers him food and drink. When invited into his home, Odysseus blesses him for his generosity. Eumaeus offers him food and says, “This is your dinner, my friend, the pork of slaves. Our fat shoats are all eaten by the suitors, cold hearted men, who never spare the thought for how they stand in the sight of Zeus” (Book 14, 94-96). While continuing to eat, Eumaeus, complains about all of the suitors that have destroyed so much and is forever longing for the return of Odysseus. This relates back to the Greek culture of hospitality, and to treat all beggars and homeless with care. Eumaeus is complaining about the absence of his master. Eumaeus proclaims to Odysseus that, both Telemachus and Penelope cannot trust any news on Odysseus’ return back to Ithaca because of the abundant false accusations they continue to receive. When Odysseus explains his false tale of a story he proclaims that he comes from Crete, but uses many the same situations in which Odysseus went through on his actual journey. He comes from a rich man with a mother who was a concubine. Eumaeus proclaims to Odysseus that he is certain his master is dead and “The mans bones lie piled up on the mainland deep in sand…he’s dead and gone” (Book 14, 157-159). He tries to convince Eumeaus that Odysseus is alive and is still traveling home to return to his loving family. He promises to him that just as the old moon dies and the new moon rises into life- Odysseus will return! He will come home and take revenge on any man who offends his wedded wife and princely son” (Book 14, 188-191). Odysseus, as the beggar tells Eumaeus he will be rewarded with a cloak, in handsome clothes upon Odysseus’ return. At night after thanking Eumaeus for his hospitality, he talks him into giving him a cloak for the night. He proclaims a night of the Trojan War in which he didn’t have a cloak while he remained outside in the vey cold weather. Eumaeus agrees to give him the cloak, and as Odysseus sleeps inside by the fire Eumaeus goes and watches the hogs.
Book 15 - Coming Soon
This book begins with Telemachus' return to Ithaca. Upon arrival in Eumaeus’ hut Telemachus takes note of the stranger, whom he doesn't realize is Odysseus, fearing for their safety, Telemachus sends Eumaeus to tell Penelope of his arrival. Athena had been shielding Odysseus so he could seek revenge on the suitors. During Eumaeus' absence Odysseus is reveled to be the stranger. “Suddenly you have changed, my friend, from what you were formerly; your skin is no longer as it was, you have other clothing. Surely you are one of those gods who hold the high heaven. Be gracious, then: so we shall give you favored offerings and golden gifts that have been well wrought. Only be merciful” (16.181-185). Telemachus was over joyed with the appearance of Odysseus. The two embraced and wept together. This is important be again the humanity of Odysseus is expressed. This is important because Odysseus was just compared to a God, so Homer made the decision to show his humanity at the same time.
After the initial reunion of Telemachus and Odysseus, the two worked out a plan for Odysseus to take back the thrown and punish the suitors for their mistreatment of his family and estate. This is very important because they want to fight from inside the castle. This signifies that the family is fighting back, not just Odysseus. Odysseus makes this a family matter and this book is focused on the family, not just the hero. While the Princess was talking with the suitors, they were described as, “…All the while plotting the prince’s murder in his mind” (16.447-448). Just as The suitors planned on killing Telemachus in his home, Odysseus and Telemachus now planned to slaughter the suitors in the home that they have tried to control for 20 years.
Telemachus has come back to Ithaca and walks through the halls of his palace looking very handsome. The suitors greet Telemachus kindly, although they are planning to kill him. Although Penelope is excited to see her son, she still grieves for Odysseus. Penelope implores Telemachus to tell her about his travels. The seer reassures Penelope that Odysseus is in Ithaca. The text states, “‘I swear by Zeus, the first of all the gods, by this table of hospitality here, my host, by Odysseus’ heart where I have come for help – I swear Odysseus ison native soil, here and now!’” (17, lines 168-171). Then, Odysseus and Eumaeus leave to go to the palace as well. When Odysseus, dressed as a beggar, reaches the palace, he is taunted by the suitors, specifically Antinous. Antinous taunts both Odysseus and Eumaeus. He degrades Odysseus for being dressed as a beggar and insults Eumaeus for bringing such a disgrace into the kingdom. As a result, Telemachus stands up for the beggar and addresses Antinous’ behavior. However, Telemachus is not respected, and Antinous throws a stool at Odysseus that hits him under his right shoulder. The text states, “with that he seized the stool and hurled it – Square in the back it struck Odysseus, just under the right shoulder but he stood up against it – steady as a rock, unstaggered by Antinous’ blow – just shook his head, silent, his mind churning with thoughts of bloody work” (17, lines 509-514). Both Penelope and Telemachus are angered by Antinous. Penelope asks Eumaeus to bring Odysseus to her, before Eumaeus leaves to return to his hut.
A beggar named Arnaeus or Irus for short rudely insults Odysseus who is disguised as a beggar. Antinous encourages the two men to fight basically to entertain the other suitors. Irus is confident in his ability until the beggar Odysseus takes off his shirt, revealing a powerful stature. Odysseus carefully chooses what pain to inflict on Irus by punching him once, but actually winds up breaking his jaw. The suitors are highly entertained and invite him to eat with them at their table. In his disguise, Odysseus warns a suitor named Amphinomus that all the suitors should leave as soon as possible, foreboding their impending deaths. Amphinomus himself is fated to a death at the hands of Telemachus’ spear. At the encouragement of Athena, Penelope speaks to the suitors and says that now that Telemachus has grown facial hair it is time for her to remarry. She urges the suitors to win her over by giving her gifts. This clever trick by Penelope gives the suitors false hope that she will finally remarry in the near future. As the maids carry Penelope’s gifts, Odysseus tests their loyalty by saying he will take care of lighting the torches that night. One of the maids, Melantho, insults him by laughing at him and calling him a drunk so he scares her off with threats. To put Odysseus on edge, Athena inspires Eurymachus to mock Odysseus, but he surprisingly stays calm. Eurymachus even throws a stool at Odysseus, but it nearly misses him and hits a servant instead. Just before a fight breaks out, Telemachus sends everyone to bed and resolves the situation before things get out of hand.
“How this pot- bellied pig runs off at the mouth-/ like an old crone at her oven!/ Well I’ve got a knock- out blow in store for him” (31-33).
“Of all that breathes and crawls across the earth,/ or mother earth breeds nothing feebler than a man./ So long as the gods grant him power, spring in his knees,/ he thinks he will never suffer affliction down the years./ But then, when the happy gods bring on the long hard times,/ bear them he must, against his will, and steel his heart” (150-155).
Throughout Book 19, Homer weaves in many important scenes in which act as a catalyst for both his plot and his ending. In the opening of this book, readers can see Odysseus and Telemachus beginning to put into action the plan they created when they reunited. It should be pointed out that Odysseus is still under the enchantment Athena placed upon him in which turned him into an old beggar. As the father and son work together to move all of the suitors weapons out of the great hall, Telemachus states, “oh what a marvel fills my eyes! Look, look there- all the sides of the hall, the handsome crossbeams, pinewood rafters, the tall columns towering- all glow in my eyes like flaming fire! Surely a god is here- one of those who rule the vaulting skies (Pg. 391, 38-43)”, and this shows that it becomes blatantly apparent to Telemachus the amount of divine help Odysseus is receiving. As this scene ends, another important scene takes place, this time between husband and wife. However, Penelope does not know she is speaking to Odysseus for he is still disguised as a beggar. During their exchange, Penelope reveals to the beggar her story of living, or waiting, for her husband to return and she tells him of the times when she tricked the suitors with her weaving to buy her husband more time. Furthermore, she then begins to tell the beggar the grim news that she cannot wait or stall any longer because her son deserves the peace he will never get until she marries one of the suitors. Finally, the beggar and Penelope have one last conversation and in this conversation, Penelope says, “Now, I mean to announce a contest with those axes, the ones he would often line up here inside the hall, twelve in a straight unbroken row like blocks to shore a keel, then stand back and whip an arrow through the lot. Now I will bring them on as a trial for my suitors. The hand that can string the bow with greatest ease, that shoots an arrow clean through all twelve axes- he’s the main I follow, yes.” This is a very significant point in this book because it not only shows that although she is giving into marriage, she is also not letting these suitors have her hand without a fight. In response, the beggar reveals that Odysseus will be present for this contest and Homer thus sets up the beginning of the end for his epic.
Book twenty begins with Odysseus making his bed with raw hide of an ox and fleece on the ground. While lying in bed he is unable to sleep because his anger for the suitors is making him contemplate whether he should kill them now or wait till morning. Odysseus was also unsure if he would be able to conquer all the suitors. To reassure Odysseus that he would be victorious Athena visits him and tells him that she will not allow him to die and the gods are on his side. She then puts Odysseus to sleep right before Penelope wakes up weeping. Penelope is filled with tears because Odysseus has not yet returned and she will possibly be remarrying tomorrow. Penelope prays to Artemis: “Artemis-goddess, noble daughter of Zeus, if only you’d whip an arrow through my breast and tear my life out, now at once! Penelope prays that she could go to the underworld with the image of Odysseus still in her mind. Now dawn has arrived and Odysseus awakes and prays to Zeus for support, which he is reassured he will get with the sound of thunder. In the dining hall the suitors still mock Odysseus and plan for the assassination of Telechamus. Odysseus tells Philoetius, who is a cowherd that “Odysseus will come home while you are still here. You’ll see with your own eyes, if you have the heart, these suitors who lord it here cut down in blood.” While the suitors and everyone else where gathered around for the feast of Apollo, Athena made sure that the suitors would continue to insult Odysseus so his rage would grow towards them. In her doing she had Ctesippus throw an ox hoof at Odysseus. Theoclymenus at this time was trying to warn the men of a bad omen and eventually each one of theirs death. “Poor men, what terror is this that overwhelms you so? Night shrouds your heads, your faces, down to your knees-cries of mourning are bursting into fire- cheeks rivering tears-the walls and the handsome crossbeams dripping dank with blood. Ghost, look, thronging the entrance, go trooping down to the world of death and darkness!”
After years of being pressured to choose a suitor, Penelope gives them a task she knows only Odysseus can complete. She tells the men that she will marry the one who can string Odysseus’ bow and easily shoot it through a line of twelve axes. Telemachus sets up that axes and tries to string the bow three times but fails. On his fourth try, a beggar, who is Odysseus in disguise, who tells Telemachus to back off and let the suitors have their turn, approaches him. Some of the suitors try to grease the bow to make it suppler, but one after another, they fail. Meanwhile, Odysseus goes outside with Eumaeus and Philoetius and reveals his identity through a scar on his foot. He swears them his loyalty and enlist their help against the suitors. When they go back inside, the suitor with the bow, Anitous, suggest that the competition be postponed to the next day after they sacrifice to Apollo the archer god. Still in beggars clothing, Odysseus asks for the bow. He stings it and sends it through all twelve axes. Telemachus then goes to his father’s side to ready to fight of the suitors.
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