The Odyssey

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The Odyssey was written by Homer. The Odyssey is the sequel to The Iliad after the Trojan War.

Submitted: June 15, 2015

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Submitted: June 15, 2015



The Odyssey
By Homer

Contains all the books



Tell me, O muse, of that ingenious hero who travelled far and wide
after he had sacked the famous town of Troy. Many cities did he visit,
and many were the nations with whose manners and customs he was acquainted;
moreover he suffered much by sea while trying to save his own life
and bring his men safely home; but do what he might he could not save
his men, for they perished through their own sheer folly in eating
the cattle of the Sun-god Hyperion; so the god prevented them from
ever reaching home. Tell me, too, about all these things, O daughter
of Jove, from whatsoever source you may know them.

So now all who escaped death in battle or by shipwreck had got safely
home except Ulysses, and he, though he was longing to return to his
wife and country, was detained by the goddess Calypso, who had got
him into a large cave and wanted to marry him. But as years went by,
there came a time when the gods settled that he should go back to
Ithaca; even then, however, when he was among his own people, his
troubles were not yet over; nevertheless all the gods had now begun
to pity him except Neptune, who still persecuted him without ceasing
and would not let him get home.

Now Neptune had gone off to the Ethiopians, who are at the world's
end, and lie in two halves, the one looking West and the other East.
He had gone there to accept a hecatomb of sheep and oxen, and was
enjoying himself at his festival; but the other gods met in the house
of Olympian Jove, and the sire of gods and men spoke first. At that
moment he was thinking of Aegisthus, who had been killed by Agamemnon's
son Orestes; so he said to the other gods:

"See now, how men lay blame upon us gods for what is after all nothing
but their own folly. Look at Aegisthus; he must needs make love to
Agamemnon's wife unrighteously and then kill Agamemnon, though he
knew it would be the death of him; for I sent Mercury to warn him
not to do either of these things, inasmuch as Orestes would be sure
to take his revenge when he grew up and wanted to return home. Mercury
told him this in all good will but he would not listen, and now he
has paid for everything in full."

Then Minerva said, "Father, son of Saturn, King of kings, it served
Aegisthus right, and so it would any one else who does as he did;
but Aegisthus is neither here nor there; it is for Ulysses that my
heart bleeds, when I think of his sufferings in that lonely sea-girt
island, far away, poor man, from all his friends. It is an island
covered with forest, in the very middle of the sea, and a goddess
lives there, daughter of the magician Atlas, who looks after the bottom
of the ocean, and carries the great columns that keep heaven and earth
asunder. This daughter of Atlas has got hold of poor unhappy Ulysses,
and keeps trying by every kind of blandishment to make him forget
his home, so that he is tired of life, and thinks of nothing but how
he may once more see the smoke of his own chimneys. You, sir, take
no heed of this, and yet when Ulysses was before Troy did he not propitiate
you with many a burnt sacrifice? Why then should you keep on being
so angry with him?"

And Jove said, "My child, what are you talking about? How can I forget
Ulysses than whom there is no more capable man on earth, nor more
liberal in his offerings to the immortal gods that live in heaven?
Bear in mind, however, that Neptune is still furious with Ulysses
for having blinded an eye of Polyphemus king of the Cyclopes. Polyphemus
is son to Neptune by the nymph Thoosa, daughter to the sea-king Phorcys;
therefore though he will not kill Ulysses outright, he torments him
by preventing him from getting home. Still, let us lay our heads together
and see how we can help him to return; Neptune will then be pacified,
for if we are all of a mind he can hardly stand out against us."

And Minerva said, "Father, son of Saturn, King of kings, if, then,
the gods now mean that Ulysses should get home, we should first send
Mercury to the Ogygian island to tell Calypso that we have made up
our minds and that he is to return. In the meantime I will go to Ithaca,
to put heart into Ulysses' son Telemachus; I will embolden him to
call the Achaeans in assembly, and speak out to the suitors of his
mother Penelope, who persist in eating up any number of his sheep
and oxen; I will also conduct him to Sparta and to Pylos, to see if
he can hear anything about the return of his dear father- for this
will make people speak well of him."

So saying she bound on her glittering golden sandals, imperishable,
with which she can fly like the wind over land or sea; she grasped
the redoubtable bronze-shod spear, so stout and sturdy and strong,
wherewith she quells the ranks of heroes who have displeased her,
and down she darted from the topmost summits of Olympus, whereon forthwith
she was in Ithaca, at the gateway of Ulysses' house, disguised as
a visitor, Mentes, chief of the Taphians, and she held a bronze spear
in her hand. There she found the lordly suitors seated on hides of
the oxen which they had killed and eaten, and playing draughts in
front of the house. Men-servants and pages were bustling about to
wait upon them, some mixing wine with water in the mixing-bowls, some
cleaning down the tables with wet sponges and laying them out again,
and some cutting up great quantities of meat.

Telemachus saw her long before any one else did. He was sitting moodily
among the suitors thinking about his brave father, and how he would
send them flying out of the house, if he were to come to his own again
and be honoured as in days gone by. Thus brooding as he sat among
them, he caught sight of Minerva and went straight to the gate, for
he was vexed that a stranger should be kept waiting for admittance.
He took her right hand in his own, and bade her give him her spear.
"Welcome," said he, "to our house, and when you have partaken of food
you shall tell us what you have come for."

He led the way as he spoke, and Minerva followed him. When they were
within he took her spear and set it in the spear- stand against a
strong bearing-post along with the many other spears of his unhappy
father, and he conducted her to a richly decorated seat under which
he threw a cloth of damask. There was a footstool also for her feet,
and he set another seat near her for himself, away from the suitors,
that she might not be annoyed while eating by their noise and insolence,
and that he might ask her more freely about his father.

A maid servant then brought them water in a beautiful golden ewer
and poured it into a silver basin for them to wash their hands, and
she drew a clean table beside them. An upper servant brought them
bread, and offered them many good things of what there was in the
house, the carver fetched them plates of all manner of meats and set
cups of gold by their side, and a man-servant brought them wine and
poured it out for them.

Then the suitors came in and took their places on the benches and
seats. Forthwith men servants poured water over their hands, maids
went round with the bread-baskets, pages filled the mixing-bowls with
wine and water, and they laid their hands upon the good things that
were before them. As soon as they had had enough to eat and drink
they wanted music and dancing, which are the crowning embellishments
of a banquet, so a servant brought a lyre to Phemius, whom they compelled
perforce to sing to them. As soon as he touched his lyre and began
to sing Telemachus spoke low to Minerva, with his head close to hers
that no man might hear.

"I hope, sir," said he, "that you will not be offended with what I
am going to say. Singing comes cheap to those who do not pay for it,
and all this is done at the cost of one whose bones lie rotting in
some wilderness or grinding to powder in the surf. If these men were
to see my father come back to Ithaca they would pray for longer legs
rather than a longer purse, for money would not serve them; but he,
alas, has fallen on an ill fate, and even when people do sometimes
say that he is coming, we no longer heed them; we shall never see
him again. And now, sir, tell me and tell me true, who you are and
where you come from. Tell me of your town and parents, what manner
of ship you came in, how your crew brought you to Ithaca, and of what
nation they declared themselves to be- for you cannot have come by
land. Tell me also truly, for I want to know, are you a stranger to
this house, or have you been here in my father's time? In the old
days we had many visitors for my father went about much himself."

And Minerva answered, "I will tell you truly and particularly all
about it. I am Mentes, son of Anchialus, and I am King of the Taphians.
I have come here with my ship and crew, on a voyage to men of a foreign
tongue being bound for Temesa with a cargo of iron, and I shall bring
back copper. As for my ship, it lies over yonder off the open country
away from the town, in the harbour Rheithron under the wooded mountain
Neritum. Our fathers were friends before us, as old Laertes will tell
you, if you will go and ask him. They say, however, that he never
comes to town now, and lives by himself in the country, faring hardly,
with an old woman to look after him and get his dinner for him, when
he comes in tired from pottering about his vineyard. They told me
your father was at home again, and that was why I came, but it seems
the gods are still keeping him back, for he is not dead yet not on
the mainland. It is more likely he is on some sea-girt island in mid
ocean, or a prisoner among savages who are detaining him against his
will I am no prophet, and know very little about omens, but I speak
as it is borne in upon me from heaven, and assure you that he will
not be away much longer; for he is a man of such resource that even
though he were in chains of iron he would find some means of getting
home again. But tell me, and tell me true, can Ulysses really have
such a fine looking fellow for a son? You are indeed wonderfully like
him about the head and eyes, for we were close friends before he set
sail for Troy where the flower of all the Argives went also. Since
that time we have never either of us seen the other."

"My mother," answered Telemachus, tells me I am son to Ulysses, but
it is a wise child that knows his own father. Would that I were son
to one who had grown old upon his own estates, for, since you ask
me, there is no more ill-starred man under heaven than he who they
tell me is my father."

And Minerva said, "There is no fear of your race dying out yet, while
Penelope has such a fine son as you are. But tell me, and tell me
true, what is the meaning of all this feasting, and who are these
people? What is it all about? Have you some banquet, or is there a
wedding in the family- for no one seems to be bringing any provisions
of his own? And the guests- how atrociously they are behaving; what
riot they make over the whole house; it is enough to disgust any respectable
person who comes near them."

"Sir," said Telemachus, "as regards your question, so long as my father
was here it was well with us and with the house, but the gods in their
displeasure have willed it otherwise, and have hidden him away more
closely than mortal man was ever yet hidden. I could have borne it
better even though he were dead, if he had fallen with his men before
Troy, or had died with friends around him when the days of his fighting
were done; for then the Achaeans would have built a mound over his
ashes, and I should myself have been heir to his renown; but now the
storm-winds have spirited him away we know not wither; he is gone
without leaving so much as a trace behind him, and I inherit nothing
but dismay. Nor does the matter end simply with grief for the loss
of my father; heaven has laid sorrows upon me of yet another kind;
for the chiefs from all our islands, Dulichium, Same, and the woodland
island of Zacynthus, as also all the principal men of Ithaca itself,
are eating up my house under the pretext of paying their court to
my mother, who will neither point blank say that she will not marry,
nor yet bring matters to an end; so they are making havoc of my estate,
and before long will do so also with myself."

"Is that so?" exclaimed Minerva, "then you do indeed want Ulysses
home again. Give him his helmet, shield, and a couple lances, and
if he is the man he was when I first knew him in our house, drinking
and making merry, he would soon lay his hands about these rascally
suitors, were he to stand once more upon his own threshold. He was
then coming from Ephyra, where he had been to beg poison for his arrows
from Ilus, son of Mermerus. Ilus feared the ever-living gods and would
not give him any, but my father let him have some, for he was very
fond of him. If Ulysses is the man he then was these suitors will
have a short shrift and a sorry wedding.

"But there! It rests with heaven to determine whether he is to return,
and take his revenge in his own house or no; I would, however, urge
you to set about trying to get rid of these suitors at once. Take
my advice, call the Achaean heroes in assembly to-morrow -lay your
case before them, and call heaven to bear you witness. Bid the suitors
take themselves off, each to his own place, and if your mother's mind
is set on marrying again, let her go back to her father, who will
find her a husband and provide her with all the marriage gifts that
so dear a daughter may expect. As for yourself, let me prevail upon
you to take the best ship you can get, with a crew of twenty men,
and go in quest of your father who has so long been missing. Some
one may tell you something, or (and people often hear things in this
way) some heaven-sent message may direct you. First go to Pylos and
ask Nestor; thence go on to Sparta and visit Menelaus, for he got
home last of all the Achaeans; if you hear that your father is alive
and on his way home, you can put up with the waste these suitors will
make for yet another twelve months. If on the other hand you hear
of his death, come home at once, celebrate his funeral rites with
all due pomp, build a barrow to his memory, and make your mother marry
again. Then, having done all this, think it well over in your mind
how, by fair means or foul, you may kill these suitors in your own
house. You are too old to plead infancy any longer; have you not heard
how people are singing Orestes' praises for having killed his father's
murderer Aegisthus? You are a fine, smart looking fellow; show your
mettle, then, and make yourself a name in story. Now, however, I must
go back to my ship and to my crew, who will be impatient if I keep
them waiting longer; think the matter over for yourself, and remember
what I have said to you."

"Sir," answered Telemachus, "it has been very kind of you to talk
to me in this way, as though I were your own son, and I will do all
you tell me; I know you want to be getting on with your voyage, but
stay a little longer till you have taken a bath and refreshed yourself.
I will then give you a present, and you shall go on your way rejoicing;
I will give you one of great beauty and value- a keepsake such as
only dear friends give to one another."

Minerva answered, "Do not try to keep me, for I would be on my way
at once. As for any present you may be disposed to make me, keep it
till I come again, and I will take it home with me. You shall give
me a very good one, and I will give you one of no less value in return."

With these words she flew away like a bird into the air, but she had
given Telemachus courage, and had made him think more than ever about
his father. He felt the change, wondered at it, and knew that the
stranger had been a god, so he went straight to where the suitors
were sitting.

Phemius was still singing, and his hearers sat rapt in silence as
he told the sad tale of the return from Troy, and the ills Minerva
had laid upon the Achaeans. Penelope, daughter of Icarius, heard his
song from her room upstairs, and came down by the great staircase,
not alone, but attended by two of her handmaids. When she reached
the suitors she stood by one of the bearing posts that supported the
roof of the cloisters with a staid maiden on either side of her. She
held a veil, moreover, before her face, and was weeping bitterly.

"Phemius," she cried, "you know many another feat of gods and heroes,
such as poets love to celebrate. Sing the suitors some one of these,
and let them drink their wine in silence, but cease this sad tale,
for it breaks my sorrowful heart, and reminds me of my lost husband
whom I mourn ever without ceasing, and whose name was great over all
Hellas and middle Argos."

"Mother," answered Telemachus, "let the bard sing what he has a mind
to; bards do not make the ills they sing of; it is Jove, not they,
who makes them, and who sends weal or woe upon mankind according to
his own good pleasure. This fellow means no harm by singing the ill-fated
return of the Danaans, for people always applaud the latest songs
most warmly. Make up your mind to it and bear it; Ulysses is not the
only man who never came back from Troy, but many another went down
as well as he. Go, then, within the house and busy yourself with your
daily duties, your loom, your distaff, and the ordering of your servants;
for speech is man's matter, and mine above all others- for it is I
who am master here."

She went wondering back into the house, and laid her son's saying
in her heart. Then, going upstairs with her handmaids into her room,
she mourned her dear husband till Minerva shed sweet sleep over her
eyes. But the suitors were clamorous throughout the covered cloisters,
and prayed each one that he might be her bed fellow.

Then Telemachus spoke, "Shameless," he cried, "and insolent suitors,
let us feast at our pleasure now, and let there be no brawling, for
it is a rare thing to hear a man with such a divine voice as Phemius
has; but in the morning meet me in full assembly that I may give you
formal notice to depart, and feast at one another's houses, turn and
turn about, at your own cost. If on the other hand you choose to persist
in spunging upon one man, heaven help me, but Jove shall reckon with
you in full, and when you fall in my father's house there shall be
no man to avenge you."

The suitors bit their lips as they heard him, and marvelled at the
boldness of his speech. Then, Antinous, son of Eupeithes, said, "The
gods seem to have given you lessons in bluster and tall talking; may
Jove never grant you to be chief in Ithaca as your father was before

Telemachus answered, "Antinous, do not chide with me, but, god willing,
I will be chief too if I can. Is this the worst fate you can think
of for me? It is no bad thing to be a chief, for it brings both riches
and honour. Still, now that Ulysses is dead there are many great men
in Ithaca both old and young, and some other may take the lead among
them; nevertheless I will be chief in my own house, and will rule
those whom Ulysses has won for me."

Then Eurymachus, son of Polybus, answered, "It rests with heaven to
decide who shall be chief among us, but you shall be master in your
own house and over your own possessions; no one while there is a man
in Ithaca shall do you violence nor rob you. And now, my good fellow,
I want to know about this stranger. What country does he come from?
Of what family is he, and where is his estate? Has he brought you
news about the return of your father, or was he on business of his
own? He seemed a well-to-do man, but he hurried off so suddenly that
he was gone in a moment before we could get to know him."

"My father is dead and gone," answered Telemachus, "and even if some
rumour reaches me I put no more faith in it now. My mother does indeed
sometimes send for a soothsayer and question him, but I give his prophecyings
no heed. As for the stranger, he was Mentes, son of Anchialus, chief
of the Taphians, an old friend of my father's." But in his heart he
knew that it had been the goddess.

The suitors then returned to their singing and dancing until the evening;
but when night fell upon their pleasuring they went home to bed each
in his own abode. Telemachus's room was high up in a tower that looked
on to the outer court; hither, then, he hied, brooding and full of
thought. A good old woman, Euryclea, daughter of Ops, the son of Pisenor,
went before him with a couple of blazing torches. Laertes had bought
her with his own money when she was quite young; he gave the worth
of twenty oxen for her, and shewed as much respect to her in his household
as he did to his own wedded wife, but he did not take her to his bed
for he feared his wife's resentment. She it was who now lighted Telemachus
to his room, and she loved him better than any of the other women
in the house did, for she had nursed him when he was a baby. He opened
the door of his bed room and sat down upon the bed; as he took off
his shirt he gave it to the good old woman, who folded it tidily up,
and hung it for him over a peg by his bed side, after which she went
out, pulled the door to by a silver catch, and drew the bolt home
by means of the strap. But Telemachus as he lay covered with a woollen
fleece kept thinking all night through of his intended voyage of the
counsel that Minerva had given him.



Now when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, Telemachus
rose and dressed himself. He bound his sandals on to his comely feet,
girded his sword about his shoulder, and left his room looking like
an immortal god. He at once sent the criers round to call the people
in assembly, so they called them and the people gathered thereon;
then, when they were got together, he went to the place of assembly
spear in hand- not alone, for his two hounds went with him. Minerva
endowed him with a presence of such divine comeliness that all marvelled
at him as he went by, and when he took his place' in his father's
seat even the oldest councillors made way for him.

Aegyptius, a man bent double with age, and of infinite experience,
the first to speak His son Antiphus had gone with Ulysses to Ilius,
land of noble steeds, but the savage Cyclops had killed him when they
were all shut up in the cave, and had cooked his last dinner for him,
He had three sons left, of whom two still worked on their father's
land, while the third, Eurynomus, was one of the suitors; nevertheless
their father could not get over the loss of Antiphus, and was still
weeping for him when he began his speech.

"Men of Ithaca," he said, "hear my words. From the day Ulysses left
us there has been no meeting of our councillors until now; who then
can it be, whether old or young, that finds it so necessary to convene
us? Has he got wind of some host approaching, and does he wish to
warn us, or would he speak upon some other matter of public moment?
I am sure he is an excellent person, and I hope Jove will grant him
his heart's desire."

Telemachus took this speech as of good omen and rose at once, for
he was bursting with what he had to say. He stood in the middle of
the assembly and the good herald Pisenor brought him his staff. Then,
turning to Aegyptius, "Sir," said he, "it is I, as you will shortly
learn, who have convened you, for it is I who am the most aggrieved.
I have not got wind of any host approaching about which I would warn
you, nor is there any matter of public moment on which I would speak.
My grieveance is purely personal, and turns on two great misfortunes
which have fallen upon my house. The first of these is the loss of
my excellent father, who was chief among all you here present, and
was like a father to every one of you; the second is much more serious,
and ere long will be the utter ruin of my estate. The sons of all
the chief men among you are pestering my mother to marry them against
her will. They are afraid to go to her father Icarius, asking him
to choose the one he likes best, and to provide marriage gifts for
his daughter, but day by day they keep hanging about my father's house,
sacrificing our oxen, sheep, and fat goats for their banquets, and
never giving so much as a thought to the quantity of wine they drink.
No estate can stand such recklessness; we have now no Ulysses to ward
off harm from our doors, and I cannot hold my own against them. I
shall never all my days be as good a man as he was, still I would
indeed defend myself if I had power to do so, for I cannot stand such
treatment any longer; my house is being disgraced and ruined. Have
respect, therefore, to your own consciences and to public opinion.
Fear, too, the wrath of heaven, lest the gods should be displeased
and turn upon you. I pray you by Jove and Themis, who is the beginning
and the end of councils, [do not] hold back, my friends, and leave
me singlehanded- unless it be that my brave father Ulysses did some
wrong to the Achaeans which you would now avenge on me, by aiding
and abetting these suitors. Moreover, if I am to be eaten out of house
and home at all, I had rather you did the eating yourselves, for I
could then take action against you to some purpose, and serve you
with notices from house to house till I got paid in full, whereas
now I have no remedy."

With this Telemachus dashed his staff to the ground and burst into
tears. Every one was very sorry for him, but they all sat still and
no one ventured to make him an angry answer, save only Antinous, who
spoke thus:

"Telemachus, insolent braggart that you are, how dare you try to throw
the blame upon us suitors? It is your mother's fault not ours, for
she is a very artful woman. This three years past, and close on four,
she has been driving us out of our minds, by encouraging each one
of us, and sending him messages without meaning one word of what she
says. And then there was that other trick she played us. She set up
a great tambour frame in her room, and began to work on an enormous
piece of fine needlework. 'Sweet hearts,' said she, 'Ulysses is indeed
dead, still do not press me to marry again immediately, wait- for
I would not have skill in needlework perish unrecorded- till I have
completed a pall for the hero Laertes, to be in readiness against
the time when death shall take him. He is very rich, and the women
of the place will talk if he is laid out without a pall.'

"This was what she said, and we assented; whereon we could see her
working on her great web all day long, but at night she would unpick
the stitches again by torchlight. She fooled us in this way for three
years and we never found her out, but as time wore on and she was
now in her fourth year, one of her maids who knew what she was doing
told us, and we caught her in the act of undoing her work, so she
had to finish it whether she would or no. The suitors, therefore,
make you this answer, that both you and the Achaeans may understand-'Send
your mother away, and bid her marry the man of her own and of her
father's choice'; for I do not know what will happen if she goes on
plaguing us much longer with the airs she gives herself on the score
of the accomplishments Minerva has taught her, and because she is
so clever. We never yet heard of such a woman; we know all about Tyro,
Alcmena, Mycene, and the famous women of old, but they were nothing
to your mother, any one of them. It was not fair of her to treat us
in that way, and as long as she continues in the mind with which heaven
has now endowed her, so long shall we go on eating up your estate;
and I do not see why she should change, for she gets all the honour
and glory, and it is you who pay for it, not she. Understand, then,
that we will not go back to our lands, neither here nor elsewhere,
till she has made her choice and married some one or other of us."

Telemachus answered, "Antinous, how can I drive the mother who bore
me from my father's house? My father is abroad and we do not know
whether he is alive or dead. It will be hard on me if I have to pay
Icarius the large sum which I must give him if I insist on sending
his daughter back to him. Not only will he deal rigorously with me,
but heaven will also punish me; for my mother when she leaves the
house will calf on the Erinyes to avenge her; besides, it would not
be a creditable thing to do, and I will have nothing to say to it.
If you choose to take offence at this, leave the house and feast elsewhere
at one another's houses at your own cost turn and turn about. If,
on the other hand, you elect to persist in spunging upon one man,
heaven help me, but Jove shall reckon with you in full, and when you
fall in my father's house there shall be no man to avenge you."

As he spoke Jove sent two eagles from the top of the mountain, and
they flew on and on with the wind, sailing side by side in their own
lordly flight. When they were right over the middle of the assembly
they wheeled and circled about, beating the air with their wings and
glaring death into the eyes of them that were below; then, fighting
fiercely and tearing at one another, they flew off towards the right
over the town. The people wondered as they saw them, and asked each
other what an this might be; whereon Halitherses, who was the best
prophet and reader of omens among them, spoke to them plainly and
in all honesty, saying:

"Hear me, men of Ithaca, and I speak more particularly to the suitors,
for I see mischief brewing for them. Ulysses is not going to be away
much longer; indeed he is close at hand to deal out death and destruction,
not on them alone, but on many another of us who live in Ithaca. Let
us then be wise in time, and put a stop to this wickedness before
he comes. Let the suitors do so of their own accord; it will be better
for them, for I am not prophesying without due knowledge; everything
has happened to Ulysses as I foretold when the Argives set out for
Troy, and he with them. I said that after going through much hardship
and losing all his men he should come home again in the twentieth
year and that no one would know him; and now all this is coming true."

Eurymachus son of Polybus then said, "Go home, old man, and prophesy
to your own children, or it may be worse for them. I can read these
omens myself much better than you can; birds are always flying about
in the sunshine somewhere or other, but they seldom mean anything.
Ulysses has died in a far country, and it is a pity you are not dead
along with him, instead of prating here about omens and adding fuel
to the anger of Telemachus which is fierce enough as it is. I suppose
you think he will give you something for your family, but I tell you-
and it shall surely be- when an old man like you, who should know
better, talks a young one over till he becomes troublesome, in the
first place his young friend will only fare so much the worse- he
will take nothing by it, for the suitors will prevent this- and in
the next, we will lay a heavier fine, sir, upon yourself than you
will at all like paying, for it will bear hardly upon you. As for
Telemachus, I warn him in the presence of you all to send his mother
back to her father, who will find her a husband and provide her with
all the marriage gifts so dear a daughter may expect. Till we shall
go on harassing him with our suit; for we fear no man, and care neither
for him, with all his fine speeches, nor for any fortune-telling of
yours. You may preach as much as you please, but we shall only hate
you the more. We shall go back and continue to eat up Telemachus's
estate without paying him, till such time as his mother leaves off
tormenting us by keeping us day after day on the tiptoe of expectation,
each vying with the other in his suit for a prize of such rare perfection.
Besides we cannot go after the other women whom we should marry in
due course, but for the way in which she treats us."

Then Telemachus said, "Eurymachus, and you other suitors, I shall
say no more, and entreat you no further, for the gods and the people
of Ithaca now know my story. Give me, then, a ship and a crew of twenty
men to take me hither and thither, and I will go to Sparta and to
Pylos in quest of my father who has so long been missing. Some one
may tell me something, or (and people often hear things in this way)
some heaven-sent message may direct me. If I can hear of him as alive
and on his way home I will put up with the waste you suitors will
make for yet another twelve months. If on the other hand I hear of
his death, I will return at once, celebrate his funeral rites with
all due pomp, build a barrow to his memory, and make my mother marry

With these words he sat down, and Mentor who had been a friend of
Ulysses, and had been left in charge of everything with full authority
over the servants, rose to speak. He, then, plainly and in all honesty
addressed them thus:

"Hear me, men of Ithaca, I hope that you may never have a kind and
well-disposed ruler any more, nor one who will govern you equitably;
I hope that all your chiefs henceforward may be cruel and unjust,
for there is not one of you but has forgotten Ulysses, who ruled you
as though he were your father. I am not half so angry with the suitors,
for if they choose to do violence in the naughtiness of their hearts,
and wager their heads that Ulysses will not return, they can take
the high hand and eat up his estate, but as for you others I am shocked
at the way in which you all sit still without even trying to stop
such scandalous goings on-which you could do if you chose, for you
are many and they are few."

Leiocritus, son of Evenor, answered him saying, "Mentor, what folly
is all this, that you should set the people to stay us? It is a hard
thing for one man to fight with many about his victuals. Even though
Ulysses himself were to set upon us while we are feasting in his house,
and do his best to oust us, his wife, who wants him back so very badly,
would have small cause for rejoicing, and his blood would be upon
his own head if he fought against such great odds. There is no sense
in what you have been saying. Now, therefore, do you people go about
your business, and let his father's old friends, Mentor and Halitherses,
speed this boy on his journey, if he goes at all- which I do not think
he will, for he is more likely to stay where he is till some one comes
and tells him something."

On this he broke up the assembly, and every man went back to his own
abode, while the suitors returned to the house of Ulysses.

Then Telemachus went all alone by the sea side, washed his hands in
the grey waves, and prayed to Minerva.

"Hear me," he cried, "you god who visited me yesterday, and bade me
sail the seas in search of my father who has so long been missing.
I would obey you, but the Achaeans, and more particularly the wicked
suitors, are hindering me that I cannot do so."

As he thus prayed, Minerva came close up to him in the likeness and
with the voice of Mentor. "Telemachus," said she, "if you are made
of the same stuff as your father you will be neither fool nor coward
henceforward, for Ulysses never broke his word nor left his work half
done. If, then, you take after him, your voyage will not be fruitless,
but unless you have the blood of Ulysses and of Penelope in your veins
I see no likelihood of your succeeding. Sons are seldom as good men
as their fathers; they are generally worse, not better; still, as
you are not going to be either fool or coward henceforward, and are
not entirely without some share of your father's wise discernment,
I look with hope upon your undertaking. But mind you never make common
cause with any of those foolish suitors, for they have neither sense
nor virtue, and give no thought to death and to the doom that will
shortly fall on one and all of them, so that they shall perish on
the same day. As for your voyage, it shall not be long delayed; your
father was such an old friend of mine that I will find you a ship,
and will come with you myself. Now, however, return home, and go about
among the suitors; begin getting provisions ready for your voyage;
see everything well stowed, the wine in jars, and the barley meal,
which is the staff of life, in leathern bags, while I go round the
town and beat up volunteers at once. There are many ships in Ithaca
both old and new; I will run my eye over them for you and will choose
the best; we will get her ready and will put out to sea without delay."

Thus spoke Minerva daughter of Jove, and Telemachus lost no time in
doing as the goddess told him. He went moodily and found the suitors
flaying goats and singeing pigs in the outer court. Antinous came
up to him at once and laughed as he took his hand in his own, saying,
"Telemachus, my fine fire-eater, bear no more ill blood neither in
word nor deed, but eat and drink with us as you used to do. The Achaeans
will find you in everything- a ship and a picked crew to boot- so
that you can set sail for Pylos at once and get news of your noble

"Antinous," answered Telemachus, "I cannot eat in peace, nor take
pleasure of any kind with such men as you are. Was it not enough that
you should waste so much good property of mine while I was yet a boy?
Now that I am older and know more about it, I am also stronger, and
whether here among this people, or by going to Pylos, I will do you
all the harm I can. I shall go, and my going will not be in vain though,
thanks to you suitors, I have neither ship nor crew of my own, and
must be passenger not captain."

As he spoke he snatched his hand from that of Antinous. Meanwhile
the others went on getting dinner ready about the buildings, jeering
at him tauntingly as they did so.

"Telemachus," said one youngster, "means to be the death of us; I
suppose he thinks he can bring friends to help him from Pylos, or
again from Sparta, where he seems bent on going. Or will he go to
Ephyra as well, for poison to put in our wine and kill us?"

Another said, "Perhaps if Telemachus goes on board ship, he will be
like his father and perish far from his friends. In this case we should
have plenty to do, for we could then divide up his property amongst
us: as for the house we can let his mother and the man who marries
her have that."

This was how they talked. But Telemachus went down into the lofty
and spacious store-room where his father's treasure of gold and bronze
lay heaped up upon the floor, and where the linen and spare clothes
were kept in open chests. Here, too, there was a store of fragrant
olive oil, while casks of old, well-ripened wine, unblended and fit
for a god to drink, were ranged against the wall in case Ulysses should
come home again after all. The room was closed with well-made doors
opening in the middle; moreover the faithful old house-keeper Euryclea,
daughter of Ops the son of Pisenor, was in charge of everything both
night and day. Telemachus called her to the store-room and said:

"Nurse, draw me off some of the best wine you have, after what you
are keeping for my father's own drinking, in case, poor man, he should
escape death, and find his way home again after all. Let me have twelve
jars, and see that they all have lids; also fill me some well-sewn
leathern bags with barley meal- about twenty measures in all. Get
these things put together at once, and say nothing about it. I will
take everything away this evening as soon as my mother has gone upstairs
for the night. I am going to Sparta and to Pylos to see if I can hear
anything about the return of my dear father.

When Euryclea heard this she began to cry, and spoke fondly to him,
saying, "My dear child, what ever can have put such notion as that
into your head? Where in the world do you want to go to- you, who
are the one hope of the house? Your poor father is dead and gone in
some foreign country nobody knows where, and as soon as your back
is turned these wicked ones here will be scheming to get you put out
of the way, and will share all your possessions among themselves;
stay where you are among your own people, and do not go wandering
and worrying your life out on the barren ocean."

"Fear not, nurse," answered Telemachus, "my scheme is not without
heaven's sanction; but swear that you will say nothing about all this
to my mother, till I have been away some ten or twelve days, unless
she hears of my having gone, and asks you; for I do not want her to
spoil her beauty by crying."

The old woman swore most solemnly that she would not, and when she
had completed her oath, she began drawing off the wine into jars,
and getting the barley meal into the bags, while Telemachus went back
to the suitors.

Then Minerva bethought her of another matter. She took his shape,
and went round the town to each one of the crew, telling them to meet
at the ship by sundown. She went also to Noemon son of Phronius, and
asked him to let her have a ship- which he was very ready to do. When
the sun had set and darkness was over all the land, she got the ship
into the water, put all the tackle on board her that ships generally
carry, and stationed her at the end of the harbour. Presently the
crew came up, and the goddess spoke encouragingly to each of them.

Furthermore she went to the house of Ulysses, and threw the suitors
into a deep slumber. She caused their drink to fuddle them, and made
them drop their cups from their hands, so that instead of sitting
over their wine, they went back into the town to sleep, with their
eyes heavy and full of drowsiness. Then she took the form and voice
of Mentor, and called Telemachus to come outside.

"Telemachus," said she, "the men are on board and at their oars, waiting
for you to give your orders, so make haste and let us be off."

On this she led the way, while Telemachus followed in her steps. When
they got to the ship they found the crew waiting by the water side,
and Telemachus said, "Now my men, help me to get the stores on board;
they are all put together in the cloister, and my mother does not
know anything about it, nor any of the maid servants except one."

With these words he led the way and the others followed after. When
they had brought the things as he told them, Telemachus went on board,
Minerva going before him and taking her seat in the stern of the vessel,
while Telemachus sat beside her. Then the men loosed the hawsers and
took their places on the benches. Minerva sent them a fair wind from
the West, that whistled over the deep blue waves whereon Telemachus
told them to catch hold of the ropes and hoist sail, and they did
as he told them. They set the mast in its socket in the cross plank,
raised it, and made it fast with the forestays; then they hoisted
their white sails aloft with ropes of twisted ox hide. As the sail
bellied out with the wind, the ship flew through the deep blue water,
and the foam hissed against her bows as she sped onward. Then they
made all fast throughout the ship, filled the mixing-bowls to the
brim, and made drink offerings to the immortal gods that are from
everlasting, but more particularly to the grey-eyed daughter of Jove.

Thus, then, the ship sped on her way through the watches of the night
from dark till dawn.



But as the sun was rising from the fair sea into the firmament of
heaven to shed light on mortals and immortals, they reached Pylos
the city of Neleus. Now the people of Pylos were gathered on the sea
shore to offer sacrifice of black bulls to Neptune lord of the Earthquake.
There were nine guilds with five hundred men in each, and there were
nine bulls to each guild. As they were eating the inward meats and
burning the thigh bones [on the embers] in the name of Neptune, Telemachus
and his crew arrived, furled their sails, brought their ship to anchor,
and went ashore.

Minerva led the way and Telemachus followed her. Presently she said,
"Telemachus, you must not be in the least shy or nervous; you have
taken this voyage to try and find out where your father is buried
and how he came by his end; so go straight up to Nestor that we may
see what he has got to tell us. Beg of him to speak the truth, and
he will tell no lies, for he is an excellent person."

"But how, Mentor," replied Telemachus, "dare I go up to Nestor, and
how am I to address him? I have never yet been used to holding long
conversations with people, and am ashamed to begin questioning one
who is so much older than myself."

"Some things, Telemachus," answered Minerva, "will be suggested to
you by your own instinct, and heaven will prompt you further; for
I am assured that the gods have been with you from the time of your
birth until now."

She then went quickly on, and Telemachus followed in her steps till
they reached the place where the guilds of the Pylian people were
assembled. There they found Nestor sitting with his sons, while his
company round him were busy getting dinner ready, and putting pieces
of meat on to the spits while other pieces were cooking. When they
saw the strangers they crowded round them, took them by the hand and
bade them take their places. Nestor's son Pisistratus at once offered
his hand to each of them, and seated them on some soft sheepskins
that were lying on the sands near his father and his brother Thrasymedes.
Then he gave them their portions of the inward meats and poured wine
for them into a golden cup, handing it to Minerva first, and saluting
her at the same time.

"Offer a prayer, sir," said he, "to King Neptune, for it is his feast
that you are joining; when you have duly prayed and made your drink-offering,
pass the cup to your friend that he may do so also. I doubt not that
he too lifts his hands in prayer, for man cannot live without God
in the world. Still he is younger than you are, and is much of an
age with myself, so I he handed I will give you the precedence."

As he spoke he handed her the cup. Minerva thought it very right and
proper of him to have given it to herself first; she accordingly began
praying heartily to Neptune. "O thou," she cried, "that encirclest
the earth, vouchsafe to grant the prayers of thy servants that call
upon thee. More especially we pray thee send down thy grace on Nestor
and on his sons; thereafter also make the rest of the Pylian people
some handsome return for the goodly hecatomb they are offering you.
Lastly, grant Telemachus and myself a happy issue, in respect of the
matter that has brought us in our to Pylos."

When she had thus made an end of praying, she handed the cup to Telemachus
and he prayed likewise. By and by, when the outer meats were roasted
and had been taken off the spits, the carvers gave every man his portion
and they all made an excellent dinner. As soon as they had had enough
to eat and drink, Nestor, knight of Gerene, began to speak.

"Now," said he, "that our guests have done their dinner, it will be
best to ask them who they are. Who, then, sir strangers, are you,
and from what port have you sailed? Are you traders? or do you sail
the seas as rovers with your hand against every man, and every man's
hand against you?"

Telemachus answered boldly, for Minerva had given him courage to ask
about his father and get himself a good name.

"Nestor," said he, "son of Neleus, honour to the Achaean name, you
ask whence we come, and I will tell you. We come from Ithaca under
Neritum, and the matter about which I would speak is of private not
public import. I seek news of my unhappy father Ulysses, who is said
to have sacked the town of Troy in company with yourself. We know
what fate befell each one of the other heroes who fought at Troy,
but as regards Ulysses heaven has hidden from us the knowledge even
that he is dead at all, for no one can certify us in what place he
perished, nor say whether he fell in battle on the mainland, or was
lost at sea amid the waves of Amphitrite. Therefore I am suppliant
at your knees, if haply you may be pleased to tell me of his melancholy
end, whether you saw it with your own eyes, or heard it from some
other traveller, for he was a man born to trouble. Do not soften things
out of any pity for me, but tell me in all plainness exactly what
you saw. If my brave father Ulysses ever did you loyal service, either
by word or deed, when you Achaeans were harassed among the Trojans,
bear it in mind now as in my favour and tell me truly all."

"My friend," answered Nestor, "you recall a time of much sorrow to
my mind, for the brave Achaeans suffered much both at sea, while privateering
under Achilles, and when fighting before the great city of king Priam.
Our best men all of them fell there- Ajax, Achilles, Patroclus peer
of gods in counsel, and my own dear son Antilochus, a man singularly
fleet of foot and in fight valiant. But we suffered much more than
this; what mortal tongue indeed could tell the whole story? Though
you were to stay here and question me for five years, or even six,
I could not tell you all that the Achaeans suffered, and you would
turn homeward weary of my tale before it ended. Nine long years did
we try every kind of stratagem, but the hand of heaven was against
us; during all this time there was no one who could compare with your
father in subtlety- if indeed you are his son- I can hardly believe
my eyes- and you talk just like him too- no one would say that people
of such different ages could speak so much alike. He and I never had
any kind of difference from first to last neither in camp nor council,
but in singleness of heart and purpose we advised the Argives how
all might be ordered for the best.

"When however, we had sacked the city of Priam, and were setting sail
in our ships as heaven had dispersed us, then Jove saw fit to vex
the Argives on their homeward voyage; for they had Not all been either
wise or understanding, and hence many came to a bad end through the
displeasure of Jove's daughter Minerva, who brought about a quarrel
between the two sons of Atreus.

"The sons of Atreus called a meeting which was not as it should be,
for it was sunset and the Achaeans were heavy with wine. When they
explained why they had called- the people together, it seemed that
Menelaus was for sailing homeward at once, and this displeased Agamemnon,
who thought that we should wait till we had offered hecatombs to appease
the anger of Minerva. Fool that he was, he might have known that he
would not prevail with her, for when the gods have made up their minds
they do not change them lightly. So the two stood bandying hard words,
whereon the Achaeans sprang to their feet with a cry that rent the
air, and were of two minds as to what they should do.

"That night we rested and nursed our anger, for Jove was hatching
mischief against us. But in the morning some of us drew our ships
into the water and put our goods with our women on board, while the
rest, about half in number, stayed behind with Agamemnon. We- the
other half- embarked and sailed; and the ships went well, for heaven
had smoothed the sea. When we reached Tenedos we offered sacrifices
to the gods, for we were longing to get home; cruel Jove, however,
did not yet mean that we should do so, and raised a second quarrel
in the course of which some among us turned their ships back again,
and sailed away under Ulysses to make their peace with Agamemnon;
but I, and all the ships that were with me pressed forward, for I
saw that mischief was brewing. The son of Tydeus went on also with
me, and his crews with him. Later on Menelaus joined us at Lesbos,
and found us making up our minds about our course- for we did not
know whether to go outside Chios by the island of Psyra, keeping this
to our left, or inside Chios, over against the stormy headland of
Mimas. So we asked heaven for a sign, and were shown one to the effect
that we should be soonest out of danger if we headed our ships across
the open sea to Euboea. This we therefore did, and a fair wind sprang
up which gave us a quick passage during the night to Geraestus, where
we offered many sacrifices to Neptune for having helped us so far
on our way. Four days later Diomed and his men stationed their ships
in Argos, but I held on for Pylos, and the wind never fell light from
the day when heaven first made it fair for me.

"Therefore, my dear young friend, I returned without hearing anything
about the others. I know neither who got home safely nor who were
lost but, as in duty bound, I will give you without reserve the reports
that have reached me since I have been here in my own house. They
say the Myrmidons returned home safely under Achilles' son Neoptolemus;
so also did the valiant son of Poias, Philoctetes. Idomeneus, again,
lost no men at sea, and all his followers who escaped death in the
field got safe home with him to Crete. No matter how far out of the
world you live, you will have heard of Agamemnon and the bad end he
came to at the hands of Aegisthus- and a fearful reckoning did Aegisthus
presently pay. See what a good thing it is for a man to leave a son
behind him to do as Orestes did, who killed false Aegisthus the murderer
of his noble father. You too, then- for you are a tall, smart-looking
fellow- show your mettle and make yourself a name in story."

"Nestor son of Neleus," answered Telemachus, "honour to the Achaean
name, the Achaeans applaud Orestes and his name will live through
all time for he has avenged his father nobly. Would that heaven might
grant me to do like vengeance on the insolence of the wicked suitors,
who are ill treating me and plotting my ruin; but the gods have no
such happiness in store for me and for my father, so we must bear
it as best we may."

"My friend," said Nestor, "now that you remind me, I remember to have
heard that your mother has many suitors, who are ill disposed towards
you and are making havoc of your estate. Do you submit to this tamely,
or are public feeling and the voice of heaven against you? Who knows
but what Ulysses may come back after all, and pay these scoundrels
in full, either single-handed or with a force of Achaeans behind him?
If Minerva were to take as great a liking to you as she did to Ulysses
when we were fighting before Troy (for I never yet saw the gods so
openly fond of any one as Minerva then was of your father), if she
would take as good care of you as she did of him, these wooers would
soon some of them him, forget their wooing."

Telemachus answered, "I can expect nothing of the kind; it would be
far too much to hope for. I dare not let myself think of it. Even
though the gods themselves willed it no such good fortune could befall

On this Minerva said, "Telemachus, what are you talking about? Heaven
has a long arm if it is minded to save a man; and if it were me, I
should not care how much I suffered before getting home, provided
I could be safe when I was once there. I would rather this, than get
home quickly, and then be killed in my own house as Agamemnon was
by the treachery of Aegisthus and his wife. Still, death is certain,
and when a man's hour is come, not even the gods can save him, no
matter how fond they are of him."

"Mentor," answered Telemachus, "do not let us talk about it any more.
There is no chance of my father's ever coming back; the gods have
long since counselled his destruction. There is something else, however,
about which I should like to ask Nestor, for he knows much more than
any one else does. They say he has reigned for three generations so
that it is like talking to an immortal. Tell me, therefore, Nestor,
and tell me true; how did Agamemnon come to die in that way? What
was Menelaus doing? And how came false Aegisthus to kill so far better
a man than himself? Was Menelaus away from Achaean Argos, voyaging
elsewhither among mankind, that Aegisthus took heart and killed Agamemnon?"

"I will tell you truly," answered Nestor, "and indeed you have yourself
divined how it all happened. If Menelaus when he got back from Troy
had found Aegisthus still alive in his house, there would have been
no barrow heaped up for him, not even when he was dead, but he would
have been thrown outside the city to dogs and vultures, and not a
woman would have mourned him, for he had done a deed of great wickedness;
but we were over there, fighting hard at Troy, and Aegisthus who was
taking his ease quietly in the heart of Argos, cajoled Agamemnon's
wife Clytemnestra with incessant flattery.

"At first she would have nothing to do with his wicked scheme, for
she was of a good natural disposition; moreover there was a bard with
her, to whom Agamemnon had given strict orders on setting out for
Troy, that he was to keep guard over his wife; but when heaven had
counselled her destruction, Aegisthus thus this bard off to a desert
island and left him there for crows and seagulls to batten upon- after
which she went willingly enough to the house of Aegisthus. Then he
offered many burnt sacrifices to the gods, and decorated many temples
with tapestries and gilding, for he had succeeded far beyond his expectations.

"Meanwhile Menelaus and I were on our way home from Troy, on good
terms with one another. When we got to Sunium, which is the point
of Athens, Apollo with his painless shafts killed Phrontis the steersman
of Menelaus' ship (and never man knew better how to handle a vessel
in rough weather) so that he died then and there with the helm in
his hand, and Menelaus, though very anxious to press forward, had
to wait in order to bury his comrade and give him his due funeral
rites. Presently, when he too could put to sea again, and had sailed
on as far as the Malean heads, Jove counselled evil against him and
made it it blow hard till the waves ran mountains high. Here he divided
his fleet and took the one half towards Crete where the Cydonians
dwell round about the waters of the river Iardanus. There is a high
headland hereabouts stretching out into the sea from a place called
Gortyn, and all along this part of the coast as far as Phaestus the
sea runs high when there is a south wind blowing, but ar

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