Classical Texts Library >> Homer, Odyssey >> Book 16




Athena & Telemachus
Penelope & the Suitors


Departure of Telemachus


Nestor's Tale: The Returns


Menelaus' Tale: The Returns


Odysseus & Calypso
Raft of Odysseus


Odysseus & Naucicaa


Odysseus & Arete


Games & Feast of the Phaeacians


Odysseus' Tale: Lotus-Eaters & Cyclops


Odysseus' Tale: Aeolus, Laestrygones & Circe


Odysseus' Tale: The Underworld


Odysseus' Tale: Sirens, Scylla & Helius


Return to Ithaca


Odysseus & Eumaeus


Return of Telemachus
Odyseus & Eumaeus


Odysseus & Telemachus


Odysseus the Beggar


Odysseus the Beggar


Odysseus & Penelope


Contest of the Suitors


Contest of the Suitors


Slaying of the Suitors


Odysseus & Penelope


Ghosts of the Dead
Odysseus & Laertes


[1] Meanwhile the two in the hut, Odysseus and the goodly swineherd, had kindled a fire, and were making ready their breakfast at dawn, and had sent forth the herdsmen with the droves of swine; but around Telemachus the baying hounds fawned, and barked not as he drew near. And goodly Odysseus noted the fawning of the hounds, and the sound of footsteps fell upon his ears; and straightway he spoke to Eumaeus winged words: “Eumaeus, surely some comrade of thine will be coming, or at least some one thou knowest, for the hounds do not bark, but fawn about him, and I hear the sound of footsteps.”

[11] Not yet was the word fully uttered, when his own dear son stood in the doorway. In amazement up sprang the swineherd, and from his hands the vessels fell with which he was busied as he mixed the flaming wine. And he went to meet his lord, and kissed his head and both his beautiful eyes and his two hands, and a big tear fell from him. And as a loving father greets his own dear son, who comes in the tenth year from a distant land—his only son and well-beloved, for whose sake he has borne much sorrow—even so did the goodly swineherd then clasp in his arms godlike Telemachus, and kiss him all over as one escaped from death; and with wailing he addressed him with winged words: “Thou art come, Telemachus, sweet light of my eyes. I thought I should never see thee more after thou hadst gone in thy ship to Pylos. But come, enter in, dear child, that I may delight my heart with looking at thee here in my house, who art newly come from other lands. For thou dost not often visit the farm and the herdsmen, but abidest in the town; so, I ween, has it seemed good to thy heart, to look upon the destructive throng of the wooers.”

[30] Then wise Telemachus answered him: “So shall it be, father. It is for thy sake that I am come hither, to see thee with my eyes, and to hear thee tell whether my mother still abides in the halls, or whether by now some other man has wedded her, and the couch of Odysseus lies haply in want of bedding, covered with foul spider-webs.”

[36] Then the swineherd, a leader of men, answered him: “Aye, verily, she abides with steadfast heart in thy halls, and ever sorrowfully for her the nights and the days wane as she weeps.”

[40] So saying, he took from him the spear of bronze, and Telemachus went in and passed over the stone threshold. As he drew near, his father, Odysseus, rose from his seat and gave him place, but Telemachus on his part checked him, and said: “Be seated, stranger, and we shall find a seat elsewhere in our farmstead. There is a man here who will set us one.”

[46] So he spoke, and Odysseus went back and sat down again, and for Telemachus the swineherd strewed green brushwood beneath and a fleece above it, and there the dear son of Odysseus sat down. Then the swineherd set before them platters of roast meats, which they had left at their meal the day before, and quickly heaped up bread in baskets, and mixed in a bowl of ivy wood honey-sweet wine, and himself sat down over against divine Odysseus. So they put forth their hands to the good cheer lying ready before them. But when they had put from them the desire of food and drink, Telemachus spoke to the goodly swineherd, and said: “Father, from whence did this stranger come to thee? How did sailors bring him to Ithaca? Who did they declare themselves to be? For nowise, methinks, did he come hither on foot.”

[60] To him then, swineherd Eumaeus, didst thou make answer, and say: “Then verily, my child, I will tell thee all the truth. From broad Crete he declares that he has birth, and he says that he has wandered roaming through many cities of mortals; so has a god spun for him this lot. But now he has run away from a ship of the Thesprotians and come to my farmstead, and I shall put him in thy hands. Do what thou wilt. He declares himself thy suppliant.”

[68] Then again wise Telemachus answered him: “Eumaeus, verily this word which thou hast uttered stings me to the heart. For how am I to welcome this stranger in my house? I am myself but young, nor have I yet trust in my might to defend me against a man, when one waxes wroth without a cause. And as for my mother, the heart in her breast wavers this way and that, whether to abide here with me and keep the house, respecting the bed of her husband and the voice of the people, or to go now with him whosoever is best of the Achaeans that woo her in the halls, and offers the most gifts of wooing. But verily, as regards this stranger, now that he has come to thy house, I will clothe him in a cloak and tunic, fair raiment, and will give him a two-edged sword, and sandals for his feet, and send him whithersoever his heart and spirit bid him go. Or, if thou wilt, do thou keep him here at the farmstead, and care for him, and raiment will I send hither and all his food to eat, that he be not the ruin of thee and of thy men. But thither will I not suffer him to go, to join the company of the wooers, for they are over-full of wanton insolence, lest they mock him, and dread grief come upon me. And to achieve aught is hard for one man among many, how mighty soever he be, for verily they are far stronger.”

[90] Then the much-enduring, goodly Odysseus answered him: “Friend, since surely it is right for me to make answer—verily ye rend my heart, as I hear your words, such wantonness you say the wooers devise in the halls in despite of thee, so goodly a man. Tell me, art thou willingly thus oppressed? Or do the people throughout the land hate thee, following the voice of a god? Or hast thou cause to blame thy brothers, in whose fighting a man trusts even if a great strife arise. Would that with my present temper I were as young as thou, either the son of blameless Odysseus, or Odysseus himself, straightway then might some stranger cut my head from off my neck, if I did not prove myself the bane of them all when I had come to the halls of Odysseus, son of Laertes. But if they should overwhelm me by their numbers, alone as I was, far rather would I die, slain in my own halls, than behold continually these shameful deeds, strangers mishandled, and men dragging the handmaidens in shameful fashion through the fair halls, and wine drawn to waste, and men devouring my bread all heedlessly, without limit, with no end to the business.”

[112] And wise Telemachus answered him: “Then verily, stranger, I will frankly tell thee all. Neither do the people at large bear me any grudge or hatred, nor have I cause to blame brothers, in whose fighting a man trusts, even if a great strife arise. For in this wise has the son of Cronos made our house to run in but a single line. As his only son did Arceisius beget Laertes, as his only son again did his father beget Odysseus, and Odysseus begot me as his only son, and left me in his halls, and had no joy of me. Therefore it is that foes past counting are now in the house; for all the princes who hold sway over the islands—Dulichium, and Same, and wooded Zacynthus—and those who lord it over rocky Ithaca, all these woo my mother and lay waste my house. And she neither refuses the hateful marriage, nor is she able to make an end; but they with feasting consume my substance, and will ere long bring me, too, to ruin. Yet these things verily lie on the knees of the gods. But, father, do thou go with speed, and tell constant Penelope that she has me safe, and I am come from Pylos. But I will abide here, and do thou come back hither, when thou hast told thy tale to her alone; but of the rest of the Achaeans let no one learn it, for many there are who contrive evil against me.”

[135] To him then, swineherd Eumaeus, didst thou make answer, and say: “I see, I give heed; this thou biddest one with understanding. But come now, tell me this, and declare it truly; whether I shall go on the self-same way with tidings to Laertes also, wretched man, who for a time, though grieving sorely for Odysseus, was still wont to oversee the fields, and would eat and drink with the slaves in the house, as the heart in his breast bade him. But now, from the day when thou wentest in thy ship to Pylos, they say he has no more eaten and drunk as before, nor overseen the fields, but with groaning and wailing he sits and weeps, and the flesh wastes from off his bones.”

[146] Then wise Telemachus answered him: “'Tis the sadder; but none the less we will let him be, despite our sorrow; for if in any wise all things might be had by mortals for the wishing, we should choose first of all the day of my father's return. No, do thou come back, when thou hast given thy message, and wander not over the fields in search of Laertes; but did my mother with all speed send forth her handmaid, the housewife, secretly, for she might bear word to the old man.”

[154] With this he roused the swineherd, and he took his sandals in his hands and bound them beneath his feet and went forth to the city. Nor was Athena unaware that the swineherd Eumaeus was gone from the farmstead, but she drew near in the likeness of a woman, comely and tall, and skilled in glorious handiwork. And she stood over against the door of the hut, shewing herself to Odysseus, but Telemachus did not see her before him, or notice her; for in no wise do the gods appear in manifest presence to all. But Odysseus saw her, and the hounds, and they barked not, but with whining slunk in fear to the further side of the farmstead. The she made a sign with her brows, and goodly Odysseus perceived it, and went forth from the hall, past the great wall of the court, and stood before her, and Athena spoke to him, saying: “Son of Laertes, sprung from Zeus, Odysseus of many devices, even now do thou reveal thy word to thy son, and hide it not, that when you two have planned death and fate for the wooers, you may go to the famous city. Nor will I myself be long away from you, for I am eager for the battle.”

[172] With this, Athena touched him with her golden wand. A well-washed cloak and a tunic she first of all cast about his breast, and she increased his stature and his youthful bloom. Once more he grew dark of color, and his cheeks filled out, and dark grew the beard about his chin. Then, when she had wrought thus, she departed, but Odysseus went into the hut. And his dear son marvelled, and, seized with fear, turned his eyes aside, lest it should be a god. And he spoke, and addressed him with winged words: “Of other sort thou seemest to me now, stranger, than awhile ago, and other are the garments thou hast on, and thy color is no more the same. Verily thou art a god, one of those who hold broad heaven. Nay then, be gracious, that we may offer to thee acceptable sacrifices and golden gifts, finely wrought; but do thou spare us.”

[186] Then the much-enduring, goodly Odysseus answered him: “Be sure I am no god; why dost thou liken me to the immortals? Nay, I am thy father, for whose sake thou dost with groaning endure many griefs, and submittest to the violence of men.”

[190] So saying, he kissed his son, and from his cheeks let fall a tear to earth, but before he ever steadfastly held them back. Howbeit Telemachus—for he did not yet believe that it was his father--again answered, and spoke to him, saying: “Thou verily art not my father Odysseus, but some god beguiles me, that I may weep and groan yet more. For nowise could a mortal man contrive this by his own wit, unless a god were himself to come to him, and easily by his will make him young or old. For verily but now thou wast an old man and meanly clad, whereas now thou art like the gods, who hold broad heaven.”

[201] Then Odysseus of many wiles answered him, and said: “Telemachus, it beseems thee not to wonder overmuch that thy father is in the house, or to be amazed. For thou mayest be sure no other Odysseus will ever come hither; but I here, I, even such as thou seest me, after sufferings and many wanderings, am come in the twentieth year to my native land. But this, thou must know, is the work of Athena, driver of the spoil, who makes me such as she will—for she has the power—now like a beggar, and now again like a young man, and one wearing fair raiment about his body. Easy it is for the gods, who hold broad heaven, both to glorify a mortal man and to abase him.”

[213] So saying, he sat down, and Telemachus, flinging his arms about his noble father, wept and shed tears, and in the hearts of both arose a longing for lamentation. And they wailed aloud more vehemently than birds, sea-eagles, or vultures with crooked talons, whose young the country-folk have taken from their nest before they were fledged; even so piteously did they let tears fall from beneath their brows. And now would the light of the sun have gone down upon their weeping, had not Telemachus spoken to his father suddenly: “In what manner of ship, dear father, have sailors now brought thee hither to Ithaca? Who did they declare themselves to be? For nowise, methinks, didst thou come hither on foot.”

[225] And the much-enduring, goodly Odysseus answered him: “Then verily, my child, I will tell thee all the truth. The Phaeacians brought me, men famed for their ships, who send other men too on their way, whosoever comes to them. And they brought me as I slept in a swift ship over the sea, and set me down in Ithaca, and gave me glorious gifts, stores of bronze and gold and woven raiment. These treasures, by the favour of the gods, are lying in caves. And now I am come hither at the bidding of Athena, that we may take counsel about the slaying of our foes. Come now, count me the wooers, and tell their tale, that I may know how many they are and what manner of men, and that I may ponder in my noble heart and decide whether we two shall be able to maintain our cause against them alone without others, or whether we shall also seek out others.”

[240] Then wise Telemachus answered him: “Father, of a truth I have ever heard of thy great fame, that thou wast a warrior in strength of hand and in wise counsel, but this thou sayest is too great; amazement holds me. It could not be that two men should fight against many men and mighty. For of the wooers there are not ten alone, or twice ten, but full many more. Here as we are shalt thou straightway learn their number. From Dulichium there are two and fifty chosen youths, and six serving men attend them; from Same came four and twenty men; from Zacynthus there are twenty youths of the Achaeans; and from Ithaca itself twelve men, all of them the noblest, and with them is Medon, the herald, and the divine minstrel, and two squires skilled in carving meats. If we shall meet all these within the halls, bitter, I fear, and with bane will be thy coming to avenge violence. Nay, do thou consider, if thou canst bethink thee of any helper--one that would aid us two with a ready heart.”

[258] Then the much-enduring, goodly Odysseus answered him: “Well, then, I will tell thee, and do thou give heed and hearken to my words, and consider whether for us two Athena, with father Zeus, will be enough, or whether I shall bethink me of some other helper.” Then wise Telemachus answered him: “Good, thou mayest be sure, are these two helpers whom thou dost mention, though high in the clouds do they abide, and they rule over all men alike and the immortal gods.”

[266] Then the much-enduring, goodly Odysseus answered: “Not long of a surety will those two hold aloof from the mighty fray, when between the wooers and us in my halls the might of Ares is put to the test. But for the present, do thou go at daybreak to thy house and join the company of the haughty wooers. As for me, the swineherd will lead me later on to the city in the likeness of a woeful and aged beggar. And if they shall put despite on me in the house, let the heart in thy breast endure while I am evil entreated, even if they drag me by the feet through the house to the door, or hurl at me and smite me; still do thou endure to behold it. Thou shalt indeed bid them cease their folly, seeking to dissuade them with gentle words; yet in no wise will they hearken to thee, for verily their day of doom is at hand. And another thing will I tell thee, and do thou lay it to heart. When Athena, rich in counsel, shall put it in my mind, I will nod to thee with my head; and do thou thereupon, when thou notest it, take all the weapons of war that lie in thy halls, and lay them away one and all in the secret place of the lofty store-room. And as for the wooers, when they miss the arms and question thee, do thou beguile them with gentle words, saying: `Out of the smoke have I laid them, since they are no longer like those which of old Odysseus left behind him when he went forth to Troy, but are all befouled so far as the breath of the fire has reached them. And furthermore this greater fear has the son of Cronos put in my heart, lest haply, when heated with wine, you may set a quarrel afoot among you and wound one another, and so bring shame on your feast and on your wooing. For of itself does the iron draw a man to it.’

[295] “But for us two alone do thou leave behind two swords and two spears, and two ox-hide shields for us to grasp, that we may rush upon them and seize them; while as for the wooers, Pallas Athena and Zeus, the counsellor, will beguile them. And another thing will I tell thee, and do thou lay it to heart. If in truth thou art my son and of our blood, then let no one hear that Odysseus is at home; neither let Laertes know it, nor the swineherd, nor any of the household, nor Penelope herself; but by ourselves thou and I will learn the temper of the women. Aye, and we will likewise make trial of many a one of the serving men, and see where any of them honours us two and fears us at heart, and who recks not of us and scorns thee, a man so goodly.”

[308] Then his glorious son answered him, and said: “Father, my spirit, methinks, thou shalt verily come to know hereafter, for no slackness of will possesses me. But I think not that this plan will be a gain to us both, and so I bid thee take thought. Long time shalt thou vainly go about, making trial of each man as thou visitest the farms, while in thy halls those others at their ease are wasting thy substance in insolent wise, and there is no sparing. Yet verily, as for the women, I do bid thee learn who among them dishonor thee, and who are guiltless. But of the men in the farmsteads I would not that we should make trial, but that we should deal therewith hereafter, if in very truth thou knowest some sign from Zeus who bears the aegis.”

[321] Thus they spoke to one another, but meanwhile into Ithaca put the well-built ship that brought Telemachus and all his comrades from Pylos; and they, when they had come into the deep harbor, drew the black ship up on the shore, while proud squires bore forth their armour and straightway carried the beauteous gifts to the house of Clytius. But they sent a herald forth to the house of Odysseus to bear word to wise Penelope that Telemachus was at the farm, and had bidden the ship to sail on to the city, lest the noble queen might grow anxious and let round tears fall. So the two met, the herald and the goodly swineherd, on the self-same errand, to bear tidings to the lady. And when they reached the palace of the godlike king, the herald spoke out in the midst of the handmaids, and said: “Even now, queen, thy son has come back from Pylos.”

[339] But the swineherd came close to Penelope and told her all that her dear son had bidden him say. And when he had fully told all that had been commanded him, he went his way to the swine and left the courtyard and the hall. But the wooers were dismayed and downcast in spirit, and forth they went from the hall past the great wall of the court, and there before the gates they sat down. Then among them Eurymachus, son of Polybus, was the first to speak: “My friends, verily a great deed has been insolently brought to pass by Telemachus, even this journey, and we deemed that he would never see it accomplished. But come, let us launch a black ship, the best we have, and let us get together seamen as rowers that they may straightway bear tidings to those others speedily to return home.”

[351] Not yet was the word fully uttered when Amphinomus, turning in his place, saw a ship in the deep harbor and men furling the sail, and with oars in their hands. Then, breaking into a merry laugh, he spoke among his comrades: “Let us not be sending a message any more, for here they are at home. Either some god told them of this, or they themselves caught sight of the ship of Telemachus as she sailed by, but could not catch her.”

[358] So he spoke, and they rose up and went to the shore of the sea. Swiftly the men drew up the black ship on the shore, and proud squires bore forth their armour. Themselves meanwhile went all together to the place of assembly, and none other would they suffer to sit with them, either of the young men or the old. Then among them spoke Antinous, son of Eupeithes: “Lo, now, see how the gods have delivered this man from destruction. Day by day watchmen sat upon the windy heights, watch ever following watch, and at set of sun we never spent a night upon the shore, but sailing over the deep in our swift ship we waited for the bright Dawn, lying in wait for Telemachus, that we might take him and slay the man himself; howbeit meanwhile some god has brought him home. But, on our part, let us here devise for him a woeful death, even for Telemachus, and let him not escape from out our hands, for I deem that while he lives this work of ours will not prosper. For he is himself shrewd in counsel and in wisdom, and the people nowise show us favour any more. Nay, come, before he gathers the Achaeans to the place of assembly—for methinks he will in no wise be slow to act, but will be full of wrath, and rising up will declare among them all how that we contrived against him utter destruction, but did not catch him; and they will not praise us when they hear of our evil deeds. Beware, then, lest they work us some harm and drive us out from our country, and we come to the land of strangers. Nay, let us act first, and seize him in the field far from the city, or on the road; and his substance let us ourselves keep, and his wealth, dividing them fairly among us; though the house we would give to his mother to possess, and to him who weds her. Howbeit if this plan does not please you, but you choose rather that he should live and keep all the wealth of his fathers, let us not continue to devour his store of pleasant things as we gather together here, but let each man from his own hall woo her with his gifts and seek to win her; and she then would wed him who offers most, and who comes as her fated lord.”

[393] So he spoke, and they were all hushed in silence. Then Amphinomus addressed their assembly, and spoke among them. He was the glorious son of the prince Nisus, son of Aretias, and he led the wooers who came from Dulichium, rich in wheat and in grass, and above all the others he pleased Penelope with his words, for he had an understanding heart. He it was who with good intent addressed their assembly, and spoke among them: “Friends, I surely would not choose to kill Telemachus; a dread thing is it to slay one of royal stock. Nay, let us first seek to learn the will of the gods. If the oracles of great Zeus approve, I will myself slay him, and bid all the others do so; but if the gods turn us from the act, I bid you desist.”

[406] Thus spoke Amphinomus, and his word was pleasing to them. So they arose straightway and went to the house of Odysseus, and entering in, sat down on the polished seats. Then the wise Penelope took other counsel, to show herself to the wooers, overweening in their insolence. For she had learned of the threatened death of her son in her halls, for the herald Medon told her, who had heard their counsel. So she went her way toward the hall with her handmaids. But when the fair lady reached the wooers, she stood by the doorpost of the well-built hall, holding before her face her shining veil; and she rebuked Antinous, and spoke, and addressed him: “Antinous, full of insolence, deviser of evil! and yet it is thou, men say, that dost excel among all of thy years in the land of Ithaca in counsel and in speech. But thou, it seems, art not such a man. Madman! why dost thou devise death and fate for Telemachus, and carest not for suppliants, for whom Zeus is witness. 'Tis an impious thing to plot evil one against another. Dost thou not know of the time when thy father came to this house a fugitive in terror of the people? For of a truth they were greatly wroth with him because he had joined Taphian pirates and harried the Thesprotians, who were in league with us. Him, then, they were minded to slay, and take from him his life by violence, and utterly to devour his great and pleasant livelihood; but Odysseus held them back, and stayed them despite their eagerness. His house it is that thou consumest now without atonement, and wooest his wife, and seekest to slay his son, and on me thou bringest great distress. Nay, forbear, I charge thee, and bid the rest forbear.”

[434] Then Eurymachus, son of Polybus, answered her: “Daughter of Icarius, wise Penelope, be of good cheer, and let not things distress thy heart. That man lives not, nor shall live, nor shall ever be born, who shall lay hands upon thy son Telemachus while I live and behold the light upon the earth. For thus will I speak out to thee, and verily it shall be brought to pass. Quickly shall that man's black blood flow forth about my spear; for of a truth me, too, did Odysseus the sacker of cities often set upon his knees, and put roast meat in my hands, and hold to my lips red wine. Therefore Telemachus is far the dearest of all men to me, and I bid him have no fear of death, at least from the wooers; but from the gods can no man avoid it.”

[448] Thus he spoke to cheer her, but against that son he was himself plotting death. So she went up to her bright upper chamber and then bewailed Odysseus, her dear husband, until flashing-eyed Athena cast sweet sleep upon her eyelids. But at evening the goodly swineherd came back to Odysseus and his son, and they were busily making ready their supper, and had slain a boar of a year old. Then Athena came close to Odysseus, son of Laertes, and smote him with her wand, and again made him an old man; and mean raiment she put about his body, lest the swineherd might look upon him and know him, and might go to bear tidings to constant Penelope, and not hold the secret fast in his heart. Now Telemachus spoke first to the swineherd, and said: “Thou hast come, goodly Eumaeus. What news is there in the city? Have the proud wooers by this time come home from their ambush, or are they still watching for me where they were, to take me on my homeward way?”

[464] To him, then, swineherd Eumaeus, didst thou make answer and say: “I was not minded to go about the city, asking and enquiring of this; my heart bade me with all speed to come back hither when I had given my message. But there joined me a swift messenger from thy companions, a herald, who was the first to tell the news to thy mother. And this further thing I know, for I saw it with my eyes. I was now above the city, as I went on my way, where the hill of Hermes is, when I saw a swift ship putting into our harbor, and there were many men in her, and she was laden with shields and double-pointed spears. And I thought it was they, but I have no knowledge.”

[476] So he spoke, and the strong and mighty Telemachus smiled and with his eyes he glanced at his father, but shunned the swineherd's eye. And when they had ceased from their labour and had made ready the meal, they fell to feasting, nor did their hearts lack aught of the equal feast. But when they had put from them the desire of food and drink, they bethought them of rest, and took the gift of sleep.