Classical Texts Library >> Homer, Odyssey >> Book 2




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] Soon as early Dawn appeared, the rosy-fingered, up from his bed arose the dear son of Odysseus and put on his clothing. About his shoulder he slung his sharp sword, and beneath his shining feet bound his fair sandals, and went forth from his chamber like a god to look upon. Straightway he bade the clear-voiced heralds to summon to the assembly the long-haired Achaeans. And the heralds made the summons, and the Achaeans assembled full quickly. Now when they were assembled and met together, Telemachus went his way to the place of assembly, holding in his hand a spear of bronze—not alone, for along with him two swift hounds followed; and wondrous was the grace that Athena shed upon him, and all the people marvelled at him as he came. But he sat down in his father's seat, and the elders gave place.

[15] Then among them the lord Aegyptius was the first to speak, a man bowed with age and wise with wisdom untold. Now he spoke, because his dear son had gone in the hollow ships to Ilius, famed for its horses, in the company of godlike Odysseus, even the warrior Antiphus. But him the savage Cyclops had slain in his hollow cave, and made of him his latest meal. Three others there were; one, Eurynomus, consorted with the wooers, and two ever kept their father's farm. Yet, even so, he could not forget that other, mourning and sorrowing; and weeping for him he addressed the assembly, and spoke among them: “Hearken now to me, men of Ithaca, to the word that I shall say. Never have we held assembly or session since the day when goodly Odysseus departed in the hollow ships. And now who has called us together? On whom has such need come either of the young men or of those who are older? Has he heard some tidings of the army's return, which he might tell us plainly, seeing that he has first learned of it himself? Or is there some other public matter on which he is to speak and address us? A good man he seems in my eyes, a blessed man. May Zeus fulfil unto him himself some good, even whatsoever he desires in his heart.”

[35] So he spoke, and the dear son of Odysseus rejoiced at the word of omen; nor did he thereafter remain seated, but was fain to speak. So he took his stand in the midst of the assembly, and the staff was placed in his hands by the herald Peisenor, wise in counsel. Then he spoke, addressing first the old man: “Old man, not far off, as thou shalt soon learn thyself, is that man who has called the host together—even I; for on me above all others has sorrow come. I have neither heard any tidings of the army's return, which I might tell you plainly, seeing that I had first learned of it myself, nor is there any other public matter on which I am to speak and address you. Nay, it is mine own need, for that evil has fallen upon my house in two-fold wise. First, I have lost my noble sire who was once king among you here, and was gentle as a father; and now there is come an evil yet greater far, which will presently altogether destroy my house and ruin all my livelihood. My mother have wooers beset against her will, the sons of those men who are here the noblest. They shrink from going to the house of her father, Icarius, that he may himself exact the bride-gifts for his daughter, and give her to whom he will, even to him who meets his favour, but thronging our house day after day they slay our oxen and sheep and fat goats, and keep revel, and drink the sparkling wine recklessly; and havoc is made of all this wealth. For there is no man here, such as Odysseus was, to ward off ruin from the house.

[60] "As for me, I am no-wise such as he to ward it off. Nay verily, even if I try I shall be found a weakling and one knowing naught of valor. Yet truly I would defend myself, if I had but the power; for now deeds past all enduring have been wrought, and past all that is seemly has my house been destroyed. Take shame upon yourselves, and have regard to your neighbors who dwell roundabout, and fear the wrath of the gods, lest haply they turn against you in anger at your evil deeds. I pray you by Olympian Zeus, and by Themis who looses and gathers the assemblies of men, forbear, my friends, and leave me alone to pine in bitter grief—unless indeed my father, goodly Odysseus, despitefully wrought the well-greaved Achaeans woe, in requital whereof ye work me woe despitefully by urging these men on. For me it were better that ye should yourselves eat up my treasures and my flocks. If ye were to devour them, recompense would haply be made some day; for just so long should we go up and down the city, pressing our suit and asking back our goods, until all was given back. But now past cure are the woes ye put upon my heart.”

[80] Thus he spoke in wrath, and dashed the staff down upon the ground, bursting into tears; and pity fell upon all the people. Then all the others kept silent, and no man had the heart to answer Telemachus with angry words. Antinous alone answered him, and said: “Telemachus, thou braggart, unrestrained in daring, what a thing hast thou said, putting us to shame, and wouldest fain fasten reproach upon us! Nay, I tell thee, it is not the Achaean wooers who are anywise at fault, but thine own mother, for she is crafty above all women. For it is now the third year and the fourth will soon pass, since she has been deceiving the hearts of the Achaeans in their breasts. To all she offers hopes, and has promises for each man, sending them messages, but her mind is set on other things. And she devised in her heart this guileful thing also: she set up in her halls a great web, and fell to weaving—fine of thread was the web and very wide; and straightway she spoke among us: `Young men, my wooers, since goodly Odysseus is dead, be patient, though eager for my marriage, until I finish this robe -- I would not that my spinning should come to naught—a shroud for the lord Laertes, against the time when the fell fate of grievous death shall strike him down; lest any of the Achaean women in the land should be wroth with me, if he, who had won great possessions, were to lie without a shroud.’ So she spoke, and our proud hearts consented. Then day by day she would weave at the great web, but by night would unravel it, when she had let place torches by her. Thus for three years she by her craft kept the Achaeans from knowing, and beguiled them; but when the fourth year came as the seasons rolled on, even then one of her women who knew all told us, and we caught her unravelling the splendid web. So she finished it against her will, perforce.

[111] "Therefore to thee the wooers make answer thus, that thou mayest thyself know it in thine heart, and that all the Achaeans may know. Send away thy mother, and command her to wed whomsoever her father bids, and whoso is pleasing to her. But if she shall continue long time to vex the sons of the Achaeans, mindful in her heart of this, that Athena has endowed her above other women with knowledge of fair handiwork and an understanding heart, and wiles, such as we have never yet heard that any even of the women of old knew, of those who long ago were fair-tressed Achaean women—Tyro and Alcmene and Mycene of the fair crown—of whom not one was like Penelope in shrewd device; yet this at least she devised not aright. For so long shall men devour thy livelihood and thy possessions, even as long as she shall keep the counsel which  the gods now put in her heart. Great fame she brings on herself, but on thee regret for thy much substance. For us, we will go neither to our lands nor else whither, until she marries that one of the Achaeans whom she will.”

[129] Then wise Telemachus answered him, and said: “Antinous, in no wise may I thrust forth from the house against her will her that bore me and reared me; and, as for my father, he is in some other land, whether he be alive or dead. An evil thing it were for me to pay back a great price to Icarius, as I must, if of my own will I send my mother away. For from her father's hand shall I suffer evil, and heaven will send other ills besides, for my mother as she leaves the house will invoke the dread Avengers; and I shall have blame, too, from men. Therefore will I never speak this word. And for you, if your own heart is wroth here at, get you forth from my halls and prepare you other feasts, eating your own substance and changing from house to house. But if this seems in your eyes to be a better and more profitable thing, that one man's livelihood should be ruined without atonement, waste ye it. But I will call upon the gods that are forever, if haply Zeus may grant that deeds of requital may be wrought. Without atonement then should ye perish within my halls.”

[146] So spoke Telemachus, and in answer Zeus, whose voice is borne afar, sent forth two eagles, flying from on high, from a mountain peak. For a time they flew swift as the blasts of the wind side by side with wings outspread; but when they reached the middle of the many-voiced assembly, then they wheeled about, flapping their wings rapidly, and down on the heads of all they looked, and death was in their glare. Then they tore with their talons one another's cheeks and necks on either side, and darted away to the right across the houses and the city of the men. But they were seized with wonder at the birds when their eyes beheld them, and pondered in their hearts on what was to come to pass.

[157] Then among them spoke the old lord Halitherses, son of Mastor, for he surpassed all men of his day in knowledge of birds and in uttering words of fate. He with good intent addressed their assembly, and spoke among them: “Hearken now to me, men of Ithaca, to the word that I shall say; and to the wooers especially do I declare and announce these things, since on them a great woe is rolling. For Odysseus shall not long be away from his friends, but even now, methinks, he is near, and is sowing death and fate for these men, one and all. Aye, and to many others of us also who dwell in clear-seen Ithaca will he be a bane. But long ere that let us take thought how we may make an end of this—or rather let them of themselves make an end, for this is straightway the better course for them. Not as one untried do I prophesy, but with sure knowledge. For unto Odysseus I declare that all things are fulfilled even as I told him, when the Argives embarked for Ilios and with them went Odysseus of many wiles. I declared that after suffering many ills and losing all his comrades he would come home in the twentieth year unknown to all; and lo, all this is now being brought to pass.”

[177] Then Eurymachus, son of Polybus, answered him, and said: “Old man, up now, get thee home and prophesy to thy children, lest haply in days to come they suffer ill. In this matter I am better far than thou to prophesy. Many birds there are that fare to and fro under the rays of the sun, and not all are fateful. As for Odysseus, he has perished far away, as I would that thou hadst likewise perished with him. Then wouldst thou not prate so much in thy reading of signs, or be urging Telemachus on in his wrath, hoping for some gift for thy house, if haply he shall give it. But I will speak out to thee, and this word shall verily be brought to pass. If thou, wise in the wisdom of old, shalt beguile with thy talk a younger man, and set him on to be wroth, for him in the first place it shall be the more grievous, and he will in no case be able to do aught because of these men here, and on thee, old man, will we lay a fine which it will grieve thy soul to pay, and bitter shall be thy sorrow. And to Telemachus I myself, here among all, will offer this counsel. His mother let him bid to go back to the house of her father, and they will prepare a wedding feast and make ready the gifts full many,—aye, all that should follow after a well-loved daughter. For ere that, methinks, the sons of the Achaeans will not cease from their grievous wooing, since in any case we fear no man,—no, not Telemachus for all his many words,—nor do we reck of any soothsaying which thou, old man, mayest declare; it will fail of fulfillment, and thou shalt be hated the more. Aye, and his possessions shall be devoured in evil wise, nor shall requital ever be made, so long as she shall put off the Achaeans in the matter of her marriage. And we on our part waiting here day after day are rivals by reason of her excellence, and go not after other women, whom each one might fitly wed.”

[208] Then wise Telemachus answered him: “Eurymachus and all ye other lordly wooers, in this matter I entreat you no longer nor speak thereof, for now the gods know it, and all the Achaeans. But come, give me a swift ship and twenty comrades who will accomplish my journey for me to and fro. For I shall go to Sparta and to sandy Pylos to seek tidings of the return of my father that has long been gone, if haply any mortal man may tell me, or I may hear a voice from Zeus, which oftenest brings tidings to men. If so be I shall hear that my father is alive and coming home, then verily, though I am sore afflicted, I could endure for yet a year. But if I shall hear that he is dead and gone, then I will return to my dear native land and heap up a mound for him, and over it pay funeral rites, full many, as is due, and give my mother to a husband.”

[224] So saying he sat down, and among them rose Mentor, who was a comrade of noble Odysseus. To him, on departing with his ships, Odysseus had given all his house in charge, that it should obey the old man and that he should keep all things safe. He with good intent addressed their assembly, and spoke among them: “Hearken now to me, men of Ithaca, to the word that I shall say. Never henceforth let sceptred king with a ready heart be kind and gentle, nor let him heed righteousness in his heart, but let him ever be harsh and work unrighteousness, seeing that no one remembers divine Odysseus of the people whose lord he was; yet gentle was he as a father. But of a truth I begrudge not the proud wooers that they work deeds of violence in the evil contrivings of their minds, for it is at the hazard of their own lives that they violently devour the house of Odysseus, who, they say, will no more return. Nay, rather it is with the rest of the folk that I am wroth, that ye all sit thus in silence, and utter no word of rebuke to make the wooers cease, though ye are many and they but few.”

[242] Then Leocritus, son of Euenor, answered him:“Mentor, thou mischief-maker, thou wanderer in thy wits, what hast thou said, bidding men make us cease? Nay, it were a hard thing to fight about a feast with men that moreover outnumber you. For if Ithacan Odysseus himself were to come and be eager at heart to drive out from his hall the lordly wooers who are feasting in his house, then should his wife have no joy at his coming, though sorely she longed for him, but right here would he meet a shameful death, if he fought with men that outnumbered him. Thou hast not spoken aright. But come now, ye people, scatter, each one of you to his own lands. As for this fellow, Mentor and Halitherses will speed his journey, for they are friends of his father's house from of old. But methinks he will long abide here and get his tidings in Ithaca, and never accomplish this journey.”

[257] So he spoke, and hastily broke up the assembly. They then scattered, each one to his own house; and the wooers went to the house of divine Odysseus. But Telemachus went apart to the shore of the sea, and having washed his hands in the grey seawater, prayed to Athena: “Hear me, thou who didst come yesterday as a god to our house, and didst bid me go in a ship over the misty deep to seek tidings of the return of my father, that has long been gone. Lo, all this the Achaeans hinder, but the wooers most of all in their evil insolence.”

[267] So he spoke in prayer, and Athena drew near to him in the likeness of Mentor, both in form and invoice; and she spoke, and addressed him with winged words: “Telemachus, neither hereafter shalt thou be a base man or a witless, if aught of thy father's goodly spirit has been instilled into thee, such a man was he to fulfil both deed and word. So then shall this journey of thine be neither vain nor unfulfilled. But if thou art not the son of him and of Penelope, then I have no hope that thou wilt accomplish thy desire. Few sons indeed are like their fathers; most are worse, few better than their fathers. But since neither hereafter shalt thou be a base man or a witless, nor has the wisdom of Odysseus wholly failed thee, there is therefore hope that thou wilt accomplish this work. Now then let be the will and counsel of the wooers—fools, for they are in no wise either prudent or just, nor do they know aught of death or black fate, which verily is near at hand for them, that they shall all perish in a day. But for thyself, the journey on which thy heart is set shall not be long delayed, so true a friend of thy father's house am I, who will equip for thee a swift ship, and myself go with thee. But go thou now to the house and join the company of the wooers; make ready stores, and bestow all in vessels—wine in jars, and barley meal, the marrow of men, in stout skins;—but I, going through the town, will quickly gather comrades that go willingly. And ships there are full many in sea-girt Ithaca, both new and old; of these will I choose out for thee the one that is best, and quickly will we make her ready and launch her on the broad deep.”

[296] So spoke Athena, daughter of Zeus, nor did Telemachus tarry long after he had heard the voice of the goddess, but went his way to the house, his heart heavy within him. He found there the proud wooers in the halls, flaying goats and singeing swine in the court. And Antinous with a laugh came straight to Telemachus, and clasped his hand, and spoke, and addressed him: “Telemachus, thou braggart, unrestrained in daring, let no more any evil deed or word be in thy heart. Nay, I bid thee, eat and drink even as before. All these things the Achaeans will surely provide for thee—the ship and chosen oarsmen--that with speed thou mayest go to sacred Pylos to seek for tidings of thy noble father.”

[309] Then wise Telemachus answered him: “Antinous, in no wise is it possible for me in your overweening company to sit at meat quietly and to make merry with an easy mind. Is it not enough, ye wooers, that in time past ye wasted many goodly possessions of mine, while I was still a child? But now that I am grown, and gain knowledge by hearing the words of others, yea and my spirit waxes within me, I will try how I may hurl forth upon your evil fates, either going to Pylos or here in this land. For go I will, nor shall the journey be in vain whereof I speak, though I voyage in another's ship, since I may not be master of ship or oarsmen. So, I ween, it seemed to you to be more to your profit.”

[321] He spoke, and snatched his hand from the hand of Antinous without more ado, and the wooers were busy with the feast throughout the hall. They mocked and jeered at him in their talk; and thus would one of the proud youths speak: “Aye, verily Telemachus is planning our murder. He will bring men to aid him from sandy Pylos or even from Sparta, so terribly is he set upon it. Or he means to go to Ephyre, that rich land, to bring from thence deadly drugs, that he may cast them in the wine-bowl, and destroy us all.”

[331] And again another of the proud youths would say: “Who knows but he himself as he goes on the hollow ship may perish wandering far from his friends, even as Odysseus did? So would he cause us yet more labour; for we should have to divide all his possessions, and his house we should give to his mother to possess, and to him who should wed her.”

[337] So they spoke, but Telemachus went down to the high-roofed treasure-chamber of his father, a wide room where gold and bronze lay piled, and raiment in chests, and stores of fragrant oil. There, too, stood great jars of wine, old and sweet, holding within them an unmixed divine drink, and ranged in order along the wall, if ever Odysseus should return home even after many grievous toils. Shut were the double doors, close-fitted; and there both night and day a stewardess abode, who guarded all in wisdom of mind, Eurycleia, daughter of Ops, son of Peisenor. To her now Telemachus, when he had called her to the treasure-chamber, spoke, and said: “Nurse, draw me off wine in jars, sweet wine that is the choicest next to that which thou guardest ever thinking upon that ill-fated one, if haply Zeus-born Odysseus may come I know not whence, having escaped from death and the fates. Fill twelve jars and fit them all with covers, and pour me barley meal into well-sewn skins, and let there be twenty measures of ground barley meal. But keep knowledge hereof to thyself, and have all these things brought together; for at evening I will fetch them, when my mother goes to her upper chamber and bethinks her of her rest. For I am going to Sparta and to sandy Pylos to seek tidings of the return of my dear father, if haply I may hear any.”

[361] So he spoke, and the dear nurse, Eurycleia, uttered a shrill cry, and weeping spoke to him winged words: “Ah, dear child, how has this thought come into thy mind? Whither art thou minded to go over the wide earth, thou who art an only son and well-beloved? But he hath perished far from his country, the Zeus-born Odysseus, in a strange land; and these men, so soon as thou art gone, will devise evil for thee hereafter, that thou mayest perish by guile, and themselves divide all these possessions. Nay, abide here in charge of what is thine; thou hast no need to suffer ills and go a wanderer over the unresting sea.”

[371] Then wise Telemachus answered her: “Take heart, nurse, for not without a god's warrant is this my plan. But swear to tell naught of this to my dear mother until the eleventh or twelfth day shall come, or until she shall herself miss me and hear that I am gone, that she may not mar her fair flesh with weeping.”

[377] So he spoke, and the old woman swore a great oath by the gods to say naught. But when she had sworn and made an end of the oath, straightway she drew for him wine in jars, and poured barley meal into well-sewn skins; and Telemachus went to the hall and joined the company of the wooers. Then the goddess, flashing-eyed Athena, took other counsel. In the likeness of Telemachus she went everywhere throughout the city, and to each of the men she drew near and spoke her word, bidding them gather at even beside the swift ship. Furthermore, of Noemon, the glorious son of Phronius, she asked a swift ship, and he promised it to her with a ready heart.

[388] Now the sun set and all the ways grew dark. Then she drew the swift ship to the sea and put in it all the gear that well-benched ships carry. And she moored it at the mouth of the harbor, and round about it the goodly company was gathered together, and the goddess heartened each man. Then again the goddess, flashing-eyed Athena, took other counsel. She went her way to the house of divine Odysseus, and there began to shed sweet sleep upon the wooers and made them to wander in their drinking, and from their hands she cast the cups. But they rose to go to their rest throughout the city, and remained no long time seated, for sleep was falling upon their eyelids. But to Telemachus spoke flashing-eyed Athena, calling him forth before the stately hall, having likened herself to Mentor both in form and in voice: “Telemachus, already thy well-greaved comrades sit at the oar and await thy setting out. Come, let us go, that we may not long delay their journey.”

[405] So saying, Pallas Athena led the way quickly, and he followed in the footsteps of the goddess. Now when they had come down to the ship and to the sea, they found on the shore their long-haired comrades, and the strong and mighty Telemachus spoke among them: “Come, friends, let us fetch the stores, for all are now gathered together in the hall. My mother knows naught hereof, nor the handmaids either: one only heard my word.”

[413] Thus saying, he led the way, and they went along with him. So they brought and stowed everything in the well-benched ship, as the dear son of Odysseus bade. Then on board the ship stepped Telemachus, and Athena went before him and sat down in the stern of the ship, and near her sat Telemachus, while the men loosed the stern cables and themselves stepped on board, and sat down upon the benches. And flashing-eyed Athena sent them a favorable wind, a strong-blowing West wind that sang over the wine-dark sea. And Telemachus called to his men, and bade them lay hold of the tackling, and they hearkened to his call. The mast of fir they raised and set in the hollow socket, and made it fast with fore-stays, and hauled up the white sail with twisted thongs of ox-hide. So the wind filled the belly of the sail, and the dark wave sang loudly about the stem of the ship as she went, and she sped over the wave accomplishing her way. Then, when they had made the tackling fast in the swift black ship, they set forth bowls brim full of wine, and poured libations to the immortal gods that are forever, and chiefest of all to the flashing-eyed daughter of Zeus. So all night long and through the dawn the ship cleft her way.