HOMER
ODYSSEY

 

Translated by Ian Johnston, Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada.
Revised Edition 2019

 

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BOOK FIFTEEN
TELEMACHUS RETURNS TO ITHACA

[Pallas Athena visits Sparta to urge Telemachus to return home, tells him to visit Eumaeus, the swineherd, when he gets back; Telemachus tells Menelaus he’d like to leave; Menelaus and Helen give gifts and a farewell banquet; they receive a favourable omen before leaving; Helen interprets the omen; Telemachus and Peisistratus leave Sparta and reach Pylos; Telemachus asks Peisistratus to leave him at his ship, so that Nestor will not delay his return; Peisistratus agrees; a stranger arrives, Theoclymenus, a descendant of the prophet Melampus, and asks for passage on Telemachus’s ship; Telemachus agrees, and they sail for Ithaca; Odysseus and Eumaeus feast in the hut; Odysseus asks Eumaeus about his parents, and Eumaeus tells him; Eumaeus tells the story of how he got to Ithaca and was sold to Laertes; Telemachus lands in Ithaca and tells the crew to take the ship on without him; Theoclymenus interprets a bird omen; Telemachus walks to Eumaeus’s farmyard.]

Pallas Athena went to spacious Lacedaemon,
to remind the noble son of brave Odysseus
about going home and to urge him to return.
She found Telemachus and Nestor’s noble son
lying on the portico, resting in their beds,
inside the palace of splendid Menelaus.
A calming sleep had overpowered Nestor’s son,
but for Telemachus no soothing sleep had come—
because deep in his heart through that immortal night
anxious thoughts about his father kept him awake.                              10
Bright-eyed Athena stood beside him and spoke out:

“Telemachus, it’s not good to wander                                                    [10]
much longer from your home, abandoning
your property and leaving in your house
such overbearing men, who may divide
and use up all your goods. Then this journey
you have undertaken will be pointless.
You must, with all speed, urge Menelaus,
expert at war shouts, to let you go back,
so you can find your noble mother there,                                      20
still at home. Her father and her brothers
have already told her she should marry
brave Eurymachus—he offers her more
than other suitors. Now he’s intending
to give even more as wedding presents.
Take care she does not carry from the house
some property, without your knowing it.
You understand what sort of spirit lies                                                  [20]
inside a woman’s chest. She wants to help
the household of the man who marries her                                    30
and no longer thinks about her children
or her previous husband whom she loved.
Now he’s dead, she doesn’t ask about him.
You should go yourself and entrust your goods
to the female slave you think most worthy,
until the gods show you a splendid bride.
I’ll tell you something else—take it to heart.
The bravest of the suitors lie in wait,
enough to set an ambush, in the straits
between Ithaca and rugged Samos.                                                 40
Before you get back to your native land,                                                 [30]
they mean to murder you. But in my view,
that won’t be happening. Before it does,
the earth will cover many of those men
who are consuming all your livelihood.
You must choose a course for your well-built ship
far from the islands, and keep on sailing
day and night. One of the immortal gods
who’s watching over and protecting you
will make sure that you have favouring winds.                              50
As soon as you set foot in Ithaca,
send your companions and the ship ahead,
on to the city—you yourself should go
to see the man who nourishes your pigs.
He is very well disposed towards you.
Spend the night there in his hut. And tell him                                    [40]
to travel to the city and bring news
to wise Penelope that you are safe
and have returned from Pylos.”

                                                                                Athena spoke.
Then she moved away, going back to high Olympus.                             60
With his foot Telemachus prodded Nestor’s son
and roused him from sweet sleep. Then he spoke to him:

“Wake up, Peisistratus, son of Nestor.
Bring your well-shod horses here, and yoke them
to the chariot. We’ll soon be on our way.”

Peisistratus, Nestor’s son, then replied and said:

“No matter how keen you may be to leave,
Telemachus, there’s no way we can ride
in this pitch-black night. Dawn will soon be here.                               [50]
So let’s wait until brave Menelaus,                                                 70
son of Atreus, that famous spearman,
brings our gifts and puts them in the chariot,
then sends us off with a warm farewell speech.
A guest remembers all his life the man
who gave him hospitality and kindness.”

He spoke. Early Dawn appeared on her golden throne,
and lord Menelaus, expert in battle shouts,
rose up from the bed beside his fair-haired Helen
and came to see his guests. When he caught sight of him,
Odysseus’ dear son quickly put a tunic on,                                            80    [60]
slung a heavy cloak across his sturdy shoulders,
and left his room. He came up to Menelaus
and spoke to him, saying:

                                                      “Menelaus,
son of Atreus and cherished of Zeus,
leader of your people, send me back now
to my native land, for my heart is keen
to get back home.”

                                                  Then Menelaus,
expert at war cries, answered him:

                                        “Telemachus,
I will not detain you here a long time,
not if you’re eager to return. I’d blame                                            90
another man who, as a host, provides                                                     [70]
too much hospitality or not enough.
It’s far better to show moderation.
It’s bad when someone does not want to leave
to be too quick to send him on his way,
but just as bad is holding someone back
when he’s ready to depart. For a host
should welcome any guest in front of him
and send away the one who wants to go.
But stay until I bring some fine gifts here                                      100
and set them in your chariot, where your eyes
can see them, and I can tell the women
to prepare a meal inside the palace
from the plentiful supply of food there.
For a traveller to feast before he leaves
to journey on the wide unbounded earth
brings double benefits—it gives him help
and gives me fame and honour. If you wish
to go through Hellas and middle Argos,                                                [80]
then I’ll accompany you in person.(1)                                               110
I’ll have a team of horses harnessed for you,
and I’ll escort you to men’s cities there.
Not one of them will send us from their town
without insisting we accept a gift,
a beautiful bronze tripod or a cauldron,
a pair of mules or goblet made of gold.”

Prudent Telemachus then answered him and said:

“Lord Menelaus, son of Atreus,
child of Zeus, and leader of your people,
I wish to get back home without delay—                                       120
when I left there I did not leave behind
anyone to protect my property.
As I keep searching for my noble father,                                             [90]
I hope I don’t get killed or in my home
have men rob me of my fine possessions.”

When Menelaus, skilled in war cries, heard these words,
he quickly advised his wife and her attendants
to gather some of the abundant food they stored
and prepare a farewell feast. Then Etoneus,
son of Boethous, came up to Menelaus—                                                 130
he lived close by and had just risen from his bed.
Menelaus, skilled at war shouts, instructed him
to get a fire started and to roast some meat.
Once Etoneus heard, he did what he’d been asked.
Menelaus went down to his fragrant storage room—
not by himself, for Helen and Megapenthes                                                    [100]
went with him as well. Once they reached the places
where he stored his treasure, the son of Atreus
selected a two-handled cup and told his son,
Megapenthes, to take a silver mixing bowl.                                             140
Helen went over to the storage chests which held
the richly woven garments she herself had made.
Then Helen, goddess among women, picked out one,
the largest and most beautifully embroidered—
it lay below the others, shining like a star.
Helen carried away this robe, and they returned,
back through the house, until they reached Telemachus.                           [110]
Fair-haired Menelaus spoke to him:

                                                                 “Telemachus,
may Zeus, Hera’s loud-thundering husband,
accomplish the return your heart desires.                                     150
Of all the treasured gifts stored in my home,
I’ll give you the one with highest value
and the loveliest—I’ll present to you
this finely crafted mixing bowl. It’s made
entirely of silver and its rims
are plated gold. Hephaestus crafted it.
Warrior Phaedimus, the Sidonian king,
presented it to me on my way home,
when his house gave me shelter. Now I’d like
to send it back with you.”

                                                            Menelaus spoke.                                          160
Then the son of Atreus handed Telemachus                                                   [120]
the two-handled cup, and mighty Megapenthes
carried in the mixing bowl of shining silver
and set it down before him, and fair-cheeked Helen,
standing beside him with the fine robe in her hands,
spoke to Telemachus and said:

                                                 “My dear child,
I’m giving you this gift as a reminder
of Helen, something made by her own hands.
Your bride can wear it on her wedding day,
something to look forward to. Until then,                                      170
let it remain in your dear mother’s room.
As for you, I wish you a joyful journey
back to your well-built home and native land.”

With these words, Helen placed the garment in his hands.                         [130]
Telemachus was delighted to receive the dress.
Noble Peisistratus took the gifts and packed them
in a box stored in the chariot, gazing at them
with wonder in his heart. Fair-haired Menelaus
escorted them inside the house, where they sat down
on stools and chairs. A female servant carried in                                    180
a beautiful gold jug and poured some water out
into a silver basin, so they could rinse their hands,
then placed a polished table beside each of them.
The worthy housekeeper then carried in some bread
and set it down before them, with platters of meat,
generous provisions from food she had in store.
Standing close to them, Etoneus carved the meat                                          [140]
and handed out the portions, while Megapenthes,
son of glorious Menelaus, poured the wine.
Then their hands reached for the food spread out before them.           190
After they had satisfied their hearts with food and drink,
Telemachus and the noble son of Nestor
yoked the horses, climbed in the ornate chariot,
and drove from the portico through the echoing gate.
Fair-haired Menelaus followed them outside.
His right hand held a gold cup full of honey wine,
so they might pour libations before setting out.
Standing there beside the horses, Menelaus
made a pledge to both of them and said:                                                      [150]

                                                                          “Farewell,
young men. Make sure you greet Nestor for me,                           200
shepherd of his people. Over in Troy,
when we sons of Achaea went to war,
he truly was a gentle father to me.”

Prudent Telemachus then answered him and said:

“Zeus-fostered king, we will indeed tell him
what you ask, when we arrive in Pylos.
How I wish when I returned to Ithaca
I’d come across Odysseus in his home,
so I could tell him how, when I left here,
I’d met with every hospitality                                                           210
and taken many splendid gifts away.”

As he said these words, a bird flew over them,                                               [160]
to the right—an eagle clutching in its talons
an enormous white goose, a tame one from some farm.
A crowd of men and women hurried after it,
all shouting as they ran. The bird flew close to them,
then veered, wheeling to the right before the horses.
When they saw that, they were happy—in every chest
the spirits filled with joy. Then the son of Nestor,
Peisistratus, was the first of them to speak:                                             220

“Menelaus, leader of your people,
cherished by Zeus, tell us about this sign—
whether god sent it to the two of us
or just to you alone.”

                                                             Peisistratus spoke.
War-loving Menelaus thought about the birds—
How should he understand the omen properly                                            [170]
and provide an appropriate interpretation?
But before he said a word, long-robed Helen spoke 
and said these words:

                                              “Listen to me.
I will prophesy what the immortals                                                 230
have set into my heart, what I believe
will happen. Just as this eagle came here
from mountains where it and its young were born
and snatched up this goose bred in the household,
that’s how Odysseus, after all his toil
and many hardships, will be coming back
and take revenge. Or he’s already home,
sowing destruction for all the suitors.”

Prudent Telemachus then answered her and said:

“Now may Zeus, Hera’s loud-thundering mate,                           240   [180]
bring that about. If so, I’ll pray to you
as to a god.”

                                                                                    Telemachus said this,
then flicked the horses with his whip. They sped off quickly,
keen to move on through the city toward the plain.
All day long the harness on their shoulders rattled.
Then the sun went down, and all the roads grew dark.
Their chariot reached Pherae, home of Diocles,
son of Ortilochus, a child of Alpheus.
Diocles welcomed them with hospitality
the way one should with strangers. There they spent the night.          250

As soon as rose-fingered early Dawn appeared,
they yoked the horses, climbed in the ornate chariot,                                  [190]
then drove out from the echoing portico and gate.
Peisistratus urged on the horses with his whip,
and they raced willingly ahead. They quickly reached
the lofty citadel of Pylos. Telemachus
then addressed the son of Nestor:

                                                 “Peisistratus,
will you promise to do something for me,
and see it through exactly as I say?
We claim that we have always been good friends,                        260
because our fathers were good friends, as well,
and we are the same age. This trip of ours
will make our hearts united even more.
So, child of Zeus, don’t take me past my ship
but leave me there, in case old man Nestor                                        [200]
detains me in his house against my will,
wishing to show me hospitality,
when I must now get home with all due speed.”

Telemachus spoke. Deep in his heart Nestor’s son
considered how he might make such a promise                                      270
and see it through to its conclusion. As he thought,
he followed what seemed to him the better option—
he turned the horses to the swift ship by the shore,
took out the lovely gifts, the clothing and the gold,
which Menelaus had given to Telemachus,
stowed them in the stern and urged Telemachus to go—
his words had wings:

                                        “You must move quickly now.
Climb in your ship, and instruct your comrades
to do so, too, before I get back home                                                      [210]
and let old Nestor know what’s happening.                                   280
For in my heart and mind I know too well
he likes things done his way—he won’t agree
and will come in person to call you back.
I tell you, he won’t return without you.
In any case, he’s sure to be upset.”

Once he said this, Peisistratus drove his horses,
creatures with lovely manes, quickly back to Pylos.
He soon reached the palace. Meanwhile, Telemachus
urged his companions on—he spoke to them and said:

“Comrades, put all the stuff in our black ship.                             290
Let’s get ourselves on board, so we can sail.”                                        [220]

When they heard these words, his shipmates obeyed at once.
Soon they were aboard, each man sitting at his oar.
Telemachus sat in the stern part of the ship,
praying to Athena and offering sacrifice.
Then a stranger approached, someone from far away,
running from Argos because he had killed a man.
He was prophet, descended from Melampus,
who many years earlier had lived in Pylos,
a sheep-breeding land.(2) He had been a wealthy man,                         300
living in a rich house among the Pylians.
But then Melampus went into a foreign land,
fleeing his country and great-hearted Neleus,
the most illustrious of living mortal men,
who for one whole year had taken his wealth by force,                                 [230]
while Melampus lay tied up in savage bondage
in Phylacus’s palace, in cruel suffering,
all for the sake of a daughter of Neleus,
and thanks to the terrible blindness in his heart
which the goddess Erinys, who strikes down families,                           310
had fixed on him. But then he got away from Fate
and drove the bellowing cattle from Phylace
to Pylos, thus succeeding in getting his revenge
for the disgraceful acts of noble Neleus,
and led the daughter home to be his brother’s wife.
But then he went off to Argos, where horses graze,
a land of strangers. He was destined to live there,
ruling many Argives. He won himself a wife,                                                  [240]
built a high-roofed house, and fathered two strong sons,
Antiphates and Mantius. Antiphates                                                        320
fathered brave Oicles, who, in his turn, produced
Amphiaraus, a man who could rouse people up,
and whom lord Apollo and aegis-bearing Zeus
loved in all sorts of ways. But he did not live long—
he died in Thebes, thanks to a woman’s need for gifts.(3)
He had two sons—Alcmaeon and Amphilocus.
Mantius fathered Cleitus and Polypheides.
Cleitus was so beautiful he was snatched away                                             [250]
by goddess Dawn on her golden throne, so he might live
with the immortal gods, and then lord Apollo                                         330
made noble-minded Polypheides his prophet,
the best of men, after Amphiaraus was dead.
He was angry with his father and moved away
to Hyperesia, where he lived and prophesied
to everyone. He had a son—Theoclymenus—
he was the one who now approached Telemachus,
as he poured libations by his swift ship and prayed.
Standing close beside him, Theoclymenus spoke—
his words had wings:

              “Friend, since I’ve met you here                                                    [260]
while making sacrifice, I’m asking you,                                          340
for the sake of your offerings and the god
and by your comrades’ lives and by your own,
answer what I ask, and tell me the truth,
hiding nothing. Among men who are you?
Where is your city? Who are your parents?”

Prudent Telemachus then answered him and said:

“All right, stranger, I will speak candidly.
I am from Ithaca by birth. My father
is Odysseus, as surely as he lived,
but now he’s died by some pitiful fate.                                          350
That’s why I got this crew and this black ship
and sailed in search of news about my father                                       [270]
who has been absent for so long.”

                                               Theoclymenus
then replied and said:

                               “I, too, have run away
from my own land. I killed a relative,
one of my family. His relations
live in horse-nurturing Argos—they rule
Achaeans there and have enormous power.
I’m fleeing to prevent them killing me.
So now it’s my dark fate, my destiny,                                              360
I think, to roam around among mankind.
Let me board your ship—I’m a fugitive,
and I’m begging you, so they won’t kill me.
I think they’re on my track.”

                                            Prudent Telemachus
then answered him and said:

                                         “If you desire to come,                                           [280]
I will not stop you boarding my trim ship.
So come with us. You’ll find a welcome here,
as much as we possess.”

                                                  As he said these words,
he took the spear Theoclymenus was holding,
set it down lengthwise on the deck of the curved ship,                         370
and then clambered aboard the ocean-going boat.
Theoclymenus sat beside him in the stern.
The crewmen loosed the cables. Then Telemachus
called his comrades, urging them to hoist the tackle.
They hurried to obey, raising the mast of fir
and setting it in place in its hollow socket.
They tightened forestays and then hoisted a white sail                             [290]
with twisted ox-hide ropes. Gleaming-eyed Athena
send favouring winds blowing stiffly through the air,
so the sailors could complete their voyage quickly                                380
across salt waters of the sea. So they sailed on
past Crouni and past Calchis, with its lovely streams.
Then the sun went down, and all the routes grew dark.
They made for Pheae, driven on by winds from Zeus,
and for fair Elis, where Epeians rule. From there,
Telemachus steered them past the jagged islands,
wondering if he could evade a fatal ambush.                                                 [300]

Meanwhile, Odysseus and the faithful swineherd
and the other herders were eating in the hut,
After they’d had food and drink to their heart’s content,                      390
Odysseus spoke to all of them, testing the swineherd,
to see if he would sustain his kindly welcome
and invite him to go on staying at the farm
or if he would send him off towards the city:

“Eumaeus and all you other herdsmen,
listen to me now. Tomorrow morning
I’d like to wander off and beg in town,
so I won’t exhaust you and your comrades.
Give me good advice, then send me away                                           [310]
with a fine guide who can conduct me there.                               400
I’ll have to roam the city by myself,
hoping to get a cup and piece of bread.
I could go to the home of lord Odysseus
and give some news to wise Penelope
and mingle with those arrogant suitors.
They might give me a meal—they’ve lots of food.
If so, I could well serve in what they want.
Let me tell you how. Listen carefully.
Thanks to Hermes the Messenger, the one
who pours grace and fame on all men’s work,                                410   [320]
no other man can match the way I serve
in splitting dry wood, building a good fire,
roasting and carving meat, and serving wine,
all those actions performed by lesser men
when they are servants to nobility.”

Then, swineherd Eumaeus, you were most upset
and spoke out to Odysseus:

                                              “Why, stranger,
is your heart so in love with this idea?
You must possess a strong desire to die,
if you mean to go among the suitors,                                              420
that crowd whose pride and violence extend
right up to iron heaven. Their servants                                                  [330]
are not like you. No. The ones who serve them
are young men, well dressed in cloaks and tunics,
their heads and faces always sleek with oil.
They keep well-polished tables loaded down
with bread and meat and wine. You should stay here.
No one in this place finds you a bother—
I don’t, nor do the others here with me.
When the dear son of lord Odysseus comes,                                 430
he’ll give you clothing, a cloak and tunic,
and send you where your heart and spirit urge.”

Then much-enduring lord Odysseus answered him:                                    [340]

“Eumaeus, I hope father Zeus likes you
as much as I do—you’ve brought to an end
my wanderings and painful suffering.
Nothing is more wretched for human beings
than roaming around, but men must endure
all kinds of trouble for their stomach’s sake,
when they have to face the pain and sorrow                                  440
their travels bring. Now, since you keep me here,
telling me to wait for your young master,
talk about the mother of lord Odysseus
and his father, too. When he went away,
he left him just as he was growing old.
Are they still living in the sunshine here,
or have they died and now dwell in Hades?”                                         [350]

Then the swineherd, a splendid fellow, answered him:

“Well, stranger, I’ll tell you the honest truth.
Laertes is alive, but all the time                                                      450
inside his home he keeps praying to Zeus
the spirit in his limbs will fade away.
He grieves excessively for his own son,
who has gone, and for the wife he married,
a wise lady, whose death, above all else,
caused him much distress and made him old
before his time. She died a wretched death
grieving for her splendid son. May no man
who lives here as my friend and treats me well                                    [360]
die the way she did! While she was alive,                                       460
though she was sad, I was always happy
to ask about her, find out how she was,
because she personally brought me up,
together with long-robed Ctimene,
her fine daughter, the youngest child she bore.
I was raised with her, though with less honour.
When we both reached our young maturity,
that time we long for, she was sent to Same
to be married and got countless wedding gifts.
She dressed me in fine clothes, cloak and tunic,                          470
and gave me sandals to tie on my feet,
then sent me out into the fields. In her heart                                       [370]
she was especially fond of me. But now,
I miss all that, though personally for me
the sacred gods prosper the work I do.
From that I have had food and drink and helped
those men who have a claim on my attention.
But now bad times have fallen on the house
full of overbearing men. I don’t hear
any news that’s good, whether word or deed,                               480
about my lady, although servants have
a powerful urge to talk face to face
with their mistress and find out everything,
to eat and drink and then take something back
into the fields—such things warm servants’ hearts.”

Resourceful Odysseus then answered him and said:                                     [380]

“Swineherd Eumaeus, you were just a child
when you wandered far off from your parents
and your native land. Come now, tell me this—
and speak candidly—was the place ransacked,                            490
that populated city with broad streets
in which your mother and your father lived,
or were you alone with sheep or cattle?
Did hostile people take you in their ships
and bring you here to sell you to the master
of the palace, who paid a decent price?”

The swineherd, an outstanding fellow, then replied:

“Stranger, since you ask questions about this,                                    [390]
stay quiet, enjoy yourself, drink your wine,
as you sit there, and listen to my tale.                                            500
These nights go on forever. There’s a time
to sleep, and there’s a time to take delight
in hearing stories. You don’t need to rest
before you’re ready, and excessive sleep
can leave one weary. As for the others,
if any man’s heart and spirit tell him,
let him go outside and sleep. Then at dawn
he can eat and walk behind our master’s swine.
We two will drink and feast here in the hut
and enjoy each other’s wretched troubles,                                     510
as we recall them. For once they’re over,                                               [400]
a man who’s done a lot of wandering
and suffered much gets pleasure from his woes.
So now I’ll give you answers to those questions.
There’s an island you may have heard about
beyond Ogygia—it’s called Syrie,
where Sun changes his course. The land is good.
Though not too many people live on it,
there are many herds and flocks, plenty of wine,
and lots of wheat. Famine never comes there,                                520
no lethal sickness falls on mortal men.
Inside the town, when tribes of men get old,
Apollo comes there with his silver bow                                               [410]
and Artemis as well. He attacks them
with his gentle arrows and kills them off.
There are two cities there, with all the land
divided up between them. My father
ruled both as king. His name was Ctesius,
son of Ormenus, like an immortal god.
Phoenicians came there, famous sailing men,                               530
greedy rogues, who carried countless trinkets
in their black ship. Now, in my father’s house
lived a beautiful Phoenician woman,
skilled in making lovely things. Phoenicians,
truly crafty men, seduced her. First of all,
while she was doing laundry, one of them
had sex with her beside the hollow ship—                                            [420]
love like that distracts the minds of women,
even virtuous ones. When he asked her
who she was and where she came from, she said,                         540
pointing to my father’s high-roofed palace:

‘I claim to come from Sidon, rich in bronze,
daughter of Arybas, a man whose wealth
was like a flood. But then I was captured
by Taphian pirates, as I was coming
from the fields. They brought me to this place
and sold me to the household of that man,
who paid an excellent price.’

                                                    Then the man                                        [430]
who had made love to her in secret said to her:

‘Would like you to sail home again with us,                        550
to see your father’s and your mother’s house
and them, as well? Yes, they are still alive
and, so people say, are very wealthy.’

The servant woman answered him and said:

‘I might come, if you sailors are willing
to promise me on oath to take me home,
and ensure my safety.’

                                   When she said this,
they all took the oath, as she requested.
When they had sworn and finished promising,
the woman spoke to them again and said:                                     560

‘Now, keep silent. None of your company                                    [440]
must talk to me, if we meet in the street
or maybe at the springs, in case someone
runs to tell the old king in the palace.
If he gets suspicious, he’ll tie me up
in cruel bondage and then plan your death.
Keep what I say in mind, and finish off
your trading quickly. When your ship is full
and your goods stowed on board, send me a sign
at the palace right away. I’ll bring gold,                               570
whatever I can lay my hands on there.
And there’s something else I’d like to offer
to pay my passage. Inside the palace                                         [450]
my master has a child. I am his nurse.
He’s quite an impish boy—when we’re outside
he runs beside me. I’ll bring him on board.
He’s worth an enormous sum of money,
if ever you run into foreigners.’

She said this, then left for the fine palace.
The men stayed there with us for one whole year,                        580
and by trading filled their hollow ship with goods.
When the deep boat was loaded to return,
they sent a messenger to tell the woman.
The man, a shrewd one, reached my father’s house
with a gold necklace strung with amber beads.                                   [460]
In the hall servants and my noble mother
were handling and inspecting it, haggling
about the price. He nodded at the woman,
without saying a word. After that sign,
he went back to his hollow ship. So then,                                      590
she took my hand and led me from the house.
In the front hall she found cups and tables
left there by guests who had been at a feast,
men who were attendants on my father.
They had just left for a council meeting
where public civic issues were discussed.
She quickly hid three goblets in her clothes
and then strolled out with them. I followed her,                                  [470]
without thinking a thing. The sun went down,
and all the roads grew dark. But we rushed on                             600
and came to the fine harbour, where we found
the swift sailing ship and the Phoenicians.
They put us both on board, climbed in themselves,
and moved away across the watery road.
Zeus sent a welcome wind. We sailed six days,
all day and night. When Zeus, son of Cronos,
brought us the seventh day, archer Artemis
struck the woman, and she fell with a thud
down in the hold, just like a sea bird’s fall.
They threw her overboard to make a meal                                      610    [480]
for seals and fish. But I was left heart-sick.
The winds and waters carried them along.
They sailed to Ithaca, where king Laertes
purchased me with his own money—that’s how
I came to see this land with my own eyes.”

Odysseus, born from Zeus, then answered him and said:

“Eumaeus, by telling me what happened,
you’ve truly stirred the heart here in my chest,
all those ordeals your spirit has endured.
But with the bad things Zeus has given you                                  620
he’s put some good—you’ve undergone much pain,
but you ended up at a kind man’s house.
With a good heart, he gives you food and drink,                                  [490]
and the life you lead is good. As for me,
I’ve reached here only after wandering
through many cities of men.”

                                                                    So the two men
kept talking to each other. Then they fell asleep.
But they did not sleep long, for early Dawn arrived
soon afterwards, seated on her golden throne.

As Telemachus and his crew were nearing land,                                     630
they furled and stowed the sail, quickly lowered the mast,
and used their oars to move into an anchorage.
They tossed out mooring stones, lashed cables at the stern,
and then left the boat, wading through the crashing surf.
They prepared a meal and mixed the gleaming wine.                                    [500]
Once they had food and drink to satisfy their hearts,
shrewd Telemachus was the first of them to speak:

“You men row the black ship to the city,
while I’m checking on the fields and herdsmen.
I’ll come to the city in the evening,                                                  640
after I have visited my estates.
In the morning I’ll lay out a banquet,
as compensation to you for the trip,
a splendid meal of meat and sweetened wine.”

Then godlike Theoclymenus spoke up and said:

“Where do I go, dear lad? Of those who rule
in Ithaca, whose house do I go to—                                                    [510]
the palace you live in with your mother?”

Prudent Telemachus then answered him and said:

“In things were different, I would invite you                                  650
to go straight to our home—there is no lack
of welcome there for strangers. But for you
it would be worse, because I’ll not be there,
and my mother will not see you. It’s rare
for her to show up among the suitors
when they are in the house—she stays away
and does her weaving in an upstairs room.
But I’ll mention another man to you
and you can visit him—Eurymachus,
a noble son of wise Polybius,                                                            660
whom men of Ithaca see as a god.                                                       [520]
He’s the best man by far and truly keen
to marry my mother and then possess
the royal prerogatives of Odysseus.
But Olympian Zeus, who lives in heaven,
knows if, before that wedding day arrives,
he’ll bring about a day of reckoning.”

As he said this, a bird flew past them on the right,
a hawk, Apollo’s messenger. In its talons
it held a dove, which it was plucking—the feathers                               670
fell to the ground halfway between Telemachus
and his ship. Theoclymenus called him aside,
away from his companions, grasped his hand, and spoke:                            [530]

“Telemachus, this bird flying to our right
has not come without prompting by some god.
When I saw it darting forward, I knew
it was an omen. Here in Ithaca
no family is more royal than yours.
No. You will be powerful forever.”

Prudent Telemachus then answered him and said:                                680

“Stranger, I hope that prophecy of yours
may be fulfilled. If so, you’ll quickly hear
of many gifts and kindnesses from me,
so any man you meet will call you happy.”

Then he spoke to Peiraeus, a faithful comrade:

“Peiraeus, son of Clytius, of those                                                        [540]
who came with me on the trip to Pylos   
you’re the one who is especially loyal.
So now conduct this stranger to your home,
take good care to welcome him with honour,                                690
until I get there.”

                                Peiraeus, a famous spearman,
then answered him and said:

                                            “Telemachus,
if you remain a long time on your land,
I will entertain him. He will not lack
a welcome that’s appropriate for guests.”

After saying these words, he went on board the ship
and told the crew to get in and loose the cables.
They boarded quickly and sat down at their benches.

Telemachus tied sturdy sandals on his feet,                                                   [550]
then from the deck picked up his powerful spear                                  700
with a sharp bronze point. The crew untied stern cables
and then pushed out to sea, sailing to the city,
as Telemachus, dear son of lord Odysseus,
had ordered them to do, while he strode quickly off,
his feet carrying him onward, until he reached
the farmyard and the herds of pigs in countless numbers,
among whom the loyal swineherd still lay asleep,
always thinking gentle thoughts about his master.

 

ENDNOTES

(1) This invitation from Menelaus seems to involve a detour on the journey back so as to include a trip through the northern Peloponnese. However, the terms Hellas and Argos in Homer are often very imprecise and ambiguous. [Back to Text]

(2) This passages gives yet another reference the story of Melampus (see previous references at 11.320 and 11.352), the prophet who could communicate with animals. His brother fell in love with Neleus’s daughter. Neleus said that whoever could steal the cattle of Phylacus could have the daughter. Melampus was caught trying to help his brother and imprisoned by Phylacus, but his prophetic powers persuaded Phylacus to release him and give him the cattle. These he brought back to Neleus and thus won the daughter for his brother. [Back to Text]

(3) Amphiarus was married to Eriphyle, who was bribed with a gold necklace to persuade her husband to join a military expedition against Thebes. He died in the fighting. Eriphyle is one of the women Odysseus glimpses among the shades of the dead (see 11.414). [Back to Text]

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