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


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[Odysseus has trouble sleeping; Athena visits him and gives him reassurance; Penelope prays to Artemis, longing for her life to end; Odysseus asks Zeus for two omens; Zeus peals his thunder and a woman grinding grain prays aloud to Zeus; Telemachus asks Eurycleia about the treatment of his guest; Eurycleia organizes the clean up the house; Eumaeus arrives with some animals and talks to Odysseus; Melanthius insults Odysseus again; Philoetius arrives and talks to Eumaeus, then wishes Odysseus well; the suitors plan to kill Telemachus but are dissuaded by an omen; Telemachus tells Odysseus he’ll protect him at the feast and speaks forcefully to the suitors; Ctesippus throws a piece of meat at Odysseus, but misses; Telemachus threatens him; Agelaus proposes that Penelope make up her mind; Pallas Athena makes the suitors laugh uncontrollably and sends images of disaster; Theoclymenus interprets them and warns the suitors; they all laugh at Telemachus; Penelope sits and listens to the conversations.]

So lord Odysseus went to the portico to sleep.
Underneath he spread an untanned hide and on top
fleeces from many sheep slaughtered for sacrifice
by the Achaeans. Eurynome spread cloaks on him,
once he lay down to rest. But still he could not sleep.
His heart was hatching destruction for the suitors.
Then servant women went from the hall, all the slaves
who earlier had enjoyed sex with the suitors.
They were laughing, having fun with one another.
Odysseus in his chest was stirred—his mind and heart                      10    [10]
engaged in fierce debate whether he should charge out
and put each one to death or allow the suitors
to make love with them one final time. Inside him
his heart was growling. Just as a bitch stands snarling
above her tender pups when she sees anyone
she does not recognize and is prepared to fight,
that how, in his anger, the heart within him growled
at their shameless acts. But he struck his chest and said,
rebuking his own heart:

                                                                    “Hang on, my heart.
You went through troubles worse than this that day                20
the Cyclops, in his frantic rage, devoured
your courageous comrades. You held out then,                                [20]
until your cunning led you from that cave,
where you thought you would die.”

                                                             He said these words,
to calm the heart within his chest, and his spirit
submitted, bravely resolving to endure it all.
He still tossed and turned, back and forth. Just as a man
eager to roast a stomach stuffed with fat and blood
turns it quickly round and round on a blazing fire,
that how lord Odysseus tossed and turned, wondering                     30
how he might get the haughty suitors in his grip,
one man against so many. Then Athena came,                                           [30]
moving down from heaven, looking like a woman.
She stood above his head and spoke to him, saying:

“Why now, you most ill-fated of all men,
are you awake? This is your home—your wife
lives in this palace, so does your child,
whom anyone would pray for as a son.”

Resourceful Odysseus then answered her and said:

“Yes, goddess, everything you say is true.                                   40
But the heart inside my chest is anxious.
How can I handle the shameful suitors,
just a single man against so many.                                                    [40]
And in the house they’re always in a group.
There’s something else my heart is thinking of—
it’s more important—if I do kill them,
with Zeus’s help and yours, how do I find
a way of making my escape? That point
I’d like you to consider.”

                                                      Then the goddess,
bright-eyed Athena, gave him her reply:

                                                     “You stubborn man,                             50
men put their trust in weaker friends than me—
in a mortal man who lacks my wisdom.
I’m a god, and I’m there to protect you
to the end of your ordeal. I tell you—
to make things clear—if there were fifty groups
of other men standing here around us,                                             [50]
intent on slaughter, even so, I say,
you’d still drive off their cattle and fine sheep.
Let Sleep take hold of you. To stay awake,
remain alert all night, will tire you out.                                      60
These are harsh times, but you’ll soon make it through.”

Once Athena spoke, she poured sleep on his eyelids.
Then the lovely goddess went back to Olympus.

While Sleep, who brings relief to troubled human hearts,
relaxed his mind, his faithful wife woke up and wept,
sitting up on her soft bed. But after her heart
had had its fill of crying, the lovely lady
began by uttering a prayer:                                                                          [60]

royal goddess, child of Zeus, how I wish
you’d shoot an arrow in my chest right now                               70
and take my life or that storm winds would come,
lift me up, carry me away from here,
across the murky roads, and cast me out
in Ocean’s backward-flowing stream, just as
those storms snatched Pandareus’s daughters,
whose parents the gods killed, thus leaving them
orphans in their home. Fair Aphrodite
cared for them, offering cheese, sweet honey,
and fine wine, while Hera bestowed on them                                    [70]
beauty and wisdom beyond all women.                                      80
Artemis made them tall, and Athena
gave them their skills in famous handicrafts.
But when fair Aphrodite went away
to high Olympus, petitioning Zeus,
who hurls the thunderbolt, so that the girls
could find fulfillment in a happy marriage,
for Zeus has perfect knowledge of all things,
what each man’s destiny will be or not,
spirits of the storm snatched away the girls
and placed them in the care of hateful Furies.(1)                        90
How I wish those gods who hold Olympus
would do away with me like that, or else
that fair-haired Artemis would strike at me,                                     [80]
so with my husband’s image in my mind
I could descend beneath this odious earth
and never bring delight of any kind
to the heart of some inferior man.
But when someone laments all day, his heart
thick with distress, and Sleep holds him at night,
he can endure that—Sleep makes him forget                             100
all things good and bad, once it settles down
across his eyelids. But some god sends me
bad dreams as well. This very night again
a man who looked like him lay down with me,
just as he was when he sailed with the fleet.
My heart rejoiced—I thought it was no dream,                                [90]
but finally the truth.”

                                                                Penelope finished.
Then Dawn appeared on her golden throne. As she wept,
lord Odysseus heard her and lost himself in thought.
To his heart she seemed to know him and was standing                    110
beside his head. Gathering up the cloak and blankets
he had been lying on, he placed them on a chair
inside the hall. He took an ox-hide from the house,
set it on the ground, and, raising his hands up high,
made this prayer to Zeus:

                                                             “O Father Zeus,
if you wished to bring me over land and sea
to my own land, after loading on me
so much distress, let someone in the house
wake up and say something in there for me,                                      [100]
provide an omen, and outside the house                                     120
let there appear another sign from Zeus.”

That is what he prayed. And Counsellor Zeus heard him.
At once he thundered down from glittering Olympus,
from high beyond the clouds. Lord Odysseus rejoiced.
And then some slave woman at the nearby grinding stones
sent out a word of omen from inside the place
where the shepherd of his people placed his millstones.
At these grinding stones twelve women used to work,
making barley meal and flour, which feed men’s marrow.(2)
The other women had already milled their wheat                               130
and were asleep, but this one, weaker than the rest,                                  [110]
had not yet finished. She paused, set the stone aside,
and uttered a prayer, an omen for her master:

“Father Zeus, who governs both gods and men,
you’ve thundered loud high in the starry sky,
and yet there’s not a single cloud up there.
You must be offering a sign to someone.
I’m a poor wretch, but what I have to say—
O make that happen. May these suitors here
for the last and final time this very day                                        140
have a fine dinner in my master’s home.
Those men have hurt my knees with this hard task
of making flour—may this meal be their last.”

She spoke. That word of omen and Zeus’s thunder                                   [120]
made Odysseus happy—he thought he’d be revenged
on those malicious men.

                                        Inside Odysseus’s home,
other women slaves were up, making tireless fire
inside the hearth, as young godlike Telemachus
rose from bed, put on his clothes, and on his shoulders
slung a keen-edged sword. On his shining feet he tied                       150
his lovely sandals. He picked up a sturdy spear,
with a sharp bronze point, went out to the threshold,
stood there, and said to Eurycleia:

                                                                            “My dear nurse,
have you shown our guest respect inside our home
with bed and food, or is he lying there                                              [130]
unattended to? That’s how my mother is—
she’s wise, but she seems to deal with people
at random—some inferior mortal man
she’ll honour, while someone more distinguished
she’ll send away with no respect at all.”                                      160

Wise Eurycleia then answered him:

                                                                                        “My child,
don’t blame her now about such things. That man
sat drinking wine as long as he could wish.
He said he had no appetite for food.
She asked him. He thought of going to bed
to get some sleep, so she told the women
to spread out bedding, but like some poor wretch                            [140]
familiar with hard times, he had no wish
to lie down under blankets on a bed.
So he stretched out on the portico to sleep                                 170
on sheep fleeces and an untanned ox-hide,
and then we threw a cloak on top of him.”

Once she’d finished, Telemachus went through the hall,
spear in hand, with two swift dogs accompanying him.
He went to join the group of finely dressed Achaeans.
Then that good nurse Eurycleia, daughter of Ops,
Peisenor’s son, called out, summoning female slaves:

“Come on, some of you get busy in here—
sweep the hall and sprinkle it. Spread out                                        [150]
purple covers on these well-fashioned chairs.                            180
And you others, wipe down all those tables
with wet sponges, clean up the mixing bowls,
those finely crafted double-handled cups.
And you women, get water from the spring.
Carry it back here. And do it quickly—
the suitors won’t be absent from this hall
for very long. They’ll be back really soon.
Today’s a banquet day for everyone.”

As Eurycleia spoke, they listened carefully,
then acted on her words. Twenty of the women                                   190
went to the dark-water spring. The others stayed there,
busy working diligently throughout the house.
Then the men who served the Achaean lords arrived.                               [160]
While they were working with great skill chopping firewood,
the women who had gone off to the spring returned.
Behind them came the swineherd, leading in three hogs,
the best of all he had. He turned them loose to feed
inside the splendid yard, while he talked to Odysseus,
with words of reassurance:

                            “Stranger, these Achaeans—
do they have any more regard for you?                                      200
Or in these halls are they insulting you,
they way they did before?”

                                                       Shrewd Odysseus
then answered him and said:

                                             “Well, Eumaeus,
I hope the gods pay back the injuries
arrogant men so recklessly have planned                                          [170]
in another’s home, with no sense of shame.”

As these two were talking to each other in this way,
Melanthius, the goatherd, came up close to them,
leading the very finest she-goats in his flocks,
part of the suitors’ feast. Two herdsmen came with him.                    210
He tied the goats up by the echoing portico,
then started once more hurling insults at Odysseus:

“Stranger, are you still bothering us here,
inside the house, begging from the people?
Why don’t you get out? I think it’s obvious                                      [180]
we two will not say good bye, not until
we’ve had a taste of one another’s fists.
The way you beg is not appropriate.
Achaeans do hold feasts in other homes.”

Melanthius spoke, but shrewd Odysseus said nothing.                      220
He shook his head in silence. Deep within his heart
he was planning trouble. Then a third one joined them,
Philoetius, an outstanding man, bringing
a sterile heifer and plump goats for the suitors.
Some ferrymen, who transport passengers across,
whoever comes to them, had brought them over
from the mainland. He tied these animals with care
below the portico, went up to Eumaeus,                                                       [190]
and questioned him in person:

who’s the man who has just come to this house?                       230
What people does he claim to come from?
Where are his family and his native land?
He’s had bad luck, but in his appearance
he seems just like a noble king. But still,
the gods bring miseries to wandering men,
whenever they spin their threads of trouble,
no matter if they come from royal blood.”

Once he said these words, he walked up to Odysseus,
held his right hand out in greeting, and spoke to him—
his words had wings:

                         “Greetings, honoured stranger.                                 240
Though you are facing many troubles now,
may you find happiness in future days.                                             [200]
O Father Zeus, none of the other gods
is more destructive than you are. For men,
once you yourself have given birth to them,
you have no pity. You plunge them into
painful hardships and abject poverty.
When I recall Odysseus and think of him,
I start to sweat. My eyes fill up with tears.
For he, I think, is dressed in rags like these,                               250
roaming among men somewhere, if indeed
he’s still alive, looking at the sunlight.
If he’s already dead and down in Hades,
then I grieve for excellent Odysseus,
who, when I was a boy, put me in charge
of cattle herds in Cephallenia.(3)                                                        [210]
Their numbers now are more than one can count—
this breed of broad-faced cattle has increased
more than it could in any other way
for a different man. Now strangers tell me                                  260
to drive the cattle in for their own meals.
They do not care about the son in there
or tremble at the vengeance of the gods.
They are too keen to share amongst themselves
my master’s goods—he’s been away so long.
And as for me, the heart here in my chest
keeps turning over many things—it’s bad,
truly bad, while his son is still alive,
for me to leave here with the cattle herds
and move away to some other region,                                           270
to groups of strangers. But it’s even worse                                          [220]
to stay here, putting up with what’s not right,
herding his cattle for these other men.
In fact, I would have run off long ago
to one of the other high-minded kings—
for things are now unbearable—but still,
my poor master is always on my mind.
Perhaps he’ll come home from some foreign place
and send the suitors packing from his home.”

Resourceful Odysseus then answered him and said:                           280

“Herdsman, you don’t appear to be a man
who’s bad or one who lacks intelligence.
for I can sense your sympathetic heart.
And so I’ll swear a mighty oath to you.
I’ll speak the truth—let Zeus be my witness,                                     [230]
first among the gods, and this guest table,
and the hearth of excellent Odysseus,
to which I’ve come: while you are in these halls,
Odysseus will come home. With your own eyes,
you’ll see the suitors killed, if that’s your wish,                         290
those men who act as if they own the place.”

The cattle herder answered him:

                                                                  “Ah stranger,
how I wish Cronos’ son might bring about
what you’ve just told me. Then you would find out
how strong I am and what my hands can do.”

Eumaeus also prayed like that to all the gods
for Odysseus to return to his own home.

As they were talking in this way to one another,                                        [240]
the suitors were making plans against Telemachus,
scheming to bring him to a fatal destiny.                                              300
But then a bird went soaring past them, on their left,
an eagle flying high, gripping a trembling dove.
So lord Amphinomus addressed them all and said:

“My friends, this plan to kill Telemachus
will not proceed the way we want it to.
We should instead prepare to have our feast.”

Amphinomus spoke. The suitors agreed with him.
So they went inside godlike Odysseus’s home,
threw their cloaks on stools and chairs, and sacrificed                               [250]
big sheep and fattened goats. They killed the plump swine, too,      310
and the heifer from the herd. They roasted entrails,
passed them around, and blended wine in mixing bowls.
The swineherd handed out the cups. Philoetius,
an outstanding man, brought bread in a fine basket,
and Melanthius served the wine. Then the suitors
reached out to take the fine food set in front of them.
Thinking it might be advantageous, Telemachus
sat Odysseus down inside the well-constructed hall,
beside the entrance made of stone. He set down there
a modest stool and table, and placed before him                                320
a share of inner organs. Then he poured some wine                                    [260]
in a golden cup and said:

                                                            “Sit here for now,  
among these men. Drink your wine. I myself
will protect you from all suitors’ insults
and their fists—this is not a public house
but a home belonging to Odysseus.
He acquired this place for me. You suitors,
make sure your hearts do not encourage you
to gibes and blows, so that no arguments
or fights will happen in this hall.”

                                                                 As he said this,                                      330
the suitors bit their lips. They were all astonished
Telemachus had talked to them so forcefully.
Then Antinous, son of Eupeithes, spoke to them:                                        [270]

“Achaeans, what Telemachus has said
is challenging, but let’s accept his words,
although his speech is a bold threat to us.
For Zeus, son of Cronos, has not given
his permission, or here within these halls
by this time we’d have put a stop to him,
for all his clear-voiced talk.”

                                                                      Antinous spoke.                            340
But Telemachus paid no attention to his words.

As heralds led sacred offerings to the gods
down through the city, long-haired Achaeans gathered
in the shadowy groves of archer god Apollo.(4)
They cooked the outer flesh and pulled away the spits,
then passed around the meat and had a splendid feast.                            [280]
The servers placed beside Odysseus a portion
matching what they themselves received—Telemachus,
lord Odysseus’ son, had given them those orders.

But there was no way Pallas Athena would permit                              350
those proud suitors to hold back their bitter insults,
so that Odysseus, Laertes’ son, would suffer
still more heartfelt pain. Now, among the suitors
there was man who had a lawless heart. His name
was Ctesippus, and he made his home in Same.
Relying on his prodigious wealth, he courted
the wife of Odysseus, who had been away so long.                                    [290]
He now shouted to the overbearing suitors:

“You noble suitors, listen to me now—
I’ve got something to say. This stranger here                              360
has for some time had an equal portion,
as is right, since it’s by no means proper,
nor is it just, for Telemachus’s guests
to go without—no matter who it is
who shows up at the house. So now I, too,
will provide a present to welcome him.
Then he, for his part, can pass it along
to a bath attendant or some other slave
here in the home of the great Odysseus.”

As he said this, his strong hand picked up an ox hoof                         370
from the basket where it lay, and then he threw it.                                     [300]
But by quickly pulling his head back, Odysseus
dodged the throw. In his heart he smiled with bitter scorn.
The gristle hit the solid wall. Telemachus
then went at Ctesippus and said:

in your heart you know well what’s good for you—
that must be why you did not hit the stranger.
All on his own he made you miss your target.
Otherwise, I’d have taken my sharp spear
and rammed you in the chest. Then your father                        380
would be here planning for your funeral
and not a wedding feast. So none of you
make any show of trouble in my house.
For now I am observing every detail—
both good and bad—I know what’s going on.
Before now, I was still a foolish child.                                                [310]
But we must still look on and bear these things—
the slaughtered sheep, the wine and bread consumed.
It’s hard for one man to restrain a crowd.
Come now, no longer show me such ill will                                390
or give me so much trouble. If you’re keen
to kill me with your swords, that’s what I’d choose—
it would be far better to meet my death
than constantly to watch these shameful deeds,
strangers being abused and female slaves
dragged through this lovely home. It’s a disgrace.”

Telemachus finished. They all sat in silence,                                               [320]
saying nothing. Then Agelaus, Damastor’s son,
at last spoke up:

                “My friends, no man could answer
what’s been so justly said and in his rage                                   400
respond with words provoking enmity.
So don’t insult the stranger any more
or any of the servants in this home
belonging to godlike Odysseus. Still,
to Telemachus and to his mother
I have some reassuring things to say,
which both their hearts should find agreeable.
As long as you had in your hearts some hope
that wise Odysseus would return back home,
no blame attached itself to you by waiting,                                410   [330]
holding off the suitors here in your home.
This was the better choice, if Odysseus
had returned and come back to his palace.
But surely it’s already clear by now
he won’t be coming back, not any more.
So come, sit down by your mother. Tell her
to choose whoever is the finest man
and offers the best bridal gifts. And then
you can enjoy all your paternal goods—
they are yours to keep, all the food and wine,                           420
while she looks after someone else’s home.”

Shrewd Telemachus then answered him and said:

 “I swear to you, Agelaus, by Zeus
and by the sufferings of my father,
who’s perished or is wandering around                                             [340]
somewhere far from Ithaca, there’s no way
I’m trying to delay my mother’s marriage.
I tell her to marry any man she wants,
and I’ll give her innumerable gifts.
But I’m ashamed to drive her from the home                               430
against her wishes, to give an order
which forces her to leave. I hope the god
will never bring about an act like that.”

Once Telemachus had spoken, Pallas Athena
roused them all to laughter, with no sense of control.
She unhinged their minds, so the laughing from their mouths
came from an alien source, and the meat they ate
became blood-spattered.(5) Their eyes filled up with tears.
All their hearts were filled with thoughts of lamentation.
Then godlike Theoclymenus addressed them all:                              
 440    [350]

 “O you miserable men, what troubles
are you feeling now? Your heads, your faces,
your lower limbs are shrouded in the night.
You’re on fire with grief, faces wet with tears,
fine pedestals and walls have gobs of blood,
the porch is full of ghosts, so is the yard—
ghosts rushing in the dark to Erebus.
Up in the sky the sun has disappeared—
an evil mist is shrouding everything.”

 Theoclymenus said these words. But they all laughed,                      450
enjoying themselves at his expense. The first to speak
was Eurymachus, a son of Polybus:

                                                  “He’s mad,                                         [360]
this stranger who’s just recently arrived
from some far-off land. So come on, young men,
hurry and carry him outside the house,
so he can make his way to the assembly,
since he believes it’s like the night in here.”

Godlike Theoclymenus then said in reply:

“Eurymachus, I’m not requesting you
to furnish me with guides. I’ve got my eyes                                 460
and my two feet. And here inside my chest
I’ve got a mind that’s not made for a fool.
I’ll go outside with these, for I can see
you’re headed for disaster—no suitors
who, in the home of the great Odysseus,
mistreat others and plan their reckless schemes
will be able to avoid it or escape.”                                                      [370]

After he said this, he left the stately palace
and went to Peiraeus, who gladly welcomed him.
The suitors all looked around at one another                                       470
and tried to hurt Telemachus with mockery,
laughing at his guests. Some insolent young man
would make a comment using words like these:

no one is more unlucky with his guests
than you are. You have a man like this one,
a dirty tramp in need of food and wine,
with no work skills or strength, just a burden
on the land. Then some other man stood here                                 [380]
spouting prophecies. You’d be better off
to follow my advice. Let’s throw these guests                            480
onboard a well-decked ship and send them off
to Sicily. You’d get good prices there.”

That is what the suitors said. But Telemachus
paid no attention to their words. He kept quiet,
looking at his father, keeping his eyes on him,
ready for the moment his hands struck the suitors.

But wise Penelope, Icarius’s child,
was sitting in a lovely chair across from them
and heard what each man in the hall was saying.
While they kept on laughing, the men prepared the food,                 490
butchering many beasts to satisfy their hearts
with a fine feast. But there would never be a meal                                       [390]
more sorrowful than the one the mighty warrior
and the goddess would set before them very soon,
a feast the suitors earned for their disgraceful acts.



(1) This legend of the daughters of Pandareus is very different from the story of Pandareus’s daughter Aedon, told in Book 19, who killed her son Itylus by accident and was turned into a nightingale. The Furies are the goddess of blood revenge who live underground and are generally hated by the other gods. It’s not clear why the girls should be killed and given to them.[Back to Text]

(2) The mills are flat stones set on the ground and used to grind wheat and barley. The servant women kneel on the ground to use them. Here they are, it seems, in a building adjacent to the main house. [Back to Text]

(3) The word Cephallenian describes Odysseus’s subjects generally, but Cephallenia is the name of a large island immediately to the west of Ithaca. In the Iliad, Odysseus soldiers are called Cephallenians. [Back to Text]

(4) This reference to a feast in the grove of Apollo is rather abrupt and confusing, since up to this point the feast has been taking place inside Odysseus’s home and further details suggest the same location. [Back to Text]

(5) The Greek says (literally) “they laughed with the jaws of other men,” an expression which seems to mean they had no idea of why they were laughing. The blood on the meat is, one assumes, a hallucination, part of the madness Athena has forced upon them. [Back to Text]


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