HOMER

 

ODYSSEY ABRIDGED

 

(For a Rich Text Format (Word) version of this text, please use the following link: Odyssey Abridged [RTF])

 

This abridged version of Homer’s Odyssey has been prepared by Ian Johnston of Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada, from his translation of the complete poem (available here). This abridged translation is roughly one-third the length of the original poem. Each line is a direct translation from the Greek original (i.e., I have shortened the poem by removing large parts of it, not by rewriting different sections). In many places, I have included a very short prose summary of the missing material placed in square brackets and italics (e.g., [Summary sentences]). However, these short summaries do not include all details of the omitted text. And in many places no summary is provided for missing material.

In numbering the lines, the translator has normally included a short indented line with the shorter line immediately above it, so that the two partial lines count as a single line in the tally. Note that the numbering of the lines starts again in each book. The endnotes have been provided by the translator.

 

 

HOMER
ODYSSEY ABRIDGED

 

BOOK ONE

ATHENA VISITS ITHACA

 

Muse, speak to me now of that resourceful man
who wandered far and wide after ravaging
the sacred citadel of Troy. He came to see
many people’s cities, where he learned their customs,
while on the sea his spirit suffered many torments,
as he fought to save his life and lead his comrades home.
But though he wanted to, he could not rescue them—
they all died from their own stupidity, the fools.
They feasted on the cattle of Hyperion,
god of the sun—that’s why he snatched away their chance                      10
of getting home someday. So now, daughter of Zeus,
tell us his story, starting anywhere you wish.(1)
The other warriors, all those who had escaped
being utterly destroyed, were now back safely home,
facing no more dangers from battle or the sea.
But Odysseus, who longed to get back to his wife
and reach his home, was being held in a hollow cave
by that mighty nymph Calypso, noble goddess,
who wished to make Odysseus her husband.
But as the seasons came and went, the year arrived                                20
in which, according to what gods had once ordained,
he was to get back to Ithaca, his home—
not that he would be free from troubles even there,
among his family. The gods pitied Odysseus,
all except Poseidon, who kept up his anger
against godlike Odysseus and did not relent
until he reached his native land.

                               But at that moment,
Poseidon was among the Ethiopians,
a long way off. But other gods had gathered
in the great hall of Olympian Zeus. Among them all,                                30
the father of gods and men was first to speak.
In his heart he was remembering royal Aegisthus,
whom Orestes, Agamemnon’s famous son,
had killed. With him in mind, Zeus addressed the gods:

      “It’s disgraceful how these humans blame the gods.
      They say their tribulations come from us,
      when they themselves, through their own foolishness,
      bring hardships which are not decreed by fate.
      Now there’s Aegisthus, who took for himself
      the wife of Agamemnon, Atreus’ son,                                               40
      and then murdered him, once the man came home.
      None of that was set by Fate. Aegisthus knew
      his acts would bring about his total ruin.
      So he has paid for everything in full.”(2)

 

Athena, goddess with the gleaming eyes, answered Zeus:

      “Son of Cronos and father to us all,
      you who rule on high, yes indeed, Aegisthus  
       now lies dead, something he well deserved.
      May any other man who does what he did
      also be destroyed! But my heart is torn                                             50
      for skilful Odysseus, ill-fated man,
      who has had to suffer such misfortune
      for so many years, a long way from friends.
      He’s on an island, surrounded by the sea,
      the one that forms the ocean’s navel stone.
      In the forests of that island lives a goddess,
      who stops the sad, unlucky man from leaving.
      But Odysseus yearns to see even the smoke
      rising from his native land and longs for death. 
      And yet, Olympian Zeus, your heart                                                 60
      does not respond to him. Did not Odysseus
      offer you delightful sacrifices
      on Troy’s far-reaching plain beside the ships?
      Why then, Zeus, are you so angry with him?” 

Cloud-gatherer Zeus then answered her and said:

                                                        “My child,
      How could I forget godlike Odysseus,
      pre-eminent among all mortal men
      for his intelligence and offerings
      to the immortal gods, who hold wide heaven?
      But Earthshaker Poseidon is a stubborn god,                                    70
      constantly enraged about the Cyclops,      
      the one whose eye Odysseus destroyed,
      godlike Polyphemus, the mightiest 
      of all the Cyclopes. Thoosa bore him,
      the nymph, a daughter of that Phorcys
      who commands the restless seas. Poseidon,
      down in those hollow caves, had sex with her.
      That’s the reason Earthshaker Poseidon
      makes Odysseus wander from his country.
      Still, he has no plans to kill him. But come,                                        80
      let’s all of us consider his return,
      so he can journey back to Ithaca.
      Poseidon’s anger will relent. He can’t
      fight the immortal gods all by himself,
      not with all of us opposing him.”(3)
 
 Goddess Athena with the gleaming eyes replied to Zeus:

      “Son of Cronos and father to us all,                                               
      ruling high above, let’s send Hermes,          
      killer of Argus, as our messenger,              
      over to the island of Ogygia,                                                             90
      so he can quickly tell that fair-haired nymph  
      our firm decision—that brave Odysseus
      will now leave and complete his voyage home.(4)
      I’ll go to Ithaca and urge his son
      to be more active, put courage in his heart,
      so he will call those long-haired Achaeans
      to assembly, and there address the suitors,                                    
      who keep on slaughtering his flocks of sheep 
      and shambling bent-horned cattle.(5). I’ll send him
      on a trip to Sparta and sandy Pylos,                                                 100
      to learn about his father’s voyage home— 
      he may hear of it somewhere—and to gain
      a worthy reputation among men.”

Athena spoke. Then she tied those lovely sandals
on her feet, the immortal, golden sandals
which carry her as fast as stormy blasts of wind
across the ocean seas and endless tracts of land.                                 
She raced down from the peak of Mount Olympus,      
sped across to Ithaca, and then just stood there,
at Odysseus’ outer gate before the palace,                                             110
on the threshold, gripping the bronze spear in her fist.
She looked like Mentes, a foreigner, the chief
who ruled the Taphians. There she met the suitors,
those arrogant men, who were enjoying themselves
playing checkers right outside the door, sitting down
on hides of cattle.

                                          God-like Telemachus
observed Athena first, well before the others.                                     
He moved up near Athena, then spoke to her— 
his words had wings:

                      “Welcome to you stranger.
      You must enjoy our hospitality.                                                         120
      Then, after you have had some food to eat,
      you can tell us what you need.”

                                                       Saying this,
Telemachus led Pallas Athena into his home.
He brought Athena in and sat her in a chair,
a beautifully crafted work. Under it
he rolled out a linen mat and then arranged
a foot stool for her feet. Beside her he drew up                                   
a lovely decorated chair for him to sit in.                
A female servant carried in a fine gold jug
and poured water out into a silver basin,                                                 130
so they could wash their hands. Beside them she set down 
a polished table. Then the worthy housekeeper
brought in the bread and set it down before them.
Next, she laid out a wide variety of food,
drawing freely on supplies she had in store.
A carver sliced up many different cuts of meat
and served them. He set out goblets made of gold,           
as a herald went back and forth pouring their wine.

Then, one after another, the proud suitors came.
They sat down on reclining seats and high-backed chairs.                       140
Heralds poured water out for them to wash their hands,   
and women servants piled some baskets full of bread,
while young lads filled their bowls up to the brim with drink.
The suitors reached out with their hands to grab 
the tasty food prepared and placed in front of them.
When each and every man had satisfied his need
for food and drink, their hearts craved something more—                  
dancing and song—the finest joys of dinner feasts.
A herald gave a splendid lyre to Phemius,
so he was forced to sing in front of all the suitors.                                   150
On the strings he plucked the prelude to a lovely song.  
But then Telemachus, leaning his head over
close to Athena, so no one else could listen,
murmured to her:

                                               “Dear stranger, my guest,
      These men here, they spend all their time like this,
      with songs and music—it’s so easy for them,
      because they gorge themselves on what belongs                           
      to someone else, and with impunity,
      a man whose white bones now may well be lying
      on the mainland somewhere, rotting in the rain,                                 160
      or in the sea, being tossed around by waves. 
      If they saw him return to Ithaca,
      they’d all be praying they had swifter feet
      rather than more wealth in gold or clothes. 
      But by now some evil fate has killed him,
      and for us there is no consolation,
      not even if some earth-bound mortal man                                     
      should say that he will come. But tell me,
      and speak candidly—Who are your people?
      What city do you come from?”

                                                                  Then Athena,                       170
goddess with the gleaming eyes, answered Telemachus:

      “To you I will indeed speak openly.
      I can tell you that my name is Mentes,
      son of the wise Anchialus, and king
      of the oar-loving Taphians. My ship
      is berthed some distance from the city.
      But come, speak openly and tell me this—                                   
      What is this feast? Who are these crowds of men?
      Why do you need this? Is it a wedding?
       Or a drinking party? It seems clear enough                                      180
      this is no meal where each man brings his share.          
      It strikes me that these men are acting here           
      in an insulting, overbearing way,
      while dining in your home.”

                                                       Noble Telemachus 
then said to Athena in reply:

                                                               “Stranger,
      since you’ve questioned me about the matter,
      I’ll tell you. Our house was once well on its way                           
      to being rich and famous—at that time
      Odysseus was alive among his people.
      But now the gods with their malicious plans                                       190
      have changed all that completely. They make sure
      Odysseus stays where nobody can see him—
      they’ve not done this to anyone before.
      But it’s not him alone who makes me sad
      and cry out in distress. For now the gods
      have brought me other grievous troubles.
      All the best young men who rule the islands,                                
      Dulichium and wooded Zacynthus,
      and Same, as well as those who lord it here
      in rocky Ithaca—they are all now                                                     200
      wooing my mother and ravaging my house.
      She won’t turn down a marriage she detests
      but can’t bring herself to make the final choice.
      Meanwhile, these men are feasting on my home 
      and soon will be the death of me as well.”

This made Pallas Athena angry—she said to him:

      “It’s bad Odysseus has wandered off                                             
      when you need him here so much! He could lay
      his hands upon these shameless suitors.      
      Listen now to what I’m going to tell you.                                           210
      Tomorrow you must call Achaea’s warriors      
      to an assembly and address them all,
      appealing to the gods as witnesses.
      Tell the suitors to return to their own homes.
      As for your mother, if her heart is set        
      on getting married, then let her return
      to where her father lives, for he’s a man                                        
      of power with great capabilities.
      He’ll organize the marriage and arrange
      the wedding gifts, as many as befit                                                    220
      a well-loved daughter. Now, as for yourself, 
      if you’ll listen, I have some wise advice.
      Set off in search of news about your father,
      who’s been gone so long. Some living mortal
      may tell you something, or you may hear
      a voice from Zeus, which often brings men news.
      Sail first to Pylos—speak to noble Nestor.                                    
      After you’ve been there, proceed to Sparta
      and fair-haired Menelaus, the last one
      of all bronze-clad Achaeans to get home.                                          230
      You must not keep on acting like a child—     
      the time has come when you’re too old for that.”

Prudent Telemachus then answered her:

      “Stranger, you’ve been speaking as a friend,
      thinking as a father would for his own son—
      and what you’ve said I never will forget.
      But come now, though you’re eager to be off,                               
      stay here a while. Once you’ve had a bath
      and your fond heart is fully satisfied,
      then go back to your ship with your spirit                                          240
      full of joy, carrying a costly present,                               
      something really beautiful, which will be
      my gift to you, an heirloom of the sort
      dear guest-friends give to those who are their friends.”

Goddess Athena with the gleaming eyes then said to him:

      “Since I’m eager to depart, don’t keep me here
      a moment longer. And whatever gift                                             
      your heart suggests you give me as a friend,
      present it to me when I come back here,   
      and pick me something truly beautiful.                                               250
      It will earn you something worthy in return.”     

This said, Athena with the gleaming eyes departed,
flying off like some wild sea bird. In his heart she put
courage and strength. She made him recall his father, 
even more so than before. In his mind, Telemachus
pictured her, and his heart was full of wonder.
He thought she was a god. So he moved away.                                   
And then the noble youth rejoined the suitors.

Celebrated Phemius was performing for them,
as they sat in silence, listening. He was singing                                         260
of the return of the Achaeans, that bitter trip
Athena made them take when they sailed home from Troy.
In her upper room, the daughter of Icarius,
wise Penelope, heard the man’s inspired song.
She came down the towering staircase from her room,
but not alone—two female servants followed her.
Once beautiful Penelope reached the suitors,                                     
she stayed beside the door post in the well-built room,
with a small bright veil across her face. On either side
her two attendants stood. With tears streaming down,                             270
Penelope addressed the famous singer:

                                                          “Phemius,
      you know all sorts of other ways to charm
      an audience, actions of the gods and men
      which singers celebrate. As you sit here,
      sing one of those, while these men drink their wine
      in silence. Don’t keep up that painful song,
      which always breaks the heart here in my chest,                           
      for, more than anyone, I am weighed down
      with ceaseless grief which I cannot forget.
      I always remember with such yearning                                              280
      my husband’s face, a man whose fame has spread
      far and wide through Greece and central Argos.”

Sensible Telemachus answered her and said:

      “Mother, why begrudge the faithful singer
      delighting us in any way his mind 
      may prompts him to? One can’t blame the singers.
      It seems to me it’s Zeus’ fault. He hands out                                
      to toiling men, each and every one of them,
      whatever he desires. There’s nothing wrong
      with this man’s singing of the evil fate                                                290
      of the Danaans, for men praise the most
      the song which they have heard most recently.
      Your heart and spirit should endure his song.
      Go up to your rooms and keep busy there
      with your own work, the spindle and the loom. 
      Tell your servants to perform their duties.
      Talking is a man’s concern, every man’s,                                       
      but especially mine, since in this house
      I’m the one in charge.”

                               Astonished at his words,
Penelope went back to her own chambers,                                             300
setting in her heart the prudent words her son had said.
With her attendant women she climbed the stairs
up to her rooms and there wept for Odysseus,
her dear husband, until bright-eyed Athena
cast sweet sleep on her eyelids.

                                    In the shadowy halls
the suitors started to create an uproar,
each man shouting out his hope to lie beside her.                               
Then shrewd Telemachus began his speech to them:

      “You suitors of my mother, who all have
      such insolent arrogance, let us for now                                             310
      enjoy our banquet, but no more shouting,
      for it’s grand to listen to a singer
      as fine as this one—his voice is like a god’s.
      But in the morning let us all assemble,
      sit down for a meeting, so I can speak 
      and tell you firmly to depart my home.      
      Make yourself some different meals which eat up                         
      your own possessions, moving house to house.
      But if you think it’s preferable and better
      for one man’s livelihood to be consumed                                          320
      without paying anything, I’ll call upon
      the immortal gods to see if Zeus
      will bring about an act of retribution.
      And if you are destroyed inside my home,
      you will not be avenged.”

                                                       Telemachus finished.
They all bit their lips, astonished that he’d spoken out
so boldly. Then, Antinous, son of Eupeithes,                                      
declared:

                    “Telemachus, the gods themselves,
      it seems, are teaching you to be a braggart
      and give rash speeches. I do hope that Zeus,                                    330
      son of Cronos, does not make you king
      of this sea island Ithaca, even though
      it is your father’s legacy to you.”

                                       At that point, the suitors
switched to dancing and to singing lovely songs.
They amused themselves until dark evening came. 
Then each man went to his own house to sleep.

Telemachus moved up to where his room was built                            
high in the splendid courtyard, with a spacious view,
his mind much preoccupied on his way to bed.
Accompanying him, quick-minded Eurycleia                                           340
held two flaming torches. She was Ops’s daughter.
Of all the female household slaves she was the one
who loved him most, for she had nursed him as a child.
He opened the doors of the well-constructed room,
sat on the bed, and pulled off his soft tunic,  
handed it to the wise old woman, who smoothed it out,
and folded it, then hung the tunic on a peg                                         
beside the corded bedstead. Then she left the room,
pulling the door shut by its silver handle.
Telemachus lay there all night long, wrapped up                                       350
in sheep’s wool, his mind thinking of the journey
which Athena had earlier proposed to him. 

 



BOOK TWO
TELEMACHUS PREPARES FOR HIS VOYAGE

 

As soon as rose-fingered early Dawn appeared,
Odysseus’ dear son jumped up out of bed and dressed.
He slung a sharp sword from his shoulders, then laced
his lovely sandals over his shining feet.
At once he asked the loud-voiced heralds to summon
all the long-haired Achaean to assembly.
They issued the call, and the Achaeans came,
gathering quickly. When the assembly had convened,
Telemachus moved to the meeting. Among the men,
heroic Aegyptius was the first to speak,                                                  10
a man stooped with age.

                                   “Men of Ithaca,
      listen now to what I have to say.
      We have not held a general meeting
      or assembly since the day Odysseus
      sailed off in his hollow ships. What man
      has made us gather now? What’s his reason?
      Has he heard some news about the army
      and will tell us details of its journey home,
      or is it some other public business
      he will introduce and talk about?”                                                     20

Odysseus’ dear son Telemachus began to speak,
talking to Aegyptius first of all:

                                                                 “Old man,
      the one who called the people to this meeting
      is not far off, as you will quickly learn.
      I did. For I’m a man who suffers more
      than other men. But I have no reports
      of our returning army, no details
      I’ve just heard myself to pass along to you,
      nor is there other public business
      I’ll announce or talk about. The issue here                                        30          
      is my own need, for on my household
      troubles have fallen in a double sense.
      First, my noble father’s perished, the man
      who was once your king and my kind father.
      And then there’s an even greater problem,
      which will quickly and completely shatter
      this entire house, and my whole livelihood
      will be destroyed. These suitors, the dear sons
      of those men here with most nobility,
      are pestering my mother against her will.                                           40
      They’re don’t want to journey to her father,
      Icarius, in his home, where he himself
      could set a bride price for his daughter
      and give her to the man he feels he likes,
      the one who pleases him the most. Instead,
      they hang around our house, day after day,
      slaughtering oxen, fat goats, and sheep.
      They keep on feasting, drinking sparkling wine
      without restraint, and they consume so much.
      My home is being demolished in a way                                             50
      that is not right. You men should be ashamed.”

Telemachus spoke, then threw the sceptre on the ground
and burst out crying. Everyone there pitied him,
so all the others men kept silent, unwilling
to give an angry answer to Telemachus.
Antinous was the only one to speak. He said:

      “Telemachus you boaster, your spirit
      is too unrestrained. How you carry on,
      trying to shame us, since you so desire
      the blame should rest on us. But in your case,                                   60
      Achaean suitors aren’t the guilty ones.
      Your own dear mother is, who understands
      how to use deceit. It’s been three years now—
      and soon it will be four—since she began
      to frustrate hearts in our Achaean chests.
      She gives hope to each of us, makes promises       
      to everyone, and sends out messages.
      But her intent is different. In her mind
      she has thought up another stratagem:
      in her room she had a large loom set up,                                           70
      and started weaving something very big,
      with thread that was quite thin. She said to us:

            ‘Young men, those of you who are my suitors,
            since lord Odysseus is dead, you must wait,
            although you’re keen for me to marry,
            till I complete this cloak—otherwise
            my weaving would be wasted and in vain.
            It is a shroud for warrior Laertes,
            for the day a lethal Fate will strike him dead.
            Then none of the Achaean women here                                      80
            will be annoyed with me because a man
            who acquired so many rich possessions
            should lie without a shroud.’

                                                 “That’s what she said.
      And our proud hearts agreed. And so each day
      she wove at her great loom, but every night
      she set up torches and pulled the work apart.
      Three years she fooled Achaeans with this trick.
      They trusted her. But as the seasons passed,
      the fourth year came. Then one of her women
      who knew all the details spoke about them,                                      90
      and we caught her undoing her lovely work.
      Thus, we forced her to complete the cloak
      against her will. The suitors now say this,
      so you, deep in your heart, will understand
      and all Achaeans know—send your mother back.
      Tell her she must marry whichever man
      her father tells her and who pleases her.
      But we are not going back to our own lands,
      or some place else, not until she marries
      an Achaean man of her own choosing.”                                            100

Prudent Telemachus then said in reply:

      “Antinous, there’s no way I will dismiss
      out of this house against her will the one
      who bore and nursed me. As for my father,
      he’s in a distant land, alive or dead.
      It would be hard for me to compensate
      Icarius with a suitable amount,
      as I would have to do, if I sent her back.
      If I didn’t do that, then her father
      would treat me badly, and some deity                                               110
      would send other troubles, since my mother,
      as she left this house, would call upon
      the dreaded Furies. Men would blame me, too.
      That’s why I’ll never issue such an order.
      Just give me a swift ship and twenty rowers—
      so I can make a journey and return
      to various places, to sandy Pylos
      and then to Sparta, to see if I can find
      some news about my father’s voyage home.
      If I hear my father is still living                                                           120
      and returning home, I could hold out here
      for one more year, although it’s hard for me.
      If I learn he’s dead and gone, I’ll come back
      to my dear native land, build him a tomb,
      and there perform as many funeral rites
      as are appropriate. And after that,
      I’ll give my mother to a husband.”

Telemachus said this and soon dissolved the meeting.
The men dispersed, each man to his own house.
Telemachus walked away to the ocean shore.                                         130
There, once he’d washed his hands in gray salt water,
to Athena he made this prayer:

                                                   “O hear me,
      you who yesterday came to my home
      as a god and ordered me to set out   
      in a ship across the murky seas,
      to learn about my father’s voyage back
      after being away so long. All this
      Achaeans are preventing, most of all,
      the suitors with their wicked arrogance.”

As he said this prayer, Athena came up close to him,                              140
looking and sounding just like Mentor. She spoke—
her words had wings:

                                       “You must not delay
      that trip you wish to make. I am a friend
      of your ancestral home, so much so that I
      will furnish a fast ship for you and come
      in person with you. But now you must go home.
      Mingle with the suitors. I’ll go through the town
      and quickly round up a group of comrades,
      all volunteers. In sea-girt Ithaca,
      I’ll choose from the many ships, new and old,                                   150
      the best one for you, and then, when that ship
      has been made ready and is fit to sail,
      we’ll launch it out into the wine-dark sea.”

[Telemachus goes down into the storage rooms of the palace and instructs Eurycleia to get some supplies ready for his voyage. He swears her to secrecy.]

Telemachus went up into the dining hall
and there rejoined the company of suitors.
Then goddess Athena with the gleaming eyes
thought of something else. Looking like Telemachus,
she went all through the city. To every man
she came up to she gave the same instructions,
telling them to meet by the fast ship that evening.                                     160
Next, she asked Noemon, fine son of Phronius,
for a swift ship, and he was happy to oblige.
Then the sun went down, and all the roads grew dark.
Athena dragged the fast ship down into the sea
and stocked it with supplies, all the materials
well-decked boats have stowed on board, then moved the ship
to the harbour’s outer edge. There they assembled,
that group of brave companions, and the goddess
instilled fresh heart in every one of them.
Then bright-eyed Athena told Telemachus                                               170
to come outside, by the entrance to the spacious hall.

      “Telemachus, your well-armed companions
      are already sitting beside their oars,
      waiting for you to launch the expedition.
      Let’s be off, so we don’t delay the trip
      a moment longer.”

                               With these words, Pallas Athena
quickly led the way, and Telemachus followed.
Then, with Athena going on board ahead of him,
Telemachus embarked. She sat in the stern.
Telemachus sat right beside her, as the men                                             180
untied the stern ropes, then climbed aboard the ship
and went to seat themselves beside their oarlocks.
Bright-eyed Athena arranged a fair breeze for them,
a strong West Wind blowing across the wine-dark sea.
As the ship sliced straight through the swell on its way forward,
around the bow began the great song of the waves.
Then all night long and well beyond the sunrise,
their ship continued sailing on its journey.

 

 

BOOK THREE 
TELEMACHUS VISITS NESTOR IN PYLOS


[Telemachus and his crew reach Pylos and are welcomed and entertained by Nestor, king of Pylos; Nestor provides a chariot for Telemachus to journey to Sparta and sends his son with him on the trip.]

 

 

BOOK FOUR 
THE SUITORS PLAN TO KILL TELEMACHUS

 

[Telemachus and Peisistratus arrive at Menelaus’ home in Sparta; Menelaus gives a long account of his travels in Egypt, especially his adventures with the Old Man of the Sea, the death of the lesser Ajax, and the death of Agamemnon; Menelaus invites Telemachus to stay, but Telemachus declines.]

 

Meanwhile, back in Telemachus’ Ithaca,
the suitors were outside Odysseus’ palace,
enjoying themselves by throwing spears and discus
on level ground in front—with all the arrogance
they usually displayed. Their two leaders,
Antinous and handsome Eurymachus,
were sitting there—by far the best of all the suitors.
Then Noemon, Phronius’ son, came up
to question Antinous. He said:

                                               “Antinous,
      in our hearts do we truly know or not                                                10
      when Telemachus will journey back
      from sandy Pylos? He went away
      taking a ship of mine which I now need
        to make the trip across to spacious Elis.”

He finished. In their hearts the suitors were amazed.
They had no idea Telemachus had gone
to Pylos, land of Neleus, and still believed
he was somewhere with the flocks on his estates.
Antinous, Eupeithes’ son, then spoke to them.
He was annoyed, his black heart filled with rage,                                     20
his flashing eyes a fiery blaze:

                                          “Here’s trouble.
      In his overbearing way Telemachus,
      with this voyage of his, has now achieved
      significant success. And we believed
      he’d never see it through. Come now,
      give me a swift ship and twenty comrades,
      so I can watch for him and set an ambush,
      as he navigates his passage through the strait
      dividing Ithaca from rugged Samos,
      and bring this trip searching for his father                                           30
      to a dismal end.”

                                       Antinous picked out his men,
twenty of the best. They went down to the shore
and dragged a swift black ship into deep water.
The suitors then embarked and sailed away
on their trip across the water, minds fully bent
on slaughtering Telemachus. Out at sea,
half way between Ithaca and rugged Samos,
there’s the rocky island Asteris. It’s small,
but ships can moor there in a place with openings
in both directions. The Achaeans waited there                                         40
and set up their ambush for Telemachus.

 

 

BOOK FIVE 
ODYSSEUS LEAVES CALYPSO’S ISLAND

 

As Dawn stirred from her bed beside lord Tithonus,
bringing light to eternal gods and mortal men,
the gods were sitting in assembly, among them
high-thundering Zeus, whose power is supreme.
Athena was reminding them of all the stories
of Odysseus’s troubles—she was concerned for him
as he passed his days in nymph Calypso’s home.

      “Father Zeus and you other blessed gods
      who live forever, let no sceptred king
      be prudent, kind, or gentle from now on,                                          10
      or think about his fate. Let him instead
      always be cruel and treat men viciously,
      since no one now has any memory
      of lord Odysseus, who ruled his people
      and was a gentle father. Now he lies
      suffering extreme distress on that island
      where nymph Calypso lives. She keeps him there
      by force, and he’s unable to sail off.
      And now some men are setting out to kill
      the son he loves, as he sails home. The boy                                      20
      has gone to gather news about his father,
      off to sacred Pylos and holy Sparta.”

Cloud-gatherer Zeus then answered her and said:

                                                     “My child,
      did you not organize this plan yourself,
      so that Odysseus, once he made it home,
      could take out his revenge against those men?
      As for Telemachus, you should use your skill
      to get him to his native land unharmed—
      that’s well within your power. The suitors
      will sail back in their ship without success.”                                       30

Zeus spoke and then instructed Hermes, his dear son:

      “Hermes, tell the fair-haired nymph
      my firm decision—the brave Odysseus
      is to get back home. He’ll get no guidance
      from the gods or mortal men, but sail off
      on a raft of wood well lashed together.”

Zeus finished speaking. The killer of Argus,
his messenger, obeyed. At once he laced up
on his feet those lovely golden ageless sandals
which carry him as fast as stormy blasts of wind.                                     40
When he reached the distant island, he rose up,
out of the violet sea, and moved on shore,
until he reached the massive cave, where Calypso,
the fair-haired nymph, had her home. He found her there,
a huge fire blazing in her hearth—from far away
the smell of split cedar and burning sandal wood
spread across the island. With her lovely voice
Calypso sang inside the cave, as she moved
back and forth before her loom—she was weaving
with a golden shuttle. All around her cave                                               50
trees were in bloom, alder and sweet-smelling cypress,
and poplar, too, with long-winged birds nesting there—
owls, hawks, and chattering sea crows, who spend their time
out on the water. A garden vine, fully ripe
and rich with grapes, trailed through the hollow cave.
From four fountains, close to each other in a row,
clear water flowed in various directions,
and all around soft meadows spread out in full bloom
with violets and parsley. Even a god,
who lives forever, coming there, would be amazed                                  60
to see it, and his heart would fill with pleasure.
The killer of Argus, god’s messenger, stood there,
marvelling at the sight. But once his spirit
had contemplated all these things with wonder,
he went inside the spacious cave. And Calypso,
that lovely goddess, when she saw him face to face,
was not ignorant of who he was, for the gods
are not unknown to one another, even though
the home of some immortal might be far away.
But Hermes did not find Odysseus in the cave—                                     70
that great-hearted man sat crying on the shore,
just as before, breaking his heart with tears and groans,
full of sorrow, as he looked out on the restless sea
and wept. Calypso invited Hermes to sit down
on a bright shining chair. Then the lovely goddess
questioned him:

                                       “Hermes, my honoured guest,
      why have you come here with your golden wand?
      You haven’t been a visitor before.
      Tell me what’s on your mind. My heart desires
      to carry out what you request, if I can,                                              80
      and if it’s something fated to be done.”

After this speech, Calypso set out a table
laden with ambrosia, then mixed red nectar.
And so the messenger god, killer of Argus,
ate and drank.(6) When his meal was over and the food
had comforted his heart, Hermes gave his answer,
speaking to Calypso with these words:

                                                          “You’re a goddess.
      Since you’ve questioned me, I’ll tell you the truth.
      Zeus told me to come here against my will.
      He says that you have here with you a man                                       90
      more unfortunate than all the other ones
      who fought nine years round Priam’s city,
      which in the tenth year they destroyed and left
      to get back home. Now Zeus is ordering you
      to send him off as soon as possible.”

The killer of Argus, the gods’ great messenger,
said these words and left. The regal nymph Calypso,
once she’d heard Zeus’s message, went off to find
great-hearted Odysseus. She found him by the shore,
sitting down, with his eyes always full of tears,                                        100
because his sweet life was passing while he mourned
for his return. The nymph no longer gave him joy.
At night he slept beside her in the hollow cave,
as he was forced to do—not of his own free will,
though she was keen enough. Moving up,
close to him, the lovely goddess spoke:

                                                             “Poor man,
      spend no more time in sorrow on this island      
      or waste your life away. My heart agrees—
      the time has come for me to send you off.
      So come now, cut long timbers with an axe,                                      110
      and make a raft, a large one. Build a deck
      high up on it, so it can carry you
      across the misty sea. I’ll provision it
      with as much food and water and red wine
      as you will need to satisfy your wants.”

As soon as rose-fingered early Dawn appeared,
Odysseus quickly put on a cloak and tunic,
and the nymph dressed in a long white shining robe,
a lovely lightly woven dress. Then she organized her plans
so brave Odysseus could leave. She handed him                                    120
a massive axe, well suited to his grip, and made
of two-edged bronze. It had a finely crafted shaft
of handsome olive wood. Next she provided him
a polished adze. Then she led him on a path
down to the edges of the island, where tall trees grew,
alder, poplar, and pine that reached the upper sky,
well-seasoned, dried-out wood, which could keep him afloat.
Once she’d pointed out to him where the large trees grew,
Calypso, the lovely goddess, went back home.
Odysseus then began to cut the timber. His work                                    130
proceeded quickly. He cut down twenty trees,
used his bronze axe to trim and deftly smooth them,
then lined them up. The fair goddess Calypso
then brought him augers, so he bored each timber,
fastened them to one another, and tightened them
with pins and binding. Next he set up a mast
with a yard arm fastened to it and then made
a steering oar to guide the raft. Calypso,
the beautiful goddess, brought him woven cloth
to make a sail—which he did very skillfully.                                            140
On it he tied bracing ropes, sheets, and halyards.
Then he levered the raft down to the shining sea.
By the fourth day he had completed all this work.
So on the fifth beautiful Calypso bathed him,
dressed him in sweet-smelling clothes, and sent him
from the island. The goddess stowed on board the raft
a sack full of dark wine and another large one,
full of water, and a bag of food, in which she put
many tasty things for him to eat. She sent him
a warm and gentle wind, and lord Odysseus sailed                                  150
for ten days on the water, then for seven more,
and on the eighteenth day some shadowy hills appeared,
where the land of the Phaeacians, like a shield
riding on the misty sea, lay very close to him.

Poseidon watched Odysseus sailing on the sea,
and his spirit grew enraged. He shook his head
and spoke to his own heart:

                                                              “Something’s wrong!
      The gods must have changed what they were planning
      for Odysseus, while I’ve been far away
      among the Ethiopians. For now,                                                        160
      he’s hard by the land of the Phaeacians,
      where he’ll escape the great extremes of sorrow
      which have come over him—so Fate ordains.       
      But still, even now I think I’ll push him
      so he gets his fill of troubles.”

                                                              Poseidon spoke.
Then he drove the clouds together, seized his trident,
and shook up the sea. He brought on stormy blasts
from every kind of wind, concealing land and sea
with clouds, so darkness fell from heaven. East Wind
clashed with South Wind, while West Wind, raging in a storm,                 170
smashed into North Wind, born in the upper sky,
as it pushed a massive wave. Odysseus’s knees gave way,
his spirit fell, and in great distress he spoke aloud,
addressing his great heart:

                       “I’ve got such a wretched fate!
      How is all this going to end up for me?
      I’m afraid everything the goddess said
      was true, when she claimed that out at sea,
      before I got back to my native land,
      I’d have my fill of troubles.”

                                                               As he said this,
a massive wave charged at him with tremendous force,                            180
swirled round the raft, then from high above crashed down.
Odysseus let go his grip on the steering oar
and fell out, a long way from the raft. The fierce gusts
of howling winds snapped the mast off in the middle.
Then Athena, Zeus’s daughter, thought up something new.
She blocked the paths of every wind but one
and ordered all of them to stop and check their force,
then roused the swift North Wind and broke the waves in front,
so divinely born Odysseus might yet meet
the people of Phaeacia, who love the oar,                                               190
avoiding death and Fates.

                                 So for two days and nights
he floated on the ocean waves, his heart filled
with many thoughts of death. But when fair-haired Dawn
gave rise at last to the third day, the wind died down,
the sea grew calm and still. He was lifted up
by a large swell, and as he quickly looked ahead,
Odysseus saw the land close by. He kept swimming on
and reached the mouth of a fair-flowing river,
which seemed to him the finest place to go onshore.
There were no rocks, and it was sheltered from the wind.                        200
Odysseus recognized the river as it flowed
and prayed to him deep in his heart. Both knees bent,
he let his strong hands fall—the sea had crushed his spirit.
All his skin was swollen, and sea water flowed in streams
up in his mouth and nose. He lay there breathless,
without a word, hardly moving. Close by the water
he found a place with a wide view. So he crept
underneath two bushes growing from one stem—
one was an olive tree, the other a wild thorn.
Athena then poured sleep onto his eyes,                                                  210
covering his eyelids, so he could find relief,
a quick respite from his exhausting troubles.

 

 

BOOK SIX 
ODYSSEUS AND NAUSICAA

 

While much-enduring lord Odysseus slept there,
overcome with weariness and sleep, Athena
went to the land of the Phaeacians, to their city,
into the palace of the king, lord Alcinous,
to arrange a journey home for brave Odysseus.
She moved into a wonderfully furnished room
where a young girl slept, one like immortal goddesses
in form and loveliness. She was Nausicaa,
daughter of great-hearted Alcinous. Like a gust of wind,
Athena slipped over to the young girl’s bed,                                           10
stood by her head, then spoke to her.
Her appearance changed to look like Dymas’ daughter—
a young girl the same age as Nausicaa,
whose heart was well disposed to her. In that form,
bright-eyed Athena spoke out and said:

                                                             “Nausicaa,
      how did your mother bear a girl so careless?
      Your splendid clothes are lying here uncared for.
      And your wedding day is not so far away,
      when you must dress up in expensive robes
      and give them to your wedding escort, too.                                       20
      You know it’s things like these that help to make
      a noble reputation among men
      and please your honoured mother and father.
      Come, at day break let’s wash out the clothing.
      Ask your noble father to provide you,
      this morning early, a wagon and some mules,
      so you can carry the bright coverlets,
      the robes and sashes. That would be better
      than going on foot, because the washing tubs
      stand some distance from the town.”                                                 30

As soon as Dawn on her splendid throne arrived
and woke fair-robed Nausicaa, she was curious
about her dream. So she went through the house.
Nausicaa went to stand close by her father 
and then spoke to him:

                         “Dear father, can you prepare
      a high wagon with sturdy wheels for me,
      so I can carry my fine clothing out
      and wash it in the river? It’s lying here
      all dirty. And it’s appropriate for you
      to wear fresh garments on your person                                             40
      when you’re with our leading men in council.
      You have five dear sons living in your home—
      two are married, but three are now young men
      still unattached, and they always require
      fresh-washed clothing when they go out dancing.
      All these things I have to think about.”

Nausicaa said these words because she felt ashamed
to remind her father of her own happy thoughts
of getting married. But he understood all that
and answered, saying:

                                  “I have no objection,                                            50
      my child, to providing mules for you,
      or any other things. Go on your way.
      Slaves will get a four-wheeled wagon ready
      with a high box framed on top.”

                                                               Once he’d said this,
he called out to his slaves, and they did what he ordered.
They prepared a smooth-running wagon made for mules,
led up the animals, and then yoked them to it.
Nausicaa brought her fine clothing from her room.
She placed it in the polished wagon bed. Her mother
loaded on a box full of all sorts of tasty food.                                          60
She put in delicacies, as well, and poured some wine
into a goat skin. The girl climbed on the wagon.
With a clatter of hooves, the mules moved quickly off,
carrying the clothing and the girl, not by herself,
for her attendants went with her as well.
When they reached the stream of the fair-flowing river,
the girls picked up the clothing from the wagon,
carried it in their arms down to the murky water,
and trampled it inside the washing trenches,
each one trying to work more quickly than the others.                             70
Once they’d washed the clothes and cleaned off all the stains,
they laid the items out in rows along the sea shore,
right where the waves which beat upon the coast
had washed the pebbles clean. Once they had bathed themselves
and rubbed their bodies well with oil, they ate a meal
beside the river mouth, waiting for the clothes to dry
in the sun’s warm rays. When they’d enjoyed their food,
the girl and her attendants threw their head scarves off
to play catch with a ball, and white-armed Nausicaa
led them in song. But when the princess threw the ball                             80
at one of those attendants with her, she missed the girl
and tossed it in the deep and swirling river.
They gave a piercing cry which woke up lord Odysseus.
So he sat up, thinking in his heart and mind:

      “Here’s trouble! In this country I have reached,
      what are the people like? Are they violent
      and wild, without a sense of justice?
      Or are they kind to strangers? In their minds
      do they fear the gods? A young woman’s shout
      rang out around me—nymphs who live along                                    90
      steep mountain peaks and by the river springs
      and grassy meadows. Could I somehow be
      near men with human speech? Come on then,
      I’m going to try to find out for myself.”

With these words, lord Odysseus crept out of the thicket.
With his strong hands, he broke off from thick bushes
a leafy branch to hold across his body and conceal
his sexual organs. He emerged, moving just like
a mountain lion which relies on its own strength—
though hammered by the rain and wind, it creeps ahead,                         100
its two eyes burning, coming in among the herd
of sheep or cattle, or stalking a wild deer—
his belly tells him to move in against the flocks,
even within a well-built farm. That how Odysseus
was coming out to meet those fair-haired girls,
although he was stark naked. He was in great distress,
but, caked with brine, he was a fearful sight to them,
and they ran off in fear and crouched down here and there
among the jutting dunes of sand. The only one
to stand her ground was Alcinous’ daughter.                                           110
So he quickly used his cunning and spoke to her
with soothing language:

                                   “O divine queen,
      I come here as a suppliant to you.
      Are you a goddess or a mortal being?
      If you’re one of the gods who hold wide heaven,
      then I think you most resemble Artemis,
      daughter of great Zeus, in your loveliness,
      your stature, and your shape. If you’re human,
      one of those mortals living on the earth,
      your father and noble mother are thrice-blest,                                   120
      and thrice-blest your brothers, too. In their hearts
      they must glow with pleasure for you always,
      when they see a child like you moving up
      into the dance. But the happiest heart,
      more so than all the rest, belongs to him
      who with his wedding gifts will lead you home.
      But great distress has overtaken me.
      Yesterday, my twentieth day afloat,
      I escaped the wine-dark sea. Before that,
      waves and swift-driving storm winds carried me                                130
      from Ogygia island. But, divine queen,
      have pity. You’re the first one I’ve approached,
      after going through so much grief. I don’t know    
      any other people, none of those who hold
      the city and its land. Show me the town.
      Give me some rag to throw around myself,
      perhaps some wrapping you had for the clothes.”

White-armed Nausicaa then answered him and said:

      “Stranger, you don’t seem to be a wicked man,
      or foolish. Olympian Zeus himself                                                     140
      gives happiness to bad and worthy men,      
      each one receiving just what Zeus desires.
      But now you’ve reached our land and city,
      you’ll not lack clothes or any other thing
      we owe a hard-pressed suppliant we meet.
      I’ll show the town to you, and I’ll tell you
       what our country’s called—the Phaeacians
      own this city and this land. As for me,
      I am the daughter of brave Alcinous—
      Phaeacian power and strength depend on him.”                                150

Nausicaa finished speaking. Then she called out
to her fair-haired attendants:

                                               “Stand up, you girls,
      Have you run off because you’ve seen a man?
      Surely you don’t think he is an enemy?
      So, my girls, give this stranger food and drink.
      Then bathe him in the river, in a place
      where there’s some shelter from the wind.”

Nausicaa finished. They stood up and called out
to one another. Then they took Odysseus aside,
to a sheltered spot, following what Nausicaa,                                          160
daughter of great-hearted Alcinous, had ordered.
They set out clothing for him, a cloak and tunic,
and gave him the gold flask full of smooth olive oil.
They told him to bathe there in the flowing river.
When he’d washed himself all over and rubbed on oil,
he put on clothes the unmarried girl had given him.
Then Odysseus went to sit some distance off,
beside the shore, glowing with charm and beauty.
Nausicaa gazed at him in admiration. They set out
food and drink before resourceful lord Odysseus.                                   170
He ate and drank voraciously—many days had passed
since he’d last tasted food. Then white-armed Nausicaa
thought of something else. She folded up the clothes,
put them in the handsome wagon, harnessed up
the strong-hooved mules, and climbed up by herself.
She called out to Odysseus, then spoke to him:

      “Get up now, stranger, and go to the city.
      I’ll take you to my wise father’s house,
      where, I tell you, you will get to meet
      all the finest of Phaeacians. You seem                                               180
       to me to have good sense, so act as follows—
      while we are moving through the countryside
      past men’s farms, walk fast with my attendants
      behind the mules and wagon. I’ll lead the way.
      You’ll come across a fine grove to Athena—
      it’s near the road, a clump of poplar trees.
      There’s a fountain, with meadows all around.
      My father has a fertile vineyard there
      and some land, too, within shouting distance
      of the town. Sit down there, and wait a while,                                   190
      until we move into the city and reach
      my father’s house. When you think we’ve had time
      to reach my home, then go in the city
      of the Phaeacians and inquire about
      my father’s house, great-hearted Alcinous.
      Once inside the house and in the courtyard,
      move through the great hall quickly till you reach
      my mother Arete seated by the fire,
      against a pillar, spinning purple yarn—
      a marvelous sight. Servants sit behind her.                                         200
      If her heart and mind are well-disposed to you,     
      then there’s hope you’ll see your friends and reach
      your well-built house and your own native land.”

Saying this, Nausicaa cracked the shining whip
and struck the mules. They quickly left the flowing river,
moving briskly forward at a rapid pace.
Using her judgment with the whip, she drove on
so Odysseus and her servants could keep up on foot.
Just at sunset, they reached the celebrated grove,
sacred to Athena. Lord Odysseus sat down there                                    210
and made a quick prayer to great Zeus’ daughter.

 

 

BOOK SEVEN 
ODYSSEUS AT THE COURT OF ALCINOUS IN PHAEACIA

 

So lord Odysseus, who had endured so much, prayed there,
while two strong mules took the girl into the city.
Then Odysseus got up and set off for the city.
Odysseus moved towards Alcinous’s splendid home.
The Phaeacians, so celebrated for their ships,
did not see him as he moved across the city
in their midst. Athena, fair-haired fearful goddess,
would not permit that. Her heart cared about him,
so she cast around him an amazing mist.
Odysseus moved towards Alcinous’ splendid house.                              10
Above the high-vaulted home of brave Alcinous
there was a radiance, as if from sun or moon.
Bronze walls extended out beyond the threshold
in various directions to the inner rooms.
They had a blue enamel cornice. Golden doors
blocked the way into the well-constructed palace.
The bronze threshold had silver doorposts set inside
and a silver lintel. The handles were of gold.
On both sides of the door stood gold and silver dogs,
immortal creatures who would never age,                                               20
created by Hephaestus’ matchless artistry,
to guard the palace of great-hearted Alcinous.
Lord Odysseus, who had endured so much, stood there
and gazed around. When his heart had marvelled at it all,
he moved fast across the threshold into the house.
Long-suffering lord Odysseus, still enclosed in mist,
the thick covering poured around him by Athena,
went through the hall until he came to Arete
and Alcinous, the king. With his arms Odysseus
embraced the knees of Arete, and at that moment                                   30
the miraculous mist dissolved away from him.
The people in the palace were all silent,
as they gazed upon the man, struck with wonder
at the sight. Odysseus then made this entreaty:

      “Arete, daughter of godlike Rhexenor,
      I’ve come to you and to your husband here,
      to your knees, in supplication to you—
      a man who’s experienced so much distress—
      and to those feasting here. May gods grant them
      happiness in life, and may they each pass on                                     40
      riches in their homes to all their children,
      and noble honours given by the people.
      Please rouse yourself to help me return home,
      to get back quickly to my native land.
      I’ve been suffering trouble for a long time
      so far away from friends.”

                                       When he heard these words,
brave and kingly Alcinous stretched out his hand,
reached for Odysseus, that wise and crafty man,
raised him from the hearth, and invited him to sit.
Then noble Alcinous spoke to his herald:                                                50

      “Pontonous, prepare wine in the mixing bowl,
      then serve it to all people in the hall,
      so we may pour libations out to Zeus,
      who loves lightning, for he accompanies
      all pious suppliants.”

                                                       Once Alcinous said this,
Pontonous prepared the honeyed wine, and then poured
the first drops for libation into every cup.
When they’d made their offering and drunk their fill of wine,
Alcinous then addressed the gathering and said:

      “You Phaeacians counselors and leaders,                                         60
      pay attention to me so I can say
      what the heart here in my chest commands.
      Now that you have all finished eating,
      return back to your homes and get some rest.       
      In the morning we’ll summon an assembly
      with more elders, entertain this stranger
      here in our home, and also sacrifice
      choice offerings to the gods. Then after that,
      we’ll think about how we can send him off,
      so that this stranger, with us escorting him                                         70
      and without further pain or effort, may reach 
      his native land, no matter how far distant.
      Meanwhile he’ll not suffer harm or trouble,
      not before he sets foot on his own land.
      After that he’ll undergo all those things
      Destiny and the dreaded spinning Fates
      spun in the thread for him when he was born,
      when his mother gave him birth. However,
      if he’s a deathless one come down from heaven,
      then gods are planning something different.”                                      80

Resourceful Odysseus then answered Alcinous:

      “Alcinous, you should not concern yourself
      about what you’ve just said—for I’m not like
      the immortal gods who hold wide heaven,
      not in my form or shape. I’m like mortal men.
      Indeed, I could recount a longer story—
      all those hardships I have had to suffer
      from the gods. But let me eat my dinner,
      though I’m in great distress. For there’s nothing
      more shameless than a wretched stomach,                                        90
      which commands a man to think about its needs,
      even if he’s really sad or troubles
      weigh down his heart, just the way my spirit
      is now full of sorrow, yet my belly
      is always telling me to eat and drink,
      forgetting everything I’ve had to bear,
      and ordering me to stuff myself with food.
      But when dawn appears, you should stir yourselves          
      so you can set me in my misery
      back on my native soil, for all I’ve suffered.                                        100        
      If I can see my goods again, my slaves,
      my large and high-roofed home, then let life end.”

Once Odysseus finished, they all approved his words,
and, because he’d spoken well and to the point,
they ordered that their guest should be sent on his way.

[Odysseus tells Alcinous and Arete the story of his voyage from Calypso’s island to Phaeacia and of his treatment by Nausicaa] 

 

 

BOOK EIGHT 
ODYSSEUS IS ENTERTAINED IN PHAEACIA

 

The next day king Alcinous addressed them all
and said to the Phaeacians:

                                               “Listen to me,
      you Phaeacian counsellors and leaders.
      I’ll tell you what the heart in my chest says.
      This stranger here, a man I do not know,
      a wanderer, has travelled to my house.
      He’s asking to be sent away back home
      and has requested confirmation from us.
      So let us act as we have done before
      and assist him with his journey. No man                                            10
      arriving at my palace stays there long
      grieving because he can’t return back home.”

Alcinous spoke and led them off. The sceptred kings
came after him, while a herald went to find
the godlike singer. Fifty-two hand-picked young men
went off, as Alcinous had ordered, to the shore
beside the restless sea. Once they’d reached the boat,
they dragged the black ship into deeper water,
set the mast and sails in place inside the vessel,
lashed the rowing oars onto their leather pivots,                                       20
then hoisted the white sail. Next, they moored the ship
well out to sea and then returned to the great home
of their wise king. Halls, corridors, and courtyards
were full of people gathering—a massive crowd,
young and old. On their behalf Alcinous slaughtered
eight white-tusked boars, two shambling oxen, and twelve sheep.
These carcasses they skinned and dressed and then prepared
a splendid banquet. Meanwhile the herald was returning
with the loyal singer, a man the Muse so loved
above all others. She’d given him both bad and good,                             30
for she’d destroyed his eyes, but had bestowed on him
the gift of pleasing song. The herald, Pontonous,
then brought up a silver-studded chair for him.
Once they’d enjoyed their heart’s fill of food and drink,
the minstrel Demodocus, inspired by the Muse,
sang about the glorious deeds of warriors,
that tale, whose fame had climbed to spacious heaven,
about Odysseus and Achilles, son of Peleus,
when, at a lavish feast in honour of the gods,
they’d fought each other in ferocious argument.                                       40
This was the song the celebrated minstrel sang.(7)

Alcinous then asked Laodamas and Halius
to dance alone. No man could match their dancing skill.
The two men picked up a lovely purple ball.
Then, leaning back, one of them would throw it high,
towards the shadowy clouds, and then the other,
before his feet touched ground, would catch it easily.
Once they’d shown their skill in tossing it straight up,
they threw it back and forth, as they kept dancing
on the life-sustaining earth, while more young men                                   50
stood at the edge of the arena, beating time.
The dancing rhythms made a powerful sound.
Then lord Odysseus spoke:

                                                    “Mighty Alcinous,
      most renowned among all men, you claimed
      your dancers were the best, and now, indeed,
      what you said is true. When I gaze at them,
      I’m lost in wonder.”

                                       At Odysseus’ words,
powerful king Alcinous felt a great delight,
and spoke at once to his Phaeacians, master sailors.

      “Leaders and counselors of the Phaeacians,                                      60
      listen—this stranger seems to me a man
      with an uncommon wisdom. So come now,
      let’s give him gifts of friendship, as is right.
      Twelve distinguished kings are rulers here
      and govern in this land, and I myself
      am the thirteenth king. Let each of you
      bring a fresh cloak and tunic, newly washed,
      and a talent of pure gold. All of this
      we should put together very quickly,
      so this stranger has his gifts in hand                                                    70
      and goes to dinner with a joyful heart.”

Alcinous spoke. All those present agreed with him
and said it should be done. Then every one of them
sent an attendant out to bring back presents.
As the sun went down, the splendid presents were brought in,
carried to Alcinous’ home by worthy heralds.
The sons of noble Alcinous took the lovely gifts
and set them down before their honoured mother.
Nausicaa, whose beauty was a gift from god,
standing by the doorway of that well-built hall,                                         80
looked at Odysseus and was filled with wonder.
She spoke winged words to him:

                                     “Farewell, stranger.
      When you are back in your own land,
      I hope you will remember me sometimes,
      since you owe your life to me.”

                                                    Then Odysseus,
that resourceful man, replied to her and said:

      “Nausicaa, daughter of great Alcinous,
      may Hera’s loud-thundering husband, Zeus,
      grant that I see the day of my return
      when I get home. There I will pray to you                                          90
      all my days, as to a god. For you, girl,
      you gave me my life.”

                                       Odysseus finished speaking.
Then he sat down on a chair beside king Alcinous,
who then spoke out at once to his Phaeacians,
lovers of the sea: 

                                        “Listen to me now,
      you Phaeacians counsellors and leaders.
      To any man with some intelligence,
      a stranger coming as a suppliant
      brings the same delight a brother does.
      And you, our guest, should no longer hide                                         100
      behind those cunning thoughts of yours and skirt
      the things I ask you. It’s better to be frank.
      Tell me your name, what they call you at home—
      your mother and your father and the others,
      those in the town and in the countryside.
      Tell me your country and your people,
      your city, too, so ships can take you there,
      using what they know to chart their passage.
      And now come, tell me this, and speak the truth—      
      Where have you travelled in your wandering?                                    110
      What men’s countries have you visited?
      Tell me of people and their well-built towns,
      whether they are cruel, unjust, and savage,
      or welcome strangers and fear god in their hearts.”

 

 

BOOK NINE 
ISMARUS, THE LOTUS EATERS, AND THE CYCLOPS

 

Resourceful Odysseus then replied to Alcinous:

      “Lord Alcinous, most renowned of men, I say
      there’s nothing gives one more delight
      than when joy grips entire groups of men
      who sit in proper order in a hall
      feasting and listening to a singer,
      with tables standing there beside them
      laden with bread and meat, as the steward
      draws wine out of the mixing bowl, moves round,
      and fills the cups. To my mind this seems                                          10
      the finest thing there is. But your heart
      wants to ask about my grievous sorrows,
      so I can weep and groan more than before.
      What shall I tell you first? Where do I stop?
      For the heavenly gods have given me
      so much distress. Well, I will make a start
      by telling you my name. Once you know that,
      if I escape the painful day of death,
      then later I can welcome you as guests,
      though I live in a palace far away.                                                     20
      I am Odysseus, son of Laertes,
      well known to all for my deceptive skills—
      my fame extends all the way to heaven.
      I live in Ithaca, a land of sunshine.
      From far away one sees a mountain there,
      thick with whispering trees, Mount Neriton,
      and many islands lying around it
      close together. It’s a rugged island
      and nurtures fine young men. But come, I’ll tell you
      of the miserable journey back which Zeus                                         30
      arranged for me when I returned from Troy.

      I was carried by the wind from Troy
      to Ismarus, land of the Cicones.(8)
      I destroyed the city there, killed the men,
      seized their wives, and captured lots of treasure,
      which we divided up. I took great pains
      to see that all men got an equal share.
      Then I gave orders we should leave on foot—
      and with all speed. But the men were fools.
      They didn’t listen. They drank too much wine                                   40
      and on the shoreline slaughtered many sheep,
      as well as shambling cows with twisted horns.
      Meanwhile the Cicones set off and gathered up
      their neighbours, tribesmen living further inland.
      There’re more of them, and they are braver men.
      They reached us in the morning, thick as leaves.
      They set their ranks and fought by our swift ships.
      We threw our bronze-tipped spears at one another.
      While the morning lasted and that sacred day
      gained strength, we held our ground and beat them back,                  50
      for all their greater numbers. But as the sun
      moved to the hour when oxen are unyoked,
      the Cicones broke through, overpowering
      Achaeans. Of my well-armed companions,
      six from every ship were killed. The rest of us
      made our escape, avoiding Death and Fate.

      We sailed away from there, hearts full of grief
      at losing loyal companions, though happy
      we’d eluded death ourselves. Cloud-gatherer Zeus
      then stirred North Wind to rage against our ships—                          60
      a violent storm concealing land and sea,
      as darkness swept from heaven down on us.

      Nine days fierce winds drove me away from there,
      across the fish-filled seas, and on the tenth
      we landed where the Lotus-eaters live,
      people who feed upon its flowering fruit.        
      We went ashore and carried water back.      
      Then my companions quickly had a meal
      by our swift ships. We had our food and drink,
      and then I sent some of my comrades out                                          70
      to learn about the men who ate the food
      the land grew there. I chose two of my men
      and with them sent a third as messenger.
      They left at once and met the Lotus-eaters,
      who had no thought of killing my companions,
      but gave them lotus plants to eat, whose fruit,
      sweet as honey, made any man who sampled it
      lose his desire to ever journey home
      or bring back word to us—they wished to stay,
      to remain among the Lotus-eaters,                                                    80
      feeding on the plant, eager to forget
      about their homeward voyage. I forced them,
      eyes full of tears, into our hollow ships,
      dragged them underneath the rowing benches,
      and tied them up. Then I issued orders
      for my other trusty comrades to embark
      and sail away with speed in our fast ships,
      in case another man might eat a lotus
      and lose all thoughts about his journey back.

      We sailed away from there with heavy hearts                                    90
      and reached the country of the Cyclopes,
      a crude and lawless people. They don’t grow
      any plants by hand or plough the earth,
      but put their trust in the immortal gods,
      and though they never sow or work the land,
      every kind of crop springs up for them—
      wheat and barley and rich grape-bearing vines,
      and Zeus provides the rain to make them grow.
      They live without a council or assembly
      or any rule of law, in hollow caves                                                    100      
      among the mountain tops. Each one of them        
      makes laws for his own wives and children,
      and they shun all dealings with each other.(9)

      Now, near the country of the Cyclopes,
      outside the harbour, there’s a fertile island,
      covered in trees, some distance from the shore,
       but not too far away. Wild goats live there
      in countless numbers. They have no need
      to stay away from any human trails.
      At the harbour head there is a water spring—                                   110
      a bright stream flows out underneath a cave.
       Around it poplars grow. We sailed in there.
      Some god led us in through the murky night—
      we couldn’t see a thing, and all our ships
      were swallowed up in fog. Clouds hid the moon,
      so there was no light coming from the sky.
       Our eyes could not catch any glimpse of land
      or of the long waves rolling in onshore,
      until our well-decked ships had reached the beach.
      We hauled up our ships, took down all the sails,                               120
      went up along the shore, and fell asleep,
      remaining there until the light of Dawn.

      As soon as rose-fingered early Dawn appeared,
      I called a meeting and spoke to all the men:

            ‘My loyal comrades, stay here where you are.
            I’ll take my ship and my own company
            and try to find out who those people are,
            whether they are rough and violent,         
            with no sense of law, or kind to strangers,
            with hearts that fear the gods.’

                                               “I said these words,                                130
      then went down to my ship and told my crew
      to loose the cables lashed onto the stern
      and come onboard. They embarked with speed,
      and, seated at the oarlocks in their rows,
      struck the gray sea with their oars. And then,
      when we’d made the short trip to the island,
      on the coast there, right beside the sea,
      we saw a high cave, overhung with laurel.
      There were many flocks, sheep as well as goats,
       penned in there at night. All around the cave                                    140
      there was a high front courtyard made of stones
      set deep into the ground—with tall pine trees
      and towering oaks. At night a giant slept there,
      one that grazed his flocks all by himself,
      somewhere far off. He avoided others
      and lived alone, away from all the rest,
      a law unto himself, a monster, made      
      to be a thing of wonder, not like man
      who lives by eating bread, no, more like
      a lofty wooded mountain crag, standing there                                    150
      to view in isolation from the rest.

      I told the rest of my trustworthy crew
      to stay there by the ship and guard it,
      while I selected twelve of my best men
      and went off to explore. I took with me
      a goatskin full of dark sweet wine. Maron,
      Euanthes’ son, one of Apollo’s priests,
      the god who kept guard over Ismarus,
      gave it me because, to show respect,
      we had protected him, his wife, and child.                                        160
      Each time they drank that honey-sweet red wine,
      he’d fill one cup with it and pour that out
      in twenty cups of water, and the smell
      arising from the mixing bowl was sweet,
      astonishingly so—to tell the truth,
      no one’s heart could then refuse to drink it.
      “We soon reached his cave but didn’t find him.
      He was pasturing his rich flocks in the fields.
      We went inside the cave and looked around.
      It was astonishing—crates full of cheese,                                          170
      pens crammed with livestock—lambs and kids
      sorted into separate groups, with yearlings,
      older lambs, and newborns each in different pens.
      All the sturdy buckets, pails, and milking bowls
      were awash with whey. At first, my comrades 
      urged me to grab some cheeses and return,
      then drive the lambs and kids out of their pens
      back to our swift ship and cross the water.
      But I did not agree, though if I had,
      things would’ve been much better. I was keen                                  180
      to see the man in person and find out
      if he would show me hospitality.

      We lit a fire and offered sacrifice.
      Then we helped ourselves to cheese and ate it.
      We stayed inside the cave and waited there,
      until he led his flocks back home. He came,
      bearing an enormous pile of dried-out wood
      to cook his dinner. He hurled his load
      inside the cave with a huge crash. In our fear,
      we moved back to the far end of the cave,                                       190
      into the deepest corner. He then drove
      his fat flock right inside the spacious cavern,
      just the ones he milked. Rams and billy goats
      he left outside, in the open courtyard.
      Then he raised up high a massive boulder
      and fixed it in position as a door.
      It was huge—twenty-two four-wheeled wagons,
      good ones, too, could not have shifted it
      along the ground—that’s how immense it was,     
      the rock he planted right in his doorway.                                           200
      He sat down with his bleating goats and ewes
      and milked them all, each in turn, setting
      beside each one its young. Next, he curdled
      half the white milk and set aside the whey
      in wicker baskets, then put the other half
      in bowls for him to drink up with his dinner.
      Once he’d finished working at these tasks,
      he lit a fire. Then he spied us and said:

                                                                        ‘Strangers,
            who are you? What sea route brought you here?
            Are you trading men, or wandering the sea                                 210
            at random, like pirates sailing anywhere,
            risking their lives to injure other men.’

      As he spoke, our hearts collapsed, terrified
      by his deep voice and monstrous size. But still,
      I answered him by saying:

                                                        ‘We are Achaeans
            coming back from Troy and blown off course
            by various winds across vast tracts of sea.
            So, good sir, respect the gods. We’re here
            as suppliants to you, and Zeus protects
            all suppliants and strangers—as god of guests,                            220
            he cares for all respected visitors.’

      I finished speaking. He answered me at once—
      his heart was pitiless:

                           ‘What fools you are, you strangers,
            or else you come from somewhere far away—
            telling me to fear the gods and shun their rage.
            The Cyclopes care nothing about Zeus,
            who bears the aegis, or the blessed gods.
            We are much more powerful than them.
            I wouldn’t spare you or your comrades
            to escape the wrath of Zeus, not unless                                       230                    
            my own heart prompted me to do it.
            But now, tell me this—when you landed here,
            where did you moor your ship, a spot close by
            or further off? I’d like to know that.’

      He said this to throw me off, but his deceit
      could never fool me. I was too clever.
      So I gave him a misleading answer:

            ‘Earthshaker Poseidon broke my ship apart—
            driving it against the border of your island,
            on the rocks there. He brought us close to land,                          240
            hard by the headland, then winds pushed us
            inshore from the sea. But we escaped—
            me and these men here. We weren’t destroyed.’

      That’s what I said. But his ruthless heart
      gave me no reply. Instead, he jumped up,
      seized two of my companions in his fist,
      and smashed them on the ground like puppy dogs.
      Their brains oozed out and soaked the ground below.
      He tore their limbs apart to make a meal,
      and chewed them up just like a mountain lion—                                250
      innards, flesh, and marrow—leaving nothing.
      We raised our hands to Zeus and cried aloud,
      to witness the horrific things he did,
      our hearts unable to do anything.
      Once Cyclops had stuffed his massive stomach
      with human flesh and washed it down with milk,
      he lay down in the cave, stretched out there
      among his flocks. Then, in my courageous heart
      I formed a plan to move up close beside him,
      draw the sharp sword I carried on my thigh,                                     260
      and run my hand along his chest, to find
      exactly where his midriff held his liver,
      then stick him there. But I had second thoughts.
      We, too, would have been utterly destroyed,
      there in the cave—we didn’t have the strength     
      with our own hands to roll from the high door
      the massive rock he’d set there. So we groaned,
      and stayed there waiting for bright Dawn.

      As soon as rose-fingered early Dawn appeared,
      he lit a fire and milked his flock, one by one,                                     270
      with a new-born placed beside each mother.
      When this work was over, he once again
      snatched two of my men and gorged himself.
      After his meal, he easily rolled back
      the huge rock door, drove his rich flock outside,
      and set the stone in place, as one might put
      a cap back on a quiver. Then Cyclops,
      whistling loudly, drove his fat flocks away
      towards the mountain. He left me there,
      plotting a nasty scheme deep in my heart,                                         280
      some way of gaining my revenge against him,
      if Athena would grant me that glory.
      My heart came up with what appeared to me
      the best thing I could do. An enormous club
      belonging to Cyclops was lying there
      beside a stall, a section of green olive wood
      he’d cut to carry with him once it dried.
      To human eyes it seemed just like the mast
      on a black merchant ship with twenty oars,
      a broad-beamed vessel which can move across                                290
      the mighty ocean—that’s how long and wide
      that huge club looked. Moving over to it,
      I chopped off a piece, six feet in length,
      gave it to my companions, telling them
      to smooth the wood. They straightened it, while I,
      standing at one end, chipped and tapered it
      to a sharp point. Then I picked up the stake
      and set it in the blazing fire to harden.
      That done, I placed it carefully to one side,
      concealing it beneath some of the dung                                             300
      which lay throughout the cave in massive piles.    

      Then I told my comrades to draw lots
      to see which men would risk their lives with me—
      when sweet sleep came upon the Cyclops,
      we’d lift that stake and twist it in his eye.
      The crew drew lots and picked the very men
      I would have chosen for myself, four of them,
      with me included as fifth man in the group.

      In the evening he came back, leading on
      his fine-skinned animals and bringing them                                        310
      inside the spacious cave, every sheep and goat
      in his rich flock—not leaving even one
      out in the open courtyard. Perhaps he had
      a sense of something wrong, or else a god
      had given him an order. He picked up
      and put his huge rock door in place, then sat
      to milk each ewe and bleating goat,
      one by one, setting beside each mother
      one of her young. When this task was over,
       he quickly seized two men and wolfed them down.                          320
      Then I moved up and stood at Cyclops’ side,
      holding in my hands a bowl of ivy wood
      full of my dark wine. I said:

                                                                    ‘Cyclops,
            take this wine and drink it, now you’ve had
            your meal of human flesh, so you may know 
            the kind of wine we had on board our ship,
            a gift of drink I was carrying for you,
            in hope you’d pity me and send me off
            on my journey home. But your savagery
            is something I can’t bear. You cruel man,                                   330
            how will any of the countless other men
            ever visit you in future? How you act
            is so against all human law.’

                                                                             I spoke.
      He grabbed the cup and gulped down the sweet wine.      
      Once he’d swallowed, he felt such great delight,
      he asked me for some more, a second taste.

            ‘Be kind and give me some of that again.
            And now, without delay tell me your name,
            so, as my guest, I can offer you a gift,
            something you’ll like. Among the Cyclopes,                                340
            grain-bearing earth grows clusters of rich grapes,
            which Zeus’ rain increases, but this drink—
            it’s a stream of nectar and ambrosia.’

      He spoke. So I handed him more fiery wine.
      Three times I poured some out and gave it to him,
      and, like a fool, he swilled it down. So then,
      once the wine had addled Cyclops’ wits,
      I spoke these reassuring words to him:

            ‘Cyclops, you asked about my famous name.
            I’ll tell you. Then you can offer me a gift,                                    350
            as your guest. My name is Nobody.
            My father and mother, all my other friends—
            they call me Nobody.’

                                               That’s what I said.
      His pitiless heart replied:

                                                  ‘Well, Nobody,
            I’ll eat all your companions before you
            and have you at the end—my gift to you,
            since you’re my guest.’

                                                    As he said this,
      he collapsed and toppled over on his back,
      lying with his thick neck twisted to one side.
      All-conquering sleep then overpowered him.                                    360
      In his drunken state he kept on vomiting,
      his gullet drooling wine and human flesh.
      So then I pushed the stake deep in the ashes,
      to make it hot, and spoke to all my men,
      urging them on, so no one, in his fear,
      would hesitate. When that stake of olive wood,
      though green, was glowing hot, its sharp point
      ready to catch fire, I walked across to it
      and with my comrades standing round me
      pulled it from the fire. And then some god                                         370
      breathed powerful courage into all of us.
      They lifted up that stake of olive wood
      and jammed its sharpened end down in his eye,
      while I, placing my weight at the upper end,
      twisted it around—just as a shipwright
      bores a timber with a drill, while those below
      make it rotate by pulling on a strap
      at either end, so the drill keeps moving—
      that’s how we held the red-hot pointed stake
      and twisted it inside the socket of his eye.                                         380
      Blood poured out through the heat—around his eye,
      lids and brows were singed, as his eyeball burned—
      its roots were crackling in fire. When a blacksmith
      plunges a great axe or adze in frigid water
      with a loud hissing sound, to temper it
      and make the iron strong—that’s how his eye
      sizzled around the stake of olive wood.
      His horrific screams echoed through the rock.
      We drew back, terrified. He yanked the stake
      out of his eye—it was all smeared with blood—                               390
      hurled it away from him, and waved his arms.
      He started yelling out to near-by Cyclopes,
      who lived in caves up on the windy heights,
      his neighbours. They heard him shouting out
      and came crowding round from all directions.
      Standing at the cave mouth, they questioned him,
      asking what was wrong:

                                                                 ‘Polyphemus,
            what’s so bad with you that you keep shouting
            through the immortal night and wake us up?               
            Is some mortal human driving off your flocks                              400
            or killing you by treachery or force?’

      From the cave mighty Polyphemus roared:

            ‘Nobody is killing me, my friends,      
            by treachery, not using any force.’

      They answered him—their words had wings:

                                                            ‘Well, then,
            if nobody is hurting you and you’re alone,
            it must be sickness given by great Zeus,
            one you can’t escape. So say your prayers
            to our father, lord Poseidon.’

                                               With these words,
      they went away, and my heart was laughing—                                  410
      my cunning name had pulled off such a trick.
      But Cyclops groaned, writhing in agony.
      Groping with his hands he picked up the stone,
      removed it from the door, and sat down there,
      in the opening. He stretched out his arms,
      attempting to catch anyone who tried
      to get out with the sheep. In his heart,
      he took me for a fool. But I was thinking
      the best thing I could do would be to find
      if somehow my crewmen and myself                                                 420
      could escape being killed. I wove many schemes,
      all sorts of tricks, the way a man will do
      when his own life’s at stake—and we were faced
      with a murderous peril right beside us.
      To my heart the best plan was as follows:
      In Cyclops’ flocks the rams were really fat—
      fine, large creatures, with thick fleecy coats
      of deep black wool. I picked three at a time
      and, keeping quiet, tied them up together,
      with twisted willow shoots, part of the mat                                        430
      on which the lawless monster Polyphemus            
      used to sleep. The middle ram carried a man.
      The two on either side were for protection.
      So for every man there were three sheep.
      I, too, had my own ram, the finest one 
      in the whole flock by far. I grabbed its back
      then swung myself under its fleecy gut,
      and lay there, face upwards, with my fingers
      clutching its amazing fleece. My heart was firm.
      We waited there like that until bright Dawn.                                      440

      As soon as rose-fingered early Dawn appeared,
      males in the flock trotted off to pasture,
      while the females, who had not been milked
      and thus whose udders were about to burst,
      bleated in their pens. Their master, in great pain,
      ran his hands across the backs of all his sheep
      as they moved past him, but was such a fool,
      he didn’t notice how my men were tied
      underneath their bellies. Of that flock
      my ram was the last to move out through the door,                           450
      weighed down by its thick fleece and my sly thoughts.
      Mighty Polyphemus, as he stroked its back,
      spoke to the animal:

                                              ‘My lovely ram,
            why are you the last one in the flock
            to come out of the cave? Not once before
            have you ever lagged behind the sheep.
            No. You’ve always been well out in front,
            striding off to graze on tender shoots of grass
            and be the first to reach the river’s stream.
            You’re the one who longs to get back home,                              460
            once evening comes, before the others.
            But now you’re last of all. You must be sad,
            grieving for your master’s eye, now blinded
            by that evil fellow with his hateful crew.
            That Nobody destroyed my wits with wine.
            But, I tell you, he’s not yet escaped being killed.                     
            If only you could feel and speak like me—
            you’d tell me where he’s hiding from my rage.
            I’d smash his brains out on the ground in here,
            sprinkle them in every corner of this cave,                                  470
            and then my heart would ease the agonies
            this worthless Nobody has brought on me.’

      With these words, he pushed the ram away from him,
      out through the door. After the ram had moved
      a short distance from the cave and courtyard,
      first I got out from underneath its gut
      and then untied by comrades. We rushed away,
      driving off those rich, fat, long-legged sheep,
      often turning round to look behind us,
      until we reached our ship—a welcome sight                                      480      
      to fellow crewmen—we’d escaped being killed,
      although they groaned and wept for those who’d died.
      But I would not allow them to lament—
      with a scowl I told everyone to stop.
      I ordered them to quickly fling on board 
      the many fine-fleeced sheep and then set sail
      across the salty sea. They climbed aboard
      at once, took their places on the rowing bench,
      and, sitting in good order in their rows,
      struck the gray sea with their oars. But then,                                     490
      when I was as far from land as a man’s voice
      can carry when he yells. I cried out
      and mocked the Cyclops:

                                                           ‘Cyclops,
            it seems he was no weakling, after all,
            the man whose comrades you so wished to eat,
            using brute force in that hollow cave of yours.
            Your evil acts were bound to catch you out,
            you wretch—you didn’t even hesitate
            to gorge yourself on guests in your own home.
            Now Zeus and other gods have paid you back.’                         500

      That’s what I said. It made his heart more angry.
      He snapped off a huge chunk of mountain rock
      and hurled it. The stone landed up ahead of us,
      just by our ship’s dark prow. As the stone sank,
      the sea surged under it, waves pushed us back 
      towards the land, and, like a tidal flood,
      drove us on shore. I grabbed a long boat hook
      and pushed us off, encouraging the crew,
      and, with a nod of my head, ordering them
      to ply their oars and save us from disaster.                                        510
      They put their backs into it then and rowed.
      But when we’d got some distance out to sea,
      about twice as far, I started shouting,
      calling the Cyclops, although around me
      my comrades cautioned me from every side,
      trying to calm me down:

                                                       ‘That’s reckless.
            Why are you trying to irritate that savage?
            He just threw a boulder in the sea
            and pushed us back on shore. We really thought
            he’d killed us there. If he’d heard us speak                                 520
            or uttering a sound, he’d have hurled down
            another jagged rock, and crushed our skulls,
            the timbers on this ship, as well. He’s strong,
            powerful enough to throw this far.’

                               That’s what they said.
      But my warrior spirit didn’t listen.
      So, anger in my heart, I yelled again:

            ‘Cyclops, if any mortal human being
            asks about the injury that blinded you,
            tell them Odysseus destroyed your eye,
            a sacker of cities, Laertes’ son,                                                  530
            a man from Ithaca.’

                                                After I’d said this,
      he stretched out his hands to starry heaven
      and offered this prayer to lord Poseidon:

            ‘Hear me, Poseidon, Enfolder of the Earth,
            dark-haired god, if I truly am your son
            and if you claim to be my father,
            grant that Odysseus, sacker of cities,
            a man from Ithaca, Laertes’ son,
            never gets back home. If it’s his destiny
            to see his friends and reach his native land                                  540
            and well-built house, may he get back late
            and in distress, after all his comrades
            have been killed, and in someone else’s ship.
            And may he find troubles in his house.’

      That’s what he prayed. The dark-haired god heard him.
      Then Cyclops once again picked up a rock,
      a much larger stone, swung it round, and threw it,
      using all his unimaginable force.
      It landed right behind the dark-prowed ship
      and almost hit the steering oar. Its fall                                               550
      convulsed the sea, and waves then pushed us on,
      carrying our ship up to the further shore.

      We’d reached the island where our well-decked ships
      were grouped together. Our comrades sat around them,
      in great sorrow, always watching for us.
      We rowed in, drove our ship up on the sand,
      then climbed out through the surf. From the ship’s hold
      we unloaded Cyclops’ flock and shared it out.
      I took great care to see that all men there
      received an equal part. But when the flock                                        560
      was being divided up, my well-armed comrades
      awarded me the ram, my special gift,
      one just for me. I sacrificed that ram,
      there on the shore, to Zeus, Cronos’ son,
      lord of the dark cloud, ruler of all,
      offering him burnt pieces of the thigh.
      But he did not care for my sacrifice.
      Instead he started planning to destroy
      all my well-decked ships and loyal comrades.

      As soon as rose-fingered early Dawn appeared,                               570
      I roused my shipmates and ordered them aboard
      to untie cables fastened to the sterns.
      They got in at once, moved to the rowing bench,
      and sitting in good order in their rows,
      they struck the gray sea with their oar blades.
      So we sailed away from there, sad at heart,
      happy to have avoided being destroyed,
      although some dear companions had been killed.”

 

 

BOOK TEN 
AEOLUS, THE LAESTRYGONIANS, AND CIRCE

 

      “Next we reached Aeolia, a floating island,
      where Aeolus lived, son of Hippotas,
      whom immortal gods hold dear. Around it,
      runs an impenetrable wall of bronze,
      and cliffs rise up in a sheer face of rock.
      His twelve children live there in the palace,
      six daughters as well as six full-grown sons.
      He gave the daughters to the sons in marriage,
      and they are always at a banquet feasting,
      beside their dear father and good mother,                                        10
      with an infinite supply of tasty food.

      We reached the splendid palace in the city,
      and for one whole month he entertained me,
      always asking questions about everything—
      Troy, Argive ships, how Achaeans made it home—
      and I told him all from start to finish.
      When, for my part, I asked to take my leave
      and told him he should send me on my way,
      he denied me nothing and helped me go.
      He gave me a bag made out of ox-hide,                                           20
      flayed from a creature nine years old,
      and tied up in it all the winds that blow
      from every quarter, for Cronos’ son
      has made Aeolus keeper of the winds,
      and he could calm or rouse them, as he wished.
      With a shining silver cord he lashed that bag
      inside my hollow ship, so as to stop
      even the smallest breath from getting out.
      He also got a West Wind breeze to blow
      to carry ships and men on their way home.                                       30

      For nine whole days and nights we held our course,
      and on the tenth we glimpsed our native land.
      We came in so close we could see the men           
      who tend the beacon fires. But then sweet Sleep
      came over me—I was too worn out.
      All that time my hands had gripped the sail rope—
      I’d not let go of it or passed it on
      to any shipmate, so that we’d get home
      more quickly. But as I slept, my comrades
      started talking to each other, claiming                                               40
      I was taking gold and silver back with me.
      Glancing at the man who sat beside him,
      one of them would say something like this:

            ‘It’s not fair. Everyone adores this man
            and honours him, no matter where he goes,
            to any city, any land. From Troy
            he’s taking a huge stash of glorious loot—
            but those of us who’ve been on the same trip
            are coming home with empty hands. And now,
            Aeolus, because he’s a friend of his,                                          50
            has freely given him these presents.
            Come on, let’s see how much gold and silver
            he has in this bag.’

                                        As they talked like this,
      my companions’ greedy thoughts prevailed.
      They untied the bag. All the winds rushed out—
      storms winds seized them, swept them out to sea,
      in tears, away from their own native land.
      At that point I woke up. Deep in my heart
      I was of two minds—I could jump overboard
      and drown at sea or just keep going in silence,                                 60
      remain among the living. I stayed there
      and suffered on. Covering up my head,
      I lay down on the deck, while our ships,
      loaded with my whimpering companions,
      were driven by those wicked blasts of wind
      all the way back to Aeolus’ island.

      I set off for Aeolus’ splendid palace.
      I found him feasting with his wife and children.
      So we went into the house and sat down
      on the threshold, right beside the door posts.                                    70
      In their hearts they were amazed. They asked me

            ‘Odysseus, how is it you’ve come back here?
            We took great care to send you on your way
            so you’d get home, back to your native land.’

      That’s what they asked. With a heavy heart,
      I answered them:

                                               ‘My foolish comrades,
            aided by malicious Sleep, have injured me.
            But, my friends, you can repair all this—
            that’s in your power.’

                                            I said these words
      to reassure them. But they stayed silent.                                            80
      Then their father gave me this reply:

            ‘Of all living men, you are the worst—
            so you must leave this island with all speed.
            It would violate all sense of what is right
            if I assisted or escorted on his way
            a man the blessed gods must hate. So leave.
            You’re here because deathless gods despise you.’                  

      Once he’d said this, he sent me from his house,
      for all my heavy groans. Then, sick at heart,
      we sailed on further, my crewmen’s spirits                                        90
      worn down by the weary work of rowing.
      Because we’d been such fools, there was no breeze
      to help us on our way. We went on like this
      for six whole days and nights. On the seventh
      we came to Telepylus, great citadel
      of Lamus, king of Laestrygonians,
      into a lovely harbour, with a sheer cliff
      around it on both sides. Jutting headlands 
      facing one another extended out
      beyond the harbour mouth, a narrow entrance.(10)                            100
      All my shipmates brought their curved ships up
      and moored them inside the hollow harbour
      in a tightly clustered group—in that spot
      there were never any waves, large or small.
      Everything was calm and bright around them.
      But I moored my black ship all by itself
      outside the harbour, right against the land,
      tying it to the rock. I clambered up the cliff
      and stood there, on a rugged outcrop,
      looking round. I could see no evidence                                             120
      of human work or ploughing, only smoke
      arising from the land. I sent some comrades out
      to learn what the inhabitants were like.
      They left the ships and came to a smooth road,
      which wagons used to haul wood to the town
      from high mountain slopes. Outside the city
      they met a young girl collecting water,
      the noble daughter of Antiphates,
      a Laestrygonian. They asked the girl
      who ruled the people here and who they were.                                 130
      She quickly pointed out her father’s lofty home.
      They reached the splendid house and found his wife,
      a gigantic woman, like a mountain peak.
      They were appalled. She called her husband,
      strong Antiphates, out of a meeting,
      and he arranged a dreadful death for them—
      he seized one of my shipmates and prepared
      to make a meal of him. The other two
      jumped up, ran off, and came back to the ships.
      Antiphates then raised a hue and cry                                                 140
      throughout the city. Once they heard his call,
      the powerful Laestrygonians poured out,
      thronging in countless numbers from all sides—   
      not like men at all, but Giants. From the cliffs
      they hurled rocks down on us, the largest stones
      a man can lift. The clamour rising from the ships
      was dreadful—men were being destroyed,
      ships were smashing into one another,
      with those monsters spearing men like fish,
      and taking them to eat a gruesome meal.                                          150
      While they were slaughtering the sailors there,
      trapped in the deep harbour, I grabbed my sword,
      pulled it from my thigh, and cut the cables
      on my dark-prowed ship, yelling to my crew,
      ordering them to put their oars to work,
      so we could get away from this disaster.
      They all churned the water with their oar-blades,
      terrified of being killed. We were relieved,
      as my ship left the beetling cliffs behind,
      moving out to sea. But all the other ships,                                         160
      moored together in the harbour, were destroyed.

      We sailed on from there with heavy hearts
      until we reached the island of Aeaea,
      where fair-haired Circe lived, fearful goddess.
      Here, in silence, we brought our ship to land,
      inside a harbour with fine anchorage.
      Some god was guiding us. Then we disembarked
      and laid up in that spot two days and nights,
      our hearts consumed with weariness and pain.

      As soon as rose-fingered early Dawn appeared,                               170
      I called a meeting and addressed them all:

            ‘Shipmates, let’s quickly put our heads together
            to see if we have any options left.
            I don’t think we do. I climbed a rocky crag,
            and from that vantage point spied out the land.
            It’s an island with deep water round it,
            low-lying and flat. I saw with my own eyes        
            smoke rising in the middle of the island,
            through dense brush and trees.’

                                                That’s what I said.
      But their spirits fell, as they remembered                                           180
      what Laestrygonian Antiphates had done
      and the violence of great Polyphemus,
      that man-eating Cyclops. They wept aloud,
      shedding frequent tears. But their laments
      were not much help to us. So I split up
      my well-armed comrades in two separate groups,
      each with its own leader. I commanded one,
      and godlike Eurylochus led the other.
      We shook our tokens in a bronze helmet.
      When brave Eurylochus’ lot fell out,                                                 190
      he set off with twenty-two companions,
      all in tears, leaving us behind to grieve.
      In a forest clearing they found Circe’s house—
      built of polished stone, with views in all directions.
      There were mountain wolves and lions round it,
      all bewitched by Circe’s wicked potions.
      But these beasts made no attack against my men.
      No. They stood on their hind legs and fawned,
      wagging their long tails. Just as dogs will beg
      around their master when he comes from dinner—                           200
      since he keeps bringing scraps to please their hearts—
      that’s how the wolves and sharp-clawed lions there
      kept fawning round those men, who were afraid
      just looking at those fearful animals.

      They stood in fair-haired Circe’s gateway
      and heard her sweet voice singing in the house,
      as she went back and forth before her loom,
      weaving a huge, immortal tapestry,
      the sort of work which goddesses create,
      finely woven, luminous, and beautiful.                                               210
      They all started shouting, calling her.
      She came out at once, opened the bright doors,    
      and asked them in. In their foolishness,
      they all accompanied her. Eurylochus
      was the only one who stayed outside—
      he thought it could be something of a trick.
      She led the others in and sat them down
      on stools and chairs, then made them a drink
      of cheese and barley meal and yellow honey
      stirred into Pramnian wine. But with the food                                    220
      she mixed a vicious drug, so they would lose
      all memories of home. When they’d drunk down
      the drink she gave them, she took her wand,
      struck each man, then penned them in her pigsties.
      They had bristles, heads, and voices just like pigs—
      their bodies looked like swine—but their minds
      were as before, unchanged. In their pens they wept.
      In front of them Circe threw down feed,
      acorns, beech nuts, cornel fruit, the stuff
      pigs eat when they are wallowing in mud.                                          230

      Eurylochus came back immediately
      to our swift black ship, bringing a report
      of his comrades’ bitter fate, eyes full of tears.
      I slung my large bronze silver-studded sword
      across my shoulder, grabbed my bow, and left.

      But while I was moving through the sacred groves      
      on my way to Circe’s home, a goddess
      skilled in many magic potions, I met
      Hermes of the Golden Wand. I was going
      toward the house. He looked like a young man                                 240
      when the first growth of hair is on his lip,
      the age when youthful charm is at its height.
      He gripped my hand, spoke to me, and said:

            ‘Your comrades, over there in Circe’s house,
            are penned up like swine in narrow stalls.
            Are you intending now to set them free?
            I don’t think you’ll make it back yourself—                
            you’ll stay there with the rest of them. But come,
            I’ll keep you free from harm and save you.
            Here, take a remedial potion with you,                                        250
            go in Circe’s house. It’s a protection
            and will clear your head of any dangers
            this day brings. She won’t have power
            to cast a spell on you. This fine potion,
            which I’ll provide you, won’t allow it.’

      After saying this, the Killer of Argus
      pulled a herb out of the ground, gave it to me,
       and explained its features. Its roots were black,
      the flower milk-white. Moly the gods call it.
      Then Hermes left, through the wooded island,                                   260
      bound for high Olympus. I continued on
      to Circe’s home. As I kept going, my heart
      was turning over many gloomy thoughts.
      Once I’d made it over to the gateway
      of fair-haired Circe’s house, I just stood there
      and called out. The goddess heard my voice.
      She came out at once, opened her bright doors,
      and asked me in. So I went in with her,
      heart full of misgivings. She led me in
      and sat me on a silver-studded chair,                                                270
      a lovely object, beautifully made,
      with a stool underneath to rest my feet.
      She mixed her potion in a golden cup
      for me to drink. In it she placed the drug,
      her heart still bent on mischief. She gave it me,
      and, when I’d drunk it, without being bewitched,
      she struck me with her wand and said these words:

            ‘Off now to your sty, and lie in there
            with the rest of your companions.’

      She spoke. But I pulled out the sharp sword on my thigh                  280
      and charged at Circe, as if I meant to kill her.
      She gave a piercing scream, ducked, ran up,          
      and clasped my knees. Through her tears she spoke—
      her words had wings:

                                    ‘What sort of man are you?
            Where are you from? Where is your city?
            Your parents? I’m amazed you drank this drug
            and were not bewitched. No other man
            who’s swallowed it has been able to resist,
            once it’s passed the barrier of his teeth.
            In that chest of yours your mind holds out                                   290
            against my spell. You must be Odysseus,
            that resourceful man. The Killer of Argus,
            Hermes of the Golden Wand, always told me
            Odysseus in his swift black ship would come
            on his way back from Troy. Come, put that sword
            back in its sheath, and let the two of us
            go up into my bed. When we’ve made love,
            then we can trust each other.’

                                               Once she said this,
      I answered her and said:

                                                             ‘O Circe,
            how can you ask me to be kind to you?                                      300
            In your own home you’ve changed my crew to pigs
            and keep me here. You’re plotting mischief now,
            inviting me to go up to your room,
            into your bed, so when I have no clothes,
            you can do me harm, destroy my manhood.
            But I won’t agree to climb into your bed,
            unless, goddess, you’ll agree to swear
            a solemn oath that you’ll make no more plans
            to injure me with some new mischief.’

      When I’d said this, she made the oath at once,                                  310
      as I had asked, that she’d not harm me.
      Once she’d sworn and finished with the oath,
      I went up with Circe to her splendid bed.
      “Meanwhile four women serving in her home
      were busy in the hall, children of springs,
      groves, and sacred rivers flowing to the sea.
      One of them threw lovely purple coverlets
      across the chairs and spread linen underneath.
      Another pulled silver tables over to each chair
      and then placed silver baskets on them.                                            320
      The third one mixed deliciously sweet wine
      inside a silver bowl, then served it out
      in cups of gold. The fourth brought water in,
      lit a large fire under a huge cauldron,
      and warmed the water up until it boiled
      inside the shining bronze. She sat me in a tub,
      then, diluting water from that cauldron
      so it was right for me, gave me a bath,
      pouring water on my head and shoulders,
      until the weariness that sapped my spirit                                            330
      had left my limbs. After bathing me,
      she rubbed me with rich oil, then dressed me
      in a fine cloak and tunic and led me
      to a handsome chair embossed with silver,
      finely crafted, with a footstool underneath.
      A servant brought in a lovely golden jug,
      poured water out into a silver basin,
      so I could wash, and set a polished table
      at my side. Then the worthy steward
      brought in bread and set it there before me,                                       340
      placing with it large quantities of food,
      given freely from her stores. She bid me eat.
      But in my heart I had no appetite.
      So I sat there, thinking of other things,
      my spirit sensing something ominous.

      When Circe noticed me just sitting there,
      not reaching for the food, weighed down with grief,
      she came up close and spoke winged words to me:

            ‘Odysseus, why are you sitting here like this,
            like someone who can’t speak, eating out your heart,                  350
            never touching food or drink? Do you think
            this is another trick? You don’t need to fear—
            I’ve already made a solemn promise
            I won’t injure you.’

                                               When she said this,
      I answered her and said:

                                                                    ‘O Circe,
            what man with any self-respect would start
            to eat and drink before he had released
            his shipmates and could see them face to face?
            If you are being sincere in asking me
            to eat and drink, then set my comrades free,                               360
            so my own eyes can see my trusty crew.’

      When I’d said this, Circe went through the hall,
      her wand clutched in her hand, and opened up
      the pig-sty doors. She drove the herd out.
      They looked like full-grown pigs, nine years old,
      standing in front of her. She went through them,
      smearing on each one another potion.
      Those bristles brought on by that nasty drug
      which they’d received from Circe earlier
      fell from their limbs, and they were men again,                                   370
      more youthful and much taller than before,
      more handsome to the eye. Now they knew me.
      Each man grabbed my hand, and all of them
      were overcome with passionate weeping,
      so the house around them echoed strangely.
      Circe herself was moved to pity then—
      standing close to me, the lovely goddess said:

            ‘Son of Laertes, resourceful Odysseus,
            born from Zeus, go now to the sea shore,
            back to your swift ship, drag it up on land,                                  380
            and stash your goods and all equipment                      
            in the caves. Then come back here in person,
            and bring your loyal companions with you.’

      Her words persuaded my proud heart. I left,
      going back to our swift ship beside the sea.
      I found my trusty comrades at the ship
      lamenting miserably, shedding many tears.
      Just as on a farm calves frisk around the herd
      when cows, having had their fill of grazing,
      return back to the yard—they skip ahead,                                         390
      and pens no longer hold them, as they run,
      mooing in a crowd around their mothers,
      that’s how my shipmates, once they saw me,
      thronged around, weeping—in their hearts it felt
      as if they they’d got back to their native land,
      the rugged town of Ithaca itself.

      Meanwhile, Circe had been acting kindly
      to the rest of my companions in her home.
      She’d given them baths, rubbed them with rich oil,
      and dressed them in warm cloaks and tunics.                                    400
      We found them all quite cheerful, eating
      in the hall. When my men saw each other
      and recognized their shipmates face to face,
      their crying and moaning echoed through the house.

      The lovely goddess came to me and said:

            ‘Resourceful Odysseus, Laertes’ son
            come now, eat my food, and drink my wine,
            until you’ve got back that spirit in your chest
            you had when you first left your native land
            of rugged Ithaca. You’re exhausted now—                                 410
            you have no spirit—you’re always brooding
            on your painful wanderings. There’s no joy
            inside your hearts—you’ve been through so much.’

      Our proud hearts were persuaded by her words.
      We stayed there, day by day, for one whole year,     
      feasting on sweet wine and large supplies of meat.
      But as the months and seasons came and went,
      long spring days returned. A year had passed.
      My trusty comrades summoned me and said:

            ‘You god-driven man, now the time has come                             420
            to think about your native land once more,
            if you are fated to be saved and reach
            your high-roofed home and your own country.’

      My proud heart was persuaded by their words.
      So all day long until the sun went down,
      we sat there, feasting on huge amounts of meat
      and on sweet wine. Once the sun had set
      and darkness came, they lay down to sleep
      in the shadowy hall. I went to Circe,
      in her splendid bed and clasped her knees.                                       430
      The goddess listened to me as I begged,
      speaking these winged words to her:

            ‘Circe, grant me the promise which you made
            to send me home. My spirit’s keen to leave,
            as are the hearts in my companions, too,
            who, as they grieve around me, drain my heart,
            whenever you are not among us.’

      I spoke. The lovely goddess answered me at once.

            ‘Resourceful Odysseus, Laertes’ son
            and Zeus’ child, if it’s against your will,                                       440
            you should not now remain here in my house.
            But first you must complete another journey—
            to the home of Hades and dread Persephone.
            Consult the shade of that Theban prophet,
            blind Teiresias. His mind is unimpaired.
            Even though he’s dead, Persephone
            has granted him the power to understand—
            the others flit about, mere shadows.’

      As Circe finished, my spirit was breaking.
      I sat weeping on her bed, for my heart                                              450
      no longer wished to live or glimpse the daylight.
      But when I’d had enough of shedding tears
      and rolling in distress, I answered her:

            ‘Circe, who’ll be the guide on such a journey?
            No one ever sailed a black ship down to Hades.’

      The lovely goddess gave me a quick answer:

            ‘Resourceful Odysseus, Laertes’ son
            and Zeus’ child, don’t concern yourself
            about a pilot for your ship. Raise the mast,
            spread your white sail, and just take your seat.                            460
            Then the breath of North Wind Boreas
            will take you on your way. But once your ship
            crosses flowing Oceanus, drag it ashore
            at Persephone’s groves, on the level beach
            where tall poplars grow, willows shed their fruit,
            right beside deep swirling Oceanus.
            Then you must go to Hades’ murky home.
            There Periphlegethon and Cocytus,
            a stream which branches off the river Styx,
            flow into Acheron.(11) There’s a boulder                                    470
            where these two foaming rivers meet. Go there,
            heroic man, and follow my instructions—
            move close and dig a hole there two feet square.
            Pour libations to the dead around it,
            first with milk and honey, next sweet wine,
            and then a third with water. And shake out
            white barley meal. Then pray there in earnest
            to many powerless heads of those who’ve died,
            with a vow that, when you reach Ithaca,
            At home, you’ll sacrifice a barren heifer,                                     480                    
            the best you have, and will cram the altar
            with fine gifts, and that you’ll make an offering
            to Teiresias, a black ram just for him,
            the finest creature in your flocks. And then,
            when you’ve offered prayers of supplication
            to celebrated nations of the dead,
            you must sacrifice a ram and a black ewe,
            twisting their heads down toward Erebus,       
            while you turn to face the flowing rivers,
            looking backwards. At that point many spirits                             490
            will emerge—they’re the shadows of the dead.
            Then call your crew. Tell them to flay and burn
            the sheep lying there, killed by pitiless bronze.
            Pray to the gods, to powerful Hades
            and dread Persephone. Then from your thigh,
            you must yourself draw that sharp sword out,
            and, sitting there, prevent the powerless heads
            of those who’ve died from coming near the blood, 
            until you’ve listened to Teiresias.’(12)

      Circe finished. Dawn soon came on her golden throne.                      500
      The nymph then dressed me in a cloak and tunic
      and clothed her body in a long white robe,
      a lovely, finely woven garment, and tied
      a splendid golden belt around her waist.
       On her head she placed a veil. Then I went
      through her house, rousing my companions,
      going up to each man and reassuring him:

            ‘No more sleeping now, no sweet slumbering.
            Let’s go. Queen Circe’s told me what to do.’

      That’s what I said. And their proud hearts agreed.”                           510

 

 

 

 

 

BOOK ELEVEN 
ODYSSEUS MEETS THE SHADES OF THE DEAD

 

      “When we reached our boat down on the beach,
      we dragged it out into the glittering sea,
      set up the mast and sail in our black ship,
      led on the sheep, and then embarked ourselves,
      still full of sorrow, shedding many tears.
      All day long, the sail stayed full, and we sped on
      across the sea, until the sun went down
      and all sea routes grew dark. Our ship then reached
      the boundaries of deep-flowing Oceanus,
      a region always wrapped in mist and cloud.                                      10
      We sailed in there, dragged our ship on land,
      and walked along the stream of Oceanus,
      until we reached the place Circe described.

      Perimedes and Eurylochus held the sheep,
      our sacrificial victims, while I unsheathed
      the sharp sword on my thigh and dug a hole,
      two feet each way. I poured out libations
      to all the dead—first with milk and honey,
      then sweet wine, and then a third with water
      Around the pit I sprinkled barley meal.                                             20
      Then to the powerless heads of the departed
      I offered many prayers, with promises
      I’d sacrifice, once I returned to Ithaca,
      a barren heifer in my home. With prayers and vows
      I called upon the families of the dead.
      Next I held the sheep above the hole
      and slit their throats. Dark blood flowed down.

      Then out of Erebus came swarming up
      shades of the dead—brides, young unmarried men,
      old ones worn out with toil, young tender girls,                                 30
      with hearts still new to sorrow, and many men
      wounded by bronze spears, who’d died in war,      
      still in their blood-stained armour. Crowds of them          
      came thronging in from all sides of the pit,
      with amazing cries. Pale fear took hold of me.
      Then I called my comrades, ordering them
      to flay and burn the sheep still lying there,
      slain by cruel bronze, and pray to the gods,
      to mighty Hades and dread Persephone.
      And then I drew the sharp sword on my thigh                                   40
      and sat there, stopping the powerless heads
      of all the dead from getting near the blood,
      until I’d asked Teiresias my questions.

      Then appeared the ghost of my dead mother,
      Anticleia, brave Autolycus’ daughter.
      I’d left her still alive when I set off
      for sacred Troy. Once I caught sight of her,
      I wept, and I felt pity in my heart.
      But still, in spite of all my sorrow,
      I could not let her get too near the blood,                                         50
      until I’d asked Teiresias my questions.

      Then came the shade of Teiresias from Thebes,
      holding a golden staff. He knew who I was
      and started speaking:

                                       ‘Resourceful Odysseus,
            Laertes’ son and Zeus’ child, what now,
            you unlucky man? Why leave the sunlight,
            come to this joyless place, and see the dead?
            Move from the pit and pull away your sword,
            so I may drink the blood and speak the truth.’

     Teiresias finished talking. I drew back                                               60
      and thrust my silver-studded sword inside its sheath.
      When the blameless prophet had drunk dark blood,
      he said these words to me:

                                            ‘Glorious Odysseus,
            you ask about your honey-sweet return.
            But a god will make your journey bitter.                      
            As soon as you’ve escaped the dark blue sea
            and reached the island of Thrinacia
            in your sturdy ship, you’ll find grazing there
            the cattle and rich flocks of Helios,
            who hears and watches over everything.                                    70
            If you leave them unharmed and keep your mind
            on your return, you may reach Ithaca,
            though you’ll have trouble. But if you touch them,
            then I foresee destruction for your crew,
            for you, and for your ship. And even if
            you yourself escape, you’ll get home again
            in distress and late, in someone else’s ship,
            after losing every one of your companions.
            There’ll be trouble in your home—arrogant men
            eating up your livelihood and wooing                                          80
            your godlike wife by giving courtship gifts.
            But when you come, you’ll surely take revenge
            for all their violence. Once you have killed
            the suitors in your house with your sharp sword,
            by cunning or in public, then take up
            a well-made oar and go, until you reach
            a people who know nothing of the sea,
            who don’t put salt on any food they eat,
            and have no knowledge of ships painted red
            or well-made oars that serve those ships as wings.                      90
            I’ll tell you a sure sign you won’t forget—
            when someone else runs into you and says
            you’ve got a shovel used for winnowing
            on your broad shoulders, then fix that fine oar
            in the ground there, and make rich sacrifice
            to lord Poseidon with a ram, a bull,
            and a boar that breeds with sows. Then leave.(13)
            Go home, and there make sacred offerings                  
            to the immortal gods, who hold wide heaven,
            to all of them in order. Your death will come                              100
            far from the sea, such a gentle passing,
            when you are bowed down with a ripe old age,
            and your people prospering around you.
            In all these things I’m telling you the truth.’(14)

      He finished speaking. Then I replied and said:

            ‘Teiresias, no doubt the gods themselves
            have spun the threads of this. But come, tell me—
            and speak the truth—I can see there the shade
            of my dead mother, sitting near the blood,
            in silence. She does not dare confront                                        110
            the face of her own son or speak to him.
            Tell me, my lord, how she may understand
            just who I am.’

                                       When I’d finished speaking,
      Teiresias quickly gave me his reply:

            ‘I’ll tell you so your mind will comprehend.
            It’s easy. Whichever shadow of the dead
            you let approach the blood will speak to you
            and tell the truth, but those you keep away
            will once again withdraw.’

                                       After saying this,
      the shade of lord Teiresias returned                                                  120
      to Hades’ home, having made his prophecy.
      But I stayed there undaunted, till my mother
      came and drank dark blood. Then she knew me.
      Full of sorrow, she spoke out—her words had wings:

            ‘My son, how have you come while still alive
            down to this sad darkness? For living men
            it’s difficult to come and see these things—
            huge rivers, fearful waters, stand between us,
            first and foremost Oceanus, which no man
            can cross on foot. He needs a sturdy ship.                                 130
            Have you only now come here from Troy,
            after a long time wandering with your ship
            and your companions? Have you not reached
            Ithaca, nor seen your wife in your own home?’

      Once she’d finished, I answered her:

                                                                ‘Mother,
            I had to come down here to Hades’ home,
            meet the shade of Teiresias of Thebes,
            and hear his prophecy. I have not yet
            come near Achaea’s shores or disembarked
            in our own land. I’ve been wandering around                             140
            in constant misery, ever since I left
            with noble Agamemnon, bound for Troy,
            to fight against the Trojans. But come now,
            tell me—and make sure you speak the truth—
            What grievous form of death destroyed you?
            A lingering disease, or did archer Artemis
            attack and kill you with her gentle arrows?
            And tell me of my father and my son,
            whom I left behind. Tell me of the wife
            I married. What are her thoughts and plans?                               150
            Is she still there with her son, keeping watch
            on everything? Or has she been married
            to the finest of Achaeans?’

                                               When I’d said this,
      my honoured mother answered me at once:

            ‘You can be sure she’s waiting in your home,
            her heart still faithful. But her nights and days
            all end in sorrow, with her shedding tears.                   
            As for your father, he stays on his farm 
            and never travels down into the city.
            There he lies in sorrow, nursing in his heart                                 160
            enormous grief, longing you’ll come back.
            A harsh old age has overtaken him.
            That’s how I met my fate and died, as well.
            I was not attacked and killed in my own home
            by gentle arrows of the keen-eyed archer,
            nor did I die of some disease which takes
            the spirit from our limbs, as we waste away
            in pain. No. It was my longing for you,
            glorious Odysseus, for your loving care,
            that robbed me of my life, so honey sweet.’                                170

      She finished. I considered how in my heart
      I wished to hold the shade of my dead mother.
      Three times my spirit prompted me to grasp her,
      and I jumped ahead. But each time she slipped
      out of my arms, like a shadow or a dream.
      The pain inside my heart grew even sharper.
      Then I spoke to her—my words had wings:

            ‘Mother, why do you not wait for me?
            I’d like to hold you, so that even here,
            in Hades’ home, we might throw loving arms                              180
            around each other and then have our fill
            of icy lamentation. Or are you
            just a phantom royal Persephone has sent
            to make me groan and grieve still more?’

      I spoke. My honoured mother quickly said:

            ‘My child, of all men most unfortunate,
            no, Persephone, daughter of Zeus,
            is not deceiving you. Once mortals die,
            this is what’s set for them. Their sinews
            no longer hold the flesh and bone together.                                 190
            The mighty power of blazing fire
            destroys them, once our spirit flies from us,                
            from our white bones. And then it slips away,
            and, like a dream, flutters to and fro.’

[Odysseus then describes how he saw a large number of shades of famous women from olden times.]

 

Odysseus paused. All Phaeacians sat in silence,
saying not a word, spellbound in the shadowy hall.
The first to speak was white-armed Arete, who said:

      “Phaeacians, how does this man seem to you
      for beauty, stature, and within himself,
      a fair, well-balanced mind? He is my guest,                                      200
      though each of you shares in this honour, too.
      So don’t be quick to send him on his way,
      and don’t hold back your gifts to one in need.”

Then old warrior Echeneus addressed them all—
one of the Phaeacian elders there among them:

      “Friends, what our wise queen has just said to us,
      as we’d expect, is not wide of the mark.
      You must attend to her. But the last word
      and the decision rest with Alcinous.”

Once Echeneus finished, Alcinous spoke out:                                         210

      “The queen indeed will have the final word,
      as surely as I live and am the king
      of the Phaeacians, men who love the oar.
      But though our guest is longing to return,
      let him try to stay until tomorrow.
      By then I’ll have completed all our gifts.”

Resourceful Odysseus then replied to him and said:

      “Lord Alcinous, of all men most renowned,
      if you asked me to stay for one whole year,
      to organize my escort and give splendid gifts,                                   220
      then I would still agree. It’s far better
      to get back to one’s own dear native land 
      with more wealth in hand. I’ll win more respect,
      more love from anyone who looks at me,
      whenever I return to Ithaca.”

Alcinous then answered him and said:

                                                        “Odysseus,
      when we look at you, we do not perceive
      that you’re in any way a lying fraud,
      like many men the black earth nourishes
      and scatters everywhere, who make up lies                                      230
      from things no man has seen. You speak so well,
      and you have such a noble heart inside.
      You’ve told your story with a minstrel’s skill,
      the painful agonies of all the Argives
      and your own, as well. Come then, tell me this—
      and speak the truth—did you see any comrades,
      those godlike men who went with you to Troy
      and met their fate there? This night before us
      will be lengthy, astonishingly so.
      It’s not yet time to sleep here in the halls,                                         240
      so tell me of these marvellous events.”

Resourceful Odysseus then answered him 
and said these words:

                                         “Lord Alcinous,
      If you are eager to hear even more,
      I will not hesitate to speak to you
      of other things more pitiful than these.
      I mean the troubles of those friends of mine
      who perished later, who managed to escape
      the Trojans frightening battle cries, but died 
      when they returned, thanks to the deviousness                                 250
      of a malicious woman.

                                        Once sacred Persephone
      dispersed those female shadows here and there,
      then the grieving shade of Agamemnon,    
      son of Atreus, appeared. Around him
      other shades had gathered, all those who died
      and met their fate alongside Agamemnon
      in Aegisthus’ house. He knew me at once.(15)
      When he’d drunk some blood, he wept aloud,
      shedding many tears, stretching out his hands,
      keen to reach me. But he no longer had                                           260
      any inner power or strength, not like
      the force his supple limbs possessed before.
      I looked at him and wept. Pity filled my heart.
      Then I spoke to him—my words had wings:

            ‘Lord Agamemnon, son of Atreus,
            king of men, what fatal net of grievous death
            destroyed you? Did Poseidon stir the winds
            into a furious storm and strike your ships?
            Or were you killed by enemies on land,
            while you were cutting out their cattle                                         270
            or rich flocks of sheep? Or were you fighting
            to seize their city and their women?’

       I paused, and he at once gave me his answer:

            ‘Resourceful Odysseus, Laertes’ son,
            and Zeus’ child, Poseidon didn’t kill me
            in my ships by rousing savage winds
            into a vicious storm. Nor was I killed
            by enemies on land. No. Aegisthus
            brought on my fatal end. He murdered me,
            and he was helped by my accursed wife,                                    280
            after he’d invited me into his home
            and prepared a feast for me, like an ox
            one butchers in its stall. And so I died
            the most pitiful of deaths. Around me
            they kept killing the rest of my companions,               
            like white-tusked pigs. The saddest thing I heard
            was Cassandra, Priam’s daughter, screaming.
            That traitor Clytaemnestra slaughtered her
            right there beside me. Though I was dying,
            I raised my arms to strike her with my sword,                             290
            but that dog-faced bitch turned her back on me.
            Though I was on my way to Hades,
            she made no attempt to use her fingers
            to close my eyelids or to shut my mouth.’(16)

       Agamemnon finished. I answered him at once:

            ‘That’s horrible. Surely wide-thundering Zeus
            for many years has shown a dreadful hate
            towards the family of Atreus,
            thanks to the conniving of some woman.
            Many died for Helen’s sake, and then                                        300
            Clytaemnestra organized a trap for you,
            while you were somewhere far away.’

      As we two stood there in sad conversation,
      full of sorrow and shedding many tears,
      Achilles’ shade came up, son of Peleus,
      with those of splendid Antilochus
      and Patroclus, too, as well as Ajax,
      who in his looks and body was the best
      of all Danaans, after Achilles,
      who had no equal. Then the shadow                                                310
      of the swift-footed son of Aeacus
      knew who I was, and with a cry of grief,
      he spoke to me—his words had wings:(17)

            ‘Resourceful Odysseus, Laertes’ son
            and Zeus’ child, what a bold man you are!
            What exploit will your heart ever dream up
            to top this one? How can you dare to come
            down into Hades’ home, the dwelling place
            for the mindless dead, shades of worn-out men?’

       Achilles spoke. I answered him at once:                                          320

            ‘Achilles, son of Peleus, mightiest
            by far of the Achaeans, I came here
            because I had to see Teiresias.
            He might tell me a plan for my return
            to rugged Ithaca. I’ve not yet come near
            Achaean land. I’ve still not disembarked
            in my own country. I’m in constant trouble.
            But as for you, Achilles, there’s no man
            in earlier days who was more blest than you,
            and none will come in future. Before now,                                  330
            while you were still alive, we Argives
            honoured you as we did the gods. And now,
            since you’ve come here, you rule with power
            among those who have died. So Achilles,
            you have no cause to grieve because you’re dead.’

       I paused, and he immediately replied:

            ‘Don’t try to comfort me about my death,
            glorious Odysseus. I’d rather live
            working as a wage-labourer for hire
            by some other man, one who had no land                                   340
            and not much in the way of livelihood,
            than lord it over all the wasted dead.’

      With these words the shade of swift Achilles
      moved off through meadows filled with asphodel.

      The other shadows of the dead and gone
      stood there in sorrow, all asking questions
      about the ones they loved. The only one   
      who stood apart was the shade of Ajax,
      son of Telamon, still full of anger
      for my victory, when I’d bested him                                                 350
      beside our ships, in that competition
      for Achilles’ arms. His honoured mother
      had offered them as prizes. The judges
      were sons of Troy and Pallas Athena.
      How I wish I’d never won that contest!(18)
      Those weapons were the cause earth swallowed up
      the life of Ajax, such a splendid man,
      who, in his looks and actions, was the best
      of all Danaans after the noble son
      of Peleus. I called to him—my words                                               360
      were meant to reassure him:

                                                                     ‘Ajax,
            worthy son of Telamon, can’t you forget,
            even when you’re dead, your anger at me
            over those destructive weapons? The gods
            made them a curse against the Argives,
            when they lost you, such a tower of strength.
            Now you’ve been killed, Achaeans mourn your death
            unceasingly, just as they do Achilles,
            son of Peleus. No one is to blame
            but Zeus, who in his terrifying rage                                             370
            against the army of Danaan spearmen
            brought on your death. Come over here, my lord,
            so you can hear me as I talk to you.
            Let your proud heart and anger now relent.’

      I finished. He did not reply, but left,
      moving off toward Erebus, to join
      the other shadows of the dead and gone.
      For all his anger, he would have talked to me,      
      or I to him, but in my chest and heart
      I wished to see more shades of those who’d died.                            380

      And I saw Tityus, son of glorious Earth,
      lying on the ground. His body covered
      nine acres and more.(19) Two vultures sat there,
      one on either side, ripping his liver,
      their beaks jabbing deep inside his guts.
      His hands could not fend them off his body.
      He’d assaulted Leto, Zeus’ lovely wife,
      as she was passing through Panopeus,
      with its fine dancing grounds, towards Pytho.

      Then I saw Tantalus in agony,                                                          390
      standing in a pool of water so deep
      it almost reached his chin. He looked as if
      he had a thirst but couldn’t take a drink.(20)
      Whenever that old man bent down, so keen
      to drink, the water there was swallowed up
      and vanished. You could see black earth appear
      around his feet. A god dried up the place.
      Some high and leafy trees above his head
      were in full bloom—pears and pomegranates,
      apple trees—all with gleaming fruit—sweet figs                                400
      and luscious olives. Each time the old man
      stretched out his arms to reach for them,
      a wind would raise them to the shadowy clouds.

      And then, in his painful torment, I saw
      Sisyphus striving with both hands to raise
      a massive rock. He’d brace his arms and feet,
      then strain to push it uphill to the top.      
      But just as he was going to get that stone
      across the crest, its overpowering weight
      would make it change direction. The cruel rock                                410
      would roll back down again onto the plain.
      Then he’d strain once more to push it up the slope.
      His limbs dripped sweat, and dust rose from his head.(21)

      And then I noticed mighty Hercules,
      or at least his image, for he himself
      was with immortal gods, enjoying their feasts.(22)
      Hebe with the lovely ankles is his wife,
      daughter of great Zeus and Hera, goddess
      of the golden sandals. Around him there
      the dead were making noises, like birds                                            420
      fluttering to and fro quite terrified.
      And like dark night, he was glaring round him,
      his unsheathed bow in hand, with an arrow
      on the string, as if prepared to shoot.
      The strap across his chest was frightening,
      a golden belt inlaid with images—
      amazing things—bears, wild boars, and lions
      with glittering eyes, battles, fights, and murders,
      men being killed. I hope whoever made it,
      the one whose skill conceived that belt’s design,                               430
      never made or ever makes another.
      His eyes saw me and knew just who I was.
      With a mournful tone he spoke to me—
      his words had wings:

                              ‘Resourceful Odysseus,
            son of Laertes and a child of Zeus,
            are you now bearing an unhappy fate              
            below the sunlight, as I, too, did once?
            I was a son of Zeus, child of Cronos,
            and yet I had to bear countless troubles,
            forced to carry out labours for a man                                          440
            vastly inferior to me, someone  
            who kept assigning me the harshest tasks.
            Once he sent me here to bring away
            Hades’ hound. There was no other challenge
            he could dream up more difficult for me
            than that one. But I carried the dog off
            and brought him back from Hades with my guides,
            Hermes and gleaming-eyed Athena.’

      With these words he returned to Hades’ home.
      But I stayed at that place a while, in case                                          450
      one of those heroic men who perished 
      in days gone by might come. I might have seen
      still more men from former times, the ones
      I wished to see—Theseus and Perithous,
      great children of the gods. Before I could,
      a thousand tribes of those who’d died appeared,
      with an astounding noise. Pale fear gripped me—
      holy Persephone might send at me
      a horrific monster, the Gorgon’s head.(23)
      I quickly made my way back to the ship,                                          460
      told my crew to get themselves on board,
      and loosen off the cables at the stern.
      They went aboard at once and took their seats
      along each rowing bench. A rising swell
      carried our ship down Oceanus’ stream.
      We rowed at first, but then a fair wind blew.”

 

 

BOOK TWELVE 
THE SIRENS, SCYLLA AND CHARYBDIS, THE CATTLE OF THE SUN

 

      “Our ship sailed on, away from Ocean’s stream,
      across the great wide sea, and reached Aeaea,
      the island home and dancing grounds of Dawn.
      We sailed in, hauled our ship up on the beach,
      then walked along the shore beside the sea.
      There, waiting for bright Dawn, we fell asleep.

      Circe was well aware of our return
      from Hades’ home. Dressed in her finery,
      she quickly came to us. With her she brought
      servants carrying bread, plenty of meat,                                            10
      and bright red wine. Then the lovely goddess
      stood in our midst and spoke:

                                                      ‘You reckless men,
            you’ve gone to Hades’ home while still alive,
            to meet death twice, when other men die once.
            But come, eat this food and drink this wine.
            Take all day. As soon as Dawn arrives,
            you’ll sail. I’ll show you your course and tell you
            each sign to look for, so you’ll not suffer,
            or, thanks to vicious plans of sea and land,
            endure great pain.’

                                                      Circe finished speaking.                    20
      And our proud hearts agreed with what she’d said.
      So all that day until the sun went down
      we sat there eating rich supplies of meat
      and drinking down sweet wine. The sun then set,
      and darkness came. So we lay down and slept
      beside stern cables of our ship. But Circe
      took me by the hand and led me off,
      some distance from the crew. She made me sit,    
      while she lay there on the ground beside me.
      I told her every detail of our trip,                                                      30
      describing all of it from start to finish.
      Then queen Circe spoke to me and said:

            ‘All these things have thus come to an end.
            But you must listen now to what I say—
            a god himself will be reminding you.
            First of all, you’ll run into the Sirens.
            They seduce all men who come across them.
            Whoever unwittingly goes past them
            and hears the Sirens’ call never gets back.
            His wife and infant children in his home                                       40
            will never stand beside him full of joy.
            No. Instead, the Sirens’ clear-toned song
            will captivate his heart. They’ll be sitting
            in a meadow, surrounded by a pile,
            a massive heap, of rotting human bones
            encased in shrivelled skin. Row on past them.
            Roll some sweet wax in your hand and stuff it
            in your companions’ ears, so none of them
            can listen. But if you’re keen to hear them,
            make your crew tie you down in your swift ship.                         50
            When your crew has rowed on past the Sirens,
            I cannot tell you which alternative
            to follow on your route—for you yourself
            will have to trust your heart. But I’ll tell you
            the options. One has overhanging rocks,
            on which dark-eyed Amphitrite’s great waves
            smash with a roar. These cliffs the blessed gods
            have called the Planctae. No birds pass through there.
            No human ship has ever reached this place
            and got away. Instead, waves from the sea                                  60
            and deadly blasts of fire carry away
            a whirling mass of timbers from the boat
            and human bodies. Only one ocean ship,
            most famous of them all, has made it through,                        
            the Argo, sailing on her way from Aeetes,
            and waves would soon have smashed that vessel, too,
            against the massive rocks, had not Hera
            sent her through. For Jason was her friend.(24)
            On the other route there are two cliffs.
            One has a sharp peak jutting all the way                                      70
            up to wide heaven. Around that mountain
            a dark cloud sits, which never melts away.
            No human being could climb up that rock
            and stand on top. Half way up the rock face
            there’s a shadowy cave. It faces west,
            towards Erebus. You’ll steer your ship at it.
            In there lives Scylla. She has a dreadful yelp.
            It’s true her voice sounds like a new-born pup,
            but she’s a vicious monster. Nobody
            would feel good seeing her, nor would a god                               80
            who crossed her path. She has a dozen feet,
            all deformed, six enormously long necks,
            with a horrific head on each of them,
            and three rows of teeth packed close together,
            full of murky death. Her lower body
            she keeps out of sight in her hollow cave,
            but sticks her heads outside the fearful hole,
            and fishes there, scouring around the rock
            for dolphins, swordfish, or some bigger prey,
            whatever she can seize of all those beasts                                    90
            moaning Amphitrite keeps nourishing
            in numbers past all counting. No sailors
            can yet boast they and their ship sailed past her
            without getting hurt. Each of Scylla’s heads
            carries off a man, snatching him away
            right off the dark-prowed ship. Then, Odysseus,
            you’ll see the other cliff. It’s not so high.                     
            There’s a huge fig tree there with leaves in bloom.
            Just below that tree divine Charybdis
            sucks black water down. She spews it out                                  100
            three times a day, and then three times a day
            she gulps it down—a terrifying sight.
            May you never meet her when she swallows!
            Nothing can save you from destruction then,
            not even Poseidon, Shaker of the Earth.
            Make sure your ship stays close to Scylla’s rock.
            Row past there quickly. It’s much better
            to mourn for six companions in your ship
            than to have them all wiped out together.

            Next you’ll reach the island of Thrinacia,                                     110
            where Helios’ many cattle graze,
            his rich flocks, too—seven herds of cattle
            and just as many lovely flocks of sheep,
            with fifty in each group. They bear no young
            and never die. Their herders are divine.
            Now, if you leave these animals unharmed
            and focus on your journey home, I think
            you may get back to Ithaca, although
            you’ll bear misfortunes. But if you harm them,
            then I foresee destruction for your ship                                        120
            and crew. Even if you yourself escape,
            you’ll get back home in great distress and late,
            after all your comrades have been killed.’

      Circe finished speaking. When Dawn came up
      on her golden throne, the lovely goddess
      left to go up island. So I returned
      back to the ship and urged my comrades
      to get on board and loosen off the stern ropes.
      They quickly climbed into the ship, sat down
      in proper order at each rowing bench,                                              130
      and struck the gray sea with their oars. Fair winds
      began to blow behind our dark-prowed ship.
      ”Then the wind died down. Everything was calm,
      without a breeze. Some god had stilled the waves.
      My comrades stood up, furled the sail, stowed it
      in the hollow ship, and then sat at their oars,
      churning the water white with polished blades
      carved out of pine. With my sharp sword I cut
      a large round chunk of wax into small bits,
      then kneaded them in my strong fingers.                                            140
      Once I’d plugged my comrades’ ears with wax,
      they tied me hand and foot onto the ship,
      so I stood upright hard against the mast.
      They lashed the rope ends to the mast as well,
      then sat and struck the gray sea with their oars.
      But when we were about as far away
      as a man can shout, moving forward quickly,
      our swift ship did not get past the Sirens,
      once it came in close, without being noticed.
      So they began their clear-toned cry:

                                                              ‘Odysseus,                              150
            you famous man, great glory of Achaeans,
            come over here. Let your ship pause awhile,
            so you can hear the songs we two will sing.
            No man has ever rowed in his black ship
            past this island and not listened to us,
            sweet-voiced melodies sung from our lips.
            That brings him joy, and he departs from here
            a wiser man, for we two understand
            all the things that went on there in Troy,
            all Trojan and Achaean suffering,                                                160
            thanks to what the gods then willed, for we know
            everything that happens on this fertile earth.’

      They paused. The voice that reached me was so fine
      my heart longed to listen. I told my crew
      to set me free, sent them clear signals
      with my eyebrows. But they fell to the oars
      and rowed ahead. Then two of them got up,         
      Perimedes and Eurylochus, bound me
      with more rope and lashed me even tighter.
      Once they’d rowed on well beyond the Sirens,                                 170
      my loyal crewmates quickly pulled out wax
      I’d stuffed in each man’s ears and loosed my ropes.

      But once we’d left the island far behind,
      I saw giant waves and smoke. Then I heard
      a crashing roar. The men were terrified.
      I went through the ship, cheering up the crew,
      standing beside each man and speaking words
      of reassurance:

                                     ‘Friends, up to this point,
            we’ve not been strangers to misfortunes.
            Surely the bad things now are nothing worse                               180
            than when the Cyclops with his savage force
            kept us his prisoners in his hollow cave.
            But even there, thanks to my excellence,
            intelligence, and planning, we escaped.
            I think someday we’ll be remembering
            these dangers, too. But come now, all of us
            should follow what I say. Stay by your oars,
            and keep striking them against the surging sea.
            Zeus may somehow let us escape from here.’

      I spoke. They quickly followed what I’d said.                                   190
      I didn’t speak a word of Scylla—she was
      a threat for which there was no remedy—
      in case my comrades, overcome with fear,
      might stop rowing and huddle together
      inside the boat. We kept sailing on,
      up the narrow strait, groaning as we moved.
      On one side lay Scylla; on the other one
      divine Charybdis terrified us all,
      by swallowing salt water from the sea.
      When she spewed it out, she seethed and bubbled                            200
      uncontrollably, just like a cauldron
      on a massive fire, while high above our heads
      spray was falling on top of both the cliffs.
      When she sucked the salt sea water down,
      everything in there looked totally confused,
      a dreadful roar arose around the rocks,
      and underneath the dark and sandy ground
      was visible. Pale fear gripped my crewmen.
      When we saw Charybdis, we were afraid
      we’d be destroyed. Then Scylla snatched away                                 210
      six of my companions, right from the ship,
      the strongest and the bravest men I had.
      When I turned to watch the swift ship and crew,
      already I could see their hands and feet,
      as Scylla carried them high overhead.
      They cried out and screamed, calling me by name
      one final time, their hearts in agony.
      Then, in the entrance to her cave, Scylla
      devoured the men, who still kept screaming,
      stretching out their arms in my direction,                                            220
      as they met their painful deaths. Of all things
      my eyes have witnessed in my journeying
      on pathways of the sea, the sight of them
      was the most piteous I’ve ever seen.

      Once we’d made it past those rocks and fled,
      escaping Scylla and dread Charybdis,
      we reached the lovely island of the god,
      home of those splendid broad-faced cattle
      and numerous rich flocks belonging to
      Helios Hyperion, god of the sun.                                                       230
      While I was still at sea in my black ship,
      I heard the lowing cattle being penned
      and bleating sheep. There fell into my heart
      the speeches of Teiresias of Thebes,
      the sightless prophet—Circe’s words, as well,
      on Aeaea. So with a heavy heart
      I spoke to my companions:

                                                              ‘Comrades,
            let all of you now swear this solemn oath—
            if by chance we find a herd of cattle
            or a large flock of sheep, not one of you                                     240
            will be so overcome with foolishness
            that you’ll kill a cow or sheep. No. Instead,
            you’ll be content to eat the food supplies
            which goddess Circe gave.’

                                                    Once I’d said this,
      they swore, as I had asked, they’d never kill
      those animals. When they had made the oath
      and finished promising, we moved our ship
      inside a hollow harbour, by a spring
      whose water tasted sweet. Then my crewmen
      disembarked and made a skilful dinner.                                             250
      When everyone had eaten food and drunk
      to his heart’s ease, they wept as they recalled
      those dear companions Scylla snatched away
      out of the hollow ship and then devoured.
      As they cried there, sweet sleep came over them.

      But when three-quarters of the night had passed
      and the stars had shifted their positions,
      cloud-gatherer Zeus stirred up a nasty wind
      and an amazing storm, which hid in clouds
      both land and sea alike. And from heaven                                         260
      dark Night rushed down. Once rose-fingered Dawn arrived,
      we dragged up our ship and made it secure
      inside a hollow cave, a place nymphs used
      as a fine dancing and assembly ground.

      But then, South Wind kept blowing one whole month.
      It never stopped. No other wind sprang up,
      except those times when East and South Wind blew.
      As long as the men had red wine and bread,
      they didn’t touch the cattle. They were keen
      to stay alive. But once what we had stored                                        270        
      inside our ship was gone, they had to roam,
      scouring around for game and fish and birds,
      whatever came to hand. They used bent hooks
      to fish, while hunger gnawed their stomachs.
      At that point I went inland, up island,
      to pray to the gods, hoping one of them
      would show me a way home. Once I’d moved
      across the island, far from my comrades,
      I washed my hands in a protected spot,
       a shelter from the wind, and said my prayers                                    280
      to all the gods who hold Mount Olympus.
      Then they poured sweet sleep across my eyelids.
      Meanwhile Eurylochus began to give
      disastrous advice to my companions:

            ‘Shipmates, although you’re suffering distress,
            hear me out. For wretched human beings
            all forms of death are hateful. But to die
            from lack of food, to meet one’s fate that way,
            is worst of all. So come, let’s drive away
            the best of Helios’ cattle, and then                                               290
            we’ll sacrifice to the immortal gods
            who hold wide heaven. And if we get home,
            make it to Ithaca, our native land,
            for Helios Hyperion we’ll build
            a splendid temple, and inside we’ll put
            many wealthy offerings. If he’s enraged
            about his straight-horned cattle and desires
            to wreck our ship and other gods agree,
            I’d rather lose my life once and for all
            choking on a wave than starving to death                                    300
            on an abandoned island.’

                                                       Eurylochus spoke.
      My other comrades agreed with what he’d said.
      They quickly rounded up the finest beasts
      from Helios’ herd, which was close by,
      sleek, broad-faced animals with curving horns    
      grazing near the dark-prowed ship. My comrades
      stood around them, praying to the gods.
      They broke off tender leaves from a high oak,
      for there was no white barley on the ship.(25)
      After their prayers, they cut the creature’s throats,                            310
      flayed them, and cut out portions of the thighs.
      These they covered in a double layer of fat
      and laid raw meat on top. They had no wine
      to pour down on the flaming sacrifice,
      so they used some water for libations
      and roasted all the entrails in the fire.
      Once the thigh parts were completely roasted
      and they’d had a taste of inner organs,
      they sliced up the rest and skewered it on spits.
      That was the moment sweet sleep left my eyes.                                 320
      I went down to our swift ship by the shore.
      As I drew closer to our curving ship,
      the sweet smell of hot fat floated round me.
      I groaned and cried out to immortal gods:

            ‘Father Zeus and you other sacred gods,
            who live forever, you forced it on me,
            that cruel sleep, to bring about my doom.
            For my companions who remained behind
            have planned something disastrous.’

                                                 A messenger
      quickly came to Helios Hyperion,                                                      330
      long-robed Lampetie, bringing him the news—
      we had killed his cattle. Without delay,
      he spoke to the immortals, full of rage:

            ‘Father Zeus and you other blessed gods,
            who live forever, take your vengeance now
            on those companions of Odysseus,
            Laertes’ son, who, in their arrogance,              
            have killed my animals, the very ones
            I always look upon with such delight
            whenever I move up to starry heaven                                          340
            and then turn back from there toward the earth.
            If they don’t pay me proper retribution
            for those beasts, then I’ll go down to Hades
            and shine among the dead.’

                                               Cloud-gatherer Zeus
      answered him and said:

                                                       ‘Helios, I think
            you should keep on shining for immortals
            and for human beings on fertile earth.
            With a dazzling thunderbolt I myself
            will quickly strike at that swift ship of theirs
            and, in the middle of the wine-dark sea,                                       350
            smash it to tiny pieces.’

                                                 I learned of this
      from fair Calypso, who said she herself
      had heard it from Hermes the Messenger.

      I came down to the sea and reached the ship.
      Then I bitterly attacked my crewmen,
      each of them in turn, standing by the boat.
      But we couldn’t find a single remedy—
      the cattle were already dead. The gods
      immediately sent my men bad omens—
      hides crept along the ground, while on the spits                                  360
      the meat began to bellow, and a sound
      like cattle lowing filled the air.

                                                       For six days,
      those comrades I had trusted feasted there,
      eating the cattle they had rounded up,
      the finest beasts in Helios’ herd.
      But when Zeus, son of Cronos, brought to us
      the seventh day, the stormy winds died down.    
      We went aboard at once, put up the mast,
      hoisted the white sail, and then set off,
      out on the wide sea.

                                  Once we’d left that island,                                    370
      no other land appeared, only sky and sea.
      The son of Cronos sent us a black cloud,
      above our hollow ship, while underneath
      the sea grew dark. Our boat sailed on its course,
      but not for long. All at once, West Wind whipped up
      a frantic storm—the blasts of wind snapped off
      both forestays on the mast, which then fell back,
      and all our rigging crashed down in the hold.
      In the stern part of the ship, the falling mast
      struck the helmsman on his head, caving in                                        380
      his skull, every bone at once. Then he fell,
      like a diver, off the ship. His proud spirit
      left his bones. Then Zeus roared out his thunder
      and with a bolt of lightning struck our ship.
      The blow from Zeus’ lightning made our boat
      shiver from stem to stern and filled it up
      with sulphurous smoke. My crew fell overboard
      and were carried in the waves, like cormorants,       
      around our blackened ship, because the god
      had robbed them of their chance to get back home.                           390

      But I kept pacing up and down the ship,
      until the breaking seas had loosened off
      both sides of the keel. Waves were holding up
      the shattered ship but then snapped off the mast
      right at the keel. But the ox-hide backstay
      had fallen over it, and so with that
      I lashed them both together, mast and keel.
      I sat on these and then was carried off         
      by those destructive winds. But when the storms
      from West Wind ceased, South Wind began to blow,                        400
      and that distressed my spirit—I worried
      about floating back to grim Charybdis. 
      All night I drifted. When the sun came up,
      I reached Scylla’s cliff and dread Charybdis
      sucking salt water from the sea.
      But I jumped up into the high fig tree
      and held on there, as if I were a bat.
      But there was nowhere I could plant my feet,
      nor could I climb the tree—its roots were spread
      far down below me, and its branches stretched                                  410
      above me, out of reach, immense and long,
      overshadowing Charybdis. I hung there,
      staunch in my hope that when she spewed again
      she’d throw up keel and mast. And to my joy,
      they finally appeared. My hands and feet let go,
      and from up high I fell into the sea
      beyond those lengthy spars. I sat on them
      and used my hands to paddle my way through.

      I drifted for nine days. On the tenth night,                                  
      the gods conducted me to Ogygia,                                                     420
      the island where fair-haired Calypso lives,
      fearful goddess with the power of song.
      She welcomed and took good care of me.
      But why should I tell you that story now?
      It was only yesterday, in your home,
      I told it to you and your noble wife.
      And it’s an irritating thing, I think,                     
      to re-tell a story once it’s clearly told.”

 

 

BOOK THIRTEEN 
ODYSSEUS LEAVES PHAEACIA AND REACHES ITHACA

 

Odysseus paused. All Phaeacians sat in silence,
without saying a word, spellbound in the shadowy hall.
Then Alcinous again spoke up and said to him:

      “Odysseus, since you’re visiting my home,
      with its brass floors and high-pitched roof, I think
      you won’t leave here and go back disappointed,
      although you’ve truly suffered much bad luck.
      Clothing for our guest is packed already,
      stored in a polished chest inlaid with gold,
      as well as all the other gifts brought here                                           10
      by Phaeacia’s counselors.”

                                               Mighty Alcinous
dispatched a herald to conduct him to the sea
and his fast ship. Once they’d come down to the ship,
beside the sea, the noble youths accompanying him
immediately took all the food and drink on board
and stowed them in the hollow ship. They spread a rug
and linen sheet on the deck inside the hollow ship,
at the stern, so Odysseus could sleep in peace.
He went aboard, as well, and lay down in silence.
Each man sat in proper order at his oarlock.                                           20
They loosed the cable from the perforated stone.
Once they leaned back and stirred the water with their oars,
a calming sleep fell on his eyelids, undisturbed
and very sweet, something very similar to death.
Just as four stallions yoked together charge ahead
across the plain, all running underneath the lash,
and jump high as they gallop quickly on their way,
that’s how the stern of that ship leapt up on high,
while in her wake the dark waves of the roaring sea
were churned to a great foam, as she sped on her path,                          30
safe and secure. Not even a wheeling hawk,
the swiftest of all flying things, could match her speed,
as she raced ahead, slicing through the ocean waves,
carrying a man whose mind was like a god’s.
His heart in earlier days had endured much pain,
as he moved through men’s wars and suffered on the waves.
Now he slept in peace, forgetting all his troubles.
When the brightest of the stars rose up, the one
which always comes to herald light from early Dawn,
the sea-faring ship sailed in close to Ithaca.                                             40
Those rowers’ arms had so much strength, half the boat,
which was moving fast, was driven up on shore.
Once they climbed out of that well-built rowing ship
onto dry land, first they took Odysseus out,
lifting him from the hollow ship still wrapped up
in the linen sheet and splendid blanket, placed him,
fast asleep, down on the sand, then carried out
the gifts Phaeacia’s noblemen had given him,
thanks to the goodwill of great-hearted Athena,
when he was setting out for home. They put these gifts                            50
against the trunk of the olive tree, in a pile,
some distance from the path, in case someone came by,
before Odysseus could wake up, stumbled on them,
and robbed him. Then they set off, back to Phaeacia.

[Poseidon complains to Zeus about what the Phaeacians are doing to help Odysseus, and Zeus tells him to punish them. So Poseidon turns the Phaeacian ship and crew to stone, just as the ship is about to reach home.]

 

Meanwhile, Odysseus, asleep in his own land,
woke up. He didn’t recognize just where he was.
And so all things seemed unfamiliar to their king,
the long straight paths, the harbour with safe anchorage,
the sheer-faced cliffs, the trees in rich full bloom.
So he jumped up and looked out at his native land.                                 60
He groaned aloud and struck his thighs with both his palms,
then expressed his grief, saying:

                                          “Where am I now?
      Whose country have I come to this time?
      Are they violent, unjust, and cruel,
      or do they welcome strangers? Do their minds
      respect the gods? And all this treasure here,
      where do I take that? Where do I go next?”

Then, overwhelmed with longing for his native land,
he wandered on the shore beside the crashing sea,
with many cries of sorrow. Then Athena came,                                       70
moving close to him in the form of a young man.
Odysseus, happy to catch sight of her, came up
and spoke to her—his words had wings:

                                                                 “My friend,
      since you’re the first one I’ve encountered here,
      tell me the truth, so I can understand—
      What country is this? Who are these people?
      Is it some sunny island or a headland
      of the fertile mainland reaching out to sea?”

Athena, goddess with the gleaming eyes, replied:

      “Stranger, you’re a fool, or else you’ve come                                   80
      from somewhere far away, if you must ask
      about this land. It’s name is not unknown—
      not at all—many men have heard of it.
      The name of Ithaca is even known in Troy,
      a long way from Achaean land, they say.”

Athena spoke, and much-enduring lord Odysseus
felt great joy, happy to learn of his ancestral lands.
Bright-eyed Athena smiled and stroked him with her hand.
Then she changed herself into a lovely woman,
tall and very skilled in making splendid things.                                         90
She spoke to him—her words had wings:

      “Of all men you’re the best in making plans
      and giving speeches, and among all gods
      I’m well known for subtlety and wisdom.  
      Still, you failed to recognize Pallas Athena,
      daughter of Zeus, who’s always at your side,
      looking out for you in every crisis.
      Yes, I made all those Phaeacians love you.
      Now I’ve come to weave a scheme with you
      and hide these goods Phaeacian noblemen                                        100
      gave you as you were setting out for home,
      thanks to my plans and what I had in mind.
      I’ll tell you what Fate has in store for you.
      You’ll find harsh troubles in your well-built home.
      Be patient, for you must endure them all.
      Don’t tell anyone, no man or woman,
      you’ve returned from wandering around.
      Instead, keep silent. Bear the many pains,
      and, when men act savagely, do nothing.
      Now, let’s not delay, but put away these goods                                110
      in some hidden corner of this sacred cave,
      where they’ll stay safely stored inside for you.
      And then let’s think about how all these things
      may turn out for the best.”

[Athena and Odysseus hide the gifts Odysseus brought with him on the ship]

 

                                       Then the two of them
sat down by the trunk of the sacred olive tree
to think of ways to kill those arrogant suitors.
Bright-eyed goddess Athena was the first to speak:

      “Resourceful Odysseus, Laertes’ son
      and child of Zeus, think how your hands may catch
      these shameless suitors, who for three years now                              120
      have been lording it inside your palace,
      wooing your godlike wife and offering her
      their marriage gifts. She longs for your return.
      Although her heart is sad, she feeds their hopes,
      by giving each man words of reassurance.
      But her mind is full of other things.”

Resourceful Odysseus then answered her and said:

      “Goddess, if you had not told me all this,
      I would have shared the fate of Agamemnon,
      son of Atreus, and died in my own home.                                         130
      Come, weave a plan so I can pay them back.
      Stand in person by my side, and fill me
      with indomitable courage, as you did
      when we loosed the bright diadem of Troy.”

Bright-eyed goddess Athena then answered him:

      “You can be sure I’ll stand beside you.
      I won’t forget you when the trouble starts.
      I think the brains and blood of many suitors
      who consume your livelihood will spatter
      the wide earth. But come, I’ll transform you,                                     140
      so you’ll be unrecognizable to all.
      You must go first of all to see the swineherd,
      who tends your pigs. He’s well disposed to you
      and loves your son and wise Penelope.
      Ask him questions about everything.
      I’ll go to Sparta, land of lovely women,
      and there, Odysseus, I’ll summon back
      your dear son, Telemachus, who has gone
      to spacious Lacedaemon, to the home
      of Menelaus, to find out news of you,                                                150
      to learn if you are still alive somewhere.”

As she said this, Athena touched him with her staff.
She wrinkled the fair skin on his supple limbs
and took the dark hair from his head. His arms and legs
she covered with an old man’s ancient flesh and dimmed
his eyes, which had been so beautiful before.
She dressed him in different clothes—a ragged cloak,
a dirty tunic, ripped and dishevelled, stained 
with stinking smoke. Then she threw around him
a large hairless hide from a swift deer and gave him                                 160
a staff and a tattered leather pouch, full of holes
and with a twisted strap.

                                               When the two of them
had made their plans, they parted, and Athena went
to Lacedaemon to bring back Odysseus’ son.

 

 

BOOK FOURTEEN 
ODYSSEUS MEETS EUMAEUS

 

Odysseus left the harbour, taking the rough path
into the woods and across the hills, to the place
where Athena told him he would meet the swineherd,
who was, of all the servants lord Odysseus had,
the one who took best care of his possessions.
He found him sitting in the front part of his house,
a built-up courtyard with a panoramic view,
a large, fine place, with cleared land all around.
The swineherd built it by himself to house the pigs,
property belonging to his absent master.                                                 10
All of a sudden the dogs observed Odysseus.
They howled and ran at him, barking furiously.
Odysseus was alert enough to drop his staff
and sit. Still, he’d have been severely mauled
in his own farmyard, but the swineherd ran up fast
behind them, dropping the leather in his hands.
Charging through the gate and shouting at his dogs,
he scattered them in a hail of stones here and there.
Then he spoke out to his master:

                                                                  “Old man,
      those dogs would’ve ripped at you in no time,                                   20
      and then you’d have heaped the blame on me.
      Well, I’ve got other troubles from the gods,
      things to grieve about. For as I stay here,
      raising fat pigs for other men to eat,
      I’m full of sorrow for my noble master,
      who’s probably going hungry somewhere,
      as he wanders through the lands and cities
      where men speak a foreign tongue, if, in fact,
      he’s still alive and looking at the sunlight.
      But follow me, old man. Come in the hut.                                          30
      When you’ve had enough to eat and drink            
      and your heart’s satisfied, you can tell me 
      where you come from, what troubles you’ve endured.”

With these words, the loyal swineherd went inside the hut,
brought Odysseus in, and invited him to sit,
Odysseus was glad to get this hospitality,
so he addressed him, saying:

                                                          “Stranger,
      may Zeus and other gods who live forever
      give you what you truly want—you’ve welcomed me
      with such an open heart.”

                                               Then, swineherd Eumaeus,                      40
you answered him and said:(26)

                                    “It would be wrong,
      stranger, for me to disrespect a guest,
      even if one worse off than you arrived,
      for all guests and beggars come from Zeus.”

[Eumaeus and Odysseus talk at length. Odysseus gives a long false story about how he is from Crete and about how he reached Ithaca.]

As these two were talking like this to each other,
the other herdsmen came in with their swine.
They shut the sows up in their customary pens,
so they could sleep. The pigs gave out amazing squeals,
as they were herded in. Then the trusty swineherd
called out to his companions:

                                 “Bring a boar in here,                                            50
      the best there is, so I can butcher it
      for this stranger from another country.
      We too will get some benefit from it,
      seeing that we’ve worked hard for such a long time
      and gone through troubles for these white-tusked pigs,     
      while others gorge themselves on our hard work
      without paying anything.”

                                                                      Once he’d said this,
with his sharp bronze axe he chopped up wood for kindling,
while others led in a big fat boar, five years old,
and stood him by the hearth. The swineherd’s heart was sound,               60
he did not forget the gods. So he began
by throwing in the fire some bristles from the head
of the white-tusked boar and praying to all the gods
that wise Odysseus would come back to his own home.
So resourceful Odysseus spoke to him and said:

      “Eumaeus, may father Zeus treat you as well
      as you are treating me with this boar’s chine,
      the very finest cut of meat, even though
      I’m just a beggar.”

                                       Then, swineherd Eumaeus,
you replied by saying:

                      “Eat up, god-guided stranger,                                           70
      and enjoy the kind of food we offer.
      A god gives some things and holds others back,
      as his heart prompts, for he can do all things.”

Eumaeus spoke and offered to eternal gods
the first pieces he had cut. He poured gleaming wine
as a libation, passed it over to Odysseus,
sacker of cities, then sat to eat his portion.

Night came on, bringing storms. There was no moon.
And Zeus sent blustery West Wind blowing in with rain.
Eumaeus then jumped up and placed a bed                                             80
for Odysseus near the fire. On the bed he threw
some skins from sheep and goats. Odysseus lay down there.
Eumaeus covered him with a huge thick cloak,
which he kept there as a change of clothing,
something to wear whenever a great storm blew.
So Odysseus went to sleep there, and the young men
slept around him. But Eumaeus had no wish
to have his bed inside and sleep so far away
from all his boars. So he prepared to go outside.
First, Eumaeus slung his sharp sword from his shoulder                           90
and wrapped a really thick cloak all around him,
to keep out the wind. Then he took a massive fleece
from a well-fed goat and grabbed a pointed spear
to fight off dogs and men. Then he left the hut,
going to lie down and rest where the white-tusked boars
slept beneath a hollow rock, sheltered from North Wind.

 

 

BOOK FIFTEEN 
TELEMACHUS RETURNS TO ITHACA

 

[Pallas Athena visits Telemachus in Sparta and tells him to return home and to visit the swineherd Eumaeus. In Ithaca Odysseus and Eumaeus continue to talk about the situation in the royal palace.]

Meanwhile, Telemachus, summoned by Athena 
had left Sparta for Pylos and set sail for home.
As Telemachus’ comrades were approaching land,
they furled the sail and quickly lowered the mast.
Then, with their oars they rowed into an anchorage,
tossed out mooring stones, and lashed the cables at the stern.
They themselves then disembarked in the crashing surf,
to prepare a meal and mix the gleaming wine.
When they’d had food and drink to their heart’s content,
prudent Telemachus was the first to speak:                                             10

      “You men row the black ship to the city,
      while I check on the fields and herdsmen.
      I’ll come to the city in the evening,
      after I’ve looked over my estates.
      In the morning I’ll lay out a banquet
      as payment to you for the journey,
      a splendid meal of meat and sweetened wine.”

Telemachus tied sturdy sandals on his feet,
then from the deck picked up his powerful spear
with a sharp bronze point. The crew untied stern cables                           20
and then pushed out to sea, sailing to the city,
as Telemachus, godlike Odysseus’ dear son,
had ordered them to do, while he strode quickly off,
his feet carrying him onward, until he reached
the farmyard and the pigs in countless numbers,
among whom the worthy swineherd lay asleep,
always thinking gentle thoughts about his master.

 

 

BOOK SIXTEEN 
ODYSSEUS REVEALS HIMSELF TO TELEMACHUS

 

Meanwhile at dawn Odysseus and the loyal swineherd,
once they’d sent the herdsmen out with droves of pigs,
made a fire in the hut and prepared their breakfast.
As Telemachus came closer, the yelping dogs
stopped barking and fawned around him. Lord Odysseus
noticed what the dogs were doing and heard his footsteps.
At once he spoke out to Eumaeus—his words had wings:

 

      “Eumaeus, some comrade of yours is coming,
      or someone else you know. The dogs aren’t barking
      and are acting friendly. I hear footsteps.”                                           10

 

He’d hardly finished speaking when his own dear son
stood in the doorway. The swineherd, amazed, jumped up—
the bowls he was using to mix the gleaming wine
fell from his hands. He went up to greet his master,
kissed his head, both his handsome eyes, his two hands.
Then through his tears he spoke winged words to him:

 

      “You’ve come, Telemachus, you sweet light.
      I thought I’d never see you any more,
      once you went off in that ship to Pylos.
      Come in now, dear boy, so that my heart                                          20
      can rejoice to see you here in my home,
      now you’ve just returned from distant places.”

 

Once he’d said this, he took Telemachus’ bronze spear,
and let him enter. He crossed the stone threshold.
As he approached, Odysseus, his father, got up
to offer him his seat, but from across the room
Telemachus stopped him and said:

 

                                                  “Stay put, stranger.
      We’ll find a chair in the hut somewhere else.
      Here’s a man who’ll get one for us.”

 

He spoke. Odysseus went back and sat down again.                              30
Eumaeus piled up green brushwood on the floor
and spread a fleece on top. Odysseus’ dear son
sat down there. The swineherd then set out before them
platters of roast meat, left over from the meal
they’d had the day before, and quickly heaped up
baskets full of bread. In a wooden bowl he mixed
wine sweet as honey, and then sat down himself,
opposite godlike Odysseus. Their hands reached out
to the fine meal prepared and spread before them.
When they’d had food and drink to their heart’s content,                        40
Telemachus then said to the splendid swineherd:

 

      “Old friend, you must go quickly and report
      to wise Penelope that I’ve returned,
      I’m safely home from Pylos. I’ll stay here,
      until you’ve given the news to her alone
      and come back here. No other Achaean
      must learn about it, for many of them
      are planning nasty things against me.
      After you’ve delivered your message,
      then come back here. Don’t go wandering                                        50
      around the fields looking for Laertes.
      Instead, tell my mother to send her maid,
      the housekeeper, quickly and in secret.
      She can report the news to the old man.”

 

His words spurred on the swineherd. He took his sandals,
tied them on his feet, and set off for the city.

 

Now, it did not escape the notice of Athena
that swineherd Eumaeus was going from the farm.
She approached the hut, appearing like a woman,
beautiful, tall, and skilled in making lovely things.                                     60
She stood just outside the entrance to the farm
and was visible to no one but Odysseus.
Telemachus did not see her face to face
or notice she was there. For when gods appear,
there’s no way their form is perceptible to all.
But Odysseus saw her. So did the dogs, as well.
But they didn’t bark. Instead, they crept away,
whimpering in fear, to the far side of the hut.
She signalled with her eyebrows. Lord Odysseus
noticed and went out of the hut, past the large wall                                  70
around the yard, and stood in front of her.
Then Athena spoke to him:

 

                                              “Son of Laertes,
      resourceful Odysseus, sprung from Zeus,
      Now is the time to speak to your own son—
      make yourself known and don’t conceal the facts,
      so you two can plan the suitors’ lethal fate,
      then go together to the famous city.
      I won’t be absent from you very long—
      I’m eager for the battle.”

 

                                               As she said this, Athena
touched Odysseus with her golden wand. To start with,                          80
she placed a well-washed cloak around his body,
then made him taller and restored his youthful looks.
His skin grew dark once more, his countenance filled out,
and the beard around his chin turned black again.
Once she’d done this, Athena left. But Odysseus
returned into the hut. His dear son was amazed.
He turned his eyes away, afraid it was a god,
and spoke to him—his words had wings:

 

                                                               “Stranger,
      you look different to me than you did before—
      you’re wearing different clothes, your skin has changed.                    90
      You’re one of the gods who hold wide heaven.
      If so, be gracious, so we can give you
      pleasing offerings, well-crafted gifts of gold.
      But spare us.”

 

                                       Long-suffering lord Odysseus
then answered him and said:

 

                                  “I’m not one of the gods.
      Why do you compare me to immortals?
      But I am your father, on whose account
      you grieve and suffer so much trouble,
      having to endure men’s acts of violence.”

 

Once he’d said this, he sat down, and Telemachus                                  100
embraced his noble father, cried out, and shed tears.
A desire to lament arose in both of them—
they wailed aloud, as insistently as birds,
like sea eagles or hawks with curving talons
whose young have been carried off by country folk
before they’re fully fledged. That’s how both men then
let tears of pity fall from underneath their eyelids.
And now light from the sun would’ve gone down on them,
as they wept, if Telemachus had not spoken.
He suddenly addressed his father:

 

                                  “In what kind of ship,                                           110
      dear father, did sailors bring you here,
      to Ithaca? Who did they say they were?
      For I don’t think you made it here on foot.”

 

Noble long-suffering Odysseus answered him:

 

      “All right, my child, I’ll tell you the truth.
      Phaeacians, those famous sailors, brought me.
      They escort other men, as well, all those
      who visit them. But come now,
      tell me about the number of the suitors,
      so I know how many men there are                                                  120
      and what they’re like. Then, once my noble heart
      has thought it over, I’ll make up my mind,
      whether we two are powerful enough
      to take them on alone, without assistance,
      or whether we should seek out other men.”

 

Shrewd Telemachus answered him and said:

 

                                                               “Father,
      I’ve always heard about your great renown,
      a mighty warrior—your hands are very strong,
      your plans intelligent. But what you say
      is far too big a task. I’m astonished.                                                  130
      Two men cannot fight against so many—
      and they are powerful. In an exact count,
      there are not just ten suitors or twice ten,
      but many more. Here, you can soon add up
      their numbers—from Dulichium there are
      fifty-two hand-picked young men, six servants
      in their retinue, from Same twenty-four,
      from Zacynthus twenty young Achaeans,
      and from Ithaca itself twelve young men,
      all nobility. Medon, the herald,                                                          140
      is with them, as is the godlike minstrel,
      and two attendants skilled in carving meat.
      If we move against all these men inside,
      I fear revenge may bring a bitter fate,
      now you’ve come home. So you should consider
      whether you can think of anyone who’ll help,
      someone prepared to stand by both of us
      and fight with all his heart.”

 

                                               Then lord Odysseus,
who had endured so much, answered him and said:

 

      “All right, I’ll tell you. Pay attention now,                                           150
      and listen. Do you believe Athena,
      along with Father Zeus, will be enough
      for the two of us, or should I think about
      someone else to help us?”

 

                                               Shrewd Telemachus
then said in reply:

 

                           “Those two allies you mention
      are excellent. They sit high in the clouds,
      ruling others, men and immortal gods.”

 

Long-suffering lord Odysseus answered him and said:

 

      “The two of them won’t stand apart for long
      from the great fight—we can be sure of that—                                  160
      when Ares’ war-like spirit in my halls
      is put to the test between these suitors
      and ourselves. But for now, when Dawn arrives,
      go to the house, join those arrogant suitors.
      The swineherd will bring me to the city
      later on. I’ll be looking like a beggar,
      old and wretched. If they’re abusive to me,
      let that dear heart in your chest endure it,
      while I’m being badly treated, even if
      they drag me by my feet throughout the house                                   170
      and out the door or throw things and hit me.
      Keep looking on, and hold yourself in check.
      I’ll tell you something else—keep it in mind.
      When wise Athena puts it in my mind,
      I’ll nod my head to you. When you see that,
      take all the weapons of war lying there,
      in the hall, and put them in a secret place,
      all of them, in the lofty storage room.
      But leave behind a pair of swords, two spears,
      and two ox-hide shields, for the two of us                                         180
      to grab up when we make a rush at them,
      while Pallas Athena and Counsellor Zeus
      will keep the suitors’ minds preoccupied.
      I’ll tell you something else—keep it in mind.
      If you are my son and truly of our blood,
      let no one hear Odysseus is back home.
      Don’t let Laertes know or the swineherd,
      or any servants, or Penelope herself.”

 

So the two men talked about these things together.
Meanwhile, the well-built ship which brought Telemachus                        190
from Pylos with all his comrades had reached Ithaca.
Once they’d come inside the deep water harbour,
they hauled the black ship up on shore. Eager servants
carried off their weapons and without delay
took the splendid gifts to Clytius’ home.
They also sent a herald to Odysseus’ house,
to report to wise Penelope, telling her
Telemachus had gone to visit the estates
and had told the ship to sail off for the city,
in case the noble queen might get sick at heart                                         200
and shed some tears. This herald and the swineherd met
because they’d both been sent off with the same report
to tell the queen. When they reached the royal palace,
the herald spoke out in front of female servants:

 

      “My queen, your dear son has just returned.”

 

But the swineherd came up close to Penelope
and gave her all the details her dear son
had ordered him to say. Once he’d told her
every item he’d been asked to mention to her,
he went off, leaving the courtyard and the hall,                                         210
back to his pigs. The suitors were unhappy,
their hearts dismayed, and they departed from the hall,
past the large courtyard wall. There, before the gates,
they sat down. The first one of them to say something
was Eurymachus, son of Polybus:

 

                                              “O my friends,
      to tell the truth, in his great arrogance
      Telemachus has carried out his trip,
      a great achievement. We never thought
      he would complete it. So come on now,
      let’s launch a black ship, the best one we have,                                 220
      collect some sailors, a crew of rowers,
      so they can quickly carry a report
      to those other men to go home at once.”(27)

No sooner had he said all this, than Amphinomus,
turning in his place, saw a ship in the deep harbour.
Men were bringing down the sail, others holding oars.
With a hearty laugh, he then addressed his comrades:

      “Don’t bother with a message any more.
      Here they are back home. Either some god
      gave them news, or they saw his ship themselves,                              230
      as it sailed past, but couldn’t catch it.”

He spoke. They all got up and went to the sea shore,
then quickly dragged the black ship up onto dry ground,
while eager attendants carried off their weapons.
They themselves went to the meeting place together.
No one else was allowed to sit there with them,
no old or younger men. Then Antinous addressed them,
son of Eupeithes:

                                       “Well, this is bad news—
      the gods have delivered the man from harm.
      Our lookouts sat each day on windy heights,                                     240
      always in successive shifts. At sunset,
      we never spent the night on shore, but sailed
      over the sea in our swift ship, waiting
      for sacred Dawn, as we set our ambush
      for Telemachus, so we could capture
      and then kill him. Meanwhile, some god
      has brought him home. But let’s think about
      a sad end for Telemachus right here
      and ensure he doesn’t get away from us.
      For as long as he’s alive, I don’t think                                               250
      we’ll be successful in what we’re doing.
      He himself is clever, shrewd in counsel,
      and now people don’t regard us well at all.
      So come now, before he calls Achaeans
      to assembly. I don’t think he will give up.      
      He’ll get angry and stand up to proclaim
      to everyone how we planned to kill him,   
      and how we didn’t get him. The people
      will resent us, once they learn about
      our nasty acts. Take care they do not harm us                                   260
      and force us out, away from our own land,
      until we reach a foreign country. And so,
      let’s move first—capture him out in the fields,
      far from the city, or else on the road.
      If what I’ve been saying displeases you,
      and you’d prefer he should remain alive,
      retaining all the riches of his fathers,
      then let’s not keep on gathering in this place,
      consuming his supply of pleasant things.
      Instead, let each man carry on his courtship                                       270
      from his own home, seeking to prevail with gifts.
      Then she can marry the one who offers most
      and comes to her as her destined husband.”

He finished. They all sat quiet, not saying a thing.
Then Amphinomus spoke out and addressed them,
splendid son of lord Nisus. With good intentions,
he spoke to them and said:

                                                 “My friends,
      I wouldn’t want to slay Telemachus.
      It’s reprehensible to kill someone
      of royal blood. But first let’s ask the gods                                          280
      for their advice. If great Zeus’ oracles
      approve the act, I myself will kill him
      and tell all other men to do so, too.
      But if the gods decline, I say we stop.”

Amphinomus finished. They agreed with what he’d said.
So they immediately got up and went away
to Odysseus’ house. Once they reached the palace,
they sat down on the polished chairs in the great hall.

At evening the fine swineherd came to Odysseus
and to his son, busy getting dinner ready.                                                 290
They’d killed a boar, one year old. Then Athena
approached Odysseus, Laertes’ son, and touched him
with her wand and made him an old man once again.
She put shabby clothes around his body, just in case
the swineherd, by looking up, would recognize him
and then go off to tell faithful Penelope,
and thus fail to keep the secret in his heart.

 

 

BOOK SEVENTEEN 
ODYSSEUS GOES TO THE PALACE AS A BEGGAR

 

As soon as rose-fingered early Dawn appeared,
Telemachus, dear son of god-like Odysseus,
tied some fine sandals on his feet, took a strong spear,
well suited to his grip, and, as he headed off
towards the city, spoke out to the swineherd:

      “Old friend, I’m leaving for the city,
      so my mother can observe me. I don’t think
      her dreadful grieving and her sorry tears
      will stop until she sees me for herself.
      So I’m telling you to do as follows—                                                10
      take this wretched stranger to the city.
      Once there, he can beg food from anyone
      who’ll offer him some bread and cups of water.
      I can’t take on the weight of everyone,
      not when I have these sorrows in my heart.
      As for the stranger, if he’s very angry,
      things will be worse for him.”

                                                               Odysseus,
that resourceful man, then answered him and said:

      “Friend, I myself am not all that eager
      to be held back here. For a beggar man                                            20
      it’s better to ask people for a meal
      in the city instead of in the fields.
      Whoever’s willing will give me something.”


Odysseus finished. Telemachus walked away,
across the farmyard, moving with rapid strides.
He was sowing seeds of trouble for the suitors.
When he entered the beautifully furnished house,
Telemachus walked through the hall, gripping his spear.
Two swift dogs went with him. The arrogant suitors
thronged around him, making gentle conversation,                                   30
but deep in their hearts they were planning trouble.

[A meal is prepared and set out in the hall]

Telemachus’ mother sat across from him,
by the door post of the hall, leaning from her seat
to spin fine threads of yarn. They stretched out their hands
to take the fine food prepared and set before them.
When they’d had food and drink to their heart’s content,
the first to speak to them was wise Penelope:

      “Telemachus, once I’ve gone up to my room,
      I’ll lie down in bed, which has become for me
      a place where I lament, always wet with tears,                                  40
      ever since Odysseus went to Troy
      with Atreus’ sons. Yet you don’t dare
      to tell me clearly of your father’s trip,
      even before the haughty suitors come
      into the house, no word of what you learned.”

Shrewd Telemachus then answered her and said:

      “All right then, mother, I’ll tell you the truth.
      We went to Pylos and reached Nestor,
      shepherd of his people. He welcomed us
      in his lofty home with hospitality                                                        50
      and kindness, as a father for a son
      who’s just returned from far-off places
      after many years—that’s how Nestor
      and his splendid sons looked after me
      with loving care. But of brave Odysseus,
      alive or dead, he told me he’d heard nothing
      from any man on earth. He sent me off
      with horses and a well-built chariot
      to that famous spearman Menelaus,
      son of Atreus. There I saw Argive Helen                                          60
      for whom many Trojans and Achaeans
      struggled hard, because that’s what gods had willed.
      Menelaus, skilled at war shouts, at once
      asked me why I’d come to lovely Sparta,   
      what I was looking for. I told him the truth,
      all the details. He answered me and said:

            ‘That’s disgraceful! They want to lie down
            in the bed of a courageous warrior,
            when they themselves are cowards—just as if
            a doe has put two new-born suckling fawns                                70
            in a mighty lion’s thicket, so they can sleep,
            and roams mountain slopes and grassy valleys
            seeking pasture, and then the lion comes
            back to that lair and brings a dismal fate
            for both of them—that’s how Odysseus
            will bring those men to their disastrous end.’

      That’s what famous spearman Menelaus said,
      the son of Atreus. When I was finished,
      I came home, and the immortals gave me
      favourable winds which quickly carried me                                       80
      back to my native land”

                                                  Meanwhile Odysseus
and the loyal swineherd were hastening to leave,
moving from the fields into the city.
Eumaeus gave him a staff he liked, and then
the two of them set off. The dogs and herdsmen
stayed behind to guard the farmyard. The swineherd
led his master to the city, like a beggar,
leaning on a stick, an old and miserable man,
with his body wrapped in wretched clothing.
But as they walked along the rugged pathway,                                        90
getting near the city, they reached a well-made spring,
with a steady flow, where townsfolk drew their water.
Here Melanthius, son of Dolius, met them—
he was driving on some goats, the finest ones
in all the herds, to serve as dinner for the suitors.
Two herdsmen followed with him. When he saw them,
Melanthius started yelling insults. What he said
was shameful and abusive—it stirred Odysseus’ heart.

      “Now here we have a truly filthy man
      leading on another filthy scoundrel.                                                   100
      As always, god matches like with like.
      You miserable swineherd, where are you going
      with this disgusting pig, this beggar man,
      a tedious bore who’ll interrupt our feasts?”

Melanthius finished, and after moving past them,
strode ahead and quickly reached the royal palace.
He went in at once and sat among the suitors,
opposite Eurymachus, who was fond of him
more than the others were. Those serving at the meal
laid down a portion of the meat in front of him.                                       110
The respected housekeeper brought in the bread
and placed it there for him to eat.

                                               Meanwhile Odysseus
and the loyal swineherd paused as they came closer.
Around them rang the music of the hollow lyre,
for Phemius was striking up a song to sing.
As the swineherd Eumaeus came inside the house,
godlike Telemachus was the first to see him,
well before the others. He quickly summoned him
by nodding. Eumaeus looked around, then picked up
a stool lying where a servant usually sat                                                  120
to carve large amounts of meat to serve the suitors,
when they feasted in the house. He took this stool,
placed it by Telemachus’ table, facing him,
and then sat down. Meanwhile, a herald brought him
a portion of the meat, set it in front of him,
and lifted some bread for him out of the basket.
Odysseus came into the house behind Eumaeus,
looking like an old and miserable beggar,
leaning on his staff, his body dressed in rags.
He sat on the ash wood threshold in the doorway,                                  130
propping his back against a post of cypress wood,
which a craftsman had once planed with skill
and set in true alignment. Then the goatherd,
Melanthius, spoke out to them:

                                                   “Listen to me,
      those of you courting the glorious queen,
      about this stranger. I’ve seen him before.
      The swineherd was the one who brought him here.
      I don’t know his identity for sure
      or the family he claims to come from.”

Once he’d said this, Antinous turned on Eumaeus,                                  140
to reprimand him:

                                                “You really are a man
      who cares for pigs—why bring this fellow here
      into the city? As far as vagrants go,
      don’t we have enough apart from him,
      greedy beggars who disrupt our banquets?”

Then, swineherd Eumaeus, you answered him and said:

      “Antinous, you may be a noble man,
      but what you’ve said is not a worthy speech.
      You are abusive to Odysseus’ slaves,
      more so than any of the other suitors,                                               150
      especially to me. But I don’t care,
      not while faithful Penelope lives here,
      in these halls, and godlike Telemachus.”

[Odysseus moves around begging food from the suitors.]

Then Antinous spoke out and said:

                                                      “What god
      sent this nuisance to interrupt our feast?
      You’re an insolent and shameless beggar—
      you come up to every man, one by one,
      and they give you things without holding back,
      for there’s no check or scruple when one gives
      from someone else’s goods, and each of them                                  160
      has plenty of supplies in front of him.”

Resourceful Odysseus then moved back and replied:

      “Well now, it seems as if that mind of yours
      doesn’t match your looks—you’d refuse to give
      even a grain of salt from your own house
      to a follower of yours, and now you sit
      in someone else’s house and do not dare
      to take some bread and offer it to me.
      And yet there’s plenty right in front of you.”

Odysseus finished. Antinous in his heart                                                  170
was even angrier than before. He glared at him,
then, with a scowl, replied—his words had wings:

      “I no longer think you’ll leave this hall unharmed,
      now that you’ve begun to babble insults.”

As he said this, he grabbed the stool and threw it.
It hit the bottom of Odysseus’ right shoulder,
where it joins the back. But he stood firm, like a rock—
what Antinous had thrown didn’t make him stagger.
He shook his head in silence, making cruel plans.
He went back to the door and sat down there.                                       180

Penelope talked with her serving women,
sitting in her room, while lord Odysseus ate.
Then she called out to the loyal swineherd, saying:

      “Good Eumaeus, go and ask the stranger
      to come here, so I can greet him warmly
      and ask if he perhaps has heard about
      my brave Odysseus, or caught sight of him
      with his own eyes. He looks like a man
      who’s spent a long time wandering around.”

Penelope finished. Once Eumaeus heard her,                                          190
he went off and, standing beside Odysseus,
spoke to him—his words had wings:

                             “Honoured stranger,
      wise Penelope is summoning you,    
      Telemachus’ mother. For her heart,
      in spite of bearing much anxiety,
      is telling her to ask about her husband.”

Odysseus then replied:

                  “Eumaeus, I’ll tell the truth,
      all the details, to wise Penelope,
      daughter of Icarius, and quickly, too.
      I know Odysseus well. Tell Penelope,                                              200
      for all her eagerness, to wait right now,
      there in the hall, until the sun goes down.
      Let her ask me then about her husband
      and the day of his return. And let me sit
      close to the fire, for the clothes I have
      are pitiful, as you know for yourself,
      since I came to you first of all for help.”

The loyal swineherd joined the crowd of suitors.
He quickly spoke winged words to Telemachus,
holding his head close to him, so others couldn’t hear:                             210

      “Friend, I’m going to leave and guard the swine
      and other things, your livelihood and mine.
      You take charge of all the problems here.
      First and foremost, protect yourself. Your heart
      must stay alert, so you don’t suffer harm.”

Shrewd Telemachus then answered him and said:

      “It will happen, old friend. Now, you should eat
      before you leave. Come here in the morning,
      and bring fine animals for sacrifice.
      Everything going on here is my concern,                                            220
      mine and the immortals.”

                                                       Telemachus spoke.
The swineherd sat down on the polished chair again.
Once he’d filled his heart with food and drink, he left,
returning to his pigs, through the courtyard and the hall
full of banqueters, who were enjoying themselves
with dance and song, for evening had already come.

 

 

BOOK EIGHTEEN 
ODYSSEUS AND IRUS THE BEGGAR

 

[Irus, a beggar, comes to the palace and starts abusing Odysseus; they fight, and Odysseus knocks Irus out; Penelope encourages the suitors to bring presents for her, and they do so; Odysseus talks to the female servants, criticizing them for being sympathetic to and friendly with the suitors; Eurymachus makes fun of Odysseus and throws a stool at him but misses and hits the wine steward; the suitors continue feasting and then leave]

 

 

BOOK NINETEEN
EURYCLEIA RECOGNIZES ODYSSEUS

 

[Telemachus and Odysseus remove the weapons from the hall and conceal them in a storage room.]

 

Telemachus moved off, going through the hall,
below the flaming torches, out into the room
where he used to rest when sweet sleep came to him.
Then he lay down there and waited for the dawn.
Lord Odysseus remained behind, in the hall,
thinking how to kill the suitors with Athena’s help.
Then wise Penelope emerged out of her room,
looking like Artemis or golden Aphrodite.
Beside the fire where she used to sit, they placed
a chair for her, inlaid with ivory and silver.                                              10
Here wise Penelope sat, then spoke to Eurynome,
her housekeeper, and said:

                                                       “Eurynome,
      bring a chair over here with a fleece on it,
      so the stranger can sit down and talk to me
      and hear me out. I want to question him.”

Once Penelope had spoken, Eurynome
quickly brought a polished chair and placed it there.
She threw a sheep fleece over it. Lord Odysseus,
who’d been through so much, sat down in it. And then
wise Penelope began their conversation:                                                 20

      “Stranger, first of all I’ll ask this question—
      Who are you among men? Where are you from?
      From what city? And where are your parents?”

Resourceful Odysseus then answered her:

                                                “Noble lady,
      wife of Odysseus, all right, I’ll tell you.
      But you’ll be giving me more sorrows
      than those which grip me here—as is the rule
      when a man’s been absent from his native land
      as long as I have now, wandering around,
      through many towns of mortal men, suffering                                     30
      great distress. Still, I’ll answer what you ask,
      the questions you have posed. There’s a place
      in the middle of the wine-dark sea called Crete,
      where I was born, son of king Deucalion,
      son of Minos. I saw Odysseus there
      and gave him welcoming gifts. The wind’s force
      brought him to Crete, as he was sailing on,
      bound for Troy. So I invited him
      into my house and entertained him well,
      with a kind welcome, using the rich store                                          40
      of goods inside my house.”

                                            As Odysseus spoke,
he made the many falsehoods seem like truth.
Penelope listened with tears flowing down.
Her flesh melted—just as on high mountains
snow melts away under West Wind’s thaw,
once East Wind blows it down, and, as it melts,
the flowing rivers fill—that’s how her fair cheeks
melted then, as she shed tears for her husband,
who was sitting there beside her. Odysseus
felt pity in his heart for his grieving wife,                                                  50
but his eyes stayed firm between his eyelids,
like horn or iron. and he kept up his deceit
to conceal his tears. But then, when Penelope
had had enough of crying and mourning,
she spoke to him once more:

                                         “Now, stranger,   
      I think I’d really like to test you out,
      to see if you did, in fact, entertain
      my husband and his fine companions there,
      in your halls, as you just claimed. So tell me
      what sort of clothes he had on his body                                            60
      and the kind of man he was. And tell me 
      about his comrades who went there with him.”

Resourceful Odysseus then answered her and said:

      “Lady, it’s difficult to tell you this
      for any man who’s been away so long—
      it’s now the twentieth year since he went off      
      and left my country. But I’ll describe for you      
      how my heart pictures him. Lord Odysseus
      wore a woollen purple cloak, a double one.
      The brooch on it was made of gold—it had                                      70
      a pair of clasps and a fine engraving       
      on the front, a dog held in its forepaws
      a dappled fawn, gripping it as it writhed.
      Everyone who saw it was astonished
      at those gold animals—the dog held down
      the fawn, as he throttled it, and the fawn
      was struggling with its feet, trying to flee.
      I noticed the tunic on his body—
      glistening like the skin of a dry onion—
      it was so soft and shone out like the sun.”                                         80

As Odysseus spoke, in Penelope he roused 
desire to weep still more, because she recognized
in what Odysseus said signs that he spoke the truth.
But then, when she’d had enough of tearful sorrow,
she answered him and said these words:

                                                       “Stranger,
      though I pitied you before, in my home
      you’ll now find genuine welcome and respect.
      I was the one who gave him that clothing
      you talk about. I brought it from the room,
      folded it, and pinned on the shining brooch                                        90
      to be an ornament for him. But now,
      I’ll not be welcoming him here again,
      when he returns to his dear native land.”

Resourceful Odysseus then answered her and said:

      “Noble wife of Odysseus, Laertes’ son,
      don’t mar your lovely skin or waste your heart
      by weeping for your husband. End your crying,
      and listen to my words. I’ll tell you the truth,
      hiding nothing—for I’ve already heard
      about Odysseus’ return. He’s close by,                                             100
      in the wealthy land of Thesprotians,
      still alive and bringing much fine treasure.”

Wise Penelope then answered him:

                                                         “O stranger,
      I wish what you have said might come about.
      You’d soon come to recognize my friendship,
      so many gifts from me that any man
      who met you would call you truly blessed.
      But my heart has a sense of what will be—
      Odysseus won’t be coming home again,
      and you’ll not find a convoy out of here,                                            110
      because there are no leaders in this house,
      not the quality of man Odysseus was.
      But, you servant women, wash this stranger,
      and prepare a place to sleep—a bed, cloaks,         
      bright coverlets—so in warmth and comfort
      he may reach Dawn with her golden throne.”

Resourceful Odysseus then answered her and said:

      “Honoured wife of Odysseus, Laertes’ son,
      I’ve hated cloaks and shining coverlets
      since I first left the mountain snows of Crete,                                     120
      when I departed on my long-oared ship.
      So I’ll lie down, as I’ve been doing before
      through sleepless nights. I’ve lain many nights
      on foul bedding, awaiting bright-throned Dawn.
      And having my feet washed brings no delight
      into my heart. No woman in your household
      will touch my feet, none of the serving women
      in your home, unless there is an old one,
      who knows true devotion and has suffered
      in her heart as many pains as I have.                                                  130
      I’d not resent it if she touched my feet.”

Wise Penelope then answered him and said:

      “Dear stranger, no guest from distant lands
      who’s come into my house has ever been
      as wise as you or more welcome—your words
      are all so sensible and thoughtful. I do have
      an old woman with a understanding heart.
      She gave my helpless husband her fine care
      the day his mother first gave birth to him.
      Although she’s weak and old, she’ll wash your feet.                          140
      So come now, stand up, wise Eurycleia,
      and bathe a man the same age as your master.”

Penelope spoke, and the old woman held her hands
and then said to Odysseus.

                                                “And I’m willing.
      For Penelope’s sake I’ll bathe your feet.”

The old woman took the shining bowl to wash his feet.
She poured in plenty of cold water and added
warmer water to it. Odysseus then sat down
some distance from the hearth and quickly turned around
towards the darkness. For suddenly in his heart                                      150
he was afraid that, when she touched him, she might see
a scar he had, and then the truth would be revealed.
She came up and began to wash her master.
She recognized the scar immediately, a wound
a boar’s white tusk had given him many years ago,
when he’d gone to Parnassus, making a visit
to Autolycus, his mother’s splendid father.
She traced it out and recognized it. She dropped his foot.
His leg fell in the basin, and the bronze rang out.
It tipped onto its side. Water spilled out on the ground.                           160
All at once, joy and sorrow gripped her heart. Her eyes
filled up with tears, and her full voice was speechless.
She reached up to Odysseus’ chin and said:

                                            “It’s true, dear child,
      You are Odysseus, and I didn’t know you,
      not until I’d touched all my master’s body.”

She spoke, and her eyes glanced over at Penelope,
anxious to tell her that her husband had come home.
Then Odysseus’ arms reached out for Eurycleia—
with his right hand he grabbed her by the throat,
and with the other pulled her closer to him.                                              170

Then he said:

                               “Stay silent, so in these halls
      no one else finds out. I’ll tell you something—
      and it will happen. If a god overpowers
      these arrogant suitors, sets them under me,
      I’ll not spare you, though you are my nurse,
      when I kill other women in my home.”

Once Odysseus spoke, the old woman left the room
to fetch water for his feet, since what she’d had before
had all been spilled. When she’d finished bathing him,
she rubbed him with rich oil. Then Odysseus once more                          180
pulled his chair closer to the fire to warm himself.
He hid the scar under his rags. Wise Penelope
began to speak. She said:

                                                             “Stranger,
      if you wished to sit beside me in these halls
      to bring me pleasure, sleep would never sit
      on these eyelids of mine. But there’s no way 
      men can go on forever without sleep.
      Immortal gods have set a proper time
      for every man on this grain-bearing earth.
      So now I’ll go up to my upper room                                                 190
      and lie down on the bed, which is for me
      a place for grieving, always wet with tears,
      since Odysseus went to wicked Ilion,
      a name which never should be mentioned.
      I’ll lie down there. But you can stretch out here,
      in the house, putting bedding on the floor.
      Or let the servants make a bed for you.”

Once she’d said this, she went to her bright upper room,
not alone, for two attendant women went with her.
When she and her servants reached the upper room,                               200
she cried out for Odysseus, her dear husband,
till bright-eyed Athena cast sweet sleep on her eyelids.

 

 

BOOK TWENTY 
ODYSSEUS PREPARES FOR HIS REVENGE

 

When Dawn arrived inside Odysseus’ lovely home,
women slaves were up and making tireless fire.
Then the men who served Achaean lords arrived.
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?
      Or in these halls are they dishonouring you,
      they way they did before?”

                                               Shrewd Odysseus                                   10
then answered him and said:

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

As these two were saying these words to one another,
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.
He tied the goats up by the echoing portico,
then started hurling his insults at Odysseus:                                              20

      “Stranger, are you still bothering us here,
      inside the house, begging from the people?
      Why don’t you get out? I think it’s clear
      the two of us won’t say goodbye, until
      we’ve had a taste of one another’s fists.
      The way you beg is not appropriate.
      Achaeans do have feasts in other places.”

Melanthius spoke, but shrewd Odysseus said nothing.
He shook his head in silence. Deep in his heart
he was planning trouble. Then a third one joined them,                            30
Philoetius, an outstanding man, bringing in
a sterile heifer and plump she-goats for the suitors.
He tied these animals with care, approached Odysseus
and spoke to him—his words had wings:

                            “Greetings, honoured stranger.
      Though you’re facing many troubles now,
      may you find happiness in future days.
      When I recall Odysseus and think of him,
      I start to sweat. My eyes fill up with tears.
      For he, too, I think, is dressed in rags like these,
      wandering among men somewhere, if indeed                                     40
      he’s still alive, looking at the sunlight.”

Resourceful Odysseus then answered him and said:

      “Herdsman, you don’t appear to be a man
      who’s bad or one who lacks intelligence.
      I see for myself your understanding heart.
      And so I’ll swear a powerful oath to you.
      Odysseus will come home. With your own eyes,
      you’ll see the suitors killed, if that’s your wish,
      those men who act as if they own the place.”

The cattle herder answered him:

                                                     “Ah stranger,                                     50
      how I wish Cronos’ son might bring about
      what you’ve just said. Then you’d find out
      how strong I am and what my hands can do.”

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

[The suitors continue to feast and to abuse Odysseus in disguise.]

 

 

BOOK TWENTY-ONE 
THE CONTEST WITH ODYSSEUS’ BOW

 

Bright-eyed Athena then placed inside the heart
of wise Penelope, Icarius’ daughter,
the thought that she should set up in Odysseus’ halls
the bow and the gray iron axes for the suitors,
as a competition and the prelude to their deaths.

[Penelope goes to the storage chamber and collects Odysseus’ bow and his axes. Then she returns to the main hall.]

Once the lovely lady reached the suitors, she stood there,
by the door post of the well-constructed hall,
with a bright veil on her face. On either side
stood loyal attendant women. Then Penelope
addressed the suitors with these words:

                                                       “Listen to me,                                 10
      bold suitors, who’ve been ravaging this home
      with your incessant need for food and drink,
      since my husband’s now been so long absent.
      The only story you could offer up
      as an excuse is that you all desire
      to marry me and take me as your wife.
      So come now, suitors, since I seem to be
      the prize you seek, I’ll place this great bow here
      belonging to godlike Odysseus. And then,
      whichever one of you can grip this bow                                            20
      and string it with the greatest ease, then shoot
      an arrow through twelve axes, all of them,
      I’ll go with him, leaving my married home,    
      this truly lovely house and all these goods
      one needs to live—things I’ll remember,
      even in my dreams.”(28)

                                       When she’d said this,
she then told Eumaeus, the loyal swineherd,
to set the bow and gray iron axes for the suitors.
Then among them all Telemachus spoke out
with royal authority:

                                               “Well now, Zeus,                                    30
      son of Cronos, must have made me foolish—
      my dear mother, although quite sensible,
      says she’ll be leaving with another man,
      abandoning this home, and I just laugh.
      My witless heart finds that enjoyable.”

After he’d said this, Telemachus threw off
the purple cloak covering his back, jumped up,
and removed the sharp sword from his shoulders.
First, he set up the axes. He dug a trench,
one long ditch for all of them, in a straight line.                                         40
Then he stamped the earth down flat around them.
Amazement gripped all those observing him     
to watch him organize those axes properly,
although before that time he’d never seen them.
Then Antinous, Eupeithes’ son, addressed them:

      “All you comrades, get up in order now,
      from left to right, beginning from the place
      where the steward pours the wine.”

                                                       Antinous spoke,
and what he’d just proposed they found agreeable.
The first to stand up was Leiodes, son of Oenops,                                  50
their soothsayer. He always sat furthest away,
beside the lovely mixing bowl. That was the man  
who first picked up the bow and the swift arrow.
After moving to the threshold and standing there,
he tried the bow, but couldn’t string it. His hands,
which were delicate and weak, grew weary,
before he could succeed in stringing up the bow.
He then spoke out among the suitors:

                                                        “My friends,
      I’m not the man to string this bow. So now,
      let someone else take hold of it. This bow                                         60
      will take away from many excellent men
      their lives and spirits, since it’s far better    
      to die than live and fail in the attempt
      to have what we are gathered here to get,
      always waiting here in hope day after day.”

Then he sat again on the chair he’d risen from.
But Antinous took issue with what he’d just said,
talking directly to him:

                                                             “Leiodes,
      what wretched, sorry words! As I listened,
      it made me angry—as if this bow would,                                           70
      in fact, take away the lives and spirits
      of the very finest men, just because       
      you couldn’t string it. Your royal mother
      did not produce in you the sort of man
      who has sufficient strength to draw a bow.
      and shoot an arrow. But some other men
      among these noble suitors will soon string it.”

This said, Antinous called out to Melanthius,
the goatherd:

                         “Come now, Melanthius,
      light a fire in the hall. Set beside it                                                      80
      a large chair with a fleece across it.
      And bring a hefty piece of fat—there’s some
      inside the house—so the young men here
      can warm the bow and rub grease into it,
      then test the bow and end this contest.”

When he’d said this, Melanthius quickly lit
a tireless fire. Then he brought a large chair up,
draped a fleece on it, and set it down beside the fire
and from inside the house fetched a large piece of fat.
Then the young men warmed the bow and tested it.                                 90
But they couldn’t string it—whatever strength they had
was far too little. Antinous and godlike Eurymachus,
the suitors’ leaders, still remained—the two of them
with their abilities, were the finest men by far.          

Now, the cattle herder and the keeper of the swine
belonging to godlike Odysseus had gone out,
both together, so lord Odysseus himself
left the house to follow after them. And then,
when they’d gone beyond the gates and courtyard,
he spoke, addressing them with reassuring words:                                   100

      “You there, cattleman and swineherd, shall I
      tell you something or keep it to myself?
      My spirit tells me I should speak to you.
      If Odysseus were to come back suddenly,    
      brought from somewhere by a god, would you two
      be the sort of men who would defend him?
      Would you support the suitors or Odysseus?”

Then the cattle herder answered him:

                                                     “O Father Zeus,
      would that you might fulfil this very wish—
      may that man come, and led on by some god.                                    110
      Then you would know the kind of strength I have
      and how my hands can show my power.”

And then Eumaeus, too, made the same sort of prayer
to all the gods that wise Odysseus would come back 
to his own home. Once Odysseus had clearly seen
how firm their minds were, he spoke to them again,
saying these words:

                                           “Well, here I am in person—
      after suffering much misfortune, I’ve come home,
      back in the twentieth year to my own land.
      Of those who work for me, I recognize                                             120
      that you’re the only two who want me back.
      Among the rest, I’ve heard no one praying 
      that my return would bring me home again.
      I’ll tell you both how this is going to end—        
      and I’ll speak the truth—if, on my behalf
      some god will overcome those noble suitors,
      I’ll bring you each a wife, and I’ll provide
      possessions and a house built near my own.
      Then you’ll be my companions—and kinsmen
      of Telemachus. Come, I’ll show you something,                                130
      a sure sign, so you will clearly know it’s me
      and trust me in your hearts—here’s the old scar
      I got from a boar’s white tusk, when I’d gone
      to Parnassus with Autolycus’ sons.”         

As he said this, Odysseus pulled aside his rags,
exposing the great scar. Once those two had seen it
and noted every detail, they threw their arms
around the wise Odysseus, burst into tears,
and welcomed him, kissing his head and shoulders.
Odysseus did the same—he kissed their heads and hands.                      140
They would have kept on crying until sunset,
if Odysseus himself hadn’t called a halt and said:

      “Stop these laments. Let’s have no more crying.
      Someone might come out from the hall, see us, 
      and tell the people in the house. Let’s go in,
      one by one, not all together. I’ll go first.
      You come later. And let’s make this our sign.
      All those other men, the noble suitors,
      will not allow the quiver and the bow
      to be given to me. But, good Eumaeus,                                             150
      as you’re carrying that bow through the house,     
      put it in my hands, and tell the women
      to lock their room.”

                                                  After he’d said this,
Odysseus went into the stately home and sat down 
on the chair from which he’d risen. The two men,
godlike Odysseus’ servants, then went in as well.
Eurymachus already had the bow in hand,
warming it here and there in the firelight.
But even doing that, he could not string it.
Then his noble heart gave out a mighty groan,                                          160
and he spoke to them directly—he was angry.

      “It’s too bad. I’m frustrated for myself
      and for you all. I’m not that unhappy
      about the marriage, though I am upset.
      There are many more Achaean women—
      some here in sea-girt Ithaca itself,
      others in different cities. But if we are
      so weak compared to godlike Odysseus
      that we can’t string his bow, it’s a disgrace
      which men will learn about in years to come.”                                   170

Antinous, Eupeithes’ son, then answered him:

      “Eurymachus, that’s not going to happen
      You yourself know it. At this moment,
      in the country there’s a feast day, sacred 
      to the god. So who would bend the bow? No,
      set it to one side without saying anything.
      So come, let the steward begin to pour
      wine in the cups, so we can make libations.
      Set the curved bow aside. In the morning,
      we’ll test the bow and end the contest.”                                            180

Antinous finished. Once they’d poured libations
and drunk wine to their heart’s content, Odysseus,
a crafty man who had a trick in mind, spoke out:

      “Suitors of the splendid queen, listen to me, 
      so I can say what the heart inside my chest
      is prompting me to state. It’s a request,
      a plea, especially to Eurymachus
      and godlike Antinous, since what he said
      was most appropriate—that for the moment
      you should stop this business with the bow                                        190
      and turn the matter over to the gods.
      Give me the polished bow, so here among you
      I can test my power and arms and see
      if I still have strength in my supple limbs     
      the way I used to have, or if my travels
      and my lack of food have quite destroyed it.”

Odysseus finished. They were all extremely angry,
afraid that he might string the polished bow.
Then Antinous, speaking to him directly,
took Odysseus to task:

                                           “You wretched stranger,                              200
      your mind lacks any sense—you’ve none at all.
      Aren’t you content to share a feast with us,
      such illustrious men, without being disturbed
      or lacking any food, and then to hear        
      what we say to one another as we speak?”

Wise Penelope then answered him and said:

      “Antinous, it’s neither good nor proper
      to deny guests of Telemachus a chance,
      no matter who it is comes to this house.
      And if, trusting in his strength and power,                                          210
      the stranger strings Odysseus’ great bow,
      do you think he’ll take me to his home
      and make me his wife? I’m sure he himself
      carries no such hope in that chest of his.    
      So none of you should be at dinner here
      with sorrow in his heart because of him.
      That would be undignified.”

Shrewd Telemachus then answered her and said:

      “Among Achaeans, no man has a right
      stronger than my own to give the bow                                               220
      to anyone I wish or to withhold it—
      none of those who rule in rocky Ithaca
      or in the islands neighbouring Elis,
      where horses graze. Among these men, no one 
      will deny my will by force, if I wish
      to give the bow, even to this stranger
      as an outright gift to take away with him.
      But you should go up to your own chamber
      and keep busy with your proper work,
      the loom and spindle, and tell your women                                        230
      to go about their tasks. The bow will be
      a matter for the men, especially me,
      since the power in this house is mine.”

Penelope, astonished, went back to her rooms,  
taking to heart the prudent words her son had said.
The worthy swineherd had picked up the curving bow
and was carrying it. He came to shrewd Odysseus,
and placed it in his hands. Then he called the nurse,
Eurycleia, and said to her:

                                       “Wise Eurycleia,
      Telemachus is telling you to lock up                                                  240
      the closely fitted doorway to this hall.            
      If anyone hears groans inside this room 
      or any noise from men within these walls,
      she’s not to run outside, but stay where she is, 
      carrying out her work in silence.”(29)

After he’d said this, her words could find no wings.
So she locked the doors of that well-furnished hall.
And Philoetius, without a word, slipped outside
and locked the courtyard gates, then went inside,
sat down again on the seat where he’d got up,                                        250
and observed Odysseus, who already had the bow.
He was turning it this way and that, testing it
in different ways to see if, while its lord was gone,
worms had nibbled on the horns. Shrewd Odysseus, 
once he’d raised the bow and looked it over
on all sides, then—just as someone really skilled
at playing the lyre and singing has no trouble
when he loops a string around a brand-new peg,
tying the twisted sheep’s gut down at either end—
that’s how easily Odysseus strung that great bow.                                   260
Holding it in his right hand, he tried the string.
Then he picked up a swift arrow lying by itself
on the table there beside him. He set it
against the bow, on the bridge, pulled the notched arrow  
and the bow string back—still sitting in his seat—
and with a sure aim let the arrow fly. It did not miss,
not even a single top on all the axe heads.
The arrow, weighted with bronze, went straight through
and out the other end. And then Odysseus
called out to Telemachus:

                               “Telemachus, the stranger                                        270
      sitting in your halls has not disgraced you.
      I did not miss my aim or work too long
      to string that bow. My strength is still intact,
      in spite of all the suitors’ scornful gibes. 
      Now it’s time to get a dinner ready
      for these Achaeans, while there’s still some light,
      then entertain ourselves in different ways,
      with singing and the lyre. These are things
      which should accompany a banquet.”

As he spoke, he gave a signal with his eyebrows.                                    280
Telemachus, godlike Odysseus’ dear son,
cinched up his sword, closed his fist around a spear,
moved close beside his father, right by his seat,
and stood there, fully armed with glittering bronze. 

 

 

BOOK TWENTY-TWO 
THE KILLING OF THE SUITORS

 

Then shrewd Odysseus stripped off his rags, grabbed up
the bow and quiver full of arrows, and sprang
over to the large doorway. He dumped swift arrows
right there at his feet and then addressed the suitors:

      “This competition to decide the issue
      is now over. But there’s another target—
      one no man has ever struck—I’ll find out
      if I can hit it. May Apollo grant
      I get the glory.”

                                          As Odysseus spoke,
he aimed a bitter arrow straight at Antinous,                                            10
who was just about to raise up to his lips
a fine double-handled goblet he was holding
in his hands, so he could drink some wine. In his heart
there was no thought of slaughter. Among those feasting,
who would ever think, in such a crowd of people,
one man, even with truly outstanding strength,
would bring himself an evil death, his own black fate?
Odysseus took aim and hit him with an arrow
in the throat. Its point passed through his tender neck.
He slumped onto his side, and, as he was hit,                                          20
the cup fell from his hand. A thick spurt of human blood
came flowing quickly from his nose. Then, suddenly
he pushed the table from him with his foot, spilling
food onto the floor—the bread and roasted meat
were ruined. When the suitors saw Antinous fall,
they raised an uproar. They began to shout,
yelling words of anger at Odysseus:

                                                          “Stranger,
      you’ll pay for shooting arrows at this man.
      It’s certain you’ll be killed once and for all.
      You’ve killed a man, by far the finest youth                                       30          
      in all of Ithaca. And now the vultures
      are going to eat you up right here.”

                                                       They did not think
he’d killed the man on purpose. In their foolishness,
they didn’t realize they’d all become enmeshed
in destruction’s snare. Shrewd Odysseus scowled at them
and gave his answer:

                               “You dogs, because you thought
      I’d not come back from Troy to my own home,
      you’ve been ravaging my house, raping women,
      and in your devious way wooing my wife,
      while I was still alive, with no fear of the gods,                                  40
      who hold wide heaven, or of any man
      who might take his revenge in days to come.
      And now a fatal net has caught you all.”

As Odysseus said these words, pale fear seized everyone.
Each man looked around to see how he might flee
complete destruction. Only Eurymachus spoke—
he answered him and said:

                                      “If, in fact, it’s true
      that you’re Odysseus of Ithaca,
      back home again, you’re right in what you say
      about the actions of Achaeans here,                                                 50
      their frequent reckless conduct in your home,
      their many foolish actions in the fields.
      But the man responsible for all these things
      now lies dead—I mean Antinous.
      Now he himself has died, as he deserved.
      At this point you should spare your people.
      Later on we’ll collect throughout the land
      repayment for all we’ve had to eat and drink
      inside your halls, and every man will bring
      compensation on his own, in an amount                                            60
      worth twenty oxen, paying you back in gold
      and bronze until your heart is mollified.”

Shrewd Odysseus glared at him and then replied:

      “Eurymachus, if you offered me
      all the goods you got from your own fathers,
      everything which you now own, and added
      other assets you could obtain elsewhere,
      not even then would I hold back my hands
      from slaughter, not until the suitors pay
      for all their arrogance. Now you’ve a choice—                                70
      to fight here face to face or, if any man
      wishes to evade his death and lethal fate,
      to run away. But I don’t think there’s one
      who will escape complete destruction.”

Once Odysseus spoke, their knees and hearts went slack
right where they stood. Then Eurymachus spoke once more,
calling out to them:

                           “Friends, this man won’t check
      those all-conquering hands of his. Instead,
      now he’s got the polished bow and quiver,
      from that smooth threshold he’ll just shoot at us                                80
      until he’s killed us all. So let’s think now
      about how we should fight. Pull out your swords,
      and set tables up to block those arrows—
      they bring on death so fast. And then let’s charge,
      go at him all together in a group.”

With these words, Eurymachus pulled out his sword,
a sharp two-edged blade of bronze, and then charged out
straight at Odysseus, with a blood-curdling shout.
As he did so, lord Odysseus shot an arrow.
It struck him in the chest beside the nipple                                              90
and drove the swift shaft straight down into his liver.
Eurymachus’ sword fell from his hand onto the ground.
He bent double and then fell, writhing on the table,
knocking food and two-handled cups onto the floor.
His forehead kept hammering the earth, his heart
in agony, as both his feet kicked at the chair
and made it shake. A mist fell over both his eyes.
Then Amphinomus went at glorious Odysseus,
charging straight for him. He’d drawn out his sharp sword,
to see if he would somehow yield the door to him.                                  100
But Telemachus moved in too quickly for him—
he threw a bronze-tipped spear and hit him from behind
between the shoulders. He drove it through his chest.
With a crash, Amphinomus fell, and his forehead
struck hard against the ground. Telemachus jumped back,
leaving his spear in Amphinomus, afraid that,
if he tried to pull out the long-shadowed spear,
some Achaean might attack and stab him with a sword
or strike him while he was stooping down. And so
he quickly ran away and then moved across                                           110
to his dear father. Standing close to him, he spoke—
his words had wings:

                               “Father, now I’ll bring you
      a shield, two spears, and a bronze helmet,
      one that fits your temples. When I get back,
      I’ll arm myself and hand out other armour
      to the swineherd and the keeper of the goats.
      It’s better if we fully arm ourselves.”

Quick-witted Odysseus answered him and said:

      “Get them here fast, while I still have arrows
      to protect myself, in case they push me                                             120
      from the doors, since I’m here by myself.”

Odysseus spoke, and Telemachus obeyed
his dear father. He went off to the storeroom
where their splendid weapons lay. From the place
he took four shields, eight spears, and four bronze helmets
with thick horsehair plumes. He went out carrying these
and came back to his dear father very quickly.
First he armed himself with bronze around his body,
and the two servants did the same, putting on
the lovely armour. Then they took their places                                        130
on either side of skilled and sly Odysseus,
who, as long as he had arrows to protect him,
kept on aiming at the suitors in his house,
shooting at them one by one. As he hit them,
they fell down in heaps. But once he’d used his arrows,
the king could shoot no more. So he leaned the bow
against the doorpost of the well-constructed wall,
and let it stand beside the shining entrance way.
Then he grabbed two heavy bronze-tipped spears.
In that well-constructed wall there was a passage,                                  140
shut off with close-fitting doors. So Odysseus
told the worthy swineherd to stand beside this door
and watch, for there was just one way of reaching it.
Then Agelaus spoke, calling all the suitors:   

      “Friends, can someone climb up to that side door
      and tell the men to raise a quick alarm?
      Then this man won’t be shooting any more.”

But Melanthius the goatherd answered him and said:

       “It can’t be done, divinely raised Agelaus.
      The fine gate to the yard is awfully near,                                           150
      and the passage entrance hard to get through.
      One man could block the way for everyone,
      if he were brave. But come, let me bring you
      armour from the storeroom. You can put it on.     
      It’s in the house, I think—there’s nowhere else
      Odysseus and his noble son could store
      their weapons.”(30)

                  Once goatherd Melanthius said this,
he climbed a flight of stairs inside the palace,
up to Odysseus’ storerooms. There he took twelve shields,
as many spears, as many helmets made of bronze                                   160
with bushy horsehair plumes. Once he’d made it back,
carrying the weapons, as quickly as he could
he gave them to the suitors. When Odysseus saw them
putting armour on and their hands brandishing          
long spears, his knees and his fond heart went slack.
His task appeared enormous. He called out quickly
to Telemachus—his words had wings:

                                                 “Telemachus,
      it seems one of the women in the house
      is stirring up a nasty fight against us,
      or perhaps Melanthius might be the one.”                                          170

Shrewd Telemachus then said in reply:

      “Father, I bear the blame for this myself.
      It’s no one else’s fault. I left it open—
      the close-fitting door of that storage room.           
      One of them has keener eyes than I do.
      Come, good Eumaeus, shut the storeroom door.
      And try to learn if one of the women
      has done this, or if it’s Melanthius,
      son of Dolius. I suspect it’s him.”

While they were saying these things to one another,                                 180
Melanthius the goatherd went back once more
to carry more fine armour from the storeroom.
But the loyal swineherd saw him and spoke out,
saying a quick word to Odysseus, who was close by:             

      “Resourceful Odysseus, Laertes son,
      raised from Zeus, there’s that man again,
      the wretch we think is visiting the storeroom.
      Give me clear instructions—Should I kill him,
      if I prove the stronger man, or should I
      bring him to you here?—he can pay you back                                  190
      for the many insolent acts he’s done,
      all those schemes he’s thought up in your home.”

Resourceful Odysseus then answered him and said:

      “These proud suitors Telemachus and I                
      will keep penned up here inside the hall,
      no matter how ferociously they fight.
      You two twist Melanthius’ feet and arms
      behind him, throw him in the storeroom,
      then lash boards against his back.”

                                               As Odysseus said this,
they listened eagerly and then obeyed his words.                                    200
They moved off to the storeroom, without being seen
by the man inside. He was, as it turned out, searching
for weapons in a corner of the room. So then,
when Melanthius the goatherd was coming out           
across the threshold, the two men jumped out
and grabbed him. They dragged him inside by the hair,
threw him on the ground—the man was terrified—
and tied his feet and hands with heart-wrenching bonds.
They lashed them tight behind his back, as Odysseus,
Laertes’ royal son, who had endured so much,                                       210
had told them. They fixed a twisted rope to him,
yanked him up the lofty pillar, and raised him
near the roof beams. They left Melanthius there,
tied up and hanging in bonds which would destroy him.         
The two put on their armour, closed the shining door,
and made their way to wise and crafty Odysseus.
Filled with fighting spirit, they stood there, four of them
on the threshold, with many brave men in the hall.

The suitors were being urged on by Agelaus,
Damastor’s son, by Eurynomus, Amphimedon,                                       220
Demoptolemus, Peisander, Polyctor’s son,
and clever Polybus. Among the suitors still alive
these were the finest men by far. Odysseus’ bow
and his swift arrows had destroyed the others.            
Agelaus spoke to them, addressing everyone:

      “Friends, this man’s hands have been invincible,
      but now they’ll stop. Don’t throw those spears at them,
      not all at once. Come, you six men throw first,
      to see if Zeus will let us strike Odysseus
      and win the glory. Those others over there                                        230
      will be no trouble after he’s collapsed.”

The suitors kept throwing spears with frantic haste,
but, though there were many, Athena made them miss.
One man struck the door post of the well-built hall.  
Another hit the closely fitted door. One ash spear,
weighted down with bronze, fell against the wall.
But Amphimedon did hit Telemachus’ hand
a glancing blow across the wrist. The bronze point
cut the surface of his skin. And with his long spear
Ctessipus grazed Eumaeus’ shoulder above his shield,                            240
but the spear veered off and fell down on the ground.
At close range Odysseus wounded Damastor’s son
with his long spear, and Telemachus injured
Leocritus, son of Evenor—he struck him        
with his spear right in the groin and drove the bronze
straight through—so Leocritus fell on his face,
his whole forehead smashing down onto the ground.
Just as falcons with hooked talons and curved beaks
fly down from mountains, chasing birds and driving them
well below the clouds, as they swoop along the plain,                             250
and then pounce and kill them, for there’s no defence,
no flying away, while men get pleasure from the chase,
that’s how Odysseus and his men pursued the suitors
and struck them down, one by one, throughout the hall.   
As they smashed their heads in, dreadful groans arose,
and the whole floor was awash in blood.

And then the minstrel Phemius, son of Terpes,
who’d been compelled to sing before the suitors,
kept trying to get away from his own murky fate.
So he set the hollow lyre down on the ground,                                        260
between the mixing bowl and silver-studded chair,
rushed out in person to clasp Odysseus’ knees,
and pleaded with him—his words had wings:

      “I implore you, Odysseus, show me respect    
      and pity. There’ll be sorrow for you later,
      if you kill me, a minstrel, for I sing
      to gods and men. I am self taught. The god
      has planted in my heart all kinds of songs,
      and I’m good enough to sing before you,
      as to a god. Don’t be too eager then                                                 270
      to cut my throat. Your dear son Telemachus
      could tell you that it wasn’t my desire
      nor did I need to spend time at your house,
      singing for the suitors at their banquets.  
      But their greater power and numbers
      brought me here by force.”

                                         As Phemius said this,
royal Telemachus heard him and spoke up,
calling to his father, who was close by:

      “Hold on. Don’t let your sword injure this man.
      He’s innocent. We should save Medon, too,                                     280
      the herald, who always looked out for me
      inside the house when I was still a child,
      unless Philoetius has killed him,
      or the swineherd, or he ran into you           
      as you were on the rampage in the hall.”

Telemachus spoke. Medon, whose mind was clever,
heard him, for he was cowering underneath a chair,
his skin covered by a new-flayed ox-hide, trying
to escape his own black fate. He quickly jumped out
from beneath the chair, threw off the ox-hide,                                          290
rushed up to clasp Telemachus’ knees, and begged—
his words had wings:

                                             “Here I am, my friend!
      Stop! And tell your father to restrain himself,
      in case, as he exults in his great power,          
      he slaughters me with that sharp bronze of his,
      in his fury with the suitors, those men
      who consumed his goods here in his own hall,
      those fools who did not honour you at all.”

Resourceful Odysseus then smiled at him and said:

      “Cheer up! This man here has saved your life.                                   300
      He’s rescued you, so you know in your heart
      and can tell someone else how doing good
      is preferable by far to acting badly.”

After Odysseus spoke, the two men went away,   
outside the hall, and sat down there, by the altar
of great Zeus, peering round in all directions,
always thinking they’d be killed.

                                               Odysseus, too,
looked round the house to check if anyone
was hiding there, still alive, trying to escape
his own dark fate. But every man he looked at—                                    310
and there were plenty—had fallen in blood and dust,
like fish which, in the meshes of a net, fishermen
have pulled from the gray sea up on the curving beach,
lying piled up on the sand, longing for sea waves,   
while the bright sun takes away their life—that’s how
the suitors then were lying in heaps on one another.
Resourceful Odysseus then said to Telemachus:

      “Telemachus, go and call the nurse in here,
      Eurycleia, so I can speak to her.
      Something’s on my mind—I want to tell her.”                                   320      

Once Odysseus spoke, Telemachus obeyed
what his dear father said. He shook the door and called
to Eurycleia, saying:

                                “Get up, old woman,
      born so long ago—the one in charge      
      of female servants in the palace.
      Come out. My father’s calling for you.
      He’s got something he wants to say.”

He spoke. But Eurycleia’s words could find no wings.
She opened up the door of the well-furnished hall
and came out. Telemachus went first and led the way.                             330
There she found Odysseus with the bodies of the dead,
spattered with blood and gore, like a lion moving off
from feeding on a farmyard ox, his whole chest
and both sides of his muzzle caked with blood,      
a terrifying sight, that’s how Odysseus looked,
with bloodstained feet and upper arms. Eurycleia,
once she saw the bodies and huge amounts of blood,
was ready to cry out for joy now that she’d seen
such a mighty act. But Odysseus held her back
and checked her eagerness. He spoke to her—                                      340
his words had wings:

                              “Old woman, you can rejoice
      in your own heart—but don’t cry out aloud.
      Restrain yourself. For it’s a sacrilege
      to boast above the bodies of the slain.        
      Divine Fate and their own reckless acts
      have killed these men, who failed to honour
      any man on earth who came among them,
      bad or good. And so through their depravity
      they’ve met an evil fate. But come now,
      tell me about the women in these halls,                                              350
      the ones who disrespect me and the ones
      who bear no blame.”

                                               His dear nurse Eurycleia
then answered him and said:

                                               “All right my child,
      I’ll tell you the truth. In these halls of yours,       
      there are fifty female servants, women
      we have taught to carry out their work,
      to comb out wool and bear their slavery.
      Of these, twelve in all have gone along
      without a sense of shame and no respect
      for me or even for Penelope.”

                                                  Resourceful Odysseus                           360
then answered her:

                     “Those women who before all this
      behaved so badly, tell them to come here.”

Odysseus then called Telemachus to him,
together with Eumaeus and Philoetius.  
He spoke to them—his words had wings:

      “Start carrying those corpses outside now,
      and then take charge of the servant women.
      Have these splendid chairs and tables cleaned,
      wiped with porous sponges soaked in water.
      Once you’ve put the entire house in order,                                        370
      then take those servants from the well-built hall
      to a spot outside between the round house
      and the sturdy courtyard wall and kill them.
      Slash them with long swords, until the life is gone      
      from all of them, and they’ve forgotten
      Aphrodite and how they loved the suitors
      when they had sex with them in secret.”(31)

Odysseus spoke. Then the crowd of women came,
wailing plaintively and shedding many tears.
First they gathered up the corpses of the dead                                         380
and laid them out underneath the portico,
leaning them against each other in the well-fenced yard.
Odysseus himself gave them their instructions
and hurried on the work. The women were compelled  
to carry out the dead. After that, they cleaned
the splendid chairs and tables, wiping them down
with water and porous sponges. Telemachus,
along with Philoetius and Eumaeus,
with shovels scraped the floor inside the well-built hall,
and women took the dirt and threw it in the yard.                                    390
When they’d put the entire hall in order,
they led the women out of the sturdy house
to a place between the round house and fine wall
around the courtyard, herding them into a narrow space  
where there was no way to escape. Shrewd Telemachus
began by speaking to the other two:

                                                            “I don’t want
      to take these women’s lives with a clean death.
      They’ve poured insults on my head, on my mother,
      and were always sleeping with the suitors.”

He spoke, then tied the cable of a dark-prowed ship                               400
to a large pillar, threw one end above the round house,
then pulled it taut and high, so no woman’s foot
could reach the ground. Just as doves or long-winged thrushes
charge into a snare set in a thicket, as they seek out               
their roosting place, and find out they’ve been welcomed
by a dreadful bed, that’s how those women held their heads
all in a row, with nooses fixed around their necks,
so they’d have a pitiful death. For a little while
they twitched their feet, but that did not last long.

Then they brought Melanthius out through the doorway                            410
into the yard. With pitiless bronze they sliced away
his nose and ears, then ripped off his cock and balls
as raw meat for dogs to eat, and in their rage
hacked off his hands and feet. After they’d done that,    
they washed their hands and feet and went inside the house,
back to Odysseus. Their work was done. But he
called out to Eurycleia, his dear nurse:

                                               “Old woman,
      bring sulphur here to purify the house.
      And bring me fire so I can purge the hall.
      Ask Penelope to come here with her slaves,                                      420
      and get all the women in the house to come.”

Dear nurse Eurycleia then followed what he’d said.
She brought fire and sulphur, so Odysseus
purged the house and yard completely. Eurycleia    
went back through Odysseus’ splendid home to tell
the women what had happened and to order them
to reappear. They came out holding torches,
then gathered round Odysseus, embracing him.
They clasped and kissed his head, his hands, and shoulders,
in loving welcome. A sweet longing seized him                                        430
to sigh and weep, for in his heart he knew them all.

 

 

BOOK TWENTY-THREE 
ODYSSEUS AND PENELOPE

 

Old Eurycleia went up to an upstairs room,
laughing to herself, to inform her mistress
her beloved husband was inside the house.
She stood beside her lady’s head and spoke to her:

      “Wake up, Penelope, my dear child,
      so you can see for yourself with your own eyes
      what you’ve been wanting each and every day.
      Odysseus has arrived. He may be late,
      but he’s back in the house. And he’s killed
      those arrogant suitors who upset this home,                                      10
      used up his goods, and victimized his son.”

Penelope rejoiced. She jumped up out of bed,
hugged the old woman, tears falling from her eyelids,
then she spoke to her—her words had wings:

                                                               “Come now,
      dear nurse, tell me the truth. If he’s really here,
      back home as you claim, then how could he
      turn his hands against those shameless suitors?
      He was alone, and in this house those men
      were always in a group.”

                                   Her dear nurse Eurycleia
then answered her:

                               “I didn’t see or hear about it.                                   20
      I only heard the groans of men being killed.
      I found Odysseus standing with the bodies—
      dead men on the hard earth all around him,
      lying on each other, a heart-warming sight—
      and he was there, covered with blood and gore,
      just like a lion. Now, come along with me,
      so you two can be happy in your hearts.
      You’ve been through so much misfortune, and now         
      what you’ve been looking forward to so long
      has come about at last. He’s come himself,                                       30
      to his own hearth while still alive—he’s found
      you and your son inside these halls and taken
      his revenge on all suitors in his home,
      men who acted harmfully against him.”

Wise Penelope then answered Eurycleia:

      “But this story can’t be true, not the way
      you’ve told it. One of the immortal gods
      has killed the noble suitors out of rage
      at their heart-rending pride and wicked acts.
      They’ve met disaster through their foolishness.                                  40
      But in some place far away Odysseus
      has forfeited his journey to Achaea,
      and he himself is lost. You find it hard
      to grasp the plans of the eternal gods,
      even though you’re really shrewd. But let’s go
      to my son, so I can see the suitors
      now they’re dead—and the man who killed them.”

Penelope spoke, then went down from the upper room.
Crossing the stone threshold, she went in
and sat down in the firelight opposite Odysseus,                                     50
beside the further wall. He was sitting there
by a tall pillar, looking at the ground, waiting
to learn if his noble wife would speak to him
when her own eyes caught sight of him. She sat there
a long time in silence. Amazement came in her heart—
sometimes her eyes gazed at him full in the face,
but other times she failed to recognize him,
he had such shabby clothing covering his body.
Telemachus spoke up, addressing a rebuke
directly to her:

                      “Mother, you’re a cruel woman,                                      60
      with an unfeeling heart. Why turn aside
      from my father in this way? Why not sit    
      over there, close to him, ask him questions?
      No other woman’s heart would be so hard
      to make her keep her distance from a husband
      who’s come home to her in his native land
      in the twentieth year, after going through
      so many harsh ordeals. That heart of yours
      is always harder than a stone.”

                                               Wise Penelope
then answered him:

                             “My child, inside my chest                                        70
      my heart is quite amazed. I cannot speak
      or ask questions, or look directly at him.
      If indeed it’s true he is Odysseus
      and is home again, surely the two of us
      have more certain ways to know each other.
      We have signs only we two understand.
      Other people will not recognize them.”

As she spoke, lord Odysseus, who’d been through so much,
smiled and immediately spoke to Telemachus—
his words had wings:

                            “Telemachus, let your mother                                     80
      test me in these halls. She will soon possess
      more certain knowledge. Right now I’m filthy,
      with disgusting clothing on my body.
      That’s why she rejects me and will not say
      I am Odysseus.”

                                   Once he said this, Eurynome,
the housekeeper, gave brave Odysseus a bath,
rubbed him with oil, and put a tunic on him,
a fine cloak, as well. Athena poured beauty on him
in large amounts to make him taller, more robust
to look at, and on his head she made his hair                                          90
flow in curls resembling a hyacinth in bloom.
He sat back down in the chair from which he’d risen,
opposite his wife, and said to her:

                                                     “Strange lady,
      to you those who live on Mount Olympus
      have given, more so than to other women,
      an unfeeling heart. No other woman
      would harden herself and keep her distance
      from her husband, who, in the twentieth year,
      came back to her in his own native land,
      after going through so much misfortune.                                            100
      So come, nurse, spread out a bed for me,
      so I can lie down by myself. The heart
      inside her breast is made of iron.”

Wise Penelope then answered him:

                                                 ”Strange man,
      I am not making too much of myself,
      or ignoring you. Nor is it the case
      that I’m particularly offended.
      I know well the sort of man you were
      when you left Ithaca in your long-oared ship.
      So come, Eurycleia, set up for him                                                   110
      outside the well-built bedroom that strong bed
      he made himself. Put that sturdy bedstead 
      out there for him and throw some bedding on,
      fleeces, cloaks, and shining coverlets.”

Penelope said this to test her husband.
But Odysseus, angry at his true-hearted wife,
spoke out:

              “Woman, those words you’ve just uttered
      are very painful. Who’s shifted my bed
      to some other place? That would be difficult,
      even for someone really skilled, unless                                              120
      a god came down in person—for he could,
      if he wished, set it elsewhere easily.
      But among men there is no one living,
      no matter how much energy he has,
      who would find it easy to shift that bed.
      For built into the well-constructed bedstead
      is a great symbol which I made myself
      with no one else. A long-leaved olive bush
      was growing in the yard. It was in bloom
      and flourishing—it looked like a pillar.                                              130
      I built my bedroom round this olive bush,
      till I had finished it with well-set stones.
      I put a good roof over it, then added
      closely fitted jointed doors. After that,
      I cut back the foliage, by removing
      branches from the long-leaved olive bush.
      I trimmed the trunk off, upward from the root,
      cutting it skilfully and well with bronze,
      so it followed a straight line. Once I’d made
      the bedpost, I used an augur to bore out                                          140
      the entire piece. That was how I started.
      Then I carved out my bed, till I was done.
      And that’s the symbol I describe for you.
      But, lady, I don’t know if that bed of mine
      is still in place or if some other man
      has cut that olive tree down at its base
      and set the bed up in a different spot.”

Odysseus spoke, and sitting there, Penelope
went weak at the knees, and her heart grew soft.
For she recognized that it was true—that symbol                                    150
Odysseus had described to her. Eyes full of tears,
she ran to him, threw her arms around his neck,
kissed his head, and said:

                     “Don’t be angry, Odysseus,
      not with me. In all other matters
      you’ve been the cleverest of men. The gods
      have brought us sorrows—they were not willing
      the two of us should stay beside each other
      to enjoy our youth and reach together
      the threshold of old age. Now’s not the time         
      to rage at me, resenting what I’ve done                                            160
      because I didn’t welcome you this way
      when I first saw you. For there are many men
      who dream up wicked schemes. Argive Helen,
      a child of Zeus, would never have had sex
      with a man who came from somewhere else,      
      if she’d known Achaea’s warrior sons
      would bring her back to her dear native land.
      But now you’ve mentioned that clear symbol,
      our bed, which no one else has ever seen,      
      other than the two of us, you and me,                                               170
      and a single servant woman, Actoris,
      whom my father gave me when I came here.
      For both of us she kept watch at the doors
      of our strong bedroom. You’ve now won my heart,
      though it’s been truly stubborn.”

                                               Penelope spoke
and stirred in him an even more intense desire
to weep. As he held his loyal and loving wife,
he cried. And rose-fingered early Dawn
would’ve appeared with them still weeping there,
if goddess Athena with the gleaming eyes,                                              180
had not thought of something else—she prolonged
the lengthy night as it came to an end, keeping
Dawn and her golden throne waiting by Ocean’s stream.
While they went on talking to each other in this way,
Eurynome and the nurse prepared the bed
with soft coverlets, by light from flaming torches.
Once they’d quickly covered up the sturdy bed,
the old nurse went back to her room to rest,
and the bedroom servant, Eurynome, led them
on their way to bed, a torch gripped in her hands.                                  190
When she’d brought them to the room, then she returned.
Odysseus and Penelope approached with joy
the place where their bed stood from earlier days.
Odysseus and Penelope, once they’d had the joy
of making love, then entertained each other
telling stories, in mutual conversation.
The lovely lady talked of all she’d been through
in the house, looking at that destructive group,
the suitors, who, because of her, had butchered
so many cattle and fat sheep and drained from jars                                 200
so much wine. Odysseus, born from Zeus, then told
all the troubles he’d brought down on men, all the grief
he’d had to work through on his own. Penelope
was happy listening, and sleep did not come down
across her eyelids until he’d told it all.

Then Athena, goddess with the gleaming eyes,
came up with something else. When she thought Odysseus
had had his heart’s fill of pleasure with his wife and slept,
from Ocean she quickly stirred up early Dawn
on her golden throne to bring her light to men.                                        210
Odysseus rose from his soft bed and told his wife:

      “Now that we’ve come back to the bed we love,
      you should tend to our wealth inside the house.
      As for the flocks those arrogant suitors stole,
      I’ll seize many beasts as plunder on my own,
      and Achaeans will give others, till they fill up
      each and every pen. Now I’m going to go
      out to my forest lands, and there I’ll see
      my noble father, who on my behalf
      has suffered such anxiety. Lady,                                                       220
      since I know how intelligent you are,
      I’m asking you to follow these instructions—
      once sunrise comes, the story will be out
      about the suitors slaughtered in our home.
      So you should go up to your upper room
      with your female attendants. Then sit there.
      Don’t look in on anyone or ask questions.”

Once he’d said this, he put his lovely armour on,
around his shoulders, and roused Telemachus,
Philoetius, and Eumaeus, and told them all                                              230
to get weapons in their hands to fight a war.
They did not disobey, but dressed themselves in bronze,
opened the doors, and went outside, with Odysseus
in the lead. By now light was shining on the ground,
but Athena kept them hidden by the night,
as she led them quickly from the city.

 

 

BOOK TWENTY-FOUR 
ZEUS AND ATHENA END THE FIGHTING

 

Once Odysseus and his men had left the city,
they soon reached Laertes’ fine, well-managed farm,
which Laertes had once won by his own efforts,
working really hard. His house was there, with sheds
surrounding it on every side, where his servants,
bonded slaves who worked to carry out his wishes,
ate and sat and slept. An old Sicilian woman
lived inside his house, looking after the old man,
caring for him at the farm, far from the city.
Odysseus then spoke to his servants and his son:                                    10

      “You should go inside the well-built home.
      Hurry up and kill the finest pig there is,
      so we can eat. I’ll sound out my father,
      to find out if he can recognize me,
      see who I am, once he’s laid eyes on me,
      or if he doesn’t know me any more,
      since I’ve been away so long.”

                                                Odysseus spoke,
then gave his battle weapons to his servants.
In the well-established vineyard he found his father.
He was digging round a plant, all by himself,                                          20
dressed in a filthy, shabby, patched-up tunic.
Around his legs he’d tied shin pads stitched from ox-hide
to protect himself from scratches, and on his hands
he was wearing gloves, since there were thistles in that spot.
On his head he wore a goatskin hat. In these clothes
he was dealing with his grief. He stirred Odysseus’ heart.
Already, as he looked at his dear father, sharp pains
were shooting up his nostrils. He jumped over,
embraced Laertes, kissed him, and then said:

                                                                “Father, 
      I’m here—back home in the twentieth year,                                     30
      in my own native land. Stop your grieving,
      these tearful moans. I’ll tell you everything,
      though it’s essential we move really fast.            
      I’ve killed the suitors in our home, avenged
      their heart-rending insolence, their evil acts.”

Laertes then answered him and said:

                                          “If that’s true,
      if you are indeed my son Odysseus
      and have come back, show me some evidence,
      something clear so I can be quite certain.”

Resourceful Odysseus replied to him and said:                                        40

      “First, let your eyes inspect this scar—a boar
      inflicted that on me with its white tusk,
      when I went to Parnassus, sent there
      by you and by my honourable mother,
      to her cherished father, Autolycus,
      so I could get the gifts he’d promised me,
      what he’d agreed to give when he was here.”

As Odysseus spoke, his father’s fond heart and knees
gave way—he clearly recognized the evidence
Odysseus had presented. He threw both his arms                                   50
around the son he loved and struggled hard to breathe.
Lord Odysseus, who had endured so much, held him.
After he’d revived and his spirit came once more
into his chest, Laertes spoke again and said:

      “Father Zeus, it seems you gods are still
      on high Olympus, if it’s true those suitors


      have paid the price of their proud arrogance.
      But now my heart contains a dreadful fear—
      all the men of Ithaca will soon come here
      against us, and they’ll send out messengers                                       60
      all through Cephallenia, to every city.”

Resourceful Odysseus then answered him and said:

      “Take courage, and don’t allow these things
      to weigh down your heart. Let’s go to the house,
      the one close to the orchard, where I sent
      Telemachus, together with the swineherd
      and the keeper of the goats, so they could
      prepare a meal as soon as possible.”

After they’d talked like this, they went to the fine house.
Once they reached Laertes’ well-furnished home, they found                  70
Telemachus with the swineherd and goat keeper
carving lots of meat and mixing gleaming wine.
Meanwhile, the other men had finished working
Dinner was prepared. So they sat down one by one
on stools and chairs. As they were reaching for the food,
old Dolius appeared. The old man’s sons were with him,
tired out from work. The ancient Sicilian woman,
their mother, had gone outside and summoned them.
Dolius went straight up to him, both arms outstretched,
grabbed Odysseus’ hand and kissed it on the wrist.                                80
Then he spoke to him—his words had wings:

                                                                 “My friend,
      you’re back with us, who longed for your return      
      but never thought to see it! The gods themselves
      must have been leading you. Joyful greetings!
      May gods grant you success!”

                                    Then Dolius’ sons
also came up around glorious Odysseus,
clasping his hands with words of welcome.
Meanwhile, Rumour the Messenger
sped swiftly through the entire city, speaking
of the suitors’ dreadful death, their destiny.                                             90
People heard about it all at once and came in
from all directions, gathering with mournful groans
before Odysseus’ home. Each one brought his dead
outside the house and buried them. All the men
from other cities they sent home, placing them
aboard swift ships to be escorted back by sailors.
Then, with sorrowful hearts, they went in person
to meet in an assembly. Once they’d got there
together in a group, Eupeithes rose to speak.
Constant grief lay on his heart for his own son,                                        100
Antinous, the first man killed by lord Odysseus.
Weeping for him, he spoke to the assembly:

      “My friends, this man has planned and carried out
      dreadful acts against Achaeans. He led
      many fine courageous men off in his fleet,
      then lost his hollow ships, with all men dead.
      Now he’s come and killed our finest men by far
      among the Cephallenians. So come on,
      before he can quickly get to Pylos
      or to holy Elis, where Epeians rule,                                                   110
      let’s get started. If not, in future days
      we’ll be eternally disgraced, since men
      yet to be born will learn about our shame,
      if we don’t act to take out our revenge
      on those murderers of our sons and brothers.
      As far as I’m concerned, the life we’d live
      would not be sweet. I rather die right now
      and live among the dead. So let us go,
      in case those men have a head start on us
      and get across the sea.”

                                         As Eupeithes said this,                                  120
he wept, and all Achaeans were seized by pity.
Then Medon and the godlike singer, released
from sleep, approached them from Odysseus’ house,
and stood up in their midst. They were astonished.
Then Medon, a shrewd man, spoke out.

                                                       “Men of Ithaca,
      now hear me. Odysseus didn’t plan these acts
      without the gods’ consent. I myself observed
      an immortal god who stood beside him,
      looking in every detail just like Mentor.
      The deathless god appeared before Odysseus                                  130
      at that time to spur him on to action,
      and, at another time, charged through the hall,
      terrifying the suitors. They collapsed in droves.”

He ended. Some men stayed together in their seats,
but others, more than half, jumped up with noisy shouts.
Their hearts had not responded to what he’d just said.
They’d been won over by Eupeithes. And so,
they quickly rushed away to get their weapons.
Then Athena spoke to Zeus, Cronos’ son, saying:

      “Father of us all and son of Cronos,                                                  140
      highest of all those who rule, answer me
      when I ask this—What are you concealing
      in that mind of yours? Will you be creating
      further brutal war and dreadful battle,
      or bring both sides together here as friends?”

Cloud-gatherer Zeus then answered her and said:

      “My child, why are you asking this of me?
      Why these questions? Were you not the one
      who devised this plan all on your own,
      so Odysseus could take out his revenge                                            150
      against these men, after he got back?
      Do as you wish. But I’ll lay out for you
      what I think is right. Since lord Odysseus
      has paid back the suitors, let them swear
      a binding oath that he’ll remain their king
      all his life, and let’s make them forget
      the killing of their sons and brothers.
      Let them love each other as they used to do,
      and let there be wealth and peace in plenty.”

His words stirred up Athena, who was already keen.                              160
She swooped down from the heights of Mount Olympus.
Meanwhile, once his group had eaten their hearts’ fill
of food as sweet as honey, lord Odysseus,
who had endured so much, was the first to speak:

      “Someone should go outside to look around,
      see whether they are getting close to us.”

Once he said this, a son of Dolius went out,
as he had ordered. He stood in the doorway
and saw all those men approaching. At once
he called out to Odysseus—his words had wings:                                   170

      “They’re here, close by. Let’s get our weapons—      
      we’d better hurry!”

                                    At these words, they leapt up
and put on their armour. Odysseus and his men
were four, the sons of Dolius six, and with them
Dolius and Laertes, though they had gray hair,
were dressed in armour, too, forced to be warriors.
When they’d put glittering bronze around their bodies,
they opened up the doors and went outside. Odysseus
led them out. But then Athena, Zeus’ daughter,
with the shape and voice of Mentor, came up to them.                            180
stood by Laertes, and said to him:

                                       “Child of Arcesius,
      by far the dearest of all those I cherish,
      pray to the young girl with the flashing eyes
      and to Father Zeus, then without delay
      raise that long spear of yours and throw it.”

Pallas Athena spoke and then breathed into him
enormous power. Laertes said a prayer
to great Zeus’ daughter, and quickly lifting up
his long-shadowed spear, he threw it. It hit home,
through the bronze cheek piece on Eupeithes’ helmet,                             190
which didn’t stop the spear—the bronze point went on through.
Eupeithes fell down with a thud, his armour
crashing round him. Odysseus and his splendid son
charged at the fighters in the front, striking them
with swords and two-edged spears. They’d have killed them all,
cut them down so none of them returned, had not
Athena, daughter of aegis-bearing Zeus, cried out—
her voice held back every man in that whole army.

      “Men of Ithaca, stop this disastrous war,
      so you can quickly go your separate ways                                        200
      without spilling any blood.”

                                                               Athena spoke,
and pale fear gripped the men. They were so terrified
they dropped their weapons and all fell on the ground,
at that goddess’ resounding voice. They turned round,
back towards the city, eager to save their lives.
Then much-enduring lord Odysseus gave out
a fearful shout, gathered himself, and swooped down
like an eagle from on high. But at that moment,
Zeus, son of Cronos, shot a fiery thunderbolt.
It struck at the feet of the bright-eyed daughter                                       210
of that mighty father. And then Athena,
goddess with the glittering eyes, said to Odysseus:

      “Resourceful Odysseus, Laertes’ son,
      and child of Zeus, hold back. Stop this fight,
      this impartial war, in case thundering Zeus,
      who sees far and wide, grows angry with you.”

Once Athena spoke, Odysseus obeyed,
joy in his heart. And then Pallas Athena,
daughter of aegis-bearing Zeus, in shape and form
looking just like Mentor, had both parties swear                                     220
a solemn treaty designed to last forever.

 

 

GLOSSARY

 

The following glossary includes the names of the main characters and places in this abridged Odyssey (and a few others).

ACHAEANS: a collective name of the Greeks (used interchangeably with DANAANS and ARGIVES)
ACHILLES: son of Peleus, greatest of the Achaean warriors at Troy, where he died and was buried.
AEGISTHUS: son of Thyestes, lover of Clytaemnestra and murderer of Agamemnon.
AEOLUS: son of Hippotas, god of the winds, living on the island Aeolia.
AGAMEMNON: son of Atreus, king of Argos, leader of the Achaean forces which attacked and destroyed Troy.
AGELAUS: son of Damastor, one of the Suitors.
AJAX: son of Telamon, greatest Achaean warrior after Achilles at Troy, where he died and was buried..
ALCINOUS: son of Nausithous, husband of Arete, king of the Phaeacians.
AMPHIMEDON: son of Melaneus, one of the Suitors.
AMPHINOMUS: son of Nisus, one of the Suitors from Dulichium.
AMPHITRITE: divine wife of Poseidon, a sea goddess.
ANTICLEIA: daughter of Autolycus, mother of Odysseus.
ANTINOUS: son of Eupeithes, one of the leaders of the Suitors.
ANTIPHATES: king of the Laestrygonians.
APHRODITE: divine daughter of Zeus and Hera, goddess of erotic love.
APOLLO: divine son of Zeus and Leto, often called Phoebus or Phoebus Apollo.
ARES: divine son of Zeus and Hera, god of war.
ARETE: wife of Alcinous, queen of the Phaeacians.
ARGIVES see ACHAEANS.
ARTEMIS: divine daughter of Zeus and Leto, goddess of the hunt.
ATHENA: divine daughter of Zeus, goddess of wisdom.
CALYPSO: daughter of Atlas, goddess living on the island of Ogygia.
CEPHALLENIA: an island close to Ithaca, part of Odysseus’ kingdom, often applied to that kingdom and its people generally.
CHARYBDIS: a divine sea monster which acts as a whirlpool.
CICONES: inhabitants of Ismarus, a city close to Troy.
CIRCE: a goddess living on the island of Aeaea.
CLYTAEMNESTRA: daughter of Tyndareus, wife of Agememnon.
CYCLOPES (singular CYCLOPS): monstrous creatures with one eye.
CRONOS: father of Zeus, overthrown by his son and imprisoned deep in the earth.
DANAANS see ACHAEANS
DEMODOCUS: the blind minstrel in the court of Alcinous in Phaeacia.
DOLIUS: an old servant of Laertes and Penelope.
DULICHIUM: an island close to Ithaca, part of Odysseus’ kingdom.
EUMAEUS: a servant of Odysseus, keeper of pigs.
EUPEITHES: father of Antinous (one of the Suitors).
EURYCLEIA: daugher of Ops, elderly family servant to Odysseus, Penelope, and Telemachus.
EURYLOCHUS: one of Odysseus’ companions, related to him by marriage.
EURYMACHUS: son of Polybus, one of the leading Suitors.
EURYNOME: housekeeper in Odysseus’ and Penelope’s home.
FURIES: goddesses of blood revenge.
GIANTS: the race of divinities before Zeus, many now imprisoned by Zeus deep in the earth.
HADES: god of the underworld, also the underworld itself.
HEPHAESTUS: divine son of Zeus and Hera, god of the forge, the divine artisan.
HERCULES: mortal son of Zeus, made into a god after his death.
HERMES: divine son of Zeus and the nymph Maia, messenger god,often called “killer of Argus.”
HYPERION: god of the sun (also called Helios)
ILION: another name for Troy.
ITHACA: island off the west coast of mainland Greece, kingdom ruled by Odysseus.
LAERTES: son of Arcesius, father of Odysseus.
LAESTRYGONIANS: race of giants living in Telpylus.
LEIODES: son of Oenops, one of the Suitors, a soothsayer.
LEOCRITUS: son of Euenor, one of the Suitors.
MEDON: a herald in Odysseus’ palace.
MELANTHIUS: son of Dolius, a goatherd friendly to the Suitors.
MENELAUS: son of Atreus, brother of Agamemnon, husband of Helen, king of Sparta.
MENTOR: son of Alcimus, steward of Odysseus’ place, an old companion of Odysseus.
NAUSICAA: daughter of Arete, princess of the Phaeacians.
NESTOR: son of Neleus, king of Pylos.
OCEANUS: the river running around the outer rim of the world.
ODYSSEUS: king of Ithaca, son of Laertes, husband of Penelope, father of Telemachus.
OLYMPUS: mountain in northern Greece where the major deities live (the Olympians).
OGYGIA: island where Calypso lives and where she detains Odysseus.
ORESTES: son of Agamemnon and Clytaemnestra, killer of Aegisthus.
PENELOPE: daughter of Icarius, wife of Odysseus, mother of Telemachus.
PERSEPHONE: wife of Hades, goddess of the underworld.
PHAEACIANS: inhabitants of Scheria, master sailors.
PHEMIUS: son of Terpes, the professional minstrel in Odysseus’ palace.
PHILOETIUS: a goat and cattle herder on Ithaca friendly to Odysseus.
POLYPHEMUS: a cyclops, son of Poseidon.
PONTONOUS: a herald in the court of Alcinous in Phaeacia.
POSEIDON: god of the sea, brother of Zeus, often called “encircler of the earth” or “Earthshaker.”
PRIAM: king of Troy, killed when the city was captured by Achaeans.
PYLOS: city state in the south Peloponnese ruled by Nestor.
PHYTHO: the location of the shrine of Apollo.
SAME: an island close to Ithaca, part of Odysseus’ kingdom.
SCHERIA: distant land where the Phaeacians live.
SCYLLA: a monster with many heads.
SIRENS: two singers who lure sailors to their destruction.
SPARTA: city in the central Peloponnese ruled by Menelaus.
STYX: river in Hades by which the gods swear their most solemn oaths.
SUITORS: aristocratic young men courting Penelope in hopes of marrying her.
TEIRESIAS: a blind prophet from Thebes.
TELEMACHUS: son of Odysseus and Penelope.
TROY: city in Asia Minor, near the Hellespont, besieged by the Achaean (Greek) forces for ten years.
ZYCANTHUS: an island close to Ithaca, part of Odysseus’ kingdom.
ZEUS: major divine presence on Olympus, often called “son of Cronos.”

 

ENDNOTES

 

(1) The Muses, divine patrons of the arts, are daughters of Zeus, the most powerful god on Olympus. [Back to Text]

(2) Aegisthus, as part of a scheme to avenge a terrible act of Agamemnon’s father against his father, seduced Agamemnon’s wife, Clytaemnestra, while Agamemnon was leading the Achaean army at Troy, and when Agamemnon returned victorious, the two lovers killed him and took control of Argos. Orestes, Agamemnon’s son, who was away at the time of the murder, returned to Argos in disguise and avenged his father by killing Aegisthus and Clytaemnestra. This famous story is referred to a number of times in the Odyssey. Agamemnon’s shade provides some details of the killing in Book Eleven. [Back to Text]
 
(3) A cyclops, as we find out later in the poem, is a huge, one-eyed man-eating monster living in the wilderness. Poseidon, Zeus’ divine brother, is god of the sea (hence, he is often called “Encircler of the Earth”). He is also called Earthshaker because he rules over earthquakes. [Back to Text]

(4) Cronos is Zeus’ father, whom Zeus fought against and imprisoned deep in the earth. Hermes, divine son of Zeus, killed the monster Argus, whom Zeus’ wife and sister, Hera, had told to guard the goddess Io, in order to prevent her getting into sexual mischief with Zeus. [Back to Text]
 
(5) The suitors are the rich, young aristocratic men of Ithaca and the neighbouring islands who are seeking to marry Penelope, Odysseus’ wife, in the belief that Odysseus is dead. [Back to Text]
 
(6) The diet of the gods is different from the human diet. Calypso serves Hermes ambrosia and nectar and has those herself, but Odysseus, a human being, has to have different things to eat and drink. [Back to Text]
 
(7) These lines refer to a famous argument between Odysseus and Achilles, the finest of the Achaean warriors, about the best tactics to use against the Trojans. That Demodocus sings about the Trojan War reinforces the claim that this image of the blind singer is a self-portrait of Homer. [Back to Text]
 
(8) For a simplified map of the various stages of Odysseus’ journey home, consult the map at the following site: Map. There is, however, much dispute about the details.  His first adventure, at Ismarus with the Cicones, seems to have been on the mainland north of Troy. [Back to Text]
 
(9) The Cyclopes (singular Cyclops) are hairy man-eating monsters, rather than people, with only one eye in the middle of their foreheads. They originated from the primal gods, Ouranos and Gaea, and had been imprisoned in Tartarus deep in the earth. But they helped Zeus in his fight against his father, Cronos, and Zeus freed them. Odysseus, one assumes, either doesn’t know about the Cyclopes before this adventure or is not aware he is about to meet one, since he assumes he’s moving into a place where the laws of hospitality apply. We learn later that the Cyclops Odysseus meets has a name (Polyphemus) and is, along with his neighbours, a son of Poseidon. Many geographical interpretations place the incident with the Cyclops in Sicily. [Back to Text]

(10) The land of the Laestrygonians seems to be north of Sicily, possibly Corsica. [Back to Text]
 
(11) Oceanus or Ocean is a river which in Homeric geography surrounds the lands and the sea. It is, as it were, the outer rim of the world (which is flat). The Periphlegeton, Cocytus, Styx, and Acheron are the rivers of the underworld, Hades. [Back to Text]
 
(12) Hades is the name of the underworld of the dead and also of the god of the underworld. Persephone is his divine queen. Teiresias is the most famous human prophet (now in Hades). [Back to Text]
 
 (13) These remarks seem to suggest that Odysseus must finally propitiate Poseidon by going somewhere far inland, where people have never heard of that god and, in effect, make him known with the oar planted in the ground and a sacrifice. A winnowing shovel is a device for separating grain from chaff. [Back to Text]
 
(14) This prophecy of the death of Odysseus has prompted much comment, especially the phrase “far from the sea,” which some interpreters wish to emend to read “from the sea” (i.e., someone will arrive by boat and bring about Odysseus’ death). It’s difficult to reconcile the idea of Odysseus being far from the sea with the mention of his people (i.e., those in Ithaca) living well all around him, unless, as some legends have it, he leaves Ithaca and becomes a ruler somewhere else. [Back to Text]
 
(15) Agamemnon, king of Argos, was the leader of the Achaean expedition against Troy.  After capturing and destroying Troy, he returned home only to be murdered, along with his companions, by his wife, Clytaemnestra, and her lover, Aegisthus. [Back to Text]
 
(16) These actions were made out of respect for the dead on their way to Hades. The refusal to carry them out shows the greatest disrespect. Cassandra, daughter of Priam, king of Troy, was given to Agamemnon by the army as part of his share of the captured Trojan loot. The Helen mentioned a few lines later on is Helen of Troy, whose elopement with Paris was the immediate cause of the Trojan War. [Back to Text]
 
(17) Achilles, son of Peleus, was the greatest Achaean warrior during the Trojan War. He is the hero of Homer’s Iliad. In honour of his grandfather, a son of Zeus, he is sometimes called “son of Aeacus.” Achilles died at Troy. [Back to Text]
 
(18) Ajax, king of Salamis, (known as the Greater Ajax) was the finest Achaean warrior after Achilles. When Achilles died, there was a contest for his armour. The two main claimants were Odysseus and Ajax. When Odysseus was awarded the weapons by the judges, Ajax went berserk and later killed himself. [Back to Text]
 
(19) Tityus was a giant son of Zeus (or of Ouranos). Hera persuaded Titys to attack Leto, whose children, Apollo and Artemis, came to her help and killed him. The measurement describing his size is unclear. [Back to Text]
 
(20) Tantalus was a son of Zeus. His punishment comes from some action he committed against the gods (stealing the gods’ food or murdering his son Pelops and serving him to the gods for dinner). [Back to Text]
 
(21) Sisyphus gave away the secrets of the gods and once tricked the god of death, so that the dead could not reach the underworld. [Back to Text]
 
(22) Hercules, a mortal, had the very rare distinction of being admitted to heaven after death. Hence, Odysseus meets an “image” of Hercules. His later mention of having to serve an inferior man is a reference to the Labours of Hercules, work he had to carry out for king Eurystheus over a twelve-year period. [Back to Text]
 
(23) The Gorgons were three terrifying sisters, the most famous being Medusa, the only one who was not immortal. Her head, even when cut off, could turn men to stone. [Back to Text]
 
(24) The Argo, a ship named after its builder Argus, carried Jason and his companions to Colchis on their trip to capture the Golden Fleece and back again. Aeetes was king of Colchis, father of Medea. [Back to Text]
 
(25) The traditional sacrifice required white barley. But since the sailors are out of food, they have to substitute the leaves for the barley. [Back to Text]
 
(26) Here the narrator of the poem makes an unexpected shift and addresses one of the characters in person (“you”). While this is not common in Homer, it does occur a few times, especially with reference to Eumaeus. [Back to Text]
 
(27) “Those other men” are the suitors waiting out a sea to ambush Telemachus on his voyage home. [Back to Text]
 
(28) The details of this famous trial of shooting an arrow through a row of axes have been much discussed. Some interpreters have suggested that it makes sense of we imagine that there is a hole in the head of each axe and that they can be lined up so that an arrow might pass through them all, obviously a very difficult shot. Some ancient axes apparently had this feature. Others have suggested that the holes are rings at the bottom end of the shaft or that the holes are those which normally hold the axe shaft, so that the line of axes is actually a line of axe heads with the shaft removed. [Back to Text]
 
(29) The doorway in question is the entrance to the women’s quarters. They are to be locked in so that they don’t interrupt the revenge killings or run off to raise a general alarm. [Back to Text]
 
(30) For the architectural details of Odysseus’ house, use the following link: Odysseus’ palace (you will need to scroll down the page for a while to find the diagram and the explanation). [Back to Text]
 
(31) The round house is in one corner of the courtyard. Telemachus hangs the servant women from a cable attached to the top of the round house and to a nearby pillar. [Back to Text]

 

 

A NOTE ON THE TRANSLATOR

 

Ian Johnston is an Emeritus Professor at Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, British Columbia. He is the author of The Ironies of War: An Introduction to Homer’s Iliad and of Essays and Arguments: A Handbook for Writing Student Essays. He also translated a number of works, including the following:


Aeschylus, Oresteia (Agamemnon, Libation Bearers, Eumenides)
Aeschylus, Persians
Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound
Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes
Aeschylus, Suppliant Women
Aristophanes, Birds
Aristophanes, Clouds
Aristophanes, Frogs
Aristophanes, Knights
Aristophanes, Lysistrata
Aristophanes, Peace
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics (Abridged)
Cuvier, Discourse on the Revolutionary Upheavals on the Surface of the Earth
Descartes, Discourse on Method
Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy
Diderot, A Conversation Between D’Alembert and Diderot
Diderot, D’Alembert’s Dream
Diderot, Rameau’s Nephew
Euripides, Bacchae
Euripides, Electra
Euripides, Hippolytus
Euripides, Medea
Euripides, Orestes
Homer, Iliad (Complete and Abridged)
Homer, Odyssey (Complete and Abridged)
Kafka, Metamorphosis
Kafka, Selected Shorter Writings
Kant, Universal History of Nature and Theory of Heaven
Kant, On Perpetual Peace
Lamarck, Zoological Philosophy, Volume I
Lucretius, On the Nature of Things
Nietzsche, Birth of Tragedy
Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil
Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals
Nietzsche, On the Uses and Abuses of History for Life
Ovid, Metamorphoses
Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality Among Men [Second Discourse]
Rousseau, Discourse on the Sciences and the Arts [First Discourse]
Rousseau, Social Contract
Sophocles, Antigone
Sophocles, Ajax
Sophocles, Electra
Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus
Sophocles, Oedipus the King
Sophocles, Philoctetes
Wedekind, Castle Wetterstein
Wedekind, Marquis of Keith.

 

Most of these translations have been published as books or audiobooks (or both)—by Richer Resources Publications, Broadview Press, Naxos, Audible, and others.

 

Ian Johnston maintains a web site where texts of these translations are freely available to students, teachers, artists, and the general public. The site includes a number of Ian Johnston’s lectures on these (and other) works, handbooks, curricular materials, and essays, all freely available.

The addresses where these texts are available are as follows:

 

https://records.viu.ca/~johnstoi/

 http://johnstoniatexts.x10host.com/index.html

 
For comments and questions, please contact Ian Johnston.