Analysis Pages

Character Analysis in The Odyssey

Characters in The Odyssey are defined by the qualities that they represent for Greek society. Rather than creating unique characters with believable human characteristics, Homer constructs the ultimate hero in Odysseus, the archetypal faithful wife in Penelope, and the portraits of temperamental gods as they interact with humans. With the exception of the gods, each mortal character strives to uphold the tenants of bravery, honor, courage, justice, and glory because these were the qualities that the story was meant to instill in those who heard it.

Character Analysis Examples in The Odyssey:

Book I

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"Euryclea..."   (Book I)

One of only a few servants to receive a name in The Odyssey, Euryclea is one of the oldest and most trusted servants in Odysseus's household. In the course of the poem, we'll see her working as a maid, a nurse, a confidante, and even a friend, as she helps both Telemachus and Odysseus with their plans.

"soothsayer..."   (Book I)

"Sooth" means truth, so a soothsayer is literally a "truth-teller" and acts like a fortune teller. In ancient Greek and Shakespearean tragedies, soothsayers were wise men who foretold the future, but often left somewhat cryptic clues as to what that future would be. Penelope's desire to speak to a soothsayer signifies that she's become desperate for answers, whereas Telemachus had given up hope, until Athena came.

"before we could get to know him..."   (Book I)

That is, before they could get to know his intentions. The suitors, having lived off of Odysseus' wealth for the past few years, are naturally very possessive and want to protect their claim to Penelope. Any outsiders, even Athena in disguise, would be considered a threat to their livelihood and would need to either be brought into the fold or eliminated.

"Eurymachus..."   (Book I)

The second suitor to speak out against Telemachus, his name means "wide-fighting one" and his reputation is one of cunning and deceit. Even though he promises in this passage that no harm will ever befall Telemachus, neither the reader nor Telemachus believes him or his fellow suitors. This exchange, terse with threats of violence and displays of courage, sets the tone for future scenes between Telemachus and the suitors.

"the worst fate you can think of..."   (Book I)

This functions as both a question and a challenge. Telemachus knows very well that all the suitors would like him out of the picture and that they would, if given the opportunity, kill him themselves. It's possible they're already plotting against him. That Telemachus says this and that he goes on to say he'd like to be chief, like his father, indicates that he's coming into his own power.

"Antinous,..."   (Book I)

Based on this line, we can assume that Antinous is one of the most aggressive suitors present, willing both to confront Telemachus and to speak for the others when Telemachus finally takes charge. Though he's bold enough to speak up, he's not foolish enough to believe that he's in the right. By extension, all of the suitors are perfectly aware of how rude they're being, which only makes it ruder that they're doing it anyway.

"She held a veil..."   (Book I)

This item, traditionally worn by widows, indicates that Penelope is in mourning for Odysseus, whose return seems less and less likely with each passing day. It appears that this veil is the only thing keeping her suitors from forcing her to make a decision about them, because, in spite of their bad manners, they still respect Greek traditions of mourning.

"singing Orestes' praises..."   (Book I)

Although their situations aren't exactly analogous, the comparison to Orestes is apt, because he and Telemachus are both the sons of returning war heroes, and their houses are both in some way ruined by the time their fathers return. Throughout this speech, Athena tries to boost Telemachus' low self-esteem by comparing him to other great men, but it remains to be seen whether this tactic will be effective.

"will do so also with myself..."   (Book I)

It's unclear whether Telemachus means this in a literal or metaphorical sense. It may well be both, in the sense that he's afraid his for emotional stability (having to constantly cater to these unwanted guests) and for his physical safety, as a young man in a house full of older and stronger men with combat experience.

"neither explicitly say that she will not marry, nor..."   (Book I)

Homer never fully explains Penelope's indecision here. This line makes clear that, if she were simply to say no to all the suitors, then she'd have the authority to throw them out, but for some reason she isn't able to do this. Likely, she's afraid of the retribution this will wreak, and of the dangers of being a "widow" on an island full of drunken, jilted men. These suitors then become a form of protection against an even worse future.

"built a mound over his ashes..."   (Book I)

In ancient Greek tradition, heroes were burned on a funeral pyre built of wood, then the ashes were lain in the ground and covered with a mound of dirt. Often in war men will not have this luxury, and when men are lost at sea, their bodies can't be glorified this way. Telemachus wishes there had been a body because that would've made him the rightful heir to Odysseus' home and solved all of his problems with the suitors.

"the gods in their displeasure have willed it otherwise..."   (Book I)

Here we see the theme of man's fate versus the gods' will in action. Telemachus believes that the gods have done this to him, but we know from earlier passages that this isn't true, so the tension between gods and mortals becomes instead just a question of perception. In the end, Telemachus's inability to cast away the suitors isn't because of the gods, but rather due to his own youthful lack of courage and experience.

"he who they tell me is my father..."   (Book I)

At this point in the narrative, Odysseus has been gone for twenty years (ten of which were spent fighting Troy). It's clear that, while Telemachus would certainly like his father to return, he's given up all hope and has begun to question if, after all this time, he can even refer to himself as Odysseus' son, since his father didn't raise him. This suggests that even in Homer's day fatherhood was more than a mere question of paternity.

"Laertes..."   (Book I)

Odysseus' father. With Odysseus away, Laertes should've taken over his house, as the eldest male in the family, but the narrative requires that no strong figure be present in the household, and thus, Homer made Laertes old and feeble so he wouldn't be able to fulfill his duties to Odysseus. Athena mentions this as a way of commenting on the confluence of bad luck that led to this situation with the suitors.

"Phemius..."   (Book I)

A poet, like Homer, who performs with his lyre in front of the suitors. Phemius has been forced to perform against his wishes, despite the fact that, as guests, the suitors have no authority to compel him to do anything. Only Telemachus, as the male head of the household, is allowed to give orders in the house, but because of his age, and because of his father's absence, he doesn't have the authority or the courage to speak out against the suitors.

"a beautiful golden ewer..."   (Book I)

Odysseus' house and possessions are reflections of his great social standing, with items like this ewer, or oval pitcher, displaying his considerable wealth and prestige. Even before Odysseus fought in the Trojan War, he was a respectable man with lands and money to his name. His absence, however, has depleted his wealth considerably, as the suitors eat up his flock.

"ask her more freely..."   (Book I)

In the company of his mother's suitors, Telemachus naturally would rather not discuss his father, in case the suitors in their greed learn of Odysseus' location and take measures to make sure he'll never return home. This suggests both that the suitors aren't honorable men (as evidenced by their mooching) and that Telemachus understands the very real danger his father is in at this point in the poem.

"he was vexed that a stranger should be kept waiting for admittance..."   (Book I)

Ancient Greeks had a strong sense of etiquette and decorum. Their word for this was xenia, which dictates that hosts follow very formal procedures in the care of their guests. Any breach of xenia would've constituted an unforgivable breach of their moral code and would've reflected poorly upon Telemachus (and, by extension, Odysseus). In this tradition, any question the guest had would've been asked only after their other needs (for food and drink, etc.) had been met.

"of a mind..."   (Book I)

Zeus uses phrases like "of a mind" and "let us lay our heads together" to allude to Athena's origin story. In doing so, he aligns himself and Athena with wisdom, implying that, while she is the goddess of wisdom, intelligence and cleverness are not exclusively her domain. In this, we see a system of checks and balances by which the various gods keep each other in line.

"Telemachus..."   (Book I)

In the beginning, Telemachus appears to be a weak young man, disheartened by his father's absence and uncertain of his position. With Athena's intervention, Telemachus will become, in the course of the poem, his father's son and will be able to stand up to his mother's suitors, thus taking control of the household.

"Aegisthus is neither here nor there..."   (Book I)

As the goddess of wisdom, Athena can be blunt where other gods wouldn't dare to be and here points out the essentially aimless tangent about Aegisthus, which serves no purpose other than to allow Zeus to speak ill of the mortals. Athena (and, by extension, the reader) notes the essential selfishness of this act and does her best to shift the focus to Odysseus.

"must needs..."   (Book I)

This phrase appears again and again in Homer's works. It means that one must necessarily do something or that it's in one's nature to do something. There's a tension in this about whether or not it's speaking to fate (as in, he must do this to finish the story) or if it's just a part of his character (as in, he would do that). In this example, it appears that Orestes "must needs" kill Aegisthus because he wanted to.

"but the other gods met..."   (Book I)

Notice that the other gods are actively cutting Poseidon out of the loop on this. In Greek mythology, this kind of behavior was common on Mount Olympus and led to much inner turmoil, including an attempt by Hera to overthrow Zeus and take the throne for herself. Zeus punished Poseidon for his role in this attempted overthrow by forcing him to build a great wall around the city of Troy.

"First go to Pylos and ask Nestor; thence go on to Sparta and visit Menelaus..."   (Book I)

Nestor, one of the oldest Greek warriors at Troy and a great friend of Odysseus, made it home safely after the war, as did Menelaus, King of Sparta and his wife, Helen, whose abduction started the war.  Both Nestor and Menelaus would do all they could to help Telemachus in his search for Odysseus.

"full of drowsiness..."   (Book II)

As the goddess of wisdom, Athena had power over the minds of mortals, which she occasionally "befuddled" to suit her purposes, either by making them sleep (as she did to Penelope in Book I) or by messing with their food and drink. That she has the power to do this suggests that Greek gods, though most powerful within their domains, had a number of skills that had nothing to do with their specific realm.

"and know more about it..."   (Book II)

This line, read together with Antinous's invitation for Telemachus to sit and eat with them "as [he] used to" implies that there was a time, before Telemachus grew up, when he thought the suitors were his friends and didn't understand the financial repercussions of their prolonged presence. This would've lulled the suitors into a false sense of complacency, allowing them to feel secure in their position.

"a ship and a picked crew to boot..."   (Book II)

A hand-picked crew of men loyal to the suitors, not to Telemachus, and likely to get rid of him the first chance they get. This is what Athena is guarding against by "beating up" her own volunteers. It's obvious that the suitors are pleased to have Telemachus out of their hair, and that's reason enough for him to decline their invitation to join them.

"Mentor..."   (Book II)

This marks the first and only time that Mentor speaks in the poem as himself. In every other case, "Mentor" is actually Athena in disguise, appearing to guide Telemachus in his journey in much the same way she appeared earlier. It's her guidance in The Odyssey that led to the word "mentor" being adopted in the English language to mean a teacher or a wise person who provides guidance.

"with all due pomp..."   (Book II)

Remember that this is Athena's plan, not Telemachus', and that these are her words, not his. Thus far, Telemachus has merely been following instructions, which might've worked in his favor, had he not squandered the beauty Athena endowed him with by behaving in such a childish way. His repetition of her plan word for word must be comforting to him in this stressful time.

"a prize of such rare perfection..."   (Book II)

Keep in mind that the suitors aren't that interested in Penelope herself, but want control over Odysseus's land, livestock, and estate. Though Eurymachus claims they can't go after other women, in fact, they can, but choose not to do so. Their brash refusal to change course is a fine example of "hubris," the Greek word for pride. In a classic Greek tragedy, hubris would be the primary character flaw of a hero, but in The Odyssey, it's a trait of the villainous suitors, who are blinded by their self-interest.

"Halitherses..."   (Book II)

A prophet and friend of Odysseus who, like Mentor, remained in Ithaca to help Telemachus while his father was at war. Like Penelope's soothsayer, his ability to read the future is questionable, but is used by Homer as a way to foreshadow things that take place later in the poem. In that sense, Halitherses' prophecy is a way for Homer to structure the narrative and establish the timeline (up until this moment, we didn't know that Odysseus had been gone twenty years).

"there shall be no man to avenge you..."   (Book II)

Telemachus leveled this same threat at the end of Book I. The repetition implies that it hasn't been effective and that Telemachus still feels insecure about his position here. This entreaty to the gods and councillors wouldn't be necessary if Telemachus had control of the situation, and in emphasizing the fact that he doesn't, Homer makes it all too clear that Telemachus can't live up to his father. Even this meeting, so seemingly bold, is someone else's idea.

"Send your mother away..."   (Book II)

In ancient Greece, if a widowed woman didn't remarry, the custom was that she return to her family home. In this case, doing so would require Telemachus to pay back Penelope's dowry in livestock and find some way to save their estate without going bankrupt. As a suitor, it's not Antinous' place to demand anything but an answer, but because there is a power vacuum, he feels he has the right to do so.

"against the time..."   (Book II)

Modern readers will recognize this as a stalling tactic used by someone with a reason to believe that a straightforward rejection would result in some backlash or violence. Penelope's "artful" scheme is in reality a way to hold off making her decision about remarrying in the hopes that Odysseus will come save her from the suitors. It remains to be seen if he'll make it back in time.

"burst into tears..."   (Book II)

Though Telemachus's grievances are in fact legitimate and the councillors might be sympathetic to his cause, his speech makes him seem childish and immature and destroys any good will he'd earned in the community. It's important to note that, while he's written like a child or an unruly teenager, Telemachus is in fact the same age as many men were when they went to fight in the Trojan War.

"no meeting of our councillors until now..."   (Book II)

In Odysseus's long absence, Ithaca has been a largely lawless state, with the suitors taking advantage of Odysseus's house without fear of retribution. Telemachus calls for a meeting of the councillors to hail a return to a just and lawful state, aligning himself with the side of the good and the just while implying that the suitors are criminals.

"sent the criers..."   (Book II)

"Criers" were men who ran through the streets of a city, giving its citizens news and announcing meetings. Telemachus wants to make a show of this gathering and intends to finally put the suitors in their place. Otherwise, there would be no reason to call them together at the assembly. All of this is meant to bolster Telemachus' ego.

"On this she led the way, while Telemachus followed in her steps..."   (Book II)

Note that although Telemachus is about to command a ship, he's still acting as a follower rather than a leader. Telemachus' voyage to find his father is a classic coming-of-age story, a Bildungsroman, in which he sets out to discover himself. If he is indeed to come of age, then he must make a genuine transition from child to adult (a change that will forever alter his perspective of himself and the world around him).

"I have neither ship nor crew of my own..."   (Book II)

Had the suitors not eaten Telemachus almost out of house and home he would have the funds to procure his own boat and crew, but, as it stands, he'll have to travel as a passenger in unfriendly waters where the suitors' agents could be waiting at every turn. He's fully aware of the dangers that lie ahead in this journey, but he goes it anyway, which suggests that he does, in fact, have courage like his father.

"his name will live through all time..."   (Book III)

Nestor recounts the story of how Orestes avenged his father’s (Agamemnon’s) death and suggests that Telemachus take a similar course of action and avenge Odysseus. Notice how Telemachus focuses on the renown he would receive. This is another example of his desire for kleos.

"daughter Athena..."   (Book III)

Nestor describes how Athena has not always been so benevolent, being the cause of many deaths and great strife. Athena takes notice of Odysseus’s great display of courage and wit and shows sympathy towards his quest, justifying his heroic status.

"you talk just like him too..."   (Book III)

Telemachus bears an uncanny resemblance to Odysseus, even though the two don’t have much of a father-son relationship. This proves to be important at a vital moment later in the story when Telemachus must call upon his cunning, a trademark of his father’s character.

"born to trouble..."   (Book III)

Telemachus’ language reveals his troubled relationship with Odysseus. Since Odysseus left for the Trojan War when Telemachus was just an infant, Telemachus knows little of his father except from what others have said about him. Telemachus’ image of Odysseus has been framed by the stories that have been told about his guile that led him victoriously during the Trojan War.

"Nestor..."   (Book III)

Nestor is introduced in Homer's Iliad as the oldest Greek warrior fighting the Trojans. He is respected for his good judge of character and unfailing honesty. Nestor’s appearance in both of Homer’s poems is an example of parallel structure, since he provides guidance and reason for characters in both stories.

"forbid that you should leave my house to go on board of a ship..."   (Book III)

In Greek culture, the concept of xenia, hospitality, is so important that it requires that a host give up his own comfort to provide hospitality to his guests, so Nestor is making sure that Telemachus and Mentor understand that he cannot let them simply go back to their ship when they are his guests—he has everything they need for comfort.

"who has lately come off a voyage among such distant peoples as no man could ever hope to get back from..."   (Book III)

Nestor is encouraging Telemachus by telling him that if Menelaus could return from a dangerous, lengthy voyage, it's also possible that Odysseus could still be engaged in the same kind of difficult voyage.

"cajoled Agamemnon's wife..."   (Book III)

Nestor's account, designed to justify Orestes' murder of Aegisthus, not only rightly paints him in a bad light but ignores the role of Clytemnestra, who willingly took Aegisthus as her lover and required no convincing.

"if indeed you are his son..."   (Book III)

Nestor has no reason to know Telemachus or even that Telemachus is who he represents himself to be. As Telemachus speaks, however, he triggers Nestor's recollection of Odysseus, a man he hasn't seen in nearly twenty years.

"get himself a good name..."   (Book III)

One of the most important goals of a Greek leader is to gain kleos, that is, fame, and a necessary component of fame is to speak well, so it is very important that Telemachus speak appropriately and well in front of Nestor and his family, especially because Odysseus was known as one of the most powerful speakers among Greek kings. Telemachus must speak well in part because he is trying to establish his relationship with Odysseus.

"idle conversation..."   (Book IV)

Iphthime, Penelope's sister, would've had reason to want to stay and engage in idle conversation, but since this is only a vision and was created for one person (to encourage Penelope), it doesn't want to stay and doesn't have (or isn't authorized to give) the information that Penelope so desperately seeks.

"son of Arceisius..."   (Book IV)

Arceisius, son of either Zeus or Cephalus and father to Laertes. Zeus decreed that Arcesius' bloodline would consist of only sons, making Laertes Arcesius' only son, Odysseus Laertes' only son, and Telemachus Odysseus' only son.

"leave me a corpse behind him..."   (Book IV)

Penelope essentially says that if she'd known about Telemachus' trip she would've told him, "Over my dead body." Though Penelope and Telemachus' relationship has been portrayed as strained, the familial ties in ancient Greece were particularly strong and demanded utter devotion on the part of mothers. Penelope's threat here is all too real.

"to keep up his name..."   (Book IV)

Telemachus is the last in his line, the only son of Odysseus and heir to his kingdom. If Odysseus doesn't come back, and Telemachus fails to produce a male heir before he dies, then the estate will be broken up regardless of whether or not the suitors manage to take it.

"neither woo nor dine henceforward..."   (Book IV)

Note that Penelope has never explicitly said that she doesn't want the suitors here before this moment. It may be that her son's journey has strengthened her resolve to remain faithful, or it could be that she's been begrudgingly hosting the suitors all along.

"some god who was exactly like him..."   (Book IV)

It was fairly common for gods to take the form of humans, and the suitors would be familiar with this phenomenon. However, for them to assume that Telemachus was being helped by a god, they would necessarily have to think that he's in the right and that their position is in danger. We'll see how this plays out later.

"Rhadamanthus..."   (Book IV)

Rhadamanthus, son of Zeus and Europa, brother of Minos, the first king of Crete, who ordered that every nine years seven boys and seven girls be sent to the Minotaur in the labyrinth. Rhadamanthus led a just life and upon his death became a judge of the dead and the ruler of the Elysian plains.

"ruined himself by boasting..."   (Book IV)

The ancient Greeks, drawing on Aristotle's philosophies about human behavior, believed in hamartia, or a fatal flaw of personality that affected many heroes. One of the most common flaws was hubris, that is, pride or boasting.

"he was a man born to trouble..."   (Book IV)

Though Telemachus was just an infant when Odysseus left, and he's not personally familiar with his father, he's nevertheless heard many stories of his father's deviousness and his tendency to get himself in and out of trouble.

"and mimicked all our wives..."   (Book IV)

Menelaus attempts to explain away this act of treachery as the gods' will, but Helen's measured and deliberate actions in this scene seem to suggest that she's trying to lead the Trojans to their hiding place. An alternate reading would be that she's trying to draw the Greeks out to ambush the Trojans, but this seems unlikely.

"Deiphobus..."   (Book IV)

Deiphobus, son of Priam, king of Troy, was the prince of Troy and one of its most effective warriors. His presence here clearly indicates that Helen was scheming something, though whether it was to betray the Greeks or ensure that Deiphobus be among the first killed, it's not clear.

"by no means deficient either..."   (Book IV)

At this point in Helen's story, we can assume that everything she says is in fact the exact opposite of how she really feels, which then suggests that her husband, here described as "by no means deficient," is, in fact, disappointing to her, a fact that led her to run away with Paris.

"he was too cunning for me..."   (Book IV)

Remember that Helen has just drugged all of these "honorable" men in an act equally as cunning as those of Odysseus. In this line, she isn't denigrating herself by suggesting he put one over on her but rather expressing her respect and admiration for another cunning character.

"Helen came down..."   (Book IV)

In public, at least, Menelaus and Helen have restored the relationship that was destroyed when Helen ran off to Troy with Paris. In private, the reader has no way of knowing from this line whether Helen and Menelaus have been able to make amends. If they aren't on good terms, this may be one reason for Helen not producing male heirs.

"and one soon tires of it..."   (Book IV)

In ancient Greece, as in many cultures, the traditions of mourning required that the Greeks perform their grief in a number of highly ritualized ways, including the observation of burial rites, periods of mourning, and the wailing Menelaus refers to here, which saw men and women alike crying melodramatically in public. Menelaus tired of this mourning, which is to say, he tires of the performance.

"but now you talk like a simpleton..."   (Book IV)

Regardless of whether or not Telemachus looks like a son of Zeus, he is still a guest at Menelaus' house and should be treated according to the rules of xenia, as the suitors as treated at Odysseus' house. This parallel further underscores the reluctance on Eteoneus' part to accept the visitors, whose intentions he doesn't yet know.

"who look like sons of Zeus..."   (Book IV)

In ancient Greece, the appearance of men who appear to be gods or the sons of gods would've been both an event of great importance and a cause of considerable trepidation, as the Greek gods were notoriously selfish and often brought disaster to houses they visited. Eteoneus should know better than to hesitate around them, and Menelaus is wise in treating them kindly.

"Hermione..."   (Book IV)

Hermione, first of her name, was betrothed by her grandfather Tyndareus to Orestes, son of Agamemnon, who avenged his father's murder by killing his mother, Clytemnestra, and her lover, Aegisthus, who plotted Agamemnon's death. It would appear that this led to the end of their engagement, as Hermione is here wed to someone else.

"Megapenthes, was born to him of a bondwoman..."   (Book IV)

In Greek and Roman culture, men of the upper classes routinely had affairs with women of the lower or slave classes in order to produce male heirs. Since Helen was seduced by Paris and lived with him in Troy, Menelaus named his son "Megapenthes," meaning "great sorrow," in recognition of his grief over the loss of Helen.

"lived in Pherae..."   (Book IV)

Pherae, a town in Thessaly, a kingdom on the mainland to the northeast of Ithaca. Athena has conjured this image of Iphthime to encourage Penelope and give her the strength to stop crying and take action against the suitors.

"a foolish fellow..."   (Book IV)

A better translation from the Greek is naive or *innocent *rather than *foolish, *which carries a negative connotation not meant in the original. Telemachus, though young, was wise enough to follow Athena's advice and has proven himself to be his father's son.

"but they did not know what was going to happen..."   (Book IV)

Homer is pointing out that the Fates have already determined the outcome of the struggle between Penelope's suitors and Odysseus. Nothing they do can change the outcome, and even the gods cannot significantly alter the outcome.

"Dolius..."   (Book IV)

Dolius is Penelope's faithful servant and might also be the father of Melanthios and Melantho, who sided with Penelope's suitors and were therefore considered to be treacherous by Odysseus and Telemachus. We'll see what becomes of him and his potential children later on in the poem.

"the swineherd..."   (Book IV)

The swineherd is Eumaios, one of Odysseus' most faithful servants, and a person of interest for the suitors, because his loyalties clearly lie with Telemachus and Odysseus. The suiters consider anyone who could stand in the way of their gaining control of Odysseus' land an enemy, even if they are just a lonely swineherd.

"straits between Ithaca and Samos..."   (Book IV)

Eurymachus' plan to ambush Telemachus between Samos and Ithaca indicates a complete under-estimation of Telemachus, who has already sailed far beyond the strait between the two islands and isn't planning to return until he either finds Odysseus or learns with certainty that his father is dead.

"Hephaestus' own hand..."   (Book IV)

Hephaestus (or Vulcan), the god of metal-working (the forge). He made armor for several gods and demi-gods, including Achilles, and was renowned for his skill and craftsmanship. This gift indicates that Menelaus truly holds Telemachus in high regard as the son of Odysseus.

"I had rather that it should be a piece of plate..."   (Book IV)

Telemachus intends to honor and display any gift given to him, so it would be better for it to be an inanimate object. This give-giving component of xenia was so important that it stopped Diomedes, a Greek, and Glaucus, a Trojan, from killing each other in the Trojan War. When they met each other in battle, they discovered that their ancestors had exchanged gifts once at a meeting and immediately stopped fighting, exchanged armor, and promised not to fight each other.

"Zeus' son-in-law..."   (Book IV)

Note that Proteus doesn't tell Menelaus that he's going to Elysium because he's a particularly just and honorable man (though he is described that way in the Iliad). Instead,  Menelaus is going to spend eternity in paradise because he's related to Zeus, making this another of the god's fickle acts of kindness.

"and killed him..."   (Book IV)

Note that Aegisthus has committed several sins: he has murdered a kinsman, his king, and he has violated in the worst way possible the duty of *xenia, *hospitality. This breach of etiquette will of course lead to violent retribution and the downfall of Aegisthus.

"Aegisthus..."   (Book IV)

The illegitimate son of Thyestes and therefore a cousin of Menelaus. Their familial ties would've further comforted Agamemnon, who didn't think there was any reason to distrust Aegisthus and assumed that he was back home in his kingdom.

"Thyestes..."   (Book IV)

Thyestes is Agamemnon and Menelaus' uncle, brother of their father Atreus, and a respected man in his own right. Knowing this this land once belonged to Thyestes would've comforted Agamemnon, who though he was on friendly soil. He of course didn't know about Aegisthus' treachery at the time.

"all of them just skinned..."   (Book IV)

Idothea has taken a very serious step by killing some of her father's "flock."  This action implies a much closer relationship with Menelaus than Homer describes and would've incurred harsh punishment from Proteus had he known about it.

"not to betray him to the Trojans..."   (Book IV)

Homer's audience would know that there's no mention of this either in The Iliad or any of the stories about Helen. It's clear that Helen is reinventing her history in order to curry favor with the men dining with her.

"It was this that saved us all..."   (Book IV)

As in the Iliad, Odysseus is depicted as a quick-thinking man of action, and this establishes the reader's expectations of his character as a man who can think (and act) his way out of difficulties. This prepares us for when we actually meet him later in the poem.

"the old man of the sea..."   (Book IV)

Menelaus refers to Proteus, "the old man of the sea," who served as Poseidon's "herdsman," tending his flocks (sea creatures). In order to compel Proteus to foretell one's future, a person had to grab him, the problem with that being that Proteus could assume any number of shapes and therefore break free of all but the strongest holds.

"Philomeleides in Lesbos..."   (Book IV)

Philomeleides was a king on the island of Lesbos who required all visitors to engage in a wrestling contest with him. In Greek culture, wrestling was a staple form of exercise and sport and, later, became one of the main events in the games at Olympus.

"I am suppliant at your knees..."   (Book IV)

Telemachus speaks both metaphorically and literally here, describing both the formal posture of a suppliant (as someone who grasps the knees of the person from whom they're seeking favor) and likening himself to a suppliant by virtue of his desperate plea. Telemachus is not likely on his knees in this scene.

"must have set you on to it..."   (Book IV)

In the following story, Menelaus accuses Helen of trying to betray the Greeks inside the horse, but mitigates the blame for this by saying that a god influenced her actions. At that point in the war Helen wouldn't have known whether she'd be welcomed home by the Greeks, it's possible that she did indeed intend to betray them to the Trojans.

"the wrong that Aphrodite had done me..."   (Book IV)

Helen plays on the general distrust of the gods and their reputation for causing disaster to lay the blame for her wrongdoing (in leaving her husband) on Aphrodite, as if Helen were a victim of the god's plan. This deferral of blame is in Helen's best interest, as a woman subject to the whims (and wrath) of her husband.

"He covered himself with wounds and bruises..."   (Book IV)

Helen's description of this exploit by Odysseus during the Trojan War does not appear in the Iliad or any other source, which makes it highly suspect. The episode does, however, play on known aspects of Odysseus' character, particularly his cunning, his ability to disguise (the Trojan Horse), and his bravery.

"but he is very modest..."   (Book IV)

Pisistratus may be covering Telemachus's youthful weakness here, as Athena did earlier. Telemachus's inability to respond is far more likely caused by his emotional response to hearing of his father and his awe and admiration for Menelaus, whose hospitality has overwhelmed him after years of dealing with the ungrateful suitors.

"this young man is like Telemachus..."   (Book IV)

Helen's intimate knowledge of Odysseus and his son Telemachus is problematic: presumably, her only exposure to Odysseus was to see him from afar during the Trojan War. After the war, she would've had little opportunity to see him because Menelaus was one of the first Greeks to leave Troy and took Helen with him. From a literary standpoint, it would make more sense for this observation to have come from Menelaus.

"made him leave Ithaca..."   (Book IV)

Ithaca is a relatively small island with very little in natural resources, so Menelaus' intention here isn't just to pay lip-service to Odysseus' greatness. He genuinely wants to see Odysseus positioned in better lands with a larger kingdom where Odysseus and his family can enjoy the wealth and prosperity they deserve.

"who suffered much hardship for my sake..."   (Book IV)

Menelaus rightfully feels much attachment to men like Odysseus, who supported his effort to regain Helen from Troy by risking their lives and the welfare of their families for very little gain other than fame. Because Odysseus was instrumental in defeating the Trojans (by creating the Trojan Horse), Menelaus feels especially indebted to him.

"on account of my most shameless self..."   (Book IV)

Helen's self-deprecation here is consistent with comments she made about herself in Homer's *Iliad, *indicating that her abduction by Paris, though considered an act of war by Menelaus, was actually done, if not with her complete consent, then at least with her acquiescence. It's possible, however, that Helen is pretending to be ashamed in order to avoid harsher punishment for her infidelity.

"Polybus lived in Egyptian Thebes..."   (Book IV)

Remember that Egypt was one of the many places Menelaus visited in his long journey home. As a traveler, his relationship with Polybus wouldn't have extended any further than guest and host, but for the Greeks these bonds were very strong and resulted in many fruitful allegiances.

"I do so for one man more than for them all..."   (Book IV)

A clever bit of characterization on Homer's part, this line establishes Odysseus as one of the great heroes of the Trojan War (as we know from his creation of the Trojan War) and one of the only warrior-kings not to return home. It places him apart, thus increasing our esteem for him and sharpening our desire to learn of his whereabouts.

"I am lost in admiration..."   (Book IV)

Homer makes a point of contrasting Telemachus' home, where the unruly suitors have taken over, and Menelaus' home, which appears orderly, luxurious, and well-kept. Menelaus has interrupted a family celebration to care to his guests' needs, and thus Telemachus feels awe for both Menelaus, for being a good host, and his house, for being so beautiful.

"Nevertheless, I want to get home, and can think of nothing else..."   (Book V)

Calypso fails to understand why Odysseus refuses her offer to stay with her and become immortal, saying that no mortal woman can match her beauty. Odysseus states his loyalty to his wife and desire to go home are all he wants, even if that means the gods will torment him on his journey. Odysseus's choice shows how he resists Calypso's temptation to choose loyalty and love, which he considers the marks of highest honor. If Odysseus were to succumb to his baser nature, he would give up on his higher purpose as a husband and father.

"there is something behind all this..."   (Book V)

Throughout his torturous journey home, Odysseus has been the constant victim of deceit from mortals and immortals alike. This builds Odysseus into a cautious character, who has a difficult time deciphering who wants to help or hurt him.

"I am going to send you away of my own free will..."   (Book V)

The reader knows Calypso is lying, which makes this an example of dramatic irony. She tells Odysseus that she is letting him free because she still cares about him even when he will be gone, and she wants him to care about her when he leaves.

"as one who lives alone in the country..."   (Book V)

After the turmoil of his last few weeks, Odysseus finds himself alone, but safe. Odysseus is depicted as a brave man, a war hero fueled by the love of his country and his people. Now that he is alone, he must find the strength within himself to conquer all enemies in order to return home.

"But Athena resolved to help Odysseus..."   (Book V)

Athena again demonstrates great humility in this instance. Although she creates the dangerous obstacles for Odysseus during his voyage home, she also consistently aids him with his journey. This relationship alludes to the historical treatment of Greek parents to their children. Sometimes parents would make growing up difficult, so that their children would grow to be strong when they were older.

"from sheer exhaustion..."   (Book V)

Although Odysseus doesn’t know this, Poseidon cannot kill him with the storm because Zeus would not allow it. The ultimate punishment Poseidon gives him is torture; he brings him to the brink of death without ever letting Odysseus finally rest.

"had due burial and the Achaeans would have honored my name..."   (Book V)

When Odysseus believes he is about to die, his mind wanders back to the battlefield. If he had died during the war he would have obtained one of the things he cares about most: the admiration of his country. However, if he were to die now, in the ocean, he would never see his family or friends, and his country would not see his death as a heroic battlefield sacrifice.

"beauty with an immortal..."   (Book V)

Calypso attempts to persuade Odysseus by emphasizing that she is both beautiful and immortal. Odysseus not only demonstrates his growing level of maturity by refusing this rather shallow plea but also his dedication to returning home.

"still I cannot cross Zeus..."   (Book V)

This epitomizes Zeus’s power over the other gods. Even though Calypso loves Odysseus and desires to be with him in a state of immortality, she does not push back very much against the will of Zeus because she knows it is a battle that she could never win.

"Hear me, O King, whoever you may be..."   (Book V)

Even though he does not know which god governs this river, Odysseus reminds the god that he deserves some mercy. Begging for mercy is unfamiliar for him, and this scene represents a humbling moment for Odysseus. He is used to being powerful, but in this moment he has become weak, suggesting he is learning the lessons the gods are teaching him.

"Amphitrite..."   (Book V)

Amphitrite is thought to be Poseidon's wife and therefore the goddess of the sea. Odysseus, recognizing that Poseidon is against him, assumes that Amphitrite is also an enemy.

"and it made him very angry..."   (Book V)

Poseidon, even though generally supportive of the Greeks, seems to hold a grudge against Odysseus even before the episode in which Odysseus blinds the Cyclops Polyphemus.  This hostility towards Odysseus may be displaced anger at his brother Zeus, who put Poseidon in his place (as the weaker younger brother) in the Iliad when Poseidon and Zeus disagreed over how much help Poseidon could give to the Greeks.

"Calypso went home..."   (Book V)

Even though Calypso has given tools to Odysseus as well as shown him where materials can be found, she clearly is not trying very hard to hasten his departure. But she is doing just enough to comply with Zeus’s command.

"I will bear it and make the best of it. I have had infinite trouble both by land and sea already, so let this go with the rest..."   (Book V)

Odysseus's statement points out perhaps his strongest traits: the ability to endure and adapt. Time and again on his journey, Odysseus endures hardships that kill other men yet triumphs for the sake of himself and the sake of his country. In this way, he epitomizes the perfect hero.

"looking out upon the barren ocean with tears in his eyes, groaning and breaking his heart for sorrow..."   (Book V)

Odysseus longs to be home with his wife and his son. He has been with Calypso for seven years and fears that his fame has been forgotten. However, it’s likely that Odysseus's stay with Calypso has not only kept him safely out of the gods' view but also allowed Telemachus to mature into young manhood.

"lying in great pain in an island..."   (Book V)

Athena is describing Odysseus's state of mind and his spiritual pain, showing a brave man weak and desperate for help. At this point, Odysseus realizes that he might not see his wife and son again and that no one will remember him as a hero of the Trojan War.

"the nymph Calypso..."   (Book V)

After Odysseus was shipwrecked on the island of Ogygia, he encountered the sea nymph Calypso (whose name in Greek means to cover or to conceal), who fell in love with him and offered him eternal youth if he would stay with her. She kept Odysseus with her for seven years, in part to shield him from the gods who were persecuting him, and in part to prevent his journey home.

"against me later on..."   (Book VI)

Even though Odysseus has enchanted her somewhat, Nausicaa still demonstrates her own cunning by considering how people will react to her being seen with Odysseus in the city and how this will affect her reputation.

"to clasp her knees..."   (Book VI)

Odysseus has begun to learn humility and realize that he needs to ask for help from others. While he doesn't touch Nausicaa, clasping one's knees was the customary way to beg because it places oneself in a posture of complete vulnerability.

"but the daughter of Alcinous stood firm..."   (Book VI)

While all of her handmaidens flee at seeing him covered in filth, notice how Homer establishes Nausicaa's strength of character even before she speaks to Odysseus by having Athena fill her with courage.

"she also made the hair grow thick on the top of his head..."   (Book VI)

We need to keep in mind that Odysseus was in middle age when he left for the Trojan War almost twenty years before, so he is at least in his late forties or early fifties, much older than Nausicaa. For the story, it is important that he be attractive to Nausicaa, so Athena makes sure to affect his appearance.

"when I was on that journey which has been the source of all my troubles..."   (Book VI)

Odysseus skillfully addresses Nausicaa to show himself as a person who knows proper etiquette. In doing so, he also effectively introduces Nausicaa to his story. She now understands that he is not there of his free will but has been cast ashore and is worthy of help (or xenia, hospitality).

"much more so than could be expected..."   (Book VII)

Odysseus, being a clever man, realizes that the little girl he met was far too eloquent and knowledgeable for her age and that she was likely a god in disguise. He of course turns this into a compliment in order to curry her mother's favor.

"Did you not say..."   (Book VII)

Arete has become suspicious of Odysseus, who hasn't yet made his identity or his intentions perfectly clear. Likely, she's still in shock over his sudden appearance at her feet and believes that there has been some form of magic or divine interference that brought him to their court.

"he will have to take the luck he was born with..."   (Book VII)

Alcinous, unaware that this stranger is in fact Odysseus, intends to only give him the bare minimum of help as required by the traditions of xenia. If he really wanted to help, he would give Odysseus some soldiers and guards to make sure that he'll be safe when he arrives, but as it stands all Alcinous means to do is get Odysseus there.

"of whatever there may be in the house..."   (Book VII)

Note that Echeneus isn't expecting Alcinous to give Odysseus, a stranger, the best of everything (the wine is mixed with water before it's served, he takes a seat of silver instead of gold, and eats "whatever there may be" instead of the best food in the house).

"the hook of the door was of gold..."   (Book VII)

Notice the beauty and the grandeur of Erectheus' palace. Though we have seen many impressive estates in this poem, none have been as extravagant as Erectheus', suggesting that in terms of wealth and prestige he's the highest and most well-regarded of the men in the poem.

"but do not be afraid..."   (Book VII)

Though Odysseus has proven himself time and time again as a great and cunning warrior, he's just spent seven years as a captive and has been psychologically and emotionally damaged by the experience. He needs the encouragement of Athena, in the form of this child, to enter Alcinous' court.

"a little girl carrying a pitcher..."   (Book VII)

Like Mentor, this little girl isn't what she seems. Here Athena is using a double disguise, at once cloaking Odysseus to make him invisible and appearing to him as a little girl in order to guide him. Odysseus would trust this girl because of her youth and innocence.

"Nausicaa..."   (Book VII)

Nausicaa, daughter of King Alcinous and Queen Arete of Phaeacia. Her name literally means "burner of ships," and she was said to be very lovely and to look much like Artemis, the goddess of the hunt. Aristotle claims that she married Telemachus and bore him sons, but that isn't portrayed in The Odyssey.

"he will win an imperishable name..."   (Book VII)

When Odysseus prays to Zeus in front of Alcinous, he uses the word kleos when he refers to the "imperishable name" Alcinous will win for assisting him. Kleos is the highest kind of glory one can win, usually reserved for helping someone of very high rank. This is the closest Odysseus has come so far in telling his hosts how high he ranks in Greek society.

"the sea was so terribly high that I could no longer keep to my raft..."   (Book VII)

Note that Odysseus leaves out Ino's help, probably because, after having disclosed his seven years' stay with Calypso, he doesn't want to emphasize another woman's attraction to him (or, conversely, his attraction to women). He's being very selective about what he tells the Phaeacians, not because of their behavior but because he has reason to be suspicious of everyone.

"my property, my bondsmen, and all the greatness of my house..."   (Book VII)

This is the closest Odysseus has come so far to identifying himself, and it may indicate that he is beginning to feel comfortable with the Phaeacians, who appear to be hospitable despite their dislike of strangers. Note that he wisely still withholds his name and station in life.

"we are as near of kin to the gods..."   (Book VII)

This is a very ominous comment, made almost as an aside, but it may indicate some particular relationship between the Cyclops and the Phaeacians that may explain why the Phaeacians live away from the rest of mankind. This sets them apart from the Greeks and accounts for their expectation that a god would immediately reveal themselves to the Phaeacians.

"Then he sat down on the hearth among the ashes..."   (Book VII)

Odysseus carefully maintains his status as a lonely castaway far from home without a friend to help him. By taking this humble position, Odysseus places himself squarely in the role of someone entitled to hospitality and is thus rewarded with the benefits of xenia.

"upon the knees of the queen..."   (Book VII)

As he was instructed by Athena in the form of the little girl, Odysseus supplicates Queen Arete in the belief that she'll become his greatest benefactor. This position (kneeling down, touching either the knees or the chin of a person of high social standing) was traditional of suppliants, who traditionally worshipped at temples of the gods.

"Erechtheus..."   (Book VII)

Erectheus, king of Athens, credited with founding the polis. The Erectheum, a temple in the Acropolis complex, was named after him, and the citizens of Athens referred to themselves as Erechtheidai, or "sons of Erechtheus."

"Nausithous..."   (Book VII)

Nausithous, son of Poseidon and Periboia, the daughter of the Giant king Eurmydon. Nausithous is the father of Alcinous and a member of the generation before Odysseus. He's said to have led an exodus of his people from Hypereia to the island of Scheria in order to escape the Cyclopes, who were terrorizing his subjects.

"should be rude to him..."   (Book VII)

In Phaeacia, the concept of xenia, or hospitality, doesn't seem to apply, at least not among the general populace. In Greek and other Mediterranean cultures at this time, xenia is a common thread that binds these cultures together.

"Eurymedusa of Apeira..."   (Book VII)

Homer describes this servant as "Eurymedusa of Apeira" to distinguish her from Eurymedusa, the mother of Myrmidon, the founder of the race of Myrmidons from Thessaly, whom Achilles commands during the Trojan War.

"bury our city..."   (Book VIII)

Remember that Poseidon hasn't looked favorably on Odysseus' previous attempts to return home and that he might be particularly mad at the Phaeacians for helping him this time. If Alcinous knew this, he might be less likely to help Odysseus, which is another good reason for Odysseus to keep his identity secret.

"by Athena's help he was victorious..."   (Book VIII)

The bard very wisely attributes the Greek victory to Athena. After the war, the Greeks boasted that they alone brought about the defeat of the Trojans, and it was this arrogance that led to Athena's wrath and the difficulties the Greeks faced returning home. Their hubris has, in this case, been their downfall.

"which Odysseus got by stratagem..."   (Book VIII)

Odysseus speaks of himself in the third person in order to incite the bard to tell stories about the Trojan Horse. Keep in mind that we've heard another version of this story from Helen, and that it wasn't uncommon in ancient Greek texts for there to be multiple conflicting accounts of a single event.

"Graces..."   (Book VIII)

The Graces, or Charities, were several minor goddesses said to be the daughters of Zeus and Eurynome, one of the Oceanids, or daughters of the ocean. They were goddesses of charm, beauty, and fertility and were often depicted in the nude in paintings and sculpture.

"and you might look on..."   (Book VIII)

Modern readers will no doubt recognize how degrading this situation is for Aphrodite. She's tied up (presumably naked) and being laughed at and fantasized about by all too violent men. Hermes' statement reveals something ugly about the hyper-sexualized nature of the gods, who are constantly depicted as having affairs.

"my parents are to blame for that..."   (Book VIII)

In ancient Greece, physical deformities and birth defects were thought to be a result of the sins and character flaws of a child's parents. For Hephaestus to be thus deformed would mean that his parents had committed some terrible acts that blemished him forever.

"Aphrodite..."   (Book VIII)

Aphrodite, the goddess of love and cause of much quarreling on Mount Olympus. Zeus feared that the contest for her affections would tear the gods apart, so he married her off to Hephaestus, who, because of his deformity, was not considered a threat. Naturally Aphrodite wasn't happy with this arrangement and cheated on her husband regularly.

"Ares..."   (Book VIII)

Ares, god of war, one of the Twelve Olympians and son of Zeus and Hera. Ares was known to be a particularly hot-headed and violent god associated with battle and slaughter. He also happened to be a great lover, and there are almost as many tales of his love affairs and offspring as there are of his participation in wars.

"and will explain to any one of your chief men..."   (Book VIII)

After Euryalus' remark, Alcinous' expresses some concern for his and his kingdom's reputation. He doesn't want it to get back to the Greeks that he's breached the codes of hospitality and doesn't, in case Odysseus does turn out to be a nobleman, cause some kind of feud between his kingdom and Odysseus'.

"Philoctetes..."   (Book VIII)

Philoctetes, the son of King Poeas of Meliboea, and a great archer in his own right. According to legend, he was stranded on the island of Lemnos by the Greeks after a wound on his foot began to fester and smell. The Greeks later came back in search of his weapons, which had once belonged to Hercules, and rescued Philoctetes.

"I am always the first to bring a man down with my arrow..."   (Book VIII)

Homer uses foreshadowing here to build the audience's anticipation and hint at the events to come. Odysseus' prowess as an archer was well-known throughout Greece and Troy and would've been part of the stories told about him. In that sense, Odysseus is giving himself away through his boasting.

"Athena, in the form of a man..."   (Book VIII)

Note that Athena's presence here defuses the situation. By speaking highly of Odysseus, she shows that he has some admirers in the audience, thus defusing the situation. If she hadn't done this, it's possible that his act of showmanship would've lost him Alcinous' favor and thus cost him his escort.

"for I excel in a great many athletic exercises..."   (Book VIII)

Modern readers will likely see this speech as an act of over-compensation on Odysseus' part. Given the degree to which he tries to put Euryalus in his place, we can assume that Odysseus not only took offense at his statement but that he's out of practice in handling these kinds of insults graciously.

"of weak presence..."   (Book VIII)

That is, of small stature. Odysseus here makes a generalization about men who are "of weak presence" (not very strong or skilled in battle), who nevertheless become leaders because of their quick mind. Keep in mind that Euryalus has just accused Odysseus of this exact thing and that Odysseus is turning it back on him.

"homeward cargoes..."   (Book VIII)

In Euryalus' speech we see a strong animosity between the members of the upper class and the working class. These "grasping traders" or merchants would be at sea most of their lives, have few ties to lands, and have less loyalty for their country, on top of being day laborers. Euryalus doesn't have much respect for these men, and neither, we can assume, does Alcinous.

"I suppose you are one of those grasping traders..."   (Book VIII)

To force a stranger, particularly one who has clearly suffered much, to engage in sports would be a serious violation of xenia. Euryalus's speech either indicates he doesn't understand his duty to Odysseus or doesn't adhere to the traditions of xenia.

"his eyesight..."   (Book VIII)

Demodocus, a blind man, may be based on Homer himself, who was known to be blind and recited his poem from memory. That Demodocus was endowed with "both good and evil" emphasizes the ambivalent nature of the gods, who never seem content simply to assure a man's happiness.

"Odysseus was overcome as he heard him..."   (Book VIII)

Odysseus is overcome because he is at once being reminded by Demodocus of the trauma of his experiences and of his personal losses. The magnitude of what he has suffered both physically and spiritually hits him like a thunderbolt. To the Phaeacians, this is just another epic; to Odysseus, this is his personal story, and he does not know how the story will end.

"some brave and kindly-natured comrade..."   (Book VIII)

Odysseus has, of course, lost numerous comrades during the course of the war, and he has no idea how many have perished on their way home. More importantly, because he has been gone from home for twenty years, he cannot know whether his wife and son are still alive. If one needs a reason to cry, Odysseus has reasons in abundance.

"and the beauty fades from her cheeks..."   (Book VIII)

We cannot know whether Odysseus is lamenting his own role in the fighting, the results of which are so graphically displayed, or if he is thinking about his own family and, especially, Penelope, because he knows that she too has aged during the last twenty years.

"Deiphobus..."   (Book VIII)

One of King Priam's sons and an important commander of the Trojan forces. Remember that in Helen's version of events, Deiphobus was with her when she called out to the Greeks in the Trojan Horse, thus making it unnecessary for Odysseus to seek him out, because he would've been one of the first killed.

"so accurately do you sing..."   (Book VIII)

Odysseus clearly feels sufficiently comfortable with the Phaeacians to confirm subtly that he's on his way home from the Trojan War. He feels that he and his friends were accurately represented, and it pleases his ego even as it saddens his heart to hear stories about his time in the war. In this, we can clearly see Odysseus' vanity and arrogance.

"Ares to Thrace and laughter-loving Aphrodite to Cyprus..."   (Book VIII)

To complete this humorous episode, the two lovers depart in opposite directions, Ares to the north (the land of the Sintians) and Aphrodite to the south. It's unclear whether or not they've learned their lesson, however, and according to Demodocus this is only the beginning of their "intrigue" or affair.

"Earth-encircling Poseidon came..."   (Book VIII)

Poseidon's appearance in Zeus's absence is curious. Since adultery is punishable, and punishment would turn this scene from comedy to tragedy, it's better for everyone involved that Poseidon takes Zeus's place. He's much less likely to render judgment on the two lovers. Instead, everyone goes away laughing, and Poseidon undertakes to make Ares pay Hephaestus for this insult.

"but found too late that they were in a trap..."   (Book VIII)

This scene is unique in both the Iliad and *Odyssey *in that we see two of the most powerful gods in a ridiculous situation that they are powerless to change. Because it is unique in the Homeric epics, some scholars have argued that Homer may have used an episode from another source.

"we surpass all other nations as sailors, runners, dancers, and minstrels..."   (Book VIII)

Note that Alcinous doesn't boast that the Phaeacians are the greatest warriors, which may, in part, explain why they choose to live apart from the rest of mankind. Amongst the constantly warring Greek city-states, with heavy-hitters like Athens and Sparta vying for control, the Phaeacians wouldn't stand a chance.

"by anyone who knows how to talk with propriety..."   (Book VIII)

Alcinous recognizes and admits that one of his athletes has spoken out of turn and that this is a serious breach of the rules of hospitality. Nevertheless, he intends to see Odysseus make good on his claims, as he's curious about the stranger in his court and wants to find out who he is.

"nor is he at all old..."   (Book VIII)

In fact, Odysseus is not a young man. Given that he left Ithaca for the Trojan War in his mid-20's, he's at least in his mid-40's by now. But because Athena has used her own "Grecian formula" to mask his age, Odysseus may look twenty years younger and appear stronger and taller than he is.

"covering myself with glory..."   (Book IX)

This translation, done by Samuel Butler, is disputable.  The original Greek indicates that Odysseus considers his revenge, and even prays to Pallas Athena for guidance, but does not imply that Odysseus is thinking about glory at this point.  He is still overwhelmed by having seen his men eaten alive.

"little insignificant weakling..."   (Book IX)

The Cyclops’s hubris that came with his great size got the best of him. He did not treat Odysseus with the same regard as a larger competitor and paid the price for his pride with his life.

"drinking much wine..."   (Book IX)

Not only do some of his men fall prey to temptation, but they disregard the Greek virtue of temperance. Their excessive pride, or hubris, they get from sacking the town results in a bloody battle. The virtuous Odysseus triumphs over temptation and survives, as opposed to some of his men, who serve as foils for his heroic character.

"they could neither of them persuade me..."   (Book IX)

Odysseus’s steadfastness in the face of temptation is another facet to his heroic character. Odysseus is rewarded for his unwavering dedication to returning home, while those who succumb to temptation are punished.

"the valiant warrior Odysseus..."   (Book IX)

It was common, even expected, in Greek warrior culture to taunt one’s enemies. Odysseus’s desire for kleos compels him to reveal his identity, even if it may bring negative consequences for him and his men.

"the Cyclops..."   (Book IX)

This Cyclops is Polyphemus, a son of Poseidon, the largest and most dangerous of the Cyclops.  Later, his connection to Poseidon will become an issue for Odysseus.

"suppliants..."   (Book IX)

Odysseus uses his wit, one of his great heroic attributes, to trick the Cyclops. He pretends to have deference for the giant; however, he has just been talking negatively about the “lawless and inhuman” Cyclops.

"I am most urgently bound to do so.’..."   (Book X)

As the leader of his men, Odysseus is bound to go after those whom he sent into danger. If here were to not go seek his men, he would lose the allegiance of those who remain.

"besought her by her knees..."   (Book X)

Odysseus assumes the traditional posture of a supplicant to beg Circe to help him and his men leave. He approaches her this way because he is asking for a favor he knows Circe will find it difficult to grant.

"It was all through his sheer folly..."   (Book X)

Even though Eurylochus is technically right, he is violating the chain of command for this group of soldiers. In any context, he is committing outright mutiny by refusing to cooperate with Odysseus.

"I met Hermes with his golden wand..."   (Book X)

Homer doesn't make it clear how Odysseus is able to recognize Hermes in this situation, an unusual lapse in narrative technique.  Given the magical nature of Circe and her home, Odysseus' first reaction should be to think that the young man is somehow connected to Circe and is there to trick him.

"all except Eurylochus..."   (Book X)

Eurylochus, one of only two crewmen singled out for mention by Odysseus (Polites is the other), appears to have Odysseus's cautiousness, which might explain why Odysseus gave him command of the second group.

"There were wild mountain wolves and lions prowling all round it..."   (Book X)

The surroundings of Circe's home and her use of the natural elements to alter reality are depicted as truly mystical. Because she is knowledgeable in natural herbs and medicine, she is able to use drugs to transform men into animals in order to control them.

"and send some of them instead of going myself..."   (Book X)

Another instance in which Odysseus is exercising his usual caution. While he is not quite sacrificing his men, he has had enough experience to know that first encounters do not always have a good outcome.

"Circe lives—a great and cunning goddess..."   (Book X)

Circe is known as a sorceress who has the power to cloud minds with drugs and transform beings, but she is also revealed to be lonely. Notice what she does to reinforce this statement when Odysseus and his men arrive.

"I kept my own ship outside..."   (Book X)

Odysseus exercises his characteristic caution: Rather than moor his ship in an area in which maneuver seems impossible (there is no room to move, and there is no wind), Odysseus leaves himself room to get out of danger.

"as one abhorred of heaven..."   (Book X)

Aeolus wrongly assumes that the gods have caused this mishap for Odysseus and his men. Not wanting to bring the gods' wrath upon himself or his family, he refuses to help Odysseus a second time.

"so we sat down as suppliants on the threshold..."   (Book X)

Because they have already been treated well as guests by Aeolus and his family, Odysseus and his men are embarrassed to be back on the island. So they take the posture of supplicants by very respectfully asking help.

"to one who was far beneath me..."   (Book XI)

A reference to Eurystheus, king of the Tyrins. After being driven mad by Hera, Hercules consulted the Oracle of Delphi, who advised him to serve Eurystheus for twelve years in exchange for immortality. His Twelve Labours were assigned to him in this time and included slaying the Nemean Lion, killing the Hydra, and stealing the Mares of Diomedes.

"proud spirit into subjection..."   (Book XI)

Ajax and Odysseus are both proud men with good reason never to bend their principles or allow themselves to be dishonored. Many of their problems stem from this pride, and one of the central themes of The Odyssey is the difficulty of controlling that pride and preventing further disaster.

"a matter of great chance..."   (Book XI)

The chaotic nature of war is reflected in the Greek view of Ares, whose short temper and frequent fits of rage make his dealings with both fate and warriors inconsistent. Neoptolemus wouldn't necessarily have had the blessing of Ares, but he would've been much indebted to the god in any case.

"even if you are dead..."   (Book XI)

In ancient Greek tradition, one retained one's social status even in death, and being a great warrior in life meant being revered in the afterlife. It should be noted, however, that Achilles isn't in the Elysian fields, and that his experience of death might not be very pleasant.

"The fleet descendant of Aeacus..."   (Book XI)

That is, Achilles. Aeacus was said to be the king of the island Aegina and the father of Peleus, who sired Achilles. Thus, Aeacus is Achilles' grandfather, and Achilles is his descendant, known as being particularly fleet of foot and skilled in battle.

"no trusting women..."   (Book XI)

Agamemnon's own personal experiences fuel his suspicions, which will later contribute to Odysseus's caution when he returns to Ithaca. It should be noted, however, that the suitors are the ones Odysseus can't trust, and they are without exception male.

"a style about your language..."   (Book XI)

Alcinous here refers to Odysseus' facility with speech, for which he was well-renowned in both The Iliad and The Odyssey. In ancient Greece, the ability to speak with such style was considered a quality of the upper class, and thus Alcinous is also making a comment about Odysseus' social status.

"Pelias and Neleus..."   (Book XI)

Twins Pelias and Neleus were abandoned on a mountain by Tyro, who was upset with Poseidon for disguising himself as Enipeus. The twins were raised by a stranger but later returned to kill Tyro's stepmother. Pelias, the more power-hungry of the two, banished his brother and Tyro's other children and made himself king of Thessaly.

"Persephone..."   (Book XI)

Persephone, the queen of the underworld, the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, the goddess of the harvest. Hades abducted Persephone, then tricked her into eating pomegranate seeds so that even when her mother did secure her release she would have to spent part of every year in the underworld.

"a hard thing for the living to see..."   (Book XI)

Anticlea means this both literally and figuratively. It's difficult to reach Erebus, because it's so far from the mainland, but it's also difficult for Odysseus to see it, as a man whom we're led to believe has many years ahead of him.

"had left his body unwept for and unburied..."   (Book XI)

It was considered a great dishonor to leave a corpse unmourned or unburied in ancient Greece, and the fact that Odysseus did so further underscores the danger of the situation he and his men faced with Circe. Had there been time, they would've buried their comrade, but they had to get out of there as quickly as possible.

"the hell-hound..."   (Book XI)

One of Hercules's labors was to bring the three-headed hell-hound Cerberus from Hades to the upper world. This was a particularly dangerous labor because most people who traveled to Hades never returned. That he risked this journey and returned successfully shows what a great hero Hercules really was.

"still angry with me..."   (Book XI)

When Achilles was killed at Troy, Odysseus was awarded his armor. Ajax, who felt he was more deserving of the armor, was briefly driven mad over this by Athena and started killing sheep, thinking they were his fellow soldiers. Realizing what he'd done, he committed suicide in shame, and now holds a grudge against Odysseus.

"were drying their eyes..."   (Book XI)

The implication is that some of the Greek warriors inside the Trojan Horse were so fearful that they were crying. Though the Trojan Horse was of course a brilliant and successful plan, it nevertheless posed a great deal of risk, because it thrust the Greeks into the heart of the city, surrounded by enemies. They could've easily been surrounded and slaughtered.

"for I presume that he is still living..."   (Book XI)

Agamemnon means here that because he has not seen the spirit of his son, Orestes, in Hades, he can assume Orestes is still among the living. At this point in the timeline, Orestes has yet to avenge his father's death, and Clytemnestra and Aegisthus have yet to make the trip to Hades.

"through the treachery of a wicked woman..."   (Book XI)

That is, Circe, who detained Odysseus and his crew for a year and convinced Odysseus to visit the underworld in order to get some insight into the continuation of his voyage back to Ithaca. If not for her, many of his men would still be alive and wouldn't have been turned into pigs.

"Aegisthus and my wicked wife..."   (Book XI)

Aegisthus and Clytemnestra conspired to kill Agamemnon on his return from Troy. It's believed that Clytemnestra was more disposed to killing her husband because she never forgave him for sacrificing their daughter, Iphigenia, in order to assure good winds for the Greek ships on the way to Troy.

"a matter for you all..."   (Book XI)

Recall that King Alcinous has previously offered a boat and crew to take Odysseus to Ithaca, but has not specifically ordered any one person to take charge. At this point, Odysseus has lost his original ships and crew and must depend on the kindness of strangers to get him home, making this statement a cause of some concern.

"they die and come to life again..."   (Book XI)

A reference to the legend that whenever Castor is fatally wounded in an attack, his brother Pollux, who may or may not be the son of Zeus, shares his immortality with Castor so that each is able to live half the time in the underworld and the other half on Mt. Olympus.

"Tyro..."   (Book XI)

Tyro, wife to Poseidon and then Cretheus. With Poseidon, she's the great grandmother of Nestor, an important figure in both The Iliad and *The Odyssey, *and with Cretheus, she's the great grandmother of Jason, leader of the Argonauts, whose exploits become a model for the sea-voyage motif in Homer and elsewhere.

"as though it were a dream..."   (Book XI)

An interesting (and accurate) description of how most spirits live in the underworld: they have no body, no substance, and they spend their time wandering aimlessly about in a dream state or revery, seeking some association with the living so they can feel alive again.

"He has to entertain largely..."   (Book XI)

Because Anticlea is not a prophet, she cannot know the exact situation in Ithaca with respect to Telemachus or Penelope, so Odysseus receives a general description of their condition but not a precise one. Thus he doesn't know much of the suitors or the state of his lands.

"Teiresias..."   (Book XI)

Teiresias, who had lived as a woman for seven years, received his powers of prophecy in an unusual way. When asked by Hera (Juno) whether men or women enjoyed the act of love more, Teiresias answered that women enjoy sex nine times more than men. Angered, Hera blinded Teiresias, but to compensate him for the loss of sight, Zeus (Jove) gave him the gift of prophecy.

"and by Telemachus who is the one hope of your house..."   (Book XI)

It's unclear how Elpenor could even know that Telemachus is still alive. Telemachus had just been born when Odysseus and his men left for Troy, and there has been no intervening news from Ithaca. Homer clearly wants to bring Telemachus back into the narrative after several books' absence.

"come near the blood..."   (Book XI)

Because blood represents life, it holds an attraction for these spirits who left life in an "unfinished" (uncremated) state and are eternally in a state of confusion and unhappiness. These unhappy spirits must taste blood to give them enough "life" to speak to Odysseus.

"dead aft..."   (Book XI)

Wind that blows directly from the rear of the ship, propelling it as fast as it can possible go into the unknown. Homer characterizes this as a great act of cruelty on Circe's part and one that no doubt arises from Odysseus' rejection of her as a lover.

"weeping and in great distress..."   (Book XI)

Odysseus and his crew are distressed because, except in rare cases, going into the underworld is a one-way trip. Aside from the unknown, they are exposing themselves to ghosts who, because they envy the living, are looking for ways to trap the living in Hades.

"Then my men took the wax from their ears and unbound me..."   (Book XII)

While Odysseus ensures that his men stop their ears with wax, he has them bind him to the ship so he can hear the Sirens' call. The Sirens are synonymous with temptation, and in this moment, Odysseus accepts the pull of temptation and his own weakness. However, he also relies on the help and faithfulness of others to protect him. This passage shows that while he perhaps should have simply stopped his ears and avoid the peril, Odysseus has recognized a weakness of his and demonstrated that accepting that weakness and relying on others is a valuable way to overcome temptation.

"You dare devil,’ replied the goddess, ‘you are always wanting to fight somebody or something..."   (Book XII)

Odysseus constantly tests the gods to achieve glory for himself, and these actions have evolved into hubris. He asks Circe if he and his men might fight Scylla, escape Charybdis, and avoid any casualties. Circe chides him for his pride and recklessness, and she is one of the first to open his eyes to his headstrong and adventure-seeking ways. Odysseus soon comes to realize that his actions have worn down the patience of the gods.

"for they were starving...."   (Book XII)

By driving them to the brink of starvation to see if they will eat the sun-god's cattle, the gods are testing the oaths that the men have made to not touch the herds of Hyperion.

"I saw throughout all my voyages...."   (Book XII)

Considering the awful things he has encountered, Odysseus' declaration that this was the worst thing he had encountered likely indicates the high level of guilt and remorse that he feels.

"I knew the men would not go on rowing if I did..."   (Book XII)

Odysseus has to make a difficult decision. He will lose at least six of his men going between Scylla and Charybdis; if he is honest with them, though, he will probably lose them all. He makes the decision to lie and avoid the greater danger, so the losses will be minimal and will not include him.

"lose six men than your whole crew.’..."   (Book XII)

Circe's instructions involve telling Odysseus that he will need to sacrifice more of his men. To successfully avoid Charybdis, the crew is forced to stay on the side of the pass where the six-headed Scylla waits to snatch up six men to eat them. At the same time, the crew must move quickly so Scylla can make only one pass at them.

"For six days my men kept driving in the best cows and feasting upon them..."   (Book XII)

Again, it is unclear why Odysseus didn't at least try to stop his men from continuing this very serious sacrilege. Given what we know about Odysseus' practicality, we may assume that Odysseus realizes that their punishment would be the same whether they kill one or many of Helios' animals.

"while they screamed and stretched out their hands to me..."   (Book XII)

It is unclear, except as a result of astonishment and fear, why Odysseus did not take Circe's advice at this point and call out to Crataiis, Scylla's mother, for help. In both the Iliad and Odyssey, there are many instances in which Odysseus' bravery and quick-thinking save him and others.  As he does in other parts of both poems, Homer may have used this episode to show that Odysseus has mortal failings.

"I put on my armor..."   (Book XII)

Keeping in mind that Odysseus is, first, a warrior-king, we can understand why he prepares himself for a battle, despite having been told not to. This behavior also ties into the Greek virtues of bravery, which Odysseus represents.

"to keep clear of the Sirens..."   (Book XII)

Note that in the following description, Odysseus omits telling his crew of the dangers posed by the Sirens. This is consistent with Odysseus' reputation for being a kind of trickster at times, not the perfect warrior-king.

"Poseidon himself could not save you..."   (Book XII)

Circe doesn't necessarily understand the irony of this statement. Considering how Odysseus has offended Poseidon, it is highly unlikely that he would, under any circumstances, assist Odysseus.

"but if you like you can listen yourself..."   (Book XII)

Circe's suggestion reinforces the tradition that Odysseus, the brightest among the leading Greek warriors and kings, wants to experience everything possible, even the potentially fatal. Notice how this also reinforces the legend of Odysseus by allowing him to do things that no one else is allowed to with impunity.

"the body of Elpenor..."   (Book XII)

Recall that Odysseus encountered Elphenor's spirit in Hades, and he pleaded with Odysseus to retrieve his body for proper burial, an essential step to make sure a spirit could be at rest and remembered.

"cried aloud despairingly...."   (Book XIII)

Athena’s fog would make it difficult for Odysseus to tell, at first, where he lands. However, Odysseus’s confusion and despair is more likely to be a reminder to the reader of how he has been gone for twenty years. In this time, he has lost some familiarity with his homeland.

"if I were not anxious to avoid anything that might displease you..."   (Book XIII)

Earlier in the story when Poseidon punishes Odysseus with a great sea storm, he is careful not to kill him because he doesn’t want to disrespect Zeus’s desire for Odysseus to return to Ithaca. Even though Poseidon is careful to respect his brother, he is jealous of Zeus’s absolute power.

"but he did not speak the truth..."   (Book XIII)

By not having Odysseus immediately tell the truth upon returning to Ithaca, Homer reminds audience that Odysseus is characterized by his cunning. He knows that he has been away from home for so long, and he is taking cautious measures to assess the situation before revealing himself.

"Odysseus was glad when he saw her..."   (Book XIII)

Just as Odysseus was gladdened earlier in the tale by Athena's appearance as a young girl, her appearance as the young shepherd also improves his mood. However, note that Odysseus is glad at the sight of a shepherd; he does not recognize this person as Athena.

"I shall no longer be held in any sort of respect among you gods..."   (Book XIII)

Notice how Homer depicts Poseidon with almost childish envy as he approaches Zeus. Portraying the god in this way demonstrates another another example of the anthropomorphism with which the gods have been characterized throughout the tale.

"bring my son to manhood..."   (Book XIII)

Homer adds a very human touch to this scene. Odysseus, who left Ithaca when Telemachus was an infant, most likely has lost track of time and doesn't immediately recall that Telemachus is already nearly a man.

"Bear everything, and put up with every man's insolence, without a word..."   (Book XIII)

Even though Odysseus is well known for his endurance and patience in bad situations, Athena, also recognizing that he is still Ithaca's rightful king, needs to remind him to be humble while returning to his rightful seat. In doing so, she provides the proper context for him to approach the current situation in Ithaca.

"we have not many spare cloaks..."   (Book XIV)

Thus we see the limits of Greek hospitality. Eumaeus lives in relative poverty and is unable to lavish Odysseus with the kinds of presents that his previous hosts have given him. It's possible that Eumaeus is withholding these presents because of Odysseus' lies, but that's less likely.

"a pretty figure I should cut then..."   (Book XIV)

Eumaeus rightly points out that it would be unwise for him to make this wager, since as a guest this "stranger" becomes by default his friend, deserving of all the protections of a friend. Odysseus in his arrogance has overplayed his hand and made it impossible for his swineherd to show the loyalty he was expecting.

"and then I conceived the idea..."   (Book XIV)

Notice that this line contradicts Odysseus' previous statement that Zeus "devised evil" against him. If Odysseus (in this fictional story) conceived of this plan himself, it would not be Zeus' fault, but Odysseus', which further proves that this story, while entertaining, isn't the wisest or most logical lie Odysseus has told.

"I did not care about farm work..."   (Book XIV)

A very telling bit of information that also serves as characterization of Odysseus, who was never truly happy at home in Ithaca. He was a man of action and enjoyed being at war, leaving his wife and son behind to look over the household and take care of all things domestic.

"has been unsettling his mind..."   (Book XIV)

Remember that Telemachus' mind has been "unsettled" by Athena, the goddess of wisdom. It would appear that Eumaeus has become so dejected by Odysseus' absence that he's given up hope and has come to believe that resignation in this case is a form of wisdom. Thankfully for Odysseus, Eumaeus is wrong.

"who was this master of yours..."   (Book XIV)

Odysseus tests Eumaeus' loyalty, asking him to reveal his true feelings about his master. This is at once a testament to Odysseus' ego, which will be stroked by Eumaeus' description, and a tactic used by Homer to delve into Eumaeus' character and backstory as it relates to Odysseus and the household.

"when you have had your fill..."   (Book XIV)

Xenia was not only heeded by the nobility but by all social classes in ancient Greece. Eumaeus, though a swineherd, would be obliged to share his meager possessions with Odysseus, even if this was a burden on him. Luckily, Eumaeus doesn't seem to have many visitors, so this doesn't become a problem.

"as crafty as he was valiant..."   (Book XIV)

Odysseus reinforces his own reputation for quick-thinking in this line, which has the double effect of building up his character and reminding the servants of their master's intelligence and heroism (a memory that might spur them to renew their loyalty and thus give Odysseus the support he needs to fight the suitors).

"Thoas..."   (Book XIV)

A Greek ally, king of the Calydons from the province of Aetolia in southern Greece. In The Iliad, Poseidon impersonates Thoas to rally the Greeks against Hector, who had just killed the sea god's grandson and was planning a devastating attack against the Greeks.

"Hermes the son of Maia and the nymphs..."   (Book XIV)

Eumaeus honors Hermes because he's the god of shepherds and the nymphs because they are the island's protectors. This aligns him with Odysseus and the Greek heroes, of whom Hermes was a great friend and protector during the Trojan War.

"much more was allotted to me later on..."   (Book XIV)

Odysseus needs to establish a credible reason for having so much wealth should someone discover all that the Phaeacians gave him when he left Scheria. Naturally, Eumaeus is surprised to hear of this wealth, having believed Odysseus to be a beggar even poorer than himself.

"for I was not given to bragging..."   (Book XIV)

This is a bit of conscious or unconscious irony on Odysseus' part. His bragging has caused many problems over the years, particularly with regards to Poseidon, who might not have known that Odysseus was the one who blinded his son Polyphemus had he not arrogantly told Polyphemus his real name.

"live conscience-stricken..."   (Book XIV)

The Greeks believed that all men who are in their right minds know the difference between right and wrong, and those who ignore the right will eventually feel guilty. Curiously, this doesn't seem to effect the suitors, who never show any guilt for their actions.

"in his own homestead..."   (Book XIV)

Homer uses this attack to emphasize Odysseus' long absence and create sympathy for his character. At this point in the narrative, Odysseus has been gone for twenty years, and the dogs who knew him back then have long since died. Not only is he now a stranger in his own kingdom, he's being attacked by his own servant's dogs.

"He had made them spacious..."   (Book XIV)

This description of Eumaeus' house and farm is meant to show us and Odysseus how well and conscientiously he has managed his poor assets despite being among the lowliest of Ithaca's inhabitants. More importantly, the description shows Eumaeus taking good care of Odysseus' property even when he believes Odysseus to be dead.

"entertain him hospitably..."   (Book XV)

Notice how Telemachus' advice to Theoclymenus changes after the prophecy. Thus far, Telemachus has been helping him because he's a compassionate person, but now that he see Theoclymenus can be useful to him, he takes extra care to keep him safe.

"paying my fare..."   (Book XV)

Even though the men have sworn an oath not to harm this woman, it's entirely likely that they'll break this off if she doesn't give them good reason not to. Thus, she promises them gold and a nobleman's son that they can sell for a good price as a slave. This isn't just an act of disloyalty on her part. It's self-preservation.

"keep servants in a good humor..."   (Book XV)

Note the uneasy balance that holds kings in power: if they give their servants enough material happiness and respect, then their servants will supposedly support them and do them no harm, but if they can't make time to treat their servants well, then they could be destroyed from within their own house.

"and their hair always tidy..."   (Book XV)

Even among servants, Eumaeus implies, there's a social hierarchy, as we see when the "upper" servants who work in the house look down on the swineherds and laborers. Odysseus, as he appears in this scene, wouldn't be fit even to work on his own lands (an irony that cannot be overstated).

"trying to prove the swineherd..."   (Book XV)

Odysseus again seeks to test or "prove" Eumaeus by saying one thing while intending to do the other. If Eumaeus hadn't objected to Odysseus' plan to beg in the streets, Odysseus would almost certainly have revealed himself to punish the swineherd for his lack of loyalty.

"Polypheides..."   (Book XV)

Polypheides, father of Theoklymenus, the seer whom Telemachus meets in this scene. Polypheides was granted the gift of sight by Apollo, who made him the greatest seer in the world after the death of Amphiarus, a great warrior who was swallowed by the earth when Zeus threw a thunderbolt in front of his chariot.

"Aurora..."   (Book XV)

Aurora, the goddess of the dawn. Aurora was the Roman epithet for the goddess, who was traditionally known in Greece as Eos, a Titaness, who rose each morning from her home on the far shore of Oceanus. Eos had a brother, Helios, god of the son, and a sister, Selene, goddess of the moon.

"But he will be very angry..."   (Book XV)

Unlike Menelaus, Nestor isn't very level-headed and doesn't strike a balance between fondness and polite disregard. He's wholly invested in Telemachus as a guest and expects some consideration in return. Homer draws this parallel to emphasize that the principles of xenia are not always applied in the same way.

"he will try to keep me..."   (Book XV)

Telemachus realizes that if Nestor hears of the danger Telemachus faces with the suitors Nestor will insist that Telemachus stay with him and avoid the problem entirely. By refusing to be Nestor's guest, he risks offending Nestor and Pisistratus, but he feels it must be done in order to speed his journey home.

"either too fond of his guest or too rude..."   (Book XV)

Menelaus indirectly characterizes himself in this line, implying that he himself responds neither too fondly nor too rudely to Telemachus. He instead extends only as much favor as is befitting a king of his stature, thus suggesting that, though their dinner went well, Menelaus doesn't consider Telemachus anything more than a guest.

"a guest should never forget a host..."   (Book XV)

Xenia has two sides: it demands that hosts lavish their guests with food and wine, according to their means, and offer them gifts and assistance where appropriate; but it also demands that hosts follow the same rules and show their hosts the same deference shown to them.

"she went back to Olympus..."   (Book XV)

Remember that Athena in the guise of Mentor has been traveling with Telemachus since he left Ithaca and that she hasn't been back to Olympus in all this time. For a goddess to spend so much time with a mortal was nearly unprecedented and proves how important both Odysseus and Telemachus are to Athena.

"I mean Eurymachus..."   (Book XV)

This cannot be anything but sarcasm on Telemachus' part because he knows that Eurymachus is an enemy anyone who would stand in the way of him and the suitors. Telemachus may be suggesting this because Eurymachus has usurped so much of Odysseus' power that he's now the leading person of Ithaca.

"Ctesius son of Ormenus..."   (Book XV)

Ormenus, Eumaeus's great-grandfather, is thought to be the founder of a part of the Greek nation in Thessaly. It's unclear whether he's referring to his father Ctesius or his grandfather Ormenus as "a man comparable to the gods," but in either case, this story places him firmly in the upper class at his brith.

"out of my mistress..."   (Book XV)

This isn't meant as a criticism of Penelope or a method of characterizing her through her treatment of her servants; rather, Eumaeus is commenting on the pressure Penelope has been under because of the suitors infesting her house and how this impacts all of her other interactions in the poem.

"her daughter Ctimene,..."   (Book XV)

This reference to Odysseus' younger sister Ctimene (also, Ktimene) is the first we hear of Odysseus having brothers or sisters. Had Eumeaus not mentioned this, we might reading The Odyssey without ever knowing that Odysseus wasn't an only child.

"tell me about Odysseus' mother..."   (Book XV)

Odysseus already knows about his parents, as we learned in Book XI, but the questions reinforce his disguise as a newly-arrived beggar who wouldn't know such things. As with Alcinous, Odysseus maintains his ruse as long as possible, gathering as much unfiltered information as he can.

"I could then go about among the suitors..."   (Book XV)

This begins the "testing" by Odysseus of the suitors to see which ones have been most guilty of abusing his house, his wealth, and, perhaps most important, Penelope and Telemachus. Odysseus may appear to stall his judgment needlessly, but he's actually being very wide and methodical in the process.

"I have killed a man of my own race..."   (Book XV)

We encounter this motif time and again in Homeric literature: a man on the run for having killed a family member. The crime almost becomes a narrative device to create characters who need (and are given) shelter by important characters in the poem, thereby showing the compassionate nature of the character (in this case, Telemachus).

"On this he received Theoclymenus' spear..."   (Book XV)

A sign that Theoclymenus has essentially "surrendered" to Telemachus, putting all his trust in Telemachus' good will. Theoclymenus, though renowned for his abilities as a seer, was never much of a fighter, and this spear likely wouldn't have done him any good against a serious enemy.

"a seer..."   (Book XV)

This is the prophet Theoklymenos who was forced to leave his home country of Argos because of a murder he had committed. Luckily for Telemachus, Theoklymenos merely seeks food and safe passage in exchange for his soothsaying abilities, and his prophecies will help Telemachus in his fight against the suitors.

"for your bride to wear..."   (Book XV)

Considering Helen's infidelity when she left her husband, Menelaus, for Paris, it's ironic that she would put such importance in the giving of a bride-gift. It's possible that her marriage vows have become more important to her since returning to Menelaus, but more likely she's overcompensating for her prior sins.

"you know what women are..."   (Book XV)

Athena's stretching the truth of Penelope's situation to the breaking point. In fact, Penelope has been doing everything possible to avoid making a decision about a marriage to one of the suitors, but Athena uses the implication of her weakness to motivate Telemachus to return to Ithaca and reunite with his father.

"so Athena went close up to him and said..."   (Book XV)

Athena appears to Telemachus as herself (the original Greek reads "grey-eyed Athena"). It's unusual for a god to appear to a mortal without a disguise, particularly when one is awake, as Telemachus seems to be, so we can assume from this that Athena's message is very urgent.

"Eurymachus..."   (Book XV)

One of the least trustworthy of Penelope's suitors and most disrespectful of Telemachus.

"while Telemachus strode on..."   (Book XV)

Most scholars attribute this chapter to the maturing of Telemachus. Up until now, Telemachus has simply been a young man waiting for his father to return. Now he's had his own adventures and can be considered a hero in his own right and a credit to Odysseus' family.

"he cannot escape it...."   (Book XVI)

Eurymachus is purposefully ambiguous here because he wants to murder Telemachus; however, he cannot appear obvious about this desire while speaking in front of Penelope or others in the house. He uses fate and the will of the gods as a way to cover his own murderous plans.

"than that of any of the other suitors..."   (Book XVI)

Homer indicates that Amphinomus appears to be the most ethical suitor and even has a small measure of Penelope's favor. However, despite this, his association with the other suitors and failure to heed Odysseus's warning prove to be his undoing.

"be propitious to me till I can make you due sacrifice..."   (Book XVI)

Considering the years he spent without his father, Telemachus has likely developed a fear of fate. This attempt to plead represents his desire to try and maintain as much control of his life as possible.

"I wish I were as young as you are..."   (Book XVI)

Notice how Odysseus declares what he would do were he in Telemachus's shoes. In doing so, Odysseus not only foreshadows his own triumph, but he also uses this as an opportunity to stir up his son's anger.

"and to learn whether my mother ..."   (Book XVI)

Telemachus's decision to gather information about his mother prior to seeing her demonstrates that despite not being raised with Odysseus as a father, the two of them share the same level of cunning and caution.

"while I yet live to look upon the face of the earth..."   (Book XVI)

Eurymachus shows how deep his dishonor is in this line, which is as close to an oath as one can get. He is the principal architect of the unsuccessful ambush of Telemachus, and he has every intention of killing Telemachus. He also does not seem to fear making a false oath, which is almost a guaranty of punishment from the gods.

"and take no heed of suppliants, whose witness is Zeus himself..."   (Book XVI)

Although Zeus is indeed the patron of those who seek assistance, there is no indication of who these suppliants might be. However, Penelope might be making this point because of the possibility that one of the suppliants is actually Antinous's father, who sought shelter and was saved by Odysseus.

"Think it over..."   (Book XVI)

Despite Telemachus's youth and insecurities, he shows some maturity in this passage by challenging his father. In doing so, he becomes a partner in this venture, not just a follower.

"First, therefore, give me a list of the suitors, with their number, that I may learn who, and how many, they are..."   (Book XVI)

In both the Iliad and the Odyssey, Odysseus is characterized as a strategic thinker and careful warrior. Before he acts (with a few exceptions), he calculates his chances and plans for success and survival. In his plan for the suitors, he has to account for Telemachus' survival as well as his own.

"she gave him back his color..."   (Book XVI)

That is, she restored his hair to its natural color, which is described here and in the Iliad as a color from blond to light brown. At this point in his life, Odysseus is likely in his late 40s, so making a man of this age look imposing would produce quite a startling effect on Telemachus.

"so that I have never been of any use to him..."   (Book XVI)

This is an instance of true pathos in the Odyssey. Telemachus has just returned from an unsuccessful voyage to discover the fate of his father, and he clearly feels a sense of failure at not finding anything out.

"your brothers..."   (Book XVI)

Odysseus is trying to ascertain the nature of his son at this point because he is unsure of Telemachus's abilities. In a burst of cleverness, Odysseus mentions Telemachus's brothers to help keep his disguise as a stranger intact. It is critical that he not be recognized by anyone at this point. Odysseus still needs to understand the situation at home before he plans his revenge.

"I am as yet young, and am not strong enough to hold my own..."   (Book XVI)

Telemachus, despite his adventures, is still very unsure of his abilities, especially when faced with the more mature and powerful suitors. He does not want to appear inhospitable, but he is worried that he cannot take care of both himself and a suppliant (Odysseus).

"A father could not be more delighted..."   (Book XVI)

It may seem odd that Odysseus doesn't respond here, but when he left for the Trojan War, Telemachus was an infant; it's likely that Odysseus isn't quite sure who has stepped into the hut.

"but Odysseus stood firm, and did not budge from the path..."   (Book XVII)

Throughout the tale, Odysseus has been quick to protect his ego and his pride. However, at this point in the tale, he has learned some humility and demonstrated it through patience. Melanthius the goatherd treats him like a beggar and even lashes out at him. Odysseus's natural response is to retaliate, but he checks himself this time, trusting that he will have his revenge eventually.

"and wait till sundown..."   (Book XVII)

Typically, a woman whose husband was absent wouldn't receive guests after sundown for fear of an assault or a perception of impropriety. Odysseus here assumes a privilege that beggars weren't allowed, but which Eumaeus grants him because he's been injured and earned the respect of the house.

"you did ill in striking that poor wretch..."   (Book XVII)

This entire interaction is atypical of beggars and noblemen. A beggar wouldn't have dared to cry out against the suitors, nor would a host have been so willfully cruel to a poor wretch, but because both men are arrogant and have opposing plans, the situation escalates unnecessarily.

"it is easy to be free with other people's property..."   (Book XVII)

Antinous suggests that he and the suitors are being wasteful with Odysseus' property merely because they can, which implies that, if they were in their own houses, they wouldn't be nearly as generous, if at all. This calls all their acts of generosity into question and makes it impossible to know who's good and who's bad.

"Dmetor by name, son of Iasus..."   (Book XVII)

There are no other accounts of these characters in Greek literature, suggesting that Homer made them up entirely, as Odysseus has, or that they were of such insignificance that they were not documented in their time.

"as much as I will..."   (Book XVII)

Antinous mocks Telemachus by offering Odysseus this much food. It's clear from his tone that he's momentarily saving face and that if Odysseus says or does anything to displease him this generosity will turn quickly to violence and hatred.

"Hush, do not answer him..."   (Book XVII)

Recall that Telemachus and Eumaeus are sitting together and that the swineherd wouldn't normally be invited to sit at the table. That Telemachus says "hush" suggests that's he's whispering his advice to Eumaeus, who doesn't seem to care.

"a single one of them..."   (Book XVII)

It should be noted that Odysseus is merely paying the suitors a courtesy in not assuming that every single one of them deserves to be punished. In the end, they will all get their due, but Athena's intentions are clear in this line: any show of good will or morality will not restore their standing with the gods, who've already made their decision in this matter.

"this too may go with the rest..."   (Book XVII)

Odysseus expresses his willingness to suffer here in order to carry out his plan. This is at once a testament to his character, which proves strong enough to withstand being "buffeted" about, and an attempt on Homer's part to prepare him for the scene to come, in which Odysseus allows himself to be scorned.

"as indeed you generally do..."   (Book XVII)

Eumaeus has noticed how unusually perceptive and intelligent this "stranger" is for a beggar. Some of this has been explained away by Odysseus' fake backstory, but Eumaeus still has reason to believe that there's more to this beggar and that he may be worth keeping around.

"he will get his head broken by the stools..."   (Book XVII)

Melanthius may not be the most loyal or respectful servant, but he is familiar with the suitors and knows how they behave. Likely, he's seen the suitors throw stools at strangers before, which prepares us for what actually happens when Odysseus meets the suitors.

"Melanthius son of Dolius..."   (Book XVII)

A simple goatherd on Odysseus' estate, Melanthius is one of the suitors' favorite servants, along with Medon, and is often allowed to eat in the same dining hall as them, despite their difference in status. Here, he expresses disdain for the loyal Eumaeus and unknowingly insults his master, Odysseus.

"May it be even so..."   (Book XVII)

Recall that Penelope has consulted many soothsayers and heard a lot of stories about Odysseus over the years. This one, though the most accurate and most hopeful, is in effect the same as the others, and receives the same hesitant response: "may it be so," suggesting that Penelope doesn't think it will.

"Telemachus does not understand..."   (Book XVII)

Theoclymenus makes a mistake here in suggesting that Telemachus has withheld information from Penelope. He either doesn't know that this isn't goof etiquette or doesn't think that their plan can be ruined by his revealing Odysseus' whereabouts. Either way, showing off his powers like this isn't very wise.

"Nurse Euryclea saw him..."   (Book XVII)

Homer arranges it so that Euryclea sees Telemachus first to emphasize her close relationship with Telemachus and his family. As Nurse, she has been Telemachus' primary caregiver and thus the one most likely to support him. This also foreshadows her later recognition of Odysseus.

"but I like to say what I mean..."   (Book XVII)

Telemachus appears to be having some fun with this speech. At this point, it's too risky for him to reveal Odysseus' true identity, because too much rides on a successful disguise, but that doesn't mean he can't still make a joke about his father, who almost never says what he means.

"neither Telemachus nor anyone else..."   (Book XVII)

This isn't, of course, a criticism of Telemachus but rather a lie or fake-out designed to keep Odysseus' identity hidden. His complaint here misdirects Eumaeus' attention and keep him from figuring out what's going on and unintentionally tipping off the suitors to their danger.

"but I hate Antinous like the darkness of death itself..."   (Book XVII)

Up to this point in the poem, Penelope's feelings about the suitors haven't been so clearly or viscerally described. This outburst, however, makes it clear that Penelope has been hiding her hatred and her passion in an effort to preserve her safety in Odysseus' long absence.

"Telemachus sneezed so loudly..."   (Book XVII)

Sneezing while someone else is talking was a well-known Greek omen. It's possible that Telemachus's sneeze is a warning to his father to get out of the house before he's sought out by Eumaeus for this visit to Penelope. It's also possible that he's doing just as Penelope says: confirming that the suitors will indeed meet their fate at the hands of Odysseus.

"Father stranger..."   (Book XVII)

Notice how Eumaeus has shifted his tone when addressing the beggar. Odysseus' natural behavior has created the kind of respect Eumaeus would give to Odysseus were he to recognize his master, and this is reason enough for Eumaeus to hold the beggar in higher esteem than he does the suitors.

"Sir, give me something..."   (Book XVII)

If Odysseus had truly been a beggar, he wouldn't have challenged Antinous like this, but Odysseus, the warrior-king, can't bring himself to ignore Antinous's bad behavior. More importantly, addressing Antinous gives Odysseus the chance to re-tell his story, which gives credence to his presence there as a beggar.

"your birth is good..."   (Book XVII)

Antinous is the son of Eupeithes. Before Odysseus left for the Trojan War, Eupeithes, one of Ithaca's leading citizens, attacked a ship belonging to allies of Ithaca, the Thesprotians, and incurred the anger of the Ithacan people. Odysseus protected Eupeithes, thus making Antinous' behavior toward the family of his father's protector especially dishonorable.

"upon the threshold of ash-wood..."   (Book XVII)

Odysseus observes the protocol for beggars: they are neither inside nor outside the house, but halfway in and halfway out, depending on one's view of beggars. This mirrors his actions at the house of Alcinous, where he sat in the ashes until the king and queen had decided where or not to accept him as a guest.

"Argos died as soon as he had recognized his master..."   (Book XVII)

Homer doesn't typically rely on pathos for dramatic and emotional resonance in *The Odyssey," but here uses it to great effect, allowing Odysseus' loyal dog, Argos, to rest easy now that he has finally seen his master's return (the implication being that he stayed alive all those years to wait for Odysseus).

"Zeus takes half the goodness out of a man..."   (Book XVII)

Though slavery was the cultural norm in ancient Greece and not often criticized as a practice, it nevertheless cause some emotional and psychological problems for slaves, who lose half of their goodness (or sense of self-worth) and become less disciplined when their masters are gone.

"This was Argos, whom Odysseus had bred..."   (Book XVII)

Homer may not be keeping track of dog years here. For Odysseus to have bred Argos as a pup, he would have to be at least twenty years old, which is a remarkable feat for any breed of dog. By using the name Argos, Homer may be attempting to link Odysseus loosely with Jason and the Argonauts.

"who liked him better..."   (Book XVII)

It is unclear why Eurymachus likes Melanthius more than others, but it may be because Melantho, a servant in Odysseus' household and Melanthius' sister, is Eurymachus' mistress and sides with the suitors against Odysseus' and his family.

"Medon, who was their favorite servant..."   (Book XVII)

Medon may be more than just a servant. He seems to have been either in charge of Odysseus' household or Odysseus' herald, in which case he would've been born into the nobility and taken into the household as one of their most trusted servants. Evidently, that trust was misplaced, because the suitors seem to love him.

"If the suitors kill me..."   (Book XVII)

Telemachus must maintain the fiction that he alone will confront the suitors, and, in this case, it would make perfect sense to Piraeus that Telemachus wouldn't want Menelaus' presents to fall into the suitors' hands. This is also a logistical concern: Telemachus doesn't want to take the time to organize these presents.

"Mentor..."   (Book XVII)

Note that this is the real Mentor, not Athena. Mentor and Halitherses are trusted servants of Odysseus. Antiphus, the son of Aegyptus, was mentioned in Book II, line 19, as having been killed and eaten by the Cyclops, but such inconsistencies were common in oral poetry (there are several similar problems in The Iliad).

"Do not scold me, mother..."   (Book XVII)

Telemachus' absence and sudden reappearance hasn't helped his relationship with his mother, which as we've seen has been strained by the presence of the suitors. In this particular passage, though, Telemachus' harsh tone can be written off as a result of the stress he's under hiding his father's identity.

"But come, tell me what you saw..."   (Book XVII)

As several scholars have pointed out, in the original Greek, Penelope asks Telemachus not what he has seen but rather whether he has any news of Odysseus or if he has seen his father. This shifts the focus from him (the adored child) to Odysseus (the absent father) and tells us a lot about Penelope's priorities.

"like Artemis or Aphrodite..."   (Book XVII)

Homer describes Penelope as a combination of Artemis, known for her honor and chastity, and Aphrodite, known for her physical attributes. This represents the two aspects of her character: the faithful wife waiting for her husband, and the beautiful woman who should be adored.

"Telemachus came forward..."   (Book XVIII)

Telemachus subtly asserts control, indicating a shift in power from the suitors to the rightful possessors. His advice is similar to his father’s earlier, when Odysseus suggested Aphinomus go home before the bloodshed occurs. Again, Homer creates a parallel between father and son, with Telemachus’s burgeoning heroism measured against the success of his father.

"a little world..."   (Book XVIII)

Odysseus patronizes Eurymachus for believing he has any authority. Because of his quest, Odysseus is much more cultured and knowledgeable than Eurymachus and has faced far greater enemies than this ignorant man who lives in a “little world”.

"you are no longer so discreet..."   (Book XVIII)

The relationship between Penelope and Telemachus has been strained since the beginning of the Odyssey. His mother’s complaints symbolize the pressures Telemachus faces to establish his masculinity without a father figure and to prove his heroism regardless of his father’s reputation.

"stubbornness of my pride..."   (Book XVIII)

Odysseus reflects on the struggles he’s faced at the hands of the gods on his journey back to Ithaca. He has changed from the beginning of the story and become more self-aware and humble.

"I grieving because the eagle had killed my geese..."   (Book XIX)

If the geese in Penelope's dream represent the suitors, as Odysseus claims, then her feelings in the dream suggest that she would accept a suitor to remarry. This is not surprising that after years of doubting whether Odysseus was alive and after being pursued by this large group of men, Penelope would start to feel attracted to at least some of those who want her hand.

"she turned to him again and said..."   (Book XIX)

Having heard his stories, Penelope persists in testing the stranger's knowledge about Odysseus to see whether or not the tales are true. In doing so, she proves that she is Odysseus's equal at questioning.

"the husband who was all the time sitting by her side...."   (Book XIX)

Odysseus is purposefully testing Penelope's loyalty by telling her these stories. The long simile in this sentence not only indicates the grief and care that she still has for her husband but also satisfies Odysseus.

"for I am about to hold a tournament of axes..."   (Book XIX)

Penelope's decision signals a watershed moment in the poem because, on one hand, it signals her surrender to the suitors, but on the other hand, the tournament of axes provides the vehicle by which Odysseus will be able to return to his wife and kingdom.

"I will not spare you..."   (Book XIX)

This might seem extraordinarily harsh considering that Odysseus is speaking to the woman who nursed him. However, his revenge depends upon the suitors not recognizing him, and he cannot afford to have his identity exposed. Given Odysseus's calculating and results-oriented nature, this threat likely has substance behind it.

"I can therefore show no attention to strangers, nor suppliants, nor to people who say that they are skilled artisans..."   (Book XIX)

Penelope is lamenting the fact that she, who represents the royal house of Ithaca, is so overwhelmed by the suitors and the loss of her husband that she cannot perform some of the duties of royalty, such as supporting the needy and patronizing artists.

"to the admiration of all the women who beheld it..."   (Book XIX)

Odysseus adds this detail in order to complement Penelope. Because weaving was a constant occupation for many women, Penelope would be pleased to know that something she created for Odysseus was admired by others.

"but he kept his eyes as hard as horn or iron..."   (Book XIX)

Homer's description of Odysseus' self control is meant to emphasize the kind of strength Odysseus has shown both in the Iliad and the Odyssey. When he has an objective in mind, nothing can draw him away from it, even the tears of his wife.

"My parents are putting great pressure upon me..."   (Book XIX)

While this may be true, there has been no indication so far that Penelope's parents have intervened to encourage her to marry. As many scholars have noted, Penelope's speech may be designed as a review of all the measures she has taken to avoid remarrying in order to justify the decision to marry. She is clearly still not at ease with the finality of marrying one of the suitors.

"till I have finished making a pall for the hero Laertes..."   (Book XIX)

Odysseus instructed Penelope to look after his father, Laertes, while he was at Troy, and she is telling the beggar, whom she still does not recognize, that she has indeed taken care of Odysseus's father, an important responsibility.

"nor is it well to be thus grieving continually..."   (Book XIX)

Odysseus' statement signals his shift from one who is acted upon to one who takes action. Throughout the *Iliad *and Odyssey, Odysseus is characterized not by his introspection but by his energetic and intelligent mind, which leads him to take successful action. His comment may also be aimed at Penelope, whose grief has been her companion for years.

"“Hush,” answered Odysseus, “hold your peace and ask no questions..."   (Book XIX)

Odysseus has fully resumed his role as warrior-king in this interchange with Telemachus. From a tactical standpoint, Odysseus cannot afford to give any clue to the suitors that he has divine support. They must see him only as an old beggar for his ruse to work.

"since he finds it so dark here..."   (Book XX)

This line would suggest that the darkness is entirely in Theoclymenus' head, but we can't be certain of this, since the suitors' eyes began to fill with tears even before his moment of insight or prophecy. Eurymachus might be hiding his fear, or he might be one of the few suitors who doesn't feel it.

"and tell her to marry the best man..."   (Book XX)

Agelaus' speech seemed so reasonable up until now, when his motives for being so considerate and friendly reveal themselves to be self-serving: he wants Penelope to choose a new husband, which is to say, he wants Odysseus' money, and he's tired of waiting.

"we should have put a stop to his brave talk..."   (Book XX)

In the beginning of the poem, Telemachus made a similar speech to the suitors which also caused them to bite their lips until Alcinous spoke up. Here, he again speaks out against Telemachus, but doesn't have the courage to silence him because their attempt on his life has already failed (a bad omen if there ever was on).

"keep your hands and your tongues to yourselves..."   (Book XX)

Telemachus has never spoken this forcefully to the suitors. It could be a sign that he's matured, or he could be drawing strength from his father's presence, knowing that if he's ever truly in danger his father will rush to help.

"of going off with the cattle..."   (Book XX)

This isn't the first time that one of Odysseus' servants has expressed the desire to leave the household and strike out on their own. Eumaeus himself has said that servants begin to feel thus when their masters are cruel or absent, which suggests that the servant-master bond was tenuous at best.

"without any sense of decency..."   (Book XX)

There's no way for Melanthius to know how he begs, in fact, because he's never been around to see it and has only met him once in passing on the way to the house. Melanthius' dislike for Odysseus has no foundation and reflects poorly on his character.

"grant the prayer, then..."   (Book XX)

This miller-woman is essentially piggy-backing on Odysseus' prayer, hoping that Zeus, whose attention has already been won, will decide to listen to her as well. Luckily for her and Odysseus, she shows her master loyalty, and thus her prayer will be granted.

"and was by his side..."   (Book XX)

Like Penelope, Odysseus appears to have dreamed that she was by his side. This suggests something about the psychological and emotional depth of their connection, which has survived the twenty years of their absence, making it the most stable relationship we've seen in The Odyssey.

"when he went away with his host..."   (Book XX)

It's curious that Penelope has dreamed (or fantasized) about a young Odysseus, and that this happened directly after meeting a much older and presumably unrecognizable Odysseus. This might suggest superficiality on her part, or it might foretell trouble in the relationship, because Odysseus has changed, and Penelope might not like the man he's become.

"ate your brave companions..."   (Book XX)

Here we plainly see Odysseus' priorities: he's first and foremost a soldier and his primary loyalty is to his men, whose deaths affect him more than the insolence of the suitors; his wife and son, and the glory of his estate, come second to this love of war and his relationships with his fellow soldiers.

"with a forced laughter..."   (Book XX)

A sign that they,re becoming uneasy at the self-confidence being shown by Telemachus. The suitors truly believe that Odysseus will never return, which makes Telemachus' sudden bravery and maturity troublesome and gives them pause. They're laughing now because they're worried, not because they're amused.

"will not succeed..."   (Book XX)

This is the second time Amphinomus has attempted to stop a plot to murder Telemachus. Keep in mind that when Amphinomus showed Odysseus true hospitality earlier, Odysseus attempted to warn him of the impending revenge as a favor to Amphinomus' father, a friend of Odysseus. Unfortunately, this warning went unheeded.

"and will confirm my words with an oath..."   (Book XX)

Note that this is the second time Odysseus has taken such an explicit and strongly-worded oath. The ancient Greeks considered these oaths unbreakable, which suggests that Odysseus makes them to assure both the listener and himself that what he swears will in fact come to pass.

"saluted him with his right hand..."   (Book XX)

Saluting with one's right hand, especially in a warrior culture, is a sign of friendship: one's right hand would normally be used to carry a weapon, but if one instead uses it to shake, then they can't inflict any damage or mean any harm. That's why we traditionally shake hands with our right hand.

"he looks as if he had been some great man..."   (Book XX)

Philoetius' ability to see beyond the rags and recognize Odysseus' true nature places him among the few who comprise Odysseus' supporters. The implication being that a man's true nature is obvious to anyone who can see beyond a man's clothes. It's worth noting that the only people capable of doing so are servants considered unworthy themselves.

"Philoetius..."   (Book XX)

This is the first appearance of Philoetius, Odysseus' faithful cowherd, who's meant to form a pair of supporters with Eumaeus. Together, the two stand in sharp contrast to Melanthius, who aside from being a supporter of the suitors has proven himself to be a nasty and ill-mannered person.

"go even beneath the sad earth..."   (Book XX)

Penelope's wish to be sent down to Hades to search for Odysseus signals her profound disgust at having to marry one of the suitors. A willingness to go down into Hades, from which no one returns, is a sign of utter desperation (and, given what has been prophesied, a lack of faith in Odysseus, learned over the years of his absence).

"have I not protected you..."   (Book XX)

True to form, the goddess is so self-absorbed that she's offended by Odysseus' fears, which seem to imply weakness on her part. In fact, she hasn't always defended Odysseus and left him to rot on the island with Calypso for years before finally showing an interest in his troubles. Odysseus has reason to be worried.

"and would have strung it..."   (Book XXI)

An important test for Telemachus: Homer tells us that Telemachus could have strung the bow, like his father, had not Odysseus stopped him. This is an indication that Telemachus is indeed worthy of his father's esteem.

"yet I am laughing and enjoying myself as though there were nothing happening..."   (Book XXI)

A rare example of verbal irony from Telemachus. Up till now, he has been fairly somber and serious. However, now he is laughing not because he feels carefree, but because he knows what is about to happen to the suitors.

"for he remembered every one of them..."   (Book XXII)

It's highly unlikely that these women, many of which are called maids, would be old enough for him to remember all of them, since he's been gone for twenty years. It's also somewhat unlikely that they would want to embrace him when he's covered in blood, but Homer overlooks this to make Odysseus seem like a beloved king.

"Agelaus shouted out..."   (Book XXII)

At this point, the surviving suitors have likely taken cover, hiding behind tables and columns to prevent Odysseus from shooting them at a distance. Agelaus has to shout because the suitors are spread out around the room and have no other way of communicating.

"we can then get through into the town..."   (Book XXII)

Notice that Eurymachus doesn't suggest that they kill Odysseus. He instead says that they get past him, suggesting that he doesn't think it's possible for the suitors to defeat Odysseus in combat. This is a rare display of wisdom on Eurymachus' part, and will also be his last.

"spare the lives of your people..."   (Book XXII)

Eurymachus attempts to subjugate himself to Odysseus. Technically speaking, Odysseus is still king and the suitors are all his citizens, but since they've proven themselves to be unworthy of that status time and time again, this tactic, while clever, proves ineffective.

"lies low already..."   (Book XXII)

Eurymachus tries to lay all the blame on what happened on Antinous, forgetting that Odysseus has been observing them for two days now and knows very well who is responsible for what. Still, Euymachus has proven himself to be a crafty speaker and thinks he can talk his way out of this.

"but there was neither shield nor spear..."   (Book XXII)

Remember that Telemachus removed all weapons from the walls earlier in the poem and that the suitors are now left only with what they have on them: their own swords, perhaps a few spears, and no shields whatsoever. If they'd been less arrogant, perhaps they would've been prepared for this attack.

"run them through with your swords..."   (Book XXII)

To our modern sensibilities, this cold-blooded killing seems barbaric and perhaps even unworthy of a man like Odysseus, but we need to remember that, in warrior societies, loyalty was valued highly, and disloyalty was most often a death sentence. Odysseus must restore his household by setting an example, and, unfortunately, these women have provided it.

"how greatly better good deeds prosper than evil ones..."   (Book XXII)

The bard and minstrel are the keepers of this society's moral compass and are expected to recount the kinds of deeds that reflect the highest attributes of the warrior society: honor, bravery, fighting prowess, loyalty, and respect for leading a good life.

"Leiodes then caught the knees of Odysseus..."   (Book XXII)

Leiodes adopts the posture of a supplicant in order to save himself. This would be successful in many cases, but his role as priest to the suitors dooms him. Although Odysseus can be accused of behaving sacrilegiously here, Odysseus likely believes that Leiodes himself acted impiously by praying for the overthrow of a kingdom's rightful king, making Leiodes' execution justifiable.

"noble son of Laertes..."   (Book XXII)

It's possible that Eumaeus has realized that Odysseus' courage has begun to falter and that he subtly reminds Odysseus of his father, Laertes, to bolster his spirits. Laertes was a great king in his time and would've been a great inspiration to his son.

"a boar to Poseidon..."   (Book XXIII)

Even though he is reunited with his wife and in Ithaca, Odysseus still has to repay his debt to Poseidon, as Teiresias had foretold, to finally be able to live out the rest of his life in peace.

"she fairly broke down...."   (Book XXIII)

No other man would know the unique construction of Odysseus and Penelope's bed. When he finally gives her the proof that she needs, Penelope has no more doubts about the stranger's identity and can finally embrace him.

"let us, however, consider what we had better do next..."   (Book XXIII)

Always the planner, Odysseus naturally turns to the enormity of what he, Telemachus and the other two have done: wiped out the leading men, or their sons, of Ithaca and the surrounding kingdoms. Their future depends upon how everyone else will perceive the killing of the suitors.

"but your heart always was as hard as a stone..."   (Book XXIII)

As we have seen earlier, the relationship between Penelope and Telemachus is not particularly good. They focus on each other's faults as they would with strangers rather than through the lens of a loving mother-son relationship. We might attribute this strained relationship as one of casualties, indirectly, of the Trojan War.

"to tell her mistress that her dear husband had come home..."   (Book XXIII)

Recall that Penelope has not seen Odysseus for twenty years, and even though she seems to have almost recognized him earlier, she has difficulty believing Odysseus is in front of her. Notice how Penelope relies more on tests of knowledge than she does on the evidence of her eyes.

"He hit Eupeithes' helmet..."   (Book XXIV)

As with the suitors, Odysseus kills the ringleader first, hoping that this will cause the group to disband without anymore needless killing. This tactic didn't work with the suitors, but fortunately Athena intervenes this time, averting more needless death.

"let peace and plenty reign..."   (Book XXIV)

One of the rare instances in which Zeus practices restraint and acts like a diplomat. Notice that while he's not telling Athena what to do, he's giving her advice that it would be unwise for her to ignore. Thus, he allow her to feel autonomous even while controlling her actions.

"the daughter of Tyndareus..."   (Book XXIV)

Agamemnon refers to his own wife, Clytemnestra. His comparison here emphasizes Penelope's essential faithfulness and goodness (as a woman who resisted taking a lover and betraying her husband) and Clytemnestra's deceit, which seems especially cunning when stacked against Penelope's virtue.

"I myself saw an immortal god..."   (Book XXIV)

Medon is exaggerating here: he could not have seen Athena doing these things. Neither the suitors nor Telemachus always understood when exactly Athena took the form of Mentor. More likely, Medon is trying to help Odysseus because he was spared earlier and feels indebted to him.

"He took many of our best men away..."   (Book XXIV)

On a macro scale, Odysseus has been responsible for the deaths of the majority of Ithaca's youth in the last twenty years, first by taking them to the Trojan War, and then by killing them in his home. In this sense, he's been a terrible king and has failed to protect his citizens, which is reason enough for the men to be angry.

"we had hard work to persuade Odysseus..."   (Book XXIV)

Agamemnon's comment is interesting because it sheds light on Odysseus' apparent reluctance to join the Greeks against Troy. Given later comments in The Iliad about Odysseus' intelligence and analytical abilities, one can only guess that Odysseus viewed the war as either unjustifiable, a nuisance, or not his business (or, perhaps, all three).

"what solace had I..."   (Book XXIV)

Agamemnon contrasts his loss of glory (in being murdered as soon as he returned home from Troy) with Achilles' permanent fame. Agamemnon's "fame" rests on his murder rather than on the great fame of having led the Greeks during the Trojan War. For a warrior-king, this is a sad reflection.

"Dolius..."   (Book XXIV)

A faithful and long-time retainer of Laertes who has known Odysseus since he was very young. Dolius happens also to be the father of Melanthius, one of the suitors' favorite servants, and Odysseus may want to inform him of his son' death personally, if he doesn't know about it already.

"your fame, Achilles, has not been lost..."   (Book XXIV)

It's important for Achilles to know that his fame, that all-important attribute of a Bronze Age warrior, is at the forefront of the minds of the living. In this warrior culture, fame is everything, and Achilles was one of the most famed men of the Trojan War, with skills that went near unmatched on the battlefield.

Analysis Pages