Book XV

Athena summons
Telemachus home from Lacedaemon
He meets with Theoclymenus at pylos and brings him to Ithaca
On landing he goes to the hut of Eumaeus

BUT ATHENA WENT to the fair city of Lacedaemon to tell Odysseus' son that he was to return at once. She found him and Pisistratus sleeping in the forecourt of Menelaus' house; Pisistratus was fast asleep, but Telemachus could get no rest all night for thinking of his unhappy father, so Athena went close up to him and said:

“Telemachus, you should not remain so far away from home any longer, nor leave your property with such dangerous people in your house; they will eat up everything you have among them, and you will have been on a fool's errand. Ask Menelaus to send you home at once if you wish to find your excellent mother still there when you get back. Her father and brothers are already urging her to marry Eurymachus, who has given her more than any of the others, and has been greatly increasing his wedding presents. I hope nothing valuable may have been taken from the house in spite of you, but you know what women are—they always want to do the best they can for the man who marries them, and never give another thought to the children of their first husband, nor to their father either when he is dead and done with. Go home, therefore, and put everything in charge of the most respectable woman servant that you have, until it shall please heaven to send you a wife of your own. Let me tell you also of another matter which you had better attend to. The chief men among the suitors are lying in wait for you in the Strait between Ithaca and Samos, and they mean to kill you before you can reach home. I do not much think they will succeed; it is more likely that some of those who are now eating up your property will find a grave themselves. Sail night and day, and keep your ship well away from the islands; the god who watches over you and protects you will send you a fair wind. As soon as you get to Ithaca send your ship and men on to the town, but yourself go straight to the swineherd who has charge of your pigs; he is well disposed towards you, stay with him, therefore, for the night, and then send him to Penelope to tell her that you have got back safe from Pylos.”

Then she went back to Olympus; but Telemachus stirred Pisistratus with his heel to rouse him, and said, “Wake up Pisistratus, and yoke the horses to the chariot, for we must set off home.”

But Pisistratus said, “No matter what hurry we are in we cannot drive in the dark. It will be morning soon; wait till Menelaus has brought his presents and put them in the chariot for us; and let him say good bye to us in the usual way. So long as he lives a guest should never forget a host who has shown him kindness.”

As he spoke day began to break, and Menelaus, who had already risen, leaving Helen in bed, came towards them. When Telemachus saw him he put on his shirt as fast as he could, threw a great cloak over his shoulders, and went out to meet him. “Menelaus,” said he, “let me go back now to my own country, for I want to get home.”

And Menelaus answered, “Telemachus, if you insist on going I will not detain you. I do not like to see a host either too fond of his guest or too rude to him. Moderation is best in all things, and not letting a man go when he wants to do so is as bad as telling him to go if he would like to stay. One should treat a guest well as long as he is in the house and speed him when he wants to leave it. Wait, then, till I can get your beautiful presents into your chariot, and till you have yourself seen them. I will tell the women to prepare a sufficient dinner for you of what there may be in the house; it will be at once more proper and cheaper for you to get your dinner before setting out on such a long journey. If, moreover, you have a fancy for making a tour in Hellas or in the Peloponnese, I will yoke my horses, and will conduct you myself through all our principal cities. No one will send us away empty handed; everyone will give us something—a bronze tripod, a couple of mules, or a gold cup.”

“Menelaus,” replied Telemachus, “I want to go home at once, for when I came away I left my property without protection, and fear that while looking for my father I shall come to ruin myself, or find that something valuable has been stolen during my absence.”

When Menelaus heard this he immediately told his wife and servants to prepare a sufficient dinner from what there might be in the house. At this moment Eteoneus joined him, for he lived close by and had just got up; so Menelaus told him to light the fire and cook some meat, which he at once did. Then Menelaus went down into his fragrant store room, not alone, but Helen went too, with Megapenthes. When he reached the place where the treasures of his house were kept, he selected a double cup, and told his son Megapenthes to bring also a silver mixing bowl. Meanwhile Helen went to the chest where she kept the lovely dresses which she had made with her own hands, and took out one that was largest and most beautifully enriched with embroidery; it glittered like a star, and lay at the very bottom of the chest. Then they all came back through the house again till they got to Telemachus, and Menelaus said, “Telemachus, may Zeus, the mighty husband of Hera, bring you safely home according to your desire. I will now present you with the finest and most precious piece of plate in all my house. It is a mixing bowl of pure silver, except the rim, which is inlaid with gold, and it is the work of Hephaestus. Phaedimus king of the Sidonians made me a present of it in the course of a visit that I paid him while I was on my return home. I should like to give it to you.”

With these words he placed the double cup in the hands of Telemachus, while Megapenthes brought the beautiful mixing bowl and set it before him. Hard by stood lovely Helen with the robe ready in her hand.

“I too, my son,” said she, “have something for you as a keepsake from the hand of Helen; it is for your bride to wear upon her wedding day. Till then, get your dear mother to keep it for you; thus may you go back rejoicing to your own country and to your home.”

So saying she gave the robe over to him and he received it gladly. Then Pisistratus put the presents into the chariot, and admired them all as he did so. Presently Menelaus took Telemachus and Pisistratus into the house, and they both of them sat down to table. A maid servant brought them water in a beautiful golden ewer, and poured it into a silver basin for them to wash their hands, and she drew a clean table beside them; an upper servant brought them bread and offered them many good things of what there was in the house. Eteoneus carved the meat and gave them each their portions, while Megapenthes poured out the wine. Then they laid their hands upon the good things that were before them, but as soon as they had had enough to eat and drink Telemachus and Pisistratus yoked the horses, and took their places in the chariot. They drove out through the inner gateway and under the echoing gatehouse of the outer court, and Menelaus came after them with a golden goblet of wine in his right hand that they might make a drink-offering before they set out. He stood in front of the horses and pledged them, saying, “Farewell to both of you; see that you tell Nestor how I have treated you, for he was as kind to me as any father could be while we Achaeans were fighting before Troy.”

“We will be sure, sir,” answered Telemachus, “to tell him everything as soon as we see him. I wish I were as certain of finding Odysseus returned when I get back to Ithaca, that I might tell him of the very great kindness you have shown me and of the many beautiful presents I am taking with me.”

As he was thus speaking a bird flew on his right hand—an eagle with a great white goose in its talons which it had carried off from the farm yard— and all the men and women were running after it and shouting. It came quite close up to them and flew away on their right hands in front of the horses. When they saw it they were glad, and their hearts took comfort within them, whereon Pisistratus said, “Tell me, Menelaus, has heaven sent this omen for us or for you?”

Menelaus was thinking what would be the most proper answer for him to make, but Helen was too quick for him and said, “I will read this matter as heaven has put it in my heart, and as I doubt not that it will come to pass. The eagle came from the mountain where it was bred and has its nest, and in like manner Odysseus, after having traveled far and suffered much, will return to take his revenge—if indeed he is not back already and hatching mischief for the suitors.”

“May Zeus so grant it,” replied Telemachus, “if it should prove to be so, I will make vows to you as though you were a god, even when I am at home.”

As he spoke he lashed his horses and they started off at full speed through the town towards the open country. They swayed the yoke upon their necks and traveled the whole day long till the sun set and darkness was over all the land. Then they reached Pherae, where Diocles lived who was son of Ortilochus, the son of Alpheus. There they passed the night and were treated hospitably. When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, they again yoked their horses and their places in the chariot. They drove out through the inner gateway and under the echoing gatehouse of the outer court. Then Pisistratus lashed his horses on and they flew forward nothing loath; ere long they came to Pylos, and then Telemachus said:

“Pisistratus, I hope you will promise to do what I am going to ask you. You know our fathers were old friends before us; moreover, we are both of an age, and this journey has brought us together still more closely; do not, therefore, take me past my ship, but leave me there, for if I go to your father's house he will try to keep me in the warmth of his good will towards me, and I must go home at once.”

Pisistratus thought how he should do as he was asked, and in the end he deemed it best to turn his horses towards the ship, and put Menelaus' beautiful presents of gold and raiment in the stern of the vessel. Then he said, “Go on board at once and tell your men to do so also before I can reach home to tell my father. I know how obstinate he is, and am sure he will not let you go; he will come down here to fetch you, and he will not go back without you. But he will be very angry.”

With this he drove his goodly steeds back to the city of the Pylians and soon reached his home, but Telemachus called the men together and gave his orders. “Now, my men,” said he, “get everything in order on board the ship, and let us set out home.”

Thus did he speak, and they went on board even as he had said. But as Telemachus was thus busied, praying also and sacrificing to Athena in the ship's stern, there came to him a man from a distant country, a seer, who was flying from Argos because he had killed a man. He was descended from Melampus, who used to live in Pylos, the land of sheep; he was rich and owned a great house, but he was driven into exile by the great and powerful king Neleus. Neleus seized his goods and held them for a whole year, during which he was a close prisoner in the house of king Phylacus, and in much distress of mind both on account of the daughter of Neleus and because he was haunted by a great sorrow that dread Erinys had laid upon him. In the end, however, he escaped with his life, drove the cattle from Phylace to Pylos, avenged the wrong that had been done him, and gave the daughter of Neleus to his brother. Then he left the country and went to Argos, where it was ordained that he should reign over much people. There he married, established himself, and had two famous sons Antiphates and Mantius. Antiphates became father of Oicleus, and Oicleus of Amphiaraus, who was dearly loved both by Zeus and by Apollo, but he did not live to old age, for he was killed in Thebes by reason of a woman's gifts. His sons were Alcmaeon and Amphilochus. Mantius, the other son of Melampus, was father to Polypheides and Cleitus. Aurora, throned in gold, carried off Cleitus for his beauty's sake, that he might dwell among the immortals, but Apollo made Polypheides the greatest seer in the whole world now that Amphiaraus was dead. He quarrelled with his father and went to live in Hyperesia, where he remained and prophesied for all men.

His son, Theoclymenus, it was who now came up to Telemachus as he was making drink-offerings and praying in his ship. “Friend,” said he, “now that I find you sacrificing in this place, I beseech you by your sacrifices themselves, and by the god to whom you make them, I pray you also by your own head and by those of your followers tell me the truth and nothing but the truth. Who and whence are you? Tell me also of your town and parents.”

Telemachus said, “I will answer you quite truly. I am from Ithaca, and my father is Odysseus, as surely as that he ever lived. But he has come to some miserable end. Therefore I have taken this ship and got my crew together to see if I can hear any news of him, for he has been away a long time.”

“I too,” answered Theoclymenus, “am an exile, for I have killed a man of my own race. He has many brothers and kinsmen in Argos, and they have great power among the Argives. I am flying to escape death at their hands, and am thus doomed to be a wanderer on the face of the earth. I am your suppliant; take me, therefore, on board your ship that they may not kill me, for I know they are in pursuit.”

“I will not refuse you,” replied Telemachus, “if you wish to join us. Come, therefore, and in Ithaca we will treat you hospitably according to what we have.”

On this he received Theoclymenus' spear and laid it down on the deck of the ship. He went on board and sat in the stern, bidding Theoclymenus sit beside him; then the men let go the hawsers. Telemachus told them to catch hold of the ropes, and they made all haste to do so. They set the mast in its socket in the cross plank, raised it and made it fast with the forestays, and they hoisted their white sails with sheets of twisted oxhide. Athena sent them a fair wind that blew fresh and strong to take the ship on her course as fast as possible. Thus then they passed by Crouni and Chalcis.

Presently the sun set and darkness was over all the land. The vessel made a quick passage to Pheae and thence on to Elis, where the Epeans rule. Telemachus then headed her for the flying islands, wondering within himself whether he should escape death or should be taken prisoner.

Meanwhile Odysseus and the swineherd were eating their supper in the hut, and the men supped with them. As soon as they had had to eat and drink, Odysseus began trying to prove the swineherd and see whether he would continue to treat him kindly, and ask him to stay on at the station or pack him off to the city; so he said:

“Eumaeus, and all of you, to-morrow I want to go away and begin begging about the town, so as to be no more trouble to you or to your men. Give me your advice therefore, and let me have a good guide to go with me and show me the way. I will go the round of the city begging as I needs must, to see if anyone will give me a drink and a piece of bread. I should like also to go to the house of Odysseus and bring news of her husband to Queen Penelope. I could then go about among the suitors and see if out of all their abundance they will give me a dinner. I should soon make them an excellent servant in all sorts of ways. Listen and believe when I tell you that by the blessing of Hermes who gives grace and good name to the works of all men, there is no one living who would make a more handy servant than I should—to put fresh wood on the fire, chop fuel, carve, cook, pour out wine, and do all those services that poor men have to do for their betters.”

The swineherd was very much disturbed when he heard this. “Heaven help me,” he exclaimed, “what ever can have put such a notion as that into your head? If you go near the suitors you will be undone to a certainty, for their pride and insolence reach the very heavens. They would never think of taking a man like you for a servant. Their servants are all young men, well dressed, wearing good cloaks and shirts, with well looking faces and their hair always tidy, the tables are kept quite clean and are loaded with bread, meat, and wine. Stay where you are, then; you are not in anybody's way; I do not mind your being here, no more do any of the others, and when Telemachus comes home he will give you a shirt and cloak and will send you wherever you want to go.”

Odysseus answered, “I hope you may be as dear to the gods as you are to me, for having saved me from going about and getting into trouble; there is nothing worse than being always on the tramp; still, when men have once got low down in the world they will go through a great deal on behalf of their miserable bellies. Since, however, you press me to stay here and await the return of Telemachus, tell me about Odysseus' mother, and his father whom he left on the threshold of old age when he set out for Troy. Are they still living or are they already dead and in the house of Hades?”

“I will tell you all about them,” replied Eumaeus, “Laertes is still living and prays heaven to let him depart peacefully in his own house, for he is terribly distressed about the absence of his son, and also about the death of his wife, which grieved him greatly and aged him more than anything else did. She came to an unhappy end through sorrow for her son: may no friend or neighbor who has dealt kindly by me come to such an end as she did. As long as she was still living, though she was always grieving, I used to like seeing her and asking her how she did, for she brought me up along with her daughter Ctimene, the youngest of her children; we were boy and girl together, and she made little difference between us. When, however, we both grew up, they sent Ctimene to Same and received a splendid dowry for her. As for me, my mistress gave me a good shirt and cloak with a pair of sandals for my feet, and sent me off into the country, but she was just as fond of me as ever. This is all over now. Still it has pleased heaven to prosper my work in the situation which I now hold. I have enough to eat and drink, and can find something for any respectable stranger who comes here; but there is no getting a kind word or deed out of my mistress, for the house has fallen into the hands of wicked people. Servants want sometimes to see their mistress and have a talk with her; they like to have something to eat and drink at the house, and something too to take back with them into the country. This is what will keep servants in a good humor.”

Odysseus answered, “Then you must have been a very little fellow, Eumaeus, when you were taken so far away from your home and parents. Tell me, and tell me true, was the city in which your father and mother lived sacked and pillaged, or did some enemies carry you off when you were alone tending sheep or cattle, ship you off here, and sell you for whatever your master gave them?”

“Stranger,” replied Eumaeus, “as regards your question: sit still, make yourself comfortable, drink your wine, and listen to me. The nights are now at their longest; there is time both for sleeping and sitting up talking together; you ought not to go to bed till bed time, too much sleep is as bad as too little; if any one of the others wishes to go to bed let him leave us and do so; he can then take my master's pigs out when he has done breakfast in the morning. We too will sit here eating and drinking in the hut, and telling one another stories about our misfortunes; for when a man has suffered much, and been buffeted about in the world, he takes pleasure in recalling the memory of sorrows that have long gone by. As regards your question, then, my tale is as follows:

“You may have heard of an island called Syra that lies over above Ortygia, where the land begins to turn round and look in another direction. It is not very thickly peopled, but the soil is good, with much pasture fit for cattle and sheep, and it abounds with wine and wheat. Dearth never comes there, nor are the people plagued by any sickness, but when they grow old Apollo comes with Artemis and kills them with his painless shafts. It contains two communities, and the whole country is divided between these two. My father Ctesius son of Ormenus, a man comparable to the gods, reigned over both.

“Now to this place there came some cunning traders from Phoenicia (for the Phoenicians are great mariners) in a ship which they had freighted with gewgaws of all kinds. There happened to be a Phoenician woman in my father's house, very tall and comely, and an excellent servant; these scoundrels got hold of her one day when she was washing near their ship, seduced her, and cajoled her in ways that no woman can resist, no matter how good she may be by nature. The man who had seduced her asked her who she was and where she came from, and on this she told him her father's name. ‘I come from Sidon,’ said she, ‘and am daughter to Arybas, a man rolling in wealth. One day as I was coming into the town from the country, some Taphian pirates seized me and took me here over the sea, where they sold me to the man who owns this house, and he gave them their price for me.’

“The man who had seduced her then said, ‘Would you like to come along with us to see the house of your parents and your parents themselves? They are both alive and are said to be well off.’

“‘I will do so gladly,’ answered she, ‘if you men will first swear me a solemn oath that you will do me no harm by the way.’

“They all swore as she told them, and when they had completed their oath the woman said, ‘Hush; and if any of your men meets me in the street or at the well, do not let him speak to me, for fear someone should go and tell my master, in which case he would suspect something. He would put me in prison, and would have all of you murdered; keep your own counsel therefore; buy your merchandise as fast as you can, and send me word when you have done loading. I will bring as much gold as I can lay my hands on, and there is something else also that I can do towards paying my fare. I am nurse to the son of the good man of the house, a funny little fellow just able to run about. I will carry him off in your ship, and you will get a great deal of money for him if you take him and sell him in foreign parts.’

“On this she went back to the house. The Phoenicians stayed a whole year till they had loaded their ship with much precious merchandise, and then, when they had got freight enough, they sent to tell the woman. Their messenger, a very cunning fellow, came to my father's house bringing a necklace of gold with amber beads strung among it; and while my mother and the servants had it in their hands admiring it and bargaining about it, he made a sign quietly to the woman and then went back to the ship, whereon she took me by the hand and led me out of the house. In the fore part of the house she saw the tables set with the cups of guests who had been feasting with my father, as being in attendance on him; these were now all gone to a meeting of the public assembly, so she snatched up three cups and carried them off in the bosom of her dress, while I followed her, for I knew no better. The sun was now set, and darkness was over all the land, so we hurried on as fast as we could till we reached the harbor, where the Phoenician ship was lying. When they had got on board they sailed their ways over the sea, taking us with them, and Zeus sent then a fair wind; six days did we sail both night and day, but on the seventh day Artemis struck the woman and she fell heavily down into the ship's hold as though she were a sea gull alighting on the water; so they threw her overboard to the seals and fishes, and I was left all sorrowful and alone. Presently the winds and waves took the ship to Ithaca, where Laertes gave sundry of his chattels for me, and thus it was that ever I came to set eyes upon this country.”

Odysseus answered, “Eumaeus, I have heard the story of your misfortunes with the most lively interest and pity, but Zeus has given you good as well as evil, for in spite of everything you have a good master, who sees that you always have enough to eat and drink; and you lead a good life, whereas I am still going about begging my way from city to city.”

Thus did they converse, and they had only a very little time left for sleep, for it was soon daybreak. In the mean time Telemachus and his crew were nearing land, so they loosed the sails, took down the mast, and rowed the ship into the harbor. They cast out their mooring stones and made fast the hawsers; they then got out upon the sea shore, mixed their wine, and got dinner ready. As soon as they had had enough to eat and drink Telemachus said, “Take the ship on to the town, but leave me here, for I want to look after the herdsmen on one of my farms. In the evening, when I have seen all I want, I will come down to the city, and to-morrow morning in return for your trouble I will give you all a good dinner with meat and wine.”

Then Theoclymenus said, 'And what, my dear young friend, is to become of me? To whose house, among all your chief men, am I to repair? or shall I go straight to your own house and to your mother?”

“At any other time,” replied Telemachus, “I should have bidden you go to my own house, for you would find no want of hospitality; at the present moment, however, you would not be comfortable there, for I shall be away, and my mother will not see you; she does not often show herself even to the suitors, but sits at her loom weaving in an upper chamber, out of their way; but I can tell you a man whose house you can go to—I mean Eurymachus the son of Polybus, who is held in the highest estimation by everyone in Ithaca. He is much the best man and the most persistent wooer, of all those who are paying court to my mother and trying to take Odysseus' place. Zeus, however, in heaven alone knows whether or no they will come to a bad end before the marriage takes place.”

As he was speaking a bird flew by upon his right hand—a hawk, Apollo's messenger. It held a dove in its talons, and the feathers, as it tore them off, fell to the ground midway between Telemachus and the ship. On this Theoclymenus called him apart and caught him by the hand. “Telemachus,” said he, “that bird did not fly on your right hand without having been sent there by some god. As soon as I saw it I knew it was an omen; it means that you will remain powerful and that there will be no house in Ithaca more royal than your own.”

“I wish it may prove so,” answered Telemachus. “If it does, I will show you so much good will and give you so many presents that all who meet you will congratulate you.”

Then he said to his friend Piraeus, “Piraeus, son of Clytius, you have throughout shown yourself the most willing to serve me of all those who have accompanied me to Pylos; I wish you would take this stranger to your own house and entertain him hospitably till I can come for him.”

And Piraeus answered, “Telemachus, you may stay away as long as you please, but I will look after him for you, and he shall find no lack of hospitality.”

As he spoke he went on board, and bade the others do so also and loose the hawsers, so they took their places in the ship. But Telemachus bound on his sandals, and took a long and doughty spear with a head of sharpened bronze from the deck of the ship. Then they loosed the hawsers, thrust the ship off from land, and made on towards the city as they had been told to do, while Telemachus strode on as fast as he could, till he reached the homestead where his countless herds of swine were feeding, and where dwelt the excellent swineherd, who was so devoted a servant to his master.


  1. 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.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  2. Theoclymenus has appeared at exactly the right time in the narrative. His prophecies help bolster Telemachus' confidence, which has been waning without proof of his father's return, and foreshadows the final books of the poem, when Telemachus finally faces the suitors.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  3. In ancient Greece, a dove was a symbol of peace and was often depicted in an olive tree or carrying an olive branch. The expression "extend an olive branch" derives from this image and means to make an offer of peace or make amends with an enemy.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  4. 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.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  5. Sidon, an ancient city in Phoenicia, now a major city in modern-day Lebanon. Homer was known to praise the skill of the Sidonian craftsmen, including especially their glass, purple dyes, and women's embroidery. Sidon was frequently the victim of conquering warlords and saw many different rulers in its time.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  6. Notice that while women are depicted as being weak-willed, men aren't expected to refrain from making advances on them. Notice too that there's a sharp gender divide between what's acceptable behavior for men (flirting and seducing) and what's acceptable for women (being faithful and chaste).

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  7. In ancient Greece, the most honorable way to die was in battle, while the worst way was often to grow old and miserable and die of some terrible disease. For these people to be spared old age by Apollo and Artemis would mean a great deal to them and should indicate that they're of a particularly well-respected class.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  8. 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.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  9. Homer draws a parallel between the suitors and Telemachus, who has manners and respect where the suitors do not. In this way, the suitors act as foils for the main characters, emphasizing their good qualities by revealing what it's like not to have them.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  10. 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).

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  11. 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.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  12. 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.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  13. 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.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  14. This story will seem familiar to readers: it's been mentioned before by Odysseus in the story he told Alcinous and his men. Here, we see a somewhat more elaborated version, which may suggest that the exact details of the story were so well-known in Greece that Homer needn't relate the whole thing to his audience.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  15. 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.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  16. 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.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  17. That is, the most measured answer, the one least likely to be wrong and falsely raise their hopes. Menelaus can't be certain of what this omen means, and Helen's reading, though correct, nevertheless isn't the wisest thing to say, because she can't be sure that it will come true.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  18. Helen intends for Telemachus to give this dress to his bride on their wedding day. It seems strange that Helen gives him the largest one, but this might be explained in many ways: Helen might, for instance, typically sew for children and maids, making this the "largest" of a small batch.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  19. 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.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  20. 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.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  21. 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.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  22. 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.

    — Stephen Holliday
  23. Mooring, from the verb to moor, meaning to secure or fasten a ship in a particular place. Mooring stones were typically stones that had holes bored through them for ropes, which were tied to the rail or the mast of the ship to secure it in place.

    — Stephen Holliday
  24. Amber, which most often came from the Baltic area, has always been considered a precious material for jewelry and was often paired with gold in ancient Greek and Mediterranean cultures. It would've been highly prized as a gift and would reflect well on this messenger.

    — Stephen Holliday
  25. 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.

    — Stephen Holliday
  26. There's no island named Syra, but there is a Syros, which is west of Delos, an island that also went by the name Ortygia. Keep in mind as you read that Homer wasn't a geographer and that there are many places in ancient Greece that have no real location but were invented for the purpose of a story.

    — Stephen Holliday
  27. 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.

    — Stephen Holliday
  28. 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.

    — Stephen Holliday
  29. 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.

    — Stephen Holliday
  30. 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.

    — Stephen Holliday
  31. 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).

    — Stephen Holliday
  32. At this point, Telemachus is sailing along the coast of what is now northern Greece, just across from the island of Ithaca. It would be easier and quicker to sail directly across to Ithaca, but Athena has already warned him to keep to the coast and take a more round-about route, and Telemachus has wisely chosen to follow her advice.

    — Stephen Holliday
  33. 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.

    — Stephen Holliday
  34. 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.

    — Stephen Holliday
  35. They've reached the northeast part of what is now mainland Greece, but are still very far from the west coast from which Telemachus can reach Ithaca. Note that this is their second visit to Diocles and that they stayed with him once before on their way to Sparta. Also notice that there's no time spent describing this visit.

    — Stephen Holliday
  36. A powerful omen that Odysseus has indeed returned to Ithaca and will soon have the false suitors at his mercy. In Book II, Telemachus saw a similar omen during the meeting of the councillors when two great eagles sent by Zeus stared down at Telemachus's enemies, as if warning them not to cross him.

    — Stephen Holliday
  37. 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.

    — Stephen Holliday
  38. Megapenthes, Menelaus' son by a slave woman. Though his role in The Odyssey is small, some post-Homeric traditions see Megapanthes expel Helen from Mycenae after Menelaus' death, thus forcing her to flee to the island of Rhodes, where it's said she was killed by the queen's handmaidens while she was bathing.

    — Stephen Holliday
  39. 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.

    — Stephen Holliday
  40. The Strait between Ithaca and Samos is less than two miles wide, leaving very little room for any ship to maneuver. The suitor's only advantage here is the element of surprise, which Athena effectively destroys by warning Telemachus of their plan.

    — Stephen Holliday
  41. 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.

    — Stephen Holliday
  42. One of the least trustworthy of Penelope's suitors and most disrespectful of Telemachus.

    — Stephen Holliday
  43. 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.

    — Noelle Thompson