Compairison /discussion

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  • Please read Books 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23, and 24 The Odyssey 

Odysseus is a very different kind of hero than the ones we focused on in The Iliad. Compare him to at least two other heroic characters from The Iliad. You can choose any Greek and/or Trojan hero for your comparison. Finally, consider which one of these heroes you think is the most heroic, and explain why. Be sure to use specific examples and/or quotations from the text.

(make sure the book title should be italicize)


· Your initial response should be at least 1,000 words in length

· Use MLA format for any quotations or citations that you use to support your answer

Provided by The Internet Classics Archive.

See bottom for copyright. Available online at

The Odyssey

By Homer

Translated by Samuel Butler



Tell me, O muse, of that ingenious hero who travelled far and wide

after he had sacked the famous town of Troy. Many cities did he visit,

and many were the nations with whose manners and customs he was acquainted;

moreover he suffered much by sea while trying to save his own life

and bring his men safely home; but do what he might he could not save

his men, for they perished through their own sheer folly in eating

the cattle of the Sun-god Hyperion; so the god prevented them from

ever reaching home. Tell me, too, about all these things, O daughter

of Jove, from whatsoever source you may know them.

So now all who escaped death in battle or by shipwreck had got safely

home except Ulysses, and he, though he was longing to return to his

wife and country, was detained by the goddess Calypso, who had got

him into a large cave and wanted to marry him. But as years went by,

there came a time when the gods settled that he should go back to

Ithaca; even then, however, when he was among his own people, his

troubles were not yet over; nevertheless all the gods had now begun

to pity him except Neptune, who still persecuted him without ceasing

and would not let him get home.

Now Neptune had gone off to the Ethiopians, who are at the world’s

end, and lie in two halves, the one looking West and the other East.

He had gone there to accept a hecatomb of sheep and oxen, and was

enjoying himself at his festival; but the other gods met in the house

of Olympian Jove, and the sire of gods and men spoke first. At that

moment he was thinking of Aegisthus, who had been killed by Agamemnon’s

son Orestes; so he said to the other gods:

“See now, how men lay blame upon us gods for what is after all nothing

but their own folly. Look at Aegisthus; he must needs make love to

Agamemnon’s wife unrighteously and then kill Agamemnon, though he

knew it would be the death of him; for I sent Mercury to warn him

not to do either of these things, inasmuch as Orestes would be sure

to take his revenge when he grew up and wanted to return home. Mercury

told him this in all good will but he would not listen, and now he

has paid for everything in full.”

Then Minerva said, “Father, son of Saturn, King of kings, it served

Aegisthus right, and so it would any one else who does as he did;

but Aegisthus is neither here nor there; it is for Ulysses that my

heart bleeds, when I think of his sufferings in that lonely sea-girt

island, far away, poor man, from all his friends. It is an island

covered with forest, in the very middle of the sea, and a goddess

lives there, daughter of the magician Atlas, who looks after the bottom

of the ocean, and carries the great columns that keep heaven and earth

asunder. This daughter of Atlas has got hold of poor unhappy Ulysses,

and keeps trying by every kind of blandishment to make him forget

his home, so that he is tired of life, and thinks of nothing but how

he may once more see the smoke of his own chimneys. You, sir, take

no heed of this, and yet when Ulysses was before Troy did he not propitiate

you with many a burnt sacrifice? Why then should you keep on being

so angry with him?”

And Jove said, “My child, what are you talking about? How can I forget

Ulysses than whom there is no more capable man on earth, nor more

liberal in his offerings to the immortal gods that live in heaven?

Bear in mind, however, that Neptune is still furious with Ulysses

for having blinded an eye of Polyphemus king of the Cyclopes. Polyphemus

is son to Neptune by the nymph Thoosa, daughter to the sea-king Phorcys;

therefore though he will not kill Ulysses outright, he torments him

by preventing him from getting home. Still, let us lay our heads together

and see how we can help him to return; Neptune will then be pacified,

for if we are all of a mind he can hardly stand out against us.”

And Minerva said, “Father, son of Saturn, King of kings, if, then,

the gods now mean that Ulysses should get home, we should first send

Mercury to the Ogygian island to tell Calypso that we have made up

our minds and that he is to return. In the meantime I will go to Ithaca,

to put heart into Ulysses’ son Telemachus; I will embolden him to

call the Achaeans in assembly, and speak out to the suitors of his

mother Penelope, who persist in eating up any number of his sheep

and oxen; I will also conduct him to Sparta and to Pylos, to see if

he can hear anything about the return of his dear father- for this

will make people speak well of him.”

So saying she bound on her glittering golden sandals, imperishable,

with which she can fly like the wind over land or sea; she grasped

the redoubtable bronze-shod spear, so stout and sturdy and strong,

wherewith she quells the ranks of heroes who have displeased her,

and down she darted from the topmost summits of Olympus, whereon forthwith

she was in Ithaca, at the gateway of Ulysses’ house, disguised as

a visitor, Mentes, chief of the Taphians, and she held a bronze spear

in her hand. There she found the lordly suitors seated on hides of

the oxen which they had killed and eaten, and playing draughts in

front of the house. Men-servants and pages were bustling about to

wait upon them, some mixing wine with water in the mixing-bowls, some

cleaning down the tables with wet sponges and laying them out again,

and some cutting up great quantities of meat.

Telemachus saw her long before any one else did. He was sitting moodily

among the suitors thinking about his brave father, and how he would

send them flying out of the house, if he were to come to his own again

and be honoured as in days gone by. Thus brooding as he sat among

them, he caught sight of Minerva and went straight to the gate, for

he was vexed that a stranger should be kept waiting for admittance.

He took her right hand in his own, and bade her give him her spear.

“Welcome,” said he, “to our house, and when you have partaken of food

you shall tell us what you have come for.”

He led the way as he spoke, and Minerva followed him. When they were

within he took her spear and set it in the spear- stand against a

strong bearing-post along with the many other spears of his unhappy

father, and he conducted her to a richly decorated seat under which

he threw a cloth of damask. There was a footstool also for her feet,

and he set another seat near her for himself, away from the suitors,

that she might not be annoyed while eating by their noise and insolence,

and that he might ask her more freely about his father.

A maid servant then 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, the carver fetched them plates of all manner of meats and set

cups of gold by their side, and a man-servant brought them wine and

poured it out for them.

Then the suitors came in and took their places on the benches and

seats. Forthwith men servants poured water over their hands, maids

went round with the bread-baskets, pages filled the mixing-bowls with

wine and water, and they laid their hands upon the good things that

were before them. As soon as they had had enough to eat and drink

they wanted music and dancing, which are the crowning embellishments

of a banquet, so a servant brought a lyre to Phemius, whom they compelled

perforce to sing to them. As soon as he touched his lyre and began

to sing Telemachus spoke low to Minerva, with his head close to hers

that no man might hear.

“I hope, sir,” said he, “that you will not be offended with what I

am going to say. Singing comes cheap to those who do not pay for it,

and all this is done at the cost of one whose bones lie rotting in

some wilderness or grinding to powder in the surf. If these men were

to see my father come back to Ithaca they would pray for longer legs

rather than a longer purse, for money would not serve them; but he,

alas, has fallen on an ill fate, and even when people do sometimes

say that he is coming, we no longer heed them; we shall never see

him again. And now, sir, tell me and tell me true, who you are and

where you come from. Tell me of your town and parents, what manner

of ship you came in, how your crew brought you to Ithaca, and of what

nation they declared themselves to be- for you cannot have come by

land. Tell me also truly, for I want to know, are you a stranger to

this house, or have you been here in my father’s time? In the old

days we had many visitors for my father went about much himself.”

And Minerva answered, “I will tell you truly and particularly all

about it. I am Mentes, son of Anchialus, and I am King of the Taphians.

I have come here with my ship and crew, on a voyage to men of a foreign

tongue being bound for Temesa with a cargo of iron, and I shall bring

back copper. As for my ship, it lies over yonder off the open country

away from the town, in the harbour Rheithron under the wooded mountain

Neritum. Our fathers were friends before us, as old Laertes will tell

you, if you will go and ask him. They say, however, that he never

comes to town now, and lives by himself in the country, faring hardly,

with an old woman to look after him and get his dinner for him, when

he comes in tired from pottering about his vineyard. They told me

your father was at home again, and that was why I came, but it seems

the gods are still keeping him back, for he is not dead yet not on

the mainland. It is more likely he is on some sea-girt island in mid

ocean, or a prisoner among savages who are detaining him against his

will I am no prophet, and know very little about omens, but I speak

as it is borne in upon me from heaven, and assure you that he will

not be away much longer; for he is a man of such resource that even

though he were in chains of iron he would find some means of getting

home again. But tell me, and tell me true, can Ulysses really have

such a fine looking fellow for a son? You are indeed wonderfully like

him about the head and eyes, for we were close friends before he set

sail for Troy where the flower of all the Argives went also. Since

that time we have never either of us seen the other.”

“My mother,” answered Telemachus, tells me I am son to Ulysses, but

it is a wise child that knows his own father. Would that I were son

to one who had grown old upon his own estates, for, since you ask

me, there is no more ill-starred man under heaven than he who they

tell me is my father.”

And Minerva said, “There is no fear of your race dying out yet, while

Penelope has such a fine son as you are. But tell me, and tell me

true, what is the meaning of all this feasting, and who are these

people? What is it all about? Have you some banquet, or is there a

wedding in the family- for no one seems to be bringing any provisions

of his own? And the guests- how atrociously they are behaving; what

riot they make over the whole house; it is enough to disgust any respectable

person who comes near them.”

“Sir,” said Telemachus, “as regards your question, so long as my father

was here it was well with us and with the house, but the gods in their

displeasure have willed it otherwise, and have hidden him away more

closely than mortal man was ever yet hidden. I could have borne it

better even though he were dead, if he had fallen with his men before

Troy, or had died with friends around him when the days of his fighting

were done; for then the Achaeans would have built a mound over his

ashes, and I should myself have been heir to his renown; but now the

storm-winds have spirited him away we know not wither; he is gone

without leaving so much as a trace behind him, and I inherit nothing

but dismay. Nor does the matter end simply with grief for the loss

of my father; heaven has laid sorrows upon me of yet another kind;

for the chiefs from all our islands, Dulichium, Same, and the woodland

island of Zacynthus, as also all the principal men of Ithaca itself,

are eating up my house under the pretext of paying their court to

my mother, who will neither point blank say that she will not marry,

nor yet bring matters to an end; so they are making havoc of my estate,

and before long will do so also with myself.”

“Is that so?” exclaimed Minerva, “then you do indeed want Ulysses

home again. Give him his helmet, shield, and a couple lances, and

if he is the man he was when I first knew him in our house, drinking

and making merry, he would soon lay his hands about these rascally

suitors, were he to stand once more upon his own threshold. He was

then coming from Ephyra, where he had been to beg poison for his arrows

from Ilus, son of Mermerus. Ilus feared the ever-living gods and would

not give him any, but my father let him have some, for he was very

fond of him. If Ulysses is the man he then was these suitors will

have a short shrift and a sorry wedding.

“But there! It rests with heaven to determine whether he is to return,

and take his revenge in his own house or no; I would, however, urge

you to set about trying to get rid of these suitors at once. Take

my advice, call the Achaean heroes in assembly to-morrow -lay your

case before them, and call heaven to bear you witness. Bid the suitors

take themselves off, each to his own place, and if your mother’s mind

is set on marrying again, let her go back to her father, who will

find her a husband and provide her with all the marriage gifts that

so dear a daughter may expect. As for yourself, let me prevail upon

you to take the best ship you can get, with a crew of twenty men,

and go in quest of your father who has so long been missing. Some

one may tell you something, or (and people often hear things in this

way) some heaven-sent message may direct you. First go to Pylos and

ask Nestor; thence go on to Sparta and visit Menelaus, for he got

home last of all the Achaeans; if you hear that your father is alive

and on his way home, you can put up with the waste these suitors will

make for yet another twelve months. If on the other hand you hear

of his death, come home at once, celebrate his funeral rites with

all due pomp, build a barrow to his memory, and make your mother marry

again. Then, having done all this, think it well over in your mind

how, by fair means or foul, you may kill these suitors in your own

house. You are too old to plead infancy any longer; have you not heard

how people are singing Orestes’ praises for having killed his father’s

murderer Aegisthus? You are a fine, smart looking fellow; show your

mettle, then, and make yourself a name in story. Now, however, I must

go back to my ship and to my crew, who will be impatient if I keep

them waiting longer; think the matter over for yourself, and remember

what I have said to you.”

“Sir,” answered Telemachus, “it has been very kind of you to talk

to me in this way, as though I were your own son, and I will do all

you tell me; I know you want to be getting on with your voyage, but

stay a little longer till you have taken a bath and refreshed yourself.

I will then give you a present, and you shall go on your way rejoicing;

I will give you one of great beauty and value- a keepsake such as

only dear friends give to one another.”

Minerva answered, “Do not try to keep me, for I would be on my way

at once. As for any present you may be disposed to make me, keep it

till I come again, and I will take it home with me. You shall give

me a very good one, and I will give you one of no less value in return.”

With these words she flew away like a bird into the air, but she had

given Telemachus courage, and had made him think more than ever about

his father. He felt the change, wondered at it, and knew that the

stranger had been a god, so he went straight to where the suitors

were sitting.

Phemius was still singing, and his hearers sat rapt in silence as

he told the sad tale of the return from Troy, and the ills Minerva

had laid upon the Achaeans. Penelope, daughter of Icarius, heard his

song from her room upstairs, and came down by the great staircase,

not alone, but attended by two of her handmaids. When she reached

the suitors she stood by one of the bearing posts that supported the

roof of the cloisters with a staid maiden on either side of her. She

held a veil, moreover, before her face, and was weeping bitterly.

“Phemius,” she cried, “you know many another feat of gods and heroes,

such as poets love to celebrate. Sing the suitors some one of these,

and let them drink their wine in silence, but cease this sad tale,

for it breaks my sorrowful heart, and reminds me of my lost husband

whom I mourn ever without ceasing, and whose name was great over all

Hellas and middle Argos.”

“Mother,” answered Telemachus, “let the bard sing what he has a mind

to; bards do not make the ills they sing of; it is Jove, not they,

who makes them, and who sends weal or woe upon mankind according to

his own good pleasure. This fellow means no harm by singing the ill-fated

return of the Danaans, for people always applaud the latest songs

most warmly. Make up your mind to it and bear it; Ulysses is not the

only man who never came back from Troy, but many another went down

as well as he. Go, then, within the house and busy yourself with your

daily duties, your loom, your distaff, and the ordering of your servants;

for speech is man’s matter, and mine above all others- for it is I

who am master here.”

She went wondering back into the house, and laid her son’s saying

in her heart. Then, going upstairs with her handmaids into her room,

she mourned her dear husband till Minerva shed sweet sleep over her

eyes. But the suitors were clamorous throughout the covered cloisters,

and prayed each one that he might be her bed fellow.

Then Telemachus spoke, “Shameless,” he cried, “and insolent suitors,

let us feast at our pleasure now, and let there be no brawling, for

it is a rare thing to hear a man with such a divine voice as Phemius

has; but in the morning meet me in full assembly that I may give you

formal notice to depart, and feast at one another’s houses, turn and

turn about, at your own cost. If on the other hand you choose to persist

in spunging upon one man, heaven help me, but Jove shall reckon with

you in full, and when you fall in my father’s house there shall be

no man to avenge you.”

The suitors bit their lips as they heard him, and marvelled at the

boldness of his speech. Then, Antinous, son of Eupeithes, said, “The

gods seem to have given you lessons in bluster and tall talking; may

Jove never grant you to be chief in Ithaca as your father was before


Telemachus answered, “Antinous, do not chide with me, but, god willing,

I will be chief too if I can. Is this the worst fate you can think

of for me? It is no bad thing to be a chief, for it brings both riches

and honour. Still, now that Ulysses is dead there are many great men

in Ithaca both old and young, and some other may take the lead among

them; nevertheless I will be chief in my own house, and will rule

those whom Ulysses has won for me.”

Then Eurymachus, son of Polybus, answered, “It rests with heaven to

decide who shall be chief among us, but you shall be master in your

own house and over your own possessions; no one while there is a man

in Ithaca shall do you violence nor rob you. And now, my good fellow,

I want to know about this stranger. What country does he come from?

Of what family is he, and where is his estate? Has he brought you

news about the return of your father, or was he on business of his

own? He seemed a well-to-do man, but he hurried off so suddenly that

he was gone in a moment before we could get to know him.”

“My father is dead and gone,” answered Telemachus, “and even if some

rumour reaches me I put no more faith in it now. My mother does indeed

sometimes send for a soothsayer and question him, but I give his prophecyings

no heed. As for the stranger, he was Mentes, son of Anchialus, chief

of the Taphians, an old friend of my father’s.” But in his heart he

knew that it had been the goddess.

The suitors then returned to their singing and dancing until the evening;

but when night fell upon their pleasuring they went home to bed each

in his own abode. Telemachus’s room was high up in a tower that looked

on to the outer court; hither, then, he hied, brooding and full of

thought. A good old woman, Euryclea, daughter of Ops, the son of Pisenor,

went before him with a couple of blazing torches. Laertes had bought

her with his own money when she was quite young; he gave the worth

of twenty oxen for her, and shewed as much respect to her in his household

as he did to his own wedded wife, but he did not take her to his bed

for he feared his wife’s resentment. She it was who now lighted Telemachus

to his room, and she loved him better than any of the other women

in the house did, for she had nursed him when he was a baby. He opened

the door of his bed room and sat down upon the bed; as he took off

his shirt he gave it to the good old woman, who folded it tidily up,

and hung it for him over a peg by his bed side, after which she went

out, pulled the door to by a silver catch, and drew the bolt home

by means of the strap. But Telemachus as he lay covered with a woollen

fleece kept thinking all night through of his intended voyage of the

counsel that Minerva had given him.



Now when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, Telemachus

rose and dressed himself. He bound his sandals on to his comely feet,

girded his sword about his shoulder, and left his room looking like

an immortal god. He at once sent the criers round to call the people

in assembly, so they called them and the people gathered thereon;

then, when they were got together, he went to the place of assembly

spear in hand- not alone, for his two hounds went with him. Minerva

endowed him with a presence of such divine comeliness that all marvelled

at him as he went by, and when he took his place’ in his father’s

seat even the oldest councillors made way for him.

Aegyptius, a man bent double with age, and of infinite experience,

the first to speak His son Antiphus had gone with Ulysses to Ilius,

land of noble steeds, but the savage Cyclops had killed him when they

were all shut up in the cave, and had cooked his last dinner for him,

He had three sons left, of whom two still worked on their father’s

land, while the third, Eurynomus, was one of the suitors; nevertheless

their father could not get over the loss of Antiphus, and was still

weeping for him when he began his speech.

“Men of Ithaca,” he said, “hear my words. From the day Ulysses left

us there has been no meeting of our councillors until now; who then

can it be, whether old or young, that finds it so necessary to convene

us? Has he got wind of some host approaching, and does he wish to

warn us, or would he speak upon some other matter of public moment?

I am sure he is an excellent person, and I hope Jove will grant him

his heart’s desire.”

Telemachus took this speech as of good omen and rose at once, for

he was bursting with what he had to say. He stood in the middle of

the assembly and the good herald Pisenor brought him his staff. Then,

turning to Aegyptius, “Sir,” said he, “it is I, as you will shortly

learn, who have convened you, for it is I who am the most aggrieved.

I have not got wind of any host approaching about which I would warn

you, nor is there any matter of public moment on which I would speak.

My grieveance is purely personal, and turns on two great misfortunes

which have fallen upon my house. The first of these is the loss of

my excellent father, who was chief among all you here present, and

was like a father to every one of you; the second is much more serious,

and ere long will be the utter ruin of my estate. The sons of all

the chief men among you are pestering my mother to marry them against

her will. They are afraid to go to her father Icarius, asking him

to choose the one he likes best, and to provide marriage gifts for

his daughter, but day by day they keep hanging about my father’s house,

sacrificing our oxen, sheep, and fat goats for their banquets, and

never giving so much as a thought to the quantity of wine they drink.

No estate can stand such recklessness; we have now no Ulysses to ward

off harm from our doors, and I cannot hold my own against them. I

shall never all my days be as good a man as he was, still I would

indeed defend myself if I had power to do so, for I cannot stand such

treatment any longer; my house is being disgraced and ruined. Have

respect, therefore, to your own consciences and to public opinion.

Fear, too, the wrath of heaven, lest the gods should be displeased

and turn upon you. I pray you by Jove and Themis, who is the beginning

and the end of councils, [do not] hold back, my friends, and leave

me singlehanded- unless it be that my brave father Ulysses did some

wrong to the Achaeans which you would now avenge on me, by aiding

and abetting these suitors. Moreover, if I am to be eaten out of house

and home at all, I had rather you did the eating yourselves, for I

could then take action against you to some purpose, and serve you

with notices from house to house till I got paid in full, whereas

now I have no remedy.”

With this Telemachus dashed his staff to the ground and burst into

tears. Every one was very sorry for him, but they all sat still and

no one ventured to make him an angry answer, save only Antinous, who

spoke thus:

“Telemachus, insolent braggart that you are, how dare you try to throw

the blame upon us suitors? It is your mother’s fault not ours, for

she is a very artful woman. This three years past, and close on four,

she has been driving us out of our minds, by encouraging each one

of us, and sending him messages without meaning one word of what she

says. And then there was that other trick she played us. She set up

a great tambour frame in her room, and began to work on an enormous

piece of fine needlework. ‘Sweet hearts,’ said she, ‘Ulysses is indeed

dead, still do not press me to marry again immediately, wait- for

I would not have skill in needlework perish unrecorded- till I have

completed a pall for the hero Laertes, to be in readiness against

the time when death shall take him. He is very rich, and the women

of the place will talk if he is laid out without a pall.’

“This was what she said, and we assented; whereon we could see her

working on her great web all day long, but at night she would unpick

the stitches again by torchlight. She fooled us in this way for three

years and we never found her out, but as time wore on and she was

now in her fourth year, one of her maids who knew what she was doing

told us, and we caught her in the act of undoing her work, so she

had to finish it whether she would or no. The suitors, therefore,

make you this answer, that both you and the Achaeans may understand-‘Send

your mother away, and bid her marry the man of her own and of her

father’s choice’; for I do not know what will happen if she goes on

plaguing us much longer with the airs she gives herself on the score

of the accomplishments Minerva has taught her, and because she is

so clever. We never yet heard of such a woman; we know all about Tyro,

Alcmena, Mycene, and the famous women of old, but they were nothing

to your mother, any one of them. It was not fair of her to treat us

in that way, and as long as she continues in the mind with which heaven

has now endowed her, so long shall we go on eating up your estate;

and I do not see why she should change, for she gets all the honour

and glory, and it is you who pay for it, not she. Understand, then,

that we will not go back to our lands, neither here nor elsewhere,

till she has made her choice and married some one or other of us.”

Telemachus answered, “Antinous, how can I drive the mother who bore

me from my father’s house? My father is abroad and we do not know

whether he is alive or dead. It will be hard on me if I have to pay

Icarius the large sum which I must give him if I insist on sending

his daughter back to him. Not only will he deal rigorously with me,

but heaven will also punish me; for my mother when she leaves the

house will calf on the Erinyes to avenge her; besides, it would not

be a creditable thing to do, and I will have nothing to say to it.

If you choose to take offence at this, leave the house and feast elsewhere

at one another’s houses at your own cost turn and turn about. If,

on the other hand, you elect to persist in spunging upon one man,

heaven help me, but Jove shall reckon with you in full, and when you

fall in my father’s house there shall be no man to avenge you.”

As he spoke Jove sent two eagles from the top of the mountain, and

they flew on and on with the wind, sailing side by side in their own

lordly flight. When they were right over the middle of the assembly

they wheeled and circled about, beating the air with their wings and

glaring death into the eyes of them that were below; then, fighting

fiercely and tearing at one another, they flew off towards the right

over the town. The people wondered as they saw them, and asked each

other what an this might be; whereon Halitherses, who was the best

prophet and reader of omens among them, spoke to them plainly and

in all honesty, saying:

“Hear me, men of Ithaca, and I speak more particularly to the suitors,

for I see mischief brewing for them. Ulysses is not going to be away

much longer; indeed he is close at hand to deal out death and destruction,

not on them alone, but on many another of us who live in Ithaca. Let

us then be wise in time, and put a stop to this wickedness before

he comes. Let the suitors do so of their own accord; it will be better

for them, for I am not prophesying without due knowledge; everything

has happened to Ulysses as I foretold when the Argives set out for

Troy, and he with them. I said that after going through much hardship

and losing all his men he should come home again in the twentieth

year and that no one would know him; and now all this is coming true.”

Eurymachus son of Polybus then said, “Go home, old man, and prophesy

to your own children, or it may be worse for them. I can read these

omens myself much better than you can; birds are always flying about

in the sunshine somewhere or other, but they seldom mean anything.

Ulysses has died in a far country, and it is a pity you are not dead

along with him, instead of prating here about omens and adding fuel

to the anger of Telemachus which is fierce enough as it is. I suppose

you think he will give you something for your family, but I tell you-

and it shall surely be- when an old man like you, who should know

better, talks a young one over till he becomes troublesome, in the

first place his young friend will only fare so much the worse- he

will take nothing by it, for the suitors will prevent this- and in

the next, we will lay a heavier fine, sir, upon yourself than you

will at all like paying, for it will bear hardly upon you. As for

Telemachus, I warn him in the presence of you all to send his mother

back to her father, who will find her a husband and provide her with

all the marriage gifts so dear a daughter may expect. Till we shall

go on harassing him with our suit; for we fear no man, and care neither

for him, with all his fine speeches, nor for any fortune-telling of

yours. You may preach as much as you please, but we shall only hate

you the more. We shall go back and continue to eat up Telemachus’s

estate without paying him, till such time as his mother leaves off

tormenting us by keeping us day after day on the tiptoe of expectation,

each vying with the other in his suit for a prize of such rare perfection.

Besides we cannot go after the other women whom we should marry in

due course, but for the way in which she treats us.”

Then Telemachus said, “Eurymachus, and you other suitors, I shall

say no more, and entreat you no further, for the gods and the people

of Ithaca now know my story. Give me, then, a ship and a crew of twenty

men to take me hither and thither, and I will go to Sparta and to

Pylos in quest of my father who has so long been missing. Some one

may tell me something, or (and people often hear things in this way)

some heaven-sent message may direct me. If I can hear of him as alive

and on his way home I will put up with the waste you suitors will

make for yet another twelve months. If on the other hand I hear of

his death, I will return at once, celebrate his funeral rites with

all due pomp, build a barrow to his memory, and make my mother marry


With these words he sat down, and Mentor who had been a friend of

Ulysses, and had been left in charge of everything with full authority

over the servants, rose to speak. He, then, plainly and in all honesty

addressed them thus:

“Hear me, men of Ithaca, I hope that you may never have a kind and

well-disposed ruler any more, nor one who will govern you equitably;

I hope that all your chiefs henceforward may be cruel and unjust,

for there is not one of you but has forgotten Ulysses, who ruled you

as though he were your father. I am not half so angry with the suitors,

for if they choose to do violence in the naughtiness of their hearts,

and wager their heads that Ulysses will not return, they can take

the high hand and eat up his estate, but as for you others I am shocked

at the way in which you all sit still without even trying to stop

such scandalous goings on-which you could do if you chose, for you

are many and they are few.”

Leiocritus, son of Evenor, answered him saying, “Mentor, what folly

is all this, that you should set the people to stay us? It is a hard

thing for one man to fight with many about his victuals. Even though

Ulysses himself were to set upon us while we are feasting in his house,

and do his best to oust us, his wife, who wants him back so very badly,

would have small cause for rejoicing, and his blood would be upon

his own head if he fought against such great odds. There is no sense

in what you have been saying. Now, therefore, do you people go about

your business, and let his father’s old friends, Mentor and Halitherses,

speed this boy on his journey, if he goes at all- which I do not think

he will, for he is more likely to stay where he is till some one comes

and tells him something.”

On this he broke up the assembly, and every man went back to his own

abode, while the suitors returned to the house of Ulysses.

Then Telemachus went all alone by the sea side, washed his hands in

the grey waves, and prayed to Minerva.

“Hear me,” he cried, “you god who visited me yesterday, and bade me

sail the seas in search of my father who has so long been missing.

I would obey you, but the Achaeans, and more particularly the wicked

suitors, are hindering me that I cannot do so.”

As he thus prayed, Minerva came close up to him in the likeness and

with the voice of Mentor. “Telemachus,” said she, “if you are made

of the same stuff as your father you will be neither fool nor coward

henceforward, for Ulysses never broke his word nor left his work half

done. If, then, you take after him, your voyage will not be fruitless,

but unless you have the blood of Ulysses and of Penelope in your veins

I see no likelihood of your succeeding. Sons are seldom as good men

as their fathers; they are generally worse, not better; still, as

you are not going to be either fool or coward henceforward, and are

not entirely without some share of your father’s wise discernment,

I look with hope upon your undertaking. But mind you never make common

cause with any of those foolish suitors, for they have neither sense

nor virtue, and give no thought to death and to the doom that will

shortly fall on one and all of them, so that they shall perish on

the same day. As for your voyage, it shall not be long delayed; your

father was such an old friend of mine that I will find you a ship,

and will come with you myself. Now, however, return home, and go about

among the suitors; begin getting provisions ready for your voyage;

see everything well stowed, the wine in jars, and the barley meal,

which is the staff of life, in leathern bags, while I go round the

town and beat up volunteers at once. There are many ships in Ithaca

both old and new; I will run my eye over them for you and will choose

the best; we will get her ready and will put out to sea without delay.”

Thus spoke Minerva daughter of Jove, and Telemachus lost no time in

doing as the goddess told him. He went moodily and found the suitors

flaying goats and singeing pigs in the outer court. Antinous came

up to him at once and laughed as he took his hand in his own, saying,

“Telemachus, my fine fire-eater, bear no more ill blood neither in

word nor deed, but eat and drink with us as you used to do. The Achaeans

will find you in everything- a ship and a picked crew to boot- so

that you can set sail for Pylos at once and get news of your noble


“Antinous,” answered Telemachus, “I cannot eat in peace, nor take

pleasure of any kind with such men as you are. Was it not enough that

you should waste so much good property of mine while I was yet a boy?

Now that I am older and know more about it, I am also stronger, and

whether here among this people, or by going to Pylos, I will do you

all the harm I can. I shall go, and my going will not be in vain though,

thanks to you suitors, I have neither ship nor crew of my own, and

must be passenger not captain.”

As he spoke he snatched his hand from that of Antinous. Meanwhile

the others went on getting dinner ready about the buildings, jeering

at him tauntingly as they did so.

“Telemachus,” said one youngster, “means to be the death of us; I

suppose he thinks he can bring friends to help him from Pylos, or

again from Sparta, where he seems bent on going. Or will he go to

Ephyra as well, for poison to put in our wine and kill us?”

Another said, “Perhaps if Telemachus goes on board ship, he will be

like his father and perish far from his friends. In this case we should

have plenty to do, for we could then divide up his property amongst

us: as for the house we can let his mother and the man who marries

her have that.”

This was how they talked. But Telemachus went down into the lofty

and spacious store-room where his father’s treasure of gold and bronze

lay heaped up upon the floor, and where the linen and spare clothes

were kept in open chests. Here, too, there was a store of fragrant

olive oil, while casks of old, well-ripened wine, unblended and fit

for a god to drink, were ranged against the wall in case Ulysses should

come home again after all. The room was closed with well-made doors

opening in the middle; moreover the faithful old house-keeper Euryclea,

daughter of Ops the son of Pisenor, was in charge of everything both

night and day. Telemachus called her to the store-room and said:

“Nurse, draw me off some of the best wine you have, after what you

are keeping for my father’s own drinking, in case, poor man, he should

escape death, and find his way home again after all. Let me have twelve

jars, and see that they all have lids; also fill me some well-sewn

leathern bags with barley meal- about twenty measures in all. Get

these things put together at once, and say nothing about it. I will

take everything away this evening as soon as my mother has gone upstairs

for the night. I am going to Sparta and to Pylos to see if I can hear

anything about the return of my dear father.

When Euryclea heard this she began to cry, and spoke fondly to him,

saying, “My dear child, what ever can have put such notion as that

into your head? Where in the world do you want to go to- you, who

are the one hope of the house? Your poor father is dead and gone in

some foreign country nobody knows where, and as soon as your back

is turned these wicked ones here will be scheming to get you put out

of the way, and will share all your possessions among themselves;

stay where you are among your own people, and do not go wandering

and worrying your life out on the barren ocean.”

“Fear not, nurse,” answered Telemachus, “my scheme is not without

heaven’s sanction; but swear that you will say nothing about all this

to my mother, till I have been away some ten or twelve days, unless

she hears of my having gone, and asks you; for I do not want her to

spoil her beauty by crying.”

The old woman swore most solemnly that she would not, and when she

had completed her oath, she began drawing off the wine into jars,

and getting the barley meal into the bags, while Telemachus went back

to the suitors.

Then Minerva bethought her of another matter. She took his shape,

and went round the town to each one of the crew, telling them to meet

at the ship by sundown. She went also to Noemon son of Phronius, and

asked him to let her have a ship- which he was very ready to do. When

the sun had set and darkness was over all the land, she got the ship

into the water, put all the tackle on board her that ships generally

carry, and stationed her at the end of the harbour. Presently the

crew came up, and the goddess spoke encouragingly to each of them.

Furthermore she went to the house of Ulysses, and threw the suitors

into a deep slumber. She caused their drink to fuddle them, and made

them drop their cups from their hands, so that instead of sitting

over their wine, they went back into the town to sleep, with their

eyes heavy and full of drowsiness. Then she took the form and voice

of Mentor, and called Telemachus to come outside.

“Telemachus,” said she, “the men are on board and at their oars, waiting

for you to give your orders, so make haste and let us be off.”

On this she led the way, while Telemachus followed in her steps. When

they got to the ship they found the crew waiting by the water side,

and Telemachus said, “Now my men, help me to get the stores on board;

they are all put together in the cloister, and my mother does not

know anything about it, nor any of the maid servants except one.”

With these words he led the way and the others followed after. When

they had brought the things as he told them, Telemachus went on board,

Minerva going before him and taking her seat in the stern of the vessel,

while Telemachus sat beside her. Then the men loosed the hawsers and

took their places on the benches. Minerva sent them a fair wind from

the West, that whistled over the deep blue waves whereon Telemachus

told them to catch hold of the ropes and hoist sail, and they did

as he told them. They set the mast in its socket in the cross plank,

raised it, and made it fast with the forestays; then they hoisted

their white sails aloft with ropes of twisted ox hide. As the sail

bellied out with the wind, the ship flew through the deep blue water,

and the foam hissed against her bows as she sped onward. Then they

made all fast throughout the ship, filled the mixing-bowls to the

brim, and made drink offerings to the immortal gods that are from

everlasting, but more particularly to the grey-eyed daughter of Jove.

Thus, then, the ship sped on her way through the watches of the night

from dark till dawn.



But as the sun was rising from the fair sea into the firmament of

heaven to shed light on mortals and immortals, they reached Pylos

the city of Neleus. Now the people of Pylos were gathered on the sea

shore to offer sacrifice of black bulls to Neptune lord of the Earthquake.

There were nine guilds with five hundred men in each, and there were

nine bulls to each guild. As they were eating the inward meats and

burning the thigh bones [on the embers] in the name of Neptune, Telemachus

and his crew arrived, furled their sails, brought their ship to anchor,

and went ashore.

Minerva led the way and Telemachus followed her. Presently she said,

“Telemachus, you must not be in the least shy or nervous; you have

taken this voyage to try and find out where your father is buried

and how he came by his end; so go straight up to Nestor that we may

see what he has got to tell us. Beg of him to speak the truth, and

he will tell no lies, for he is an excellent person.”

“But how, Mentor,” replied Telemachus, “dare I go up to Nestor, and

how am I to address him? I have never yet been used to holding long

conversations with people, and am ashamed to begin questioning one

who is so much older than myself.”

“Some things, Telemachus,” answered Minerva, “will be suggested to

you by your own instinct, and heaven will prompt you further; for

I am assured that the gods have been with you from the time of your

birth until now.”

She then went quickly on, and Telemachus followed in her steps till

they reached the place where the guilds of the Pylian people were

assembled. There they found Nestor sitting with his sons, while his

company round him were busy getting dinner ready, and putting pieces

of meat on to the spits while other pieces were cooking. When they

saw the strangers they crowded round them, took them by the hand and

bade them take their places. Nestor’s son Pisistratus at once offered

his hand to each of them, and seated them on some soft sheepskins

that were lying on the sands near his father and his brother Thrasymedes.

Then he gave them their portions of the inward meats and poured wine

for them into a golden cup, handing it to Minerva first, and saluting

her at the same time.

“Offer a prayer, sir,” said he, “to King Neptune, for it is his feast

that you are joining; when you have duly prayed and made your drink-offering,

pass the cup to your friend that he may do so also. I doubt not that

he too lifts his hands in prayer, for man cannot live without God

in the world. Still he is younger than you are, and is much of an

age with myself, so I he handed I will give you the precedence.”

As he spoke he handed her the cup. Minerva thought it very right and

proper of him to have given it to herself first; she accordingly began

praying heartily to Neptune. “O thou,” she cried, “that encirclest

the earth, vouchsafe to grant the prayers of thy servants that call

upon thee. More especially we pray thee send down thy grace on Nestor

and on his sons; thereafter also make the rest of the Pylian people

some handsome return for the goodly hecatomb they are offering you.

Lastly, grant Telemachus and myself a happy issue, in respect of the

matter that has brought us in our to Pylos.”

When she had thus made an end of praying, she handed the cup to Telemachus

and he prayed likewise. By and by, when the outer meats were roasted

and had been taken off the spits, the carvers gave every man his portion

and they all made an excellent dinner. As soon as they had had enough

to eat and drink, Nestor, knight of Gerene, began to speak.

“Now,” said he, “that our guests have done their dinner, it will be

best to ask them who they are. Who, then, sir strangers, are you,

and from what port have you sailed? Are you traders? or do you sail

the seas as rovers with your hand against every man, and every man’s

hand against you?”

Telemachus answered boldly, for Minerva had given him courage to ask

about his father and get himself a good name.

“Nestor,” said he, “son of Neleus, honour to the Achaean name, you

ask whence we come, and I will tell you. We come from Ithaca under

Neritum, and the matter about which I would speak is of private not

public import. I seek news of my unhappy father Ulysses, who is said

to have sacked the town of Troy in company with yourself. We know

what fate befell each one of the other heroes who fought at Troy,

but as regards Ulysses heaven has hidden from us the knowledge even

that he is dead at all, for no one can certify us in what place he

perished, nor say whether he fell in battle on the mainland, or was

lost at sea amid the waves of Amphitrite. Therefore I am suppliant

at your knees, if haply you may be pleased to tell me of his melancholy

end, whether you saw it with your own eyes, or heard it from some

other traveller, for he was a man born to trouble. Do not soften things

out of any pity for me, but tell me in all plainness exactly what

you saw. If my brave father Ulysses ever did you loyal service, either

by word or deed, when you Achaeans were harassed among the Trojans,

bear it in mind now as in my favour and tell me truly all.”

“My friend,” answered Nestor, “you recall a time of much sorrow to

my mind, for the brave Achaeans suffered much both at sea, while privateering

under Achilles, and when fighting before the great city of king Priam.

Our best men all of them fell there- Ajax, Achilles, Patroclus peer

of gods in counsel, and my own dear son Antilochus, a man singularly

fleet of foot and in fight valiant. But we suffered much more than

this; what mortal tongue indeed could tell the whole story? Though

you were to stay here and question me for five years, or even six,

I could not tell you all that the Achaeans suffered, and you would

turn homeward weary of my tale before it ended. Nine long years did

we try every kind of stratagem, but the hand of heaven was against

us; during all this time there was no one who could compare with your

father in subtlety- if indeed you are his son- I can hardly believe

my eyes- and you talk just like him too- no one would say that people

of such different ages could speak so much alike. He and I never had

any kind of difference from first to last neither in camp nor council,

but in singleness of heart and purpose we advised the Argives how

all might be ordered for the best.

“When however, we had sacked the city of Priam, and were setting sail

in our ships as heaven had dispersed us, then Jove saw fit to vex

the Argives on their homeward voyage; for they had Not all been either

wise or understanding, and hence many came to a bad end through the

displeasure of Jove’s daughter Minerva, who brought about a quarrel

between the two sons of Atreus.

“The sons of Atreus called a meeting which was not as it should be,

for it was sunset and the Achaeans were heavy with wine. When they

explained why they had called- the people together, it seemed that

Menelaus was for sailing homeward at once, and this displeased Agamemnon,

who thought that we should wait till we had offered hecatombs to appease

the anger of Minerva. Fool that he was, he might have known that he

would not prevail with her, for when the gods have made up their minds

they do not change them lightly. So the two stood bandying hard words,

whereon the Achaeans sprang to their feet with a cry that rent the

air, and were of two minds as to what they should do.

“That night we rested and nursed our anger, for Jove was hatching

mischief against us. But in the morning some of us drew our ships

into the water and put our goods with our women on board, while the

rest, about half in number, stayed behind with Agamemnon. We- the

other half- embarked and sailed; and the ships went well, for heaven

had smoothed the sea. When we reached Tenedos we offered sacrifices

to the gods, for we were longing to get home; cruel Jove, however,

did not yet mean that we should do so, and raised a second quarrel

in the course of which some among us turned their ships back again,

and sailed away under Ulysses to make their peace with Agamemnon;

but I, and all the ships that were with me pressed forward, for I

saw that mischief was brewing. The son of Tydeus went on also with

me, and his crews with him. Later on Menelaus joined us at Lesbos,

and found us making up our minds about our course- for we did not

know whether to go outside Chios by the island of Psyra, keeping this

to our left, or inside Chios, over against the stormy headland of

Mimas. So we asked heaven for a sign, and were shown one to the effect

that we should be soonest out of danger if we headed our ships across

the open sea to Euboea. This we therefore did, and a fair wind sprang

up which gave us a quick passage during the night to Geraestus, where

we offered many sacrifices to Neptune for having helped us so far

on our way. Four days later Diomed and his men stationed their ships

in Argos, but I held on for Pylos, and the wind never fell light from

the day when heaven first made it fair for me.

“Therefore, my dear young friend, I returned without hearing anything

about the others. I know neither who got home safely nor who were

lost but, as in duty bound, I will give you without reserve the reports

that have reached me since I have been here in my own house. They

say the Myrmidons returned home safely under Achilles’ son Neoptolemus;

so also did the valiant son of Poias, Philoctetes. Idomeneus, again,

lost no men at sea, and all his followers who escaped death in the

field got safe home with him to Crete. No matter how far out of the

world you live, you will have heard of Agamemnon and the bad end he

came to at the hands of Aegisthus- and a fearful reckoning did Aegisthus

presently pay. See what a good thing it is for a man to leave a son

behind him to do as Orestes did, who killed false Aegisthus the murderer

of his noble father. You too, then- for you are a tall, smart-looking

fellow- show your mettle and make yourself a name in story.”

“Nestor son of Neleus,” answered Telemachus, “honour to the Achaean

name, the Achaeans applaud Orestes and his name will live through

all time for he has avenged his father nobly. Would that heaven might

grant me to do like vengeance on the insolence of the wicked suitors,

who are ill treating me and plotting my ruin; but the gods have no

such happiness in store for me and for my father, so we must bear

it as best we may.”

“My friend,” said Nestor, “now that you remind me, I remember to have

heard that your mother has many suitors, who are ill disposed towards

you and are making havoc of your estate. Do you submit to this tamely,

or are public feeling and the voice of heaven against you? Who knows

but what Ulysses may come back after all, and pay these scoundrels

in full, either single-handed or with a force of Achaeans behind him?

If Minerva were to take as great a liking to you as she did to Ulysses

when we were fighting before Troy (for I never yet saw the gods so

openly fond of any one as Minerva then was of your father), if she

would take as good care of you as she did of him, these wooers would

soon some of them him, forget their wooing.”

Telemachus answered, “I can expect nothing of the kind; it would be

far too much to hope for. I dare not let myself think of it. Even

though the gods themselves willed it no such good fortune could befall


On this Minerva said, “Telemachus, what are you talking about? Heaven

has a long arm if it is minded to save a man; and if it were me, I

should not care how much I suffered before getting home, provided

I could be safe when I was once there. I would rather this, than get

home quickly, and then be killed in my own house as Agamemnon was

by the treachery of Aegisthus and his wife. Still, death is certain,

and when a man’s hour is come, not even the gods can save him, no

matter how fond they are of him.”

“Mentor,” answered Telemachus, “do not let us talk about it any more.

There is no chance of my father’s ever coming back; the gods have

long since counselled his destruction. There is something else, however,

about which I should like to ask Nestor, for he knows much more than

any one else does. They say he has reigned for three generations so

that it is like talking to an immortal. Tell me, therefore, Nestor,

and tell me true; how did Agamemnon come to die in that way? What

was Menelaus doing? And how came false Aegisthus to kill so far better

a man than himself? Was Menelaus away from Achaean Argos, voyaging

elsewhither among mankind, that Aegisthus took heart and killed Agamemnon?”

“I will tell you truly,” answered Nestor, “and indeed you have yourself

divined how it all happened. If Menelaus when he got back from Troy

had found Aegisthus still alive in his house, there would have been

no barrow heaped up for him, not even when he was dead, but he would

have been thrown outside the city to dogs and vultures, and not a

woman would have mourned him, for he had done a deed of great wickedness;

but we were over there, fighting hard at Troy, and Aegisthus who was

taking his ease quietly in the heart of Argos, cajoled Agamemnon’s

wife Clytemnestra with incessant flattery.

“At first she would have nothing to do with his wicked scheme, for

she was of a good natural disposition; moreover there was a bard with

her, to whom Agamemnon had given strict orders on setting out for

Troy, that he was to keep guard over his wife; but when heaven had

counselled her destruction, Aegisthus thus this bard off to a desert

island and left him there for crows and seagulls to batten upon- after

which she went willingly enough to the house of Aegisthus. Then he

offered many burnt sacrifices to the gods, and decorated many temples

with tapestries and gilding, for he had succeeded far beyond his expectations.

“Meanwhile Menelaus and I were on our way home from Troy, on good

terms with one another. When we got to Sunium, which is the point

of Athens, Apollo with his painless shafts killed Phrontis the steersman

of Menelaus’ ship (and never man knew better how to handle a vessel

in rough weather) so that he died then and there with the helm in

his hand, and Menelaus, though very anxious to press forward, had

to wait in order to bury his comrade and give him his due funeral

rites. Presently, when he too could put to sea again, and had sailed

on as far as the Malean heads, Jove counselled evil against him and

made it it blow hard till the waves ran mountains high. Here he divided

his fleet and took the one half towards Crete where the Cydonians

dwell round about the waters of the river Iardanus. There is a high

headland hereabouts stretching out into the sea from a place called

Gortyn, and all along this part of the coast as far as Phaestus the

sea runs high when there is a south wind blowing, but arter Phaestus

the coast is more protected, for a small headland can make a great

shelter. Here this part of the fleet was driven on to the rocks and

wrecked; but the crews just managed to save themselves. As for the

other five ships, they were taken by winds and seas to Egypt, where

Menelaus gathered much gold and substance among people of an alien

speech. Meanwhile Aegisthus here at home plotted his evil deed. For

seven years after he had killed Agamemnon he ruled in Mycene, and

the people were obedient under him, but in the eighth year Orestes

came back from Athens to be his bane, and killed the murderer of his

father. Then he celebrated the funeral rites of his mother and of

false Aegisthus by a banquet to the people of Argos, and on that very

day Menelaus came home, with as much treasure as his ships could carry.

“Take my advice then, and do not go travelling about for long so far

from home, 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. Still, I should advise you by all means

to go and visit Menelaus, who has lately come off a voyage among such

distant peoples as no man could ever hope to get back from, when the

winds had once carried him so far out of his reckoning; even birds

cannot fly the distance in a twelvemonth, so vast and terrible are

the seas that they must cross. Go to him, therefore, by sea, and take

your own men with you; or if you would rather travel by land you can

have a chariot, you can have horses, and here are my sons who can

escort you to Lacedaemon where Menelaus lives. Beg of him to speak

the truth, and he will tell you no lies, for he is an excellent person.”

As he spoke the sun set and it came on dark, whereon Minerva said,

“Sir, all that you have said is well; now, however, order the tongues

of the victims to be cut, and mix wine that we may make drink-offerings

to Neptune, and the other immortals, and then go to bed, for it is

bed time. People should go away early and not keep late hours at a

religious festival.”

Thus spoke the daughter of Jove, and they obeyed her saying. Men servants

poured water over the hands of the guests, while pages filled the

mixing-bowls with wine and water, and handed it round after giving

every man his drink-offering; then they threw the tongues of the victims

into the fire, and stood up to make their drink-offerings. When they

had made their offerings and had drunk each as much as he was minded,

Minerva and Telemachus were forgoing on board their ship, but Nestor

caught them up at once and stayed them.

“Heaven and the immortal gods,” he exclaimed, “forbid that you should

leave my house to go on board of a ship. Do you think I am so poor

and short of clothes, or that I have so few cloaks and as to be unable

to find comfortable beds both for myself and for my guests? Let me

tell you I have store both of rugs and cloaks, and shall not permit

the son of my old friend Ulysses to camp down on the deck of a ship-

not while I live- nor yet will my sons after me, but they will keep

open house as have done.”

Then Minerva answered, “Sir, you have spoken well, and it will be

much better that Telemachus should do as you have said; he, therefore,

shall return with you and sleep at your house, but I must go back

to give orders to my crew, and keep them in good heart. I am the only

older person among them; the rest are all young men of Telemachus’

own age, who have taken this voyage out of friendship; so I must return

to the ship and sleep there. Moreover to-morrow I must go to the Cauconians

where I have a large sum of money long owing to me. As for Telemachus,

now that he is your guest, send him to Lacedaemon in a chariot, and

let one of your sons go with him. Be pleased also to provide him with

your best and fleetest horses.”

When she had thus spoken, she flew away in the form of an eagle, and

all marvelled as they beheld it. Nestor was astonished, and took Telemachus

by the hand. “My friend,” said he, “I see that you are going to be

a great hero some day, since the gods wait upon you thus while you

are still so young. This can have been none other of those who dwell

in heaven than Jove’s redoubtable daughter, the Trito-born, who showed

such favour towards your brave father among the Argives.” “Holy queen,”

he continued, “vouchsafe to send down thy grace upon myself, my good

wife, and my children. In return, I will offer you in sacrifice a

broad-browed heifer of a year old, unbroken, and never yet brought

by man under the yoke. I will gild her horns, and will offer her up

to you in sacrifice.”

Thus did he pray, and Minerva heard his prayer. He then led the way

to his own house, followed by his sons and sons-in-law. When they

had got there and had taken their places on the benches and seats,

he mixed them a bowl of sweet wine that was eleven years old when

the housekeeper took the lid off the jar that held it. As he mixed

the wine, he prayed much and made drink-offerings to Minerva, daughter

of Aegis-bearing Jove. Then, when they had made their drink-offerings

and had drunk each as much as he was minded, the others went home

to bed each in his own abode; but Nestor put Telemachus to sleep in

the room that was over the gateway along with Pisistratus, who was

the only unmarried son now left him. As for himself, he slept in an

inner room of the house, with the queen his wife by his side.

Now when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, Nestor

left his couch and took his seat on the benches of white and polished

marble that stood in front of his house. Here aforetime sat Neleus,

peer of gods in counsel, but he was now dead, and had gone to the

house of Hades; so Nestor sat in his seat, sceptre in hand, as guardian

of the public weal. His sons as they left their rooms gathered round

him, Echephron, Stratius, Perseus, Aretus, and Thrasymedes; the sixth

son was Pisistratus, and when Telemachus joined them they made him

sit with them. Nestor then addressed them.

“My sons,” said he, “make haste to do as I shall bid you. I wish first

and foremost to propitiate the great goddess Minerva, who manifested

herself visibly to me during yesterday’s festivities. Go, then, one

or other of you to the plain, tell the stockman to look me out a heifer,

and come on here with it at once. Another must go to Telemachus’s

ship, and invite all the crew, leaving two men only in charge of the

vessel. Some one else will run and fetch Laerceus the goldsmith to

gild the horns of the heifer. The rest, stay all of you where you

are; tell the maids in the house to prepare an excellent dinner, and

to fetch seats, and logs of wood for a burnt offering. Tell them also-

to bring me some clear spring water.”

On this they hurried off on their several errands. The heifer was

brought in from the plain, and Telemachus’s crew came from the ship;

the goldsmith brought the anvil, hammer, and tongs, with which he

worked his gold, and Minerva herself came to the sacrifice. Nestor

gave out the gold, and the smith gilded the horns of the heifer that

the goddess might have pleasure in their beauty. Then Stratius and

Echephron brought her in by the horns; Aretus fetched water from the

house in a ewer that had a flower pattern on it, and in his other

hand he held a basket of barley meal; sturdy Thrasymedes stood by

with a sharp axe, ready to strike the heifer, while Perseus held a

bucket. Then Nestor began with washing his hands and sprinkling the

barley meal, and he offered many a prayer to Minerva as he threw a

lock from the heifer’s head upon the fire.

When they had done praying and sprinkling the barley meal Thrasymedes

dealt his blow, and brought the heifer down with a stroke that cut

through the tendons at the base of her neck, whereon the daughters

and daughters-in-law of Nestor, and his venerable wife Eurydice (she

was eldest daughter to Clymenus) screamed with delight. Then they

lifted the heifer’s head from off the ground, and Pisistratus cut

her throat. When she had done bleeding and was quite dead, they cut

her up. They cut out the thigh bones all in due course, wrapped them

round in two layers of fat, and set some pieces of raw meat on the

top of them; then Nestor laid them upon the wood fire and poured wine

over them, while the young men stood near him with five-pronged spits

in their hands. When the thighs were burned and they had tasted the

inward meats, they cut the rest of the meat up small, put the pieces

on the spits and toasted them over the fire.

Meanwhile lovely Polycaste, Nestor’s youngest daughter, washed Telemachus.

When she had washed him and anointed him with oil, she brought him

a fair mantle and shirt, and he looked like a god as he came from

the bath and took his seat by the side of Nestor. When the outer meats

were done they drew them off the spits and sat down to dinner where

they were waited upon by some worthy henchmen, who kept pouring them

out their wine in cups of gold. As soon as they had had had enough

to eat and drink Nestor said, “Sons, put Telemachus’s horses to the

chariot that he may start at once.”

Thus did he speak, and they did even as he had said, and yoked the

fleet horses to the chariot. The housekeeper packed them up a provision

of bread, wine, and sweetmeats fit for the sons of princes. Then Telemachus

got into the chariot, while Pisistratus gathered up the reins and

took his seat beside him. He lashed the horses on and they flew forward

nothing loth into the open country, leaving the high citadel of Pylos

behind them. All that day did they travel, swaying the yoke upon their

necks till the sun went down and darkness was over all the land. Then

they reached Pherae where Diocles lived, who was son to Ortilochus

and grandson to Alpheus. Here they passed the night and Diocles entertained

them hospitably. When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn; appeared,

they again yoked their horses and drove out through the gateway under

the echoing gatehouse. Pisistratus lashed the horses on and they flew

forward nothing loth; presently they came to the corn lands Of the

open country, and in the course of time completed their journey, so

well did their steeds take them.

Now when the sun had set and darkness was over the land,



They reached the low lying city of Lacedaemon them where they drove

straight to the of abode Menelaus [and found him in his own house,

feasting with his many clansmen in honour of the wedding of his son,

and also of his daughter, whom he was marrying to the son of that

valiant warrior Achilles. He had given his consent and promised her

to him while he was still at Troy, and now the gods were bringing

the marriage about; so he was sending her with chariots and horses

to the city of the Myrmidons over whom Achilles’ son was reigning.

For his only son he had found a bride from Sparta, daughter of Alector.

This son, Megapenthes, was born to him of a bondwoman, for heaven

vouchsafed Helen no more children after she had borne Hermione, who

was fair as golden Venus herself.

So the neighbours and kinsmen of Menelaus were feasting and making

merry in his house. There was a bard also to sing to them and play

his lyre, while two tumblers went about performing in the midst of

them when the man struck up with his tune.]

Telemachus and the son of Nestor stayed their horses at the gate,

whereon Eteoneus servant to Menelaus came out, and as soon as he saw

them ran hurrying back into the house to tell his Master. He went

close up to him and said, “Menelaus, there are some strangers come

here, two men, who look like sons of Jove. What are we to do? Shall

we take their horses out, or tell them to find friends elsewhere as

they best can?”

Menelaus was very angry and said, “Eteoneus, son of Boethous, you

never used to be a fool, but now you talk like a simpleton. Take their

horses out, of course, and show the strangers in that they may have

supper; you and I have stayed often enough at other people’s houses

before we got back here, where heaven grant that we may rest in peace


So Eteoneus bustled back and bade other servants come with him. They

took their sweating hands from under the yoke, made them fast to the

mangers, and gave them a feed of oats and barley mixed. Then they

leaned the chariot against the end wall of the courtyard, and led

the way into the house. Telemachus and Pisistratus were astonished

when they saw it, for its splendour was as that of the sun and moon;

then, when they had admired everything to their heart’s content, they

went into the bath room and washed themselves.

When the servants had washed them and anointed them with oil, they

brought them woollen cloaks and shirts, and the two took their seats

by the side of Menelaus. A maidservant 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, while the carver fetched them plates of all manner of meats

and set cups of gold by their side.

Menelaus then greeted them saying, “Fall to, and welcome; when you

have done supper I shall ask who you are, for the lineage of such

men as you cannot have been lost. You must be descended from a line

of sceptre-bearing kings, for poor people do not have such sons as

you are.”

On this he handed them a piece of fat roast loin, which had been set

near him as being a prime part, and they laid their hands on the good

things that were before them; as soon as they had had enough to eat

and drink, Telemachus said to the son of Nestor, with his head so

close that no one might hear, “Look, Pisistratus, man after my own

heart, see the gleam of bronze and gold- of amber, ivory, and silver.

Everything is so splendid that it is like seeing the palace of Olympian

Jove. I am lost in admiration.”

Menelaus overheard him and said, “No one, my sons, can hold his own

with Jove, for his house and everything about him is immortal; but

among mortal men- well, there may be another who has as much wealth

as I have, or there may not; but at all events I have travelled much

and have undergone much hardship, for it was nearly eight years before

I could get home with my fleet. I went to Cyprus, Phoenicia and the

Egyptians; I went also to the Ethiopians, the Sidonians, and the Erembians,

and to Libya where the lambs have horns as soon as they are born,

and the sheep lamb down three times a year. Every one in that country,

whether master or man, has plenty of cheese, meat, and good milk,

for the ewes yield all the year round. But while I was travelling

and getting great riches among these people, my brother was secretly

and shockingly murdered through the perfidy of his wicked wife, so

that I have no pleasure in being lord of all this wealth. Whoever

your parents may be they must have told you about all this, and of

my heavy loss in the ruin of a stately mansion fully and magnificently

furnished. Would that I had only a third of what I now have so that

I had stayed at home, and all those were living who perished on the

plain of Troy, far from Argos. I of grieve, as I sit here in my house,

for one and all of them. At times I cry aloud for sorrow, but presently

I leave off again, for crying is cold comfort and one soon tires of

it. Yet grieve for these as I may, I do so for one man more than for

them all. I cannot even think of him without loathing both food and

sleep, so miserable does he make me, for no one of all the Achaeans

worked so hard or risked so much as he did. He took nothing by it,

and has left a legacy of sorrow to myself, for he has been gone a

long time, and we know not whether he is alive or dead. His old father,

his long-suffering wife Penelope, and his son Telemachus, whom he

left behind him an infant in arms, are plunged in grief on his account.”

Thus spoke Menelaus, and the heart of Telemachus yearned as he bethought

him of his father. Tears fell from his eyes as he heard him thus mentioned,

so that he held his cloak before his face with both hands. When Menelaus

saw this he doubted whether to let him choose his own time for speaking,

or to ask him at once and find what it was all about.

While he was thus in two minds Helen came down from her high vaulted

and perfumed room, looking as lovely as Diana herself. Adraste brought

her a seat, Alcippe a soft woollen rug while Phylo fetched her the

silver work-box which Alcandra wife of Polybus had given her. Polybus

lived in Egyptian Thebes, which is the richest city in the whole world;

he gave Menelaus two baths, both of pure silver, two tripods, and

ten talents of gold; besides all this, his wife gave Helen some beautiful

presents, to wit, a golden distaff, and a silver work-box that ran

on wheels, with a gold band round the top of it. Phylo now placed

this by her side, full of fine spun yarn, and a distaff charged with

violet coloured wool was laid upon the top of it. Then Helen took

her seat, put her feet upon the footstool, and began to question her


“Do we know, Menelaus,” said she, “the names of these strangers who

have come to visit us? Shall I guess right or wrong?-but I cannot

help saying what I think. Never yet have I seen either man or woman

so like somebody else (indeed when I look at him I hardly know what

to think) as this young man is like Telemachus, whom Ulysses left

as a baby behind him, when you Achaeans went to Troy with battle in

your hearts, on account of my most shameless self.”

“My dear wife,” replied Menelaus, “I see the likeness just as you

do. His hands and feet are just like Ulysses’; so is his hair, with

the shape of his head and the expression of his eyes. Moreover, when

I was talking about Ulysses, and saying how much he had suffered on

my account, tears fell from his eyes, and he hid his face in his mantle.”

Then Pisistratus said, “Menelaus, son of Atreus, you are right in

thinking that this young man is Telemachus, but he is very modest,

and is ashamed to come here and begin opening up discourse with one

whose conversation is so divinely interesting as your own. My father,

Nestor, sent me to escort him hither, for he wanted to know whether

you could give him any counsel or suggestion. A son has always trouble

at home when his father has gone away leaving him without supporters;

and this is how Telemachus is now placed, for his father is absent,

and there is no one among his own people to stand by him.”

“Bless my heart,” replied Menelaus, “then I am receiving a visit from

the son of a very dear friend, who suffered much hardship for my sake.

I had always hoped to entertain him with most marked distinction when

heaven had granted us a safe return from beyond the seas. I should

have founded a city for him in Argos, and built him a house. I should

have made him leave Ithaca with his goods, his son, and all his people,

and should have sacked for them some one of the neighbouring cities

that are subject to me. We should thus have seen one another continually,

and nothing but death could have interrupted so close and happy an

intercourse. I suppose, however, that heaven grudged us such great

good fortune, for it has prevented the poor fellow from ever getting

home at all.”

Thus did he speak, and his words set them all a weeping. Helen wept,

Telemachus wept, and so did Menelaus, nor could Pisistratus keep his

eyes from filling, when he remembered his dear brother Antilochus

whom the son of bright Dawn had killed. Thereon he said to Menelaus,

“Sir, my father Nestor, when we used to talk about you at home, told

me you were a person of rare and excellent understanding. If, then,

it be possible, do as I would urge you. I am not fond of crying while

I am getting my supper. Morning will come in due course, and in the

forenoon I care not how much I cry for those that are dead and gone.

This is all we can do for the poor things. We can only shave our heads

for them and wring the tears from our cheeks. I had a brother who

died at Troy; he was by no means the worst man there; you are sure

to have known him- his name was Antilochus; I never set eyes upon

him myself, but they say that he was singularly fleet of foot and

in fight valiant.”

“Your discretion, my friend,” answered Menelaus, “is beyond your years.

It is plain you take after your father. One can soon see when a man

is son to one whom heaven has blessed both as regards wife and offspring-

and it has blessed Nestor from first to last all his days, giving

him a green old age in his own house, with sons about him who are

both we disposed and valiant. We will put an end therefore to all

this weeping, and attend to our supper again. Let water be poured

over our hands. Telemachus and I can talk with one another fully in

the morning.”

On this Asphalion, one of the servants, poured water over their hands

and they laid their hands on the good things that were before them.

Then Jove’s daughter Helen bethought her of another matter. She drugged

the wine with an herb that banishes all care, sorrow, and ill humour.

Whoever drinks wine thus drugged cannot shed a single tear all the

rest of the day, not even though his father and mother both of them

drop down dead, or he sees a brother or a son hewn in pieces before

his very eyes. This drug, of such sovereign power and virtue, had

been given to Helen by Polydamna wife of Thon, a woman of Egypt, where

there grow all sorts of herbs, some good to put into the mixing-bowl

and others poisonous. Moreover, every one in the whole country is

a skilled physician, for they are of the race of Paeeon. When Helen

had put this drug in the bowl, and had told the servants to serve

the wine round, she said:

“Menelaus, son of Atreus, and you my good friends, sons of honourable

men (which is as Jove wills, for he is the giver both of good and

evil, and can do what he chooses), feast here as you will, and listen

while I tell you a tale in season. I cannot indeed name every single

one of the exploits of Ulysses, but I can say what he did when he

was before Troy, and you Achaeans were in all sorts of difficulties.

He covered himself with wounds and bruises, dressed himself all in

rags, and entered the enemy’s city looking like a menial or a beggar.

and quite different from what he did when he was among his own people.

In this disguise he entered the city of Troy, and no one said anything

to him. I alone recognized him and began to question him, but he was

too cunning for me. When, however, I had washed and anointed him and

had given him clothes, and after I had sworn a solemn oath not to

betray him to the Trojans till he had got safely back to his own camp

and to the ships, he told me all that the Achaeans meant to do. He

killed many Trojans and got much information before he reached the

Argive camp, for all which things the Trojan women made lamentation,

but for my own part I was glad, for my heart was beginning to oam

after my home, and I was unhappy about wrong that Venus had done me

in taking me over there, away from my country, my girl, and my lawful

wedded husband, who is indeed by no means deficient either in person

or understanding.”

Then Menelaus said, “All that you have been saying, my dear wife,

is true. I have travelled much, and have had much to do with heroes,

but I have never seen such another man as Ulysses. What endurance

too, and what courage he displayed within the wooden horse, wherein

all the bravest of the Argives were lying in wait to bring death and

destruction upon the Trojans. At that moment you came up to us; some

god who wished well to the Trojans must have set you on to it and

you had Deiphobus with you. Three times did you go all round our hiding

place and pat it; you called our chiefs each by his own name, and

mimicked all our wives -Diomed, Ulysses, and I from our seats inside

heard what a noise you made. Diomed and I could not make up our minds

whether to spring out then and there, or to answer you from inside,

but Ulysses held us all in check, so we sat quite still, all except

Anticlus, who was beginning to answer you, when Ulysses clapped his

two brawny hands over his mouth, and kept them there. It was this

that saved us all, for he muzzled Anticlus till Minerva took you away


“How sad,” exclaimed Telemachus, “that all this was of no avail to

save him, nor yet his own iron courage. But now, sir, be pleased to

send us all to bed, that we may lie down and enjoy the blessed boon

of sleep.”

On this Helen told the maid servants to set beds in the room that

was in the gatehouse, and to make them with good red rugs, and spread

coverlets on the top of them with woollen cloaks for the guests to

wear. So the maids went out, carrying a torch, and made the beds,

to which a man-servant presently conducted the strangers. Thus, then,

did Telemachus and Pisistratus sleep there in the forecourt, while

the son of Atreus lay in an inner room with lovely Helen by his side.

When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, Menelaus

rose and dressed himself. He bound his sandals on to his comely feet,

girded his sword about his shoulders, and left his room looking like

an immortal god. Then, taking a seat near Telemachus he said:

“And what, Telemachus, has led you to take this long sea voyage to

Lacedaemon? Are you on public or private business? Tell me all about


“I have come, sir replied Telemachus, “to see if you can tell me anything

about my father. I am being eaten out of house and home; my fair estate

is being wasted, and my house is full of miscreants who keep killing

great numbers of my sheep and oxen, on the pretence of paying their

addresses to my mother. Therefore, I am suppliant at your knees if

haply you may tell me about my father’s melancholy end, whether you

saw it with your own eyes, or heard it from some other traveller;

for he was a man born to trouble. Do not soften things out of any

pity for myself, but tell me in all plainness exactly what you saw.

If my brave father Ulysses ever did you loyal service either by word

or deed, when you Achaeans were harassed by the Trojans, bear it in

mind now as in my favour and tell me truly all.”

Menelaus on hearing this was very much shocked. “So,” he exclaimed,

“these cowards would usurp a brave man’s bed? A hind might as well

lay her new born young in the lair of a lion, and then go off to feed

in the forest or in some grassy dell: the lion when he comes back

to his lair will make short work with the pair of them- and so will

Ulysses with these suitors. By father Jove, Minerva, and Apollo, if

Ulysses is still the man that he was when he wrestled with Philomeleides

in Lesbos, and threw him so heavily that all the Achaeans cheered

him- if he is still such and were to come near these suitors, they

would have a short shrift and a sorry wedding. As regards your questions,

however, I will not prevaricate nor deceive you, but will tell you

without concealment all that the old man of the sea told me.

“I was trying to come on here, but the gods detained me in Egypt,

for my hecatombs had not given them full satisfaction, and the gods

are very strict about having their dues. Now off Egypt, about as far

as a ship can sail in a day with a good stiff breeze behind her, there

is an island called Pharos- it has a good harbour from which vessels

can get out into open sea when they have taken in water- and the gods

becalmed me twenty days without so much as a breath of fair wind to

help me forward. We should have run clean out of provisions and my

men would have starved, if a goddess had not taken pity upon me and

saved me in the person of Idothea, daughter to Proteus, the old man

of the sea, for she had taken a great fancy to me.

“She came to me one day when I was by myself, as I often was, for

the men used to go with their barbed hooks, all over the island in

the hope of catching a fish or two to save them from the pangs of

hunger. ‘Stranger,’ said she, ‘it seems to me that you like starving

in this way- at any rate it does not greatly trouble you, for you

stick here day after day, without even trying to get away though your

men are dying by inches.’

“‘Let me tell you,’ said I, ‘whichever of the goddesses you may happen

to be, that I am not staying here of my own accord, but must have

offended the gods that live in heaven. Tell me, therefore, for the

gods know everything. which of the immortals it is that is hindering

me in this way, and tell me also how I may sail the sea so as to reach

my home.’

“‘Stranger,’ replied she, ‘I will make it all quite clear to you.

There is an old immortal who lives under the sea hereabouts and whose

name is Proteus. He is an Egyptian, and people say he is my father;

he is Neptune’s head man and knows every inch of ground all over the

bottom of the sea. If you can snare him and hold him tight, he will

tell you about your voyage, what courses you are to take, and how

you are to sail the sea so as to reach your home. He will also tell

you, if you so will, all that has been going on at your house both

good and bad, while you have been away on your long and dangerous


“‘Can you show me,’ said I, ‘some stratagem by means of which I may

catch this old god without his suspecting it and finding me out? For

a god is not easily caught- not by a mortal man.’

“‘Stranger,’ said she, ‘I will make it all quite clear to you. About

the time when the sun shall have reached mid heaven, the old man of

the sea comes up from under the waves, heralded by the West wind that

furs the water over his head. As soon as he has come up he lies down,

and goes to sleep in a great sea cave, where the seals- Halosydne’s

chickens as they call them- come up also from the grey sea, and go

to sleep in shoals all round him; and a very strong and fish-like

smell do they bring with them. Early to-morrow morning I will take

you to this place and will lay you in ambush. Pick out, therefore,

the three best men you have in your fleet, and I will tell you all

the tricks that the old man will play you.

“‘First he will look over all his seals, and count them; then, when

he has seen them and tallied them on his five fingers, he will go

to sleep among them, as a shepherd among his sheep. The moment you

see that he is asleep seize him; put forth all your strength and hold

him fast, for he will do his very utmost to get away from you. He

will turn himself into every kind of creature that goes upon the earth,

and will become also both fire and water; but you must hold him fast

and grip him tighter and tighter, till he begins to talk to you and

comes back to what he was when you saw him go to sleep; then you may

slacken your hold and let him go; and you can ask him which of the

gods it is that is angry with you, and what you must do to reach your

home over the seas.’

“Having so said she dived under the waves, whereon I turned back to

the place where my ships were ranged upon the shore; and my heart

was clouded with care as I went along. When I reached my ship we got

supper ready, for night was falling, and camped down upon the beach.

“When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, I took the

three men on whose prowess of all kinds I could most rely, and went

along by the sea-side, praying heartily to heaven. Meanwhile the goddess

fetched me up four seal skins from the bottom of the sea, all of them

just skinned, for she meant playing a trick upon her father. Then

she dug four pits for us to lie in, and sat down to wait till we should

come up. When we were close to her, she made us lie down in the pits

one after the other, and threw a seal skin over each of us. Our ambuscade

would have been intolerable, for the stench of the fishy seals was

most distressing- who would go to bed with a sea monster if he could

help it?-but here, too, the goddess helped us, and thought of something

that gave us great relief, for she put some ambrosia under each man’s

nostrils, which was so fragrant that it killed the smell of the seals.

“We waited the whole morning and made the best of it, watching the

seals come up in hundreds to bask upon the sea shore, till at noon

the old man of the sea came up too, and when he had found his fat

seals he went over them and counted them. We were among the first

he counted, and he never suspected any guile, but laid himself down

to sleep as soon as he had done counting. Then we rushed upon him

with a shout and seized him; on which he began at once with his old

tricks, and changed himself first into a lion with a great mane; then

all of a sudden he became a dragon, a leopard, a wild boar; the next

moment he was running water, and then again directly he was a tree,

but we stuck to him and never lost hold, till at last the cunning

old creature became distressed, and said, Which of the gods was it,

Son of Atreus, that hatched this plot with you for snaring me and

seizing me against my will? What do you want?’

“‘You know that yourself, old man,’ I answered, ‘you will gain nothing

by trying to put me off. It is because I have been kept so long in

this island, and see no sign of my being able to get away. I am losing

all heart; tell me, then, for you gods know everything, which of the

immortals it is that is hindering me, and tell me also how I may sail

the sea so as to reach my home?’

“Then,’ he said, ‘if you would finish your voyage and get home quickly,

you must offer sacrifices to Jove and to the rest of the gods before

embarking; for it is decreed that you shall not get back to your friends,

and to your own house, till you have returned to the heaven fed stream

of Egypt, and offered holy hecatombs to the immortal gods that reign

in heaven. When you have done this they will let you finish your voyage.’

“I was broken hearted when I heard that I must go back all that long

and terrible voyage to Egypt; nevertheless, I answered, ‘I will do

all, old man, that you have laid upon me; but now tell me, and tell

me true, whether all the Achaeans whom Nestor and I left behind us

when we set sail from Troy have got home safely, or whether any one

of them came to a bad end either on board his own ship or among his

friends when the days of his fighting were done.’

“‘Son of Atreus,’ he answered, ‘why ask me? You had better not know

what I can tell you, for your eyes will surely fill when you have

heard my story. Many of those about whom you ask are dead and gone,

but many still remain, and only two of the chief men among the Achaeans

perished during their return home. As for what happened on the field

of battle- you were there yourself. A third Achaean leader is still

at sea, alive, but hindered from returning. Ajax was wrecked, for

Neptune drove him on to the great rocks of Gyrae; nevertheless, he

let him get safe out of the water, and in spite of all Minerva’s hatred

he would have escaped death, if he had not ruined himself by boasting.

He said the gods could not drown him even though they had tried to

do so, and when Neptune heard this large talk, he seized his trident

in his two brawny hands, and split the rock of Gyrae in two pieces.

The base remained where it was, but the part on which Ajax was sitting

fell headlong into the sea and carried Ajax with it; so he drank salt

water and was drowned.

“‘Your brother and his ships escaped, for Juno protected him, but

when he was just about to reach the high promontory of Malea, he was

caught by a heavy gale which carried him out to sea again sorely against

his will, and drove him to the foreland where Thyestes used to dwell,

but where Aegisthus was then living. By and by, however, it seemed

as though he was to return safely after all, for the gods backed the

wind into its old quarter and they reached home; whereon Agamemnon

kissed his native soil, and shed tears of joy at finding himself in

his own country.

“‘Now there was a watchman whom Aegisthus kept always on the watch,

and to whom he had promised two talents of gold. This man had been

looking out for a whole year to make sure that Agamemnon did not give

him the slip and prepare war; when, therefore, this man saw Agamemnon

go by, he went and told Aegisthus who at once began to lay a plot

for him. He picked twenty of his bravest warriors and placed them

in ambuscade on one side the cloister, while on the opposite side

he prepared a banquet. Then he sent his chariots and horsemen to Agamemnon,

and invited him to the feast, but he meant foul play. He got him there,

all unsuspicious of the doom that was awaiting him, and killed him

when the banquet was over as though he were butchering an ox in the

shambles; not one of Agamemnon’s followers was left alive, nor yet

one of Aegisthus’, but they were all killed there in the cloisters.’

“Thus spoke Proteus, and I was broken hearted as I heard him. I sat

down upon the sands and wept; I felt as though I could no longer bear

to live nor look upon the light of the sun. Presently, when I had

had my fill of weeping and writhing upon the ground, the old man of

the sea said, ‘Son of Atreus, do not waste any more time in crying

so bitterly; it can do no manner of good; find your way home as fast

as ever you can, for Aegisthus be still alive, and even though Orestes

has beforehand with you in kilting him, you may yet come in for his


“On this I took comfort in spite of all my sorrow, and said, ‘I know,

then, about these two; tell me, therefore, about the third man of

whom you spoke; is he still alive, but at sea, and unable to get home?

or is he dead? Tell me, no matter how much it may grieve me.’

“‘The third man,’ he answered, ‘is Ulysses who dwells in Ithaca. I

can see him in an island sorrowing bitterly in the house of the nymph

Calypso, who is keeping him prisoner, and he cannot reach his home

for he has no ships nor sailors to take him over the sea. As for your

own end, Menelaus, you shall not die in Argos, but the gods will take

you to the Elysian plain, which is at the ends of the world. There

fair-haired Rhadamanthus reigns, and men lead an easier life than

any where else in the world, for in Elysium there falls not rain,

nor hail, nor snow, but Oceanus breathes ever with a West wind that

sings softly from the sea, and gives fresh life to all men. This will

happen to you because you have married Helen, and are Jove’s son-in-law.’

“As he spoke he dived under the waves, whereon I turned back to the

ships with my companions, and my heart was clouded with care as I

went along. When we reached the ships we got supper ready, for night

was falling, and camped down upon the beach. When the child of morning,

rosy-fingered Dawn appeared, we drew our ships into the water, and

put our masts and sails within them; then we went on board ourselves,

took our seats on the benches, and smote the grey sea with our oars.

I again stationed my ships in the heaven-fed stream of Egypt, and

offered hecatombs that were full and sufficient. When I had thus appeased

heaven’s anger, I raised a barrow to the memory of Agamemnon that

his name might live for ever, after which I had a quick passage home,

for the gods sent me a fair wind.

“And now for yourself- stay here some ten or twelve days longer, and

I will then speed you on your way. I will make you a noble present

of a chariot and three horses. I will also give you a beautiful chalice

that so long as you live you may think of me whenever you make a drink-offering

to the immortal gods.”

“Son of Atreus,” replied Telemachus, “do not press me to stay longer;

I should be contented to remain with you for another twelve months;

I find your conversation so delightful that I should never once wish

myself at home with my parents; but my crew whom I have left at Pylos

are already impatient, and you are detaining me from them. As for

any present you may be disposed to make me, I had rather that it should

he a piece of plate. I will take no horses back with me to Ithaca,

but will leave them to adorn your own stables, for you have much flat

ground in your kingdom where lotus thrives, as also meadowsweet and

wheat and barley, and oats with their white and spreading ears; whereas

in Ithaca we have neither open fields nor racecourses, and the country

is more fit for goats than horses, and I like it the better for that.

None of our islands have much level ground, suitable for horses, and

Ithaca least of all.”

Menelaus smiled and took Telemachus’s hand within his own. “What you

say,” said he, “shows that you come of good family. I both can, and

will, make this exchange for you, by giving you the finest and most

precious piece of plate in all my house. It is a mixing-bowl by Vulcan’s

own hand, of pure silver, except the rim, which is inlaid with gold.

Phaedimus, king of the Sidonians, gave it me in the course of a visit

which I paid him when I returned thither on my homeward journey. I

will make you a present of it.”

Thus did they converse [and guests kept coming to the king’s house.

They brought sheep and wine, while their wives had put up bread for

them to take with them; so they were busy cooking their dinners in

the courts].

Meanwhile the suitors were throwing discs or aiming with spears at

a mark on the levelled ground in front of Ulysses’ house, and were

behaving with all their old insolence. Antinous and Eurymachus, who

were their ringleaders and much the foremost among them all, were

sitting together when Noemon son of Phronius came up and said to Antinous,

“Have we any idea, Antinous, on what day Telemachus returns from Pylos?

He has a ship of mine, and I want it, to cross over to Elis: I have

twelve brood mares there with yearling mule foals by their side not

yet broken in, and I want to bring one of them over here and break


They were astounded when they heard this, for they had made sure that

Telemachus had not gone to the city of Neleus. They thought he was

only away somewhere on the farms, and was with the sheep, or with

the swineherd; so Antinous said, “When did he go? Tell me truly, and

what young men did he take with him? Were they freemen or his own

bondsmen- for he might manage that too? Tell me also, did you let

him have the ship of your own free will because he asked you, or did

he take it without yourleave?”

“I lent it him,” answered Noemon, “what else could I do when a man

of his position said he was in a difficulty, and asked me to oblige

him? I could not possibly refuse. As for those who went with him they

were the best young men we have, and I saw Mentor go on board as captain-

or some god who was exactly like him. I cannot understand it, for

I saw Mentor here myself yesterday morning, and yet he was then setting

out for Pylos.”

Noemon then went back to his father’s house, but Antinous and Eurymachus

were very angry. They told the others to leave off playing, and to

come and sit down along with themselves. When they came, Antinous

son of Eupeithes spoke in anger. His heart was black with rage, and

his eyes flashed fire as he said:

“Good heavens, this voyage of Telemachus is a very serious matter;

we had made sure that it would come to nothing, but the young fellow

has got away in spite of us, and with a picked crew too. He will be

giving us trouble presently; may Jove take him before he is full grown.

Find me a ship, therefore, with a crew of twenty men, and I will lie

in wait for him in the straits between Ithaca and Samos; he will then

rue the day that he set out to try and get news of his father.”

Thus did he speak, and the others applauded his saying; they then

all of them went inside the buildings.

It was not long ere Penelope came to know what the suitors were plotting;

for a man servant, Medon, overheard them from outside the outer court

as they were laying their schemes within, and went to tell his mistress.

As he crossed the threshold of her room Penelope said: “Medon, what

have the suitors sent you here for? Is it to tell the maids to leave

their master’s business and cook dinner for them? I wish they may

neither woo nor dine henceforward, neither here nor anywhere else,

but let this be the very last time, for the waste you all make of

my son’s estate. Did not your fathers tell you when you were children

how good Ulysses had been to them- never doing anything high-handed,

nor speaking harshly to anybody? Kings may say things sometimes, and

they may take a fancy to one man and dislike another, but Ulysses

never did an unjust thing by anybody- which shows what bad hearts

you have, and that there is no such thing as gratitude left in this


Then Medon said, “I wish, Madam, that this were all; but they are

plotting something much more dreadful now- may heaven frustrate their

design. They are going to try and murder Telemachus as he is coming

home from Pylos and Lacedaemon, where he has been to get news of his


Then Penelope’s heart sank within her, and for a long time she was

speechless; her eyes filled with tears, and she could find no utterance.

At last, however, she said, “Why did my son leave me? What business

had he to go sailing off in ships that make long voyages over the

ocean like sea-horses? Does he want to die without leaving any one

behind him to keep up his name?”

“I do not know,” answered Medon, “whether some god set him on to it,

or whether he went on his own impulse to see if he could find out

if his father was dead, or alive and on his way home.”

Then he went downstairs again, leaving Penelope in an agony of grief.

There were plenty of seats in the house, but she. had no heart for

sitting on any one of them; she could only fling herself on the floor

of her own room and cry; whereon all the maids in the house, both

old and young, gathered round her and began to cry too, till at last

in a transport of sorrow she exclaimed,

“My dears, heaven has been pleased to try me with more affliction

than any other woman of my age and country. First I lost my brave

and lion-hearted husband, who had every good quality under heaven,

and whose name was great over all Hellas and middle Argos, and now

my darling son is at the mercy of the winds and waves, without my

having heard one word about his leaving home. You hussies, there was

not one of you would so much as think of giving me a call out of my

bed, though you all of you very well knew when he was starting. If

I had known he meant taking this voyage, he would have had to give

it up, no matter how much he was bent upon it, or leave me a corpse

behind him- one or other. Now, however, go some of you and call old

Dolius, who was given me by my father on my marriage, and who is my

gardener. Bid him go at once and tell everything to Laertes, who may

be able to hit on some plan for enlisting public sympathy on our side,

as against those who are trying to exterminate his own race and that

of Ulysses.”

Then the dear old nurse Euryclea said, “You may kill me, Madam, or

let me live on in your house, whichever you please, but I will tell

you the real truth. I knew all about it, and gave him everything he

wanted in the way of bread and wine, but he made me take my solemn

oath that I would not tell you anything for some ten or twelve days,

unless you asked or happened to hear of his having gone, for he did

not want you to spoil your beauty by crying. And now, Madam, wash

your face, change your dress, and go upstairs with your maids to offer

prayers to Minerva, daughter of Aegis-bearing Jove, for she can save

him even though he be in the jaws of death. Do not trouble Laertes:

he has trouble enough already. Besides, I cannot think that the gods

hate die race of the race of the son of Arceisius so much, but there

will be a son left to come up after him, and inherit both the house

and the fair fields that lie far all round it.”

With these words she made her mistress leave off crying, and dried

the tears from her eyes. Penelope washed her face, changed her dress,

and went upstairs with her maids. She then put some bruised barley

into a basket and began praying to Minerva.

“Hear me,” she cried, “Daughter of Aegis-bearing Jove, unweariable.

If ever Ulysses while he was here burned you fat thigh bones of sheep

or heifer, bear it in mind now as in my favour, and save my darling

son from the villainy of the suitors.”

She cried aloud as she spoke, and the goddess heard her prayer; meanwhile

the suitors were clamorous throughout the covered cloister, and one

of them said:

“The queen is preparing for her marriage with one or other of us.

Little does she dream that her son has now been doomed to die.”

This was what they said, but they did not know what was going to happen.

Then Antinous said, “Comrades, let there be no loud talking, lest

some of it get carried inside. Let us be up and do that in silence,

about which we are all of a mind.”

He then chose twenty men, and they went down to their. ship and to

the sea side; they drew the vessel into the water and got her mast

and sails inside her; they bound the oars to the thole-pins with twisted

thongs of leather, all in due course, and spread the white sails aloft,

while their fine servants brought them their armour. Then they made

the ship fast a little way out, came on shore again, got their suppers,

and waited till night should fall.

But Penelope lay in her own room upstairs unable to eat or drink,

and wondering whether her brave son would escape, or be overpowered

by the wicked suitors. Like a lioness caught in the toils with huntsmen

hemming her in on every side she thought and thought till she sank

into a slumber, and lay on her bed bereft of thought and motion.

Then Minerva bethought her of another matter, and made a vision in

the likeness of Penelope’s sister Iphthime daughter of Icarius who

had married Eumelus and lived in Pherae. She told the vision to go

to the house of Ulysses, and to make Penelope leave off crying, so

it came into her room by the hole through which the thong went for

pulling the door to, and hovered over her head, saying,

“You are asleep, Penelope: the gods who live at ease will not suffer

you to weep and be so sad. Your son has done them no wrong, so he

will yet come back to you.”

Penelope, who was sleeping sweetly at the gates of dreamland, answered,

“Sister, why have you come here? You do not come very often, but I

suppose that is because you live such a long way off. Am I, then,

to leave off crying and refrain from all the sad thoughts that torture

me? I, who have lost my brave and lion-hearted husband, who had every

good quality under heaven, and whose name was great over all Hellas

and middle Argos; and now my darling son has gone off on board of

a ship- a foolish fellow who has never been used to roughing it, nor

to going about among gatherings of men. I am even more anxious about

him than about my husband; I am all in a tremble when I think of him,

lest something should happen to him, either from the people among

whom he has gone, or by sea, for he has many enemies who are plotting

against him, and are bent on killing him before he can return home.”

Then the vision said, “Take heart, and be not so much dismayed. There

is one gone with him whom many a man would be glad enough to have

stand by his side, I mean Minerva; it is she who has compassion upon

you, and who has sent me to bear you this message.”

“Then,” said Penelope, “if you are a god or have been sent here by

divine commission, tell me also about that other unhappy one- is he

still alive, or is he already dead and in the house of Hades?”

And the vision said, “I shall not tell you for certain whether he

is alive or dead, and there is no use in idle conversation.”

Then it vanished through the thong-hole of the door and was dissipated

into thin air; but Penelope rose from her sleep refreshed and comforted,

so vivid had been her dream.

Meantime the suitors went on board and sailed their ways over the

sea, intent on murdering Telemachus. Now there is a rocky islet called

Asteris, of no great size, in mid channel between Ithaca and Samos,

and there is a harbour on either side of it where a ship can lie.

Here then the Achaeans placed themselves in ambush.



And now, as Dawn rose from her couch beside Tithonus- harbinger of

light alike to mortals and immortals- the gods met in council and

with them, Jove the lord of thunder, who is their king. Thereon Minerva

began to tell them of the many sufferings of Ulysses, for she pitied

him away there in the house of the nymph Calypso.

“Father Jove,” said she, “and all you other gods that live in everlasting

bliss, I hope there may never be such a thing as a kind and well-disposed

ruler any more, nor one who will govern equitably. I hope they will

be all henceforth cruel and unjust, for there is not one of his subjects

but has forgotten Ulysses, who ruled them as though he were their

father. There he is, lying in great pain in an island where dwells

the nymph Calypso, who will not let him go; and he cannot get back

to his own country, for he can find neither ships nor sailors to take

him over the sea. Furthermore, wicked people are now trying to murder

his only son Telemachus, who is coming home from Pylos and Lacedaemon,

where he has been to see if he can get news of his father.”

“What, my dear, are you talking about?” replied her father, “did you

not send him there yourself, because you thought it would help Ulysses

to get home and punish the suitors? Besides, you are perfectly able

to protect Telemachus, and to see him safely home again, while the

suitors have to come hurry-skurrying back without having killed him.”

When he had thus spoken, he said to his son Mercury, “Mercury, you

are our messenger, go therefore and tell Calypso we have decreed that

poor Ulysses is to return home. He is to be convoyed neither by gods

nor men, but after a perilous voyage of twenty days upon a raft he

is to reach fertile Scheria, the land of the Phaeacians, who are near

of kin to the gods, and will honour him as though he were one of ourselves.

They will send him in a ship to his own country, and will give him

more bronze and gold and raiment than he would have brought back from

Troy, if he had had had all his prize money and had got home without

disaster. This is how we have settled that he shall return to his

country and his friends.”

Thus he spoke, and Mercury, guide and guardian, slayer of Argus, did

as he was told. Forthwith he bound on his glittering golden sandals

with which he could fly like the wind over land and sea. He took the

wand with which he seals men’s eyes in sleep or wakes them just as

he pleases, and flew holding it in his hand over Pieria; then he swooped

down through the firmament till he reached the level of the sea, whose

waves he skimmed like a cormorant that flies fishing every hole and

corner of the ocean, and drenching its thick plumage in the spray.

He flew and flew over many a weary wave, but when at last he got to

the island which was his journey’s end, he left the sea and went on

by land till he came to the cave where the nymph Calypso lived.

He found her at home. There was a large fire burning on the hearth,

and one could smell from far the fragrant reek of burning cedar and

sandal wood. As for herself, she was busy at her loom, shooting her

golden shuttle through the warp and singing beautifully. Round her

cave there was a thick wood of alder, poplar, and sweet smelling cypress

trees, wherein all kinds of great birds had built their nests- owls,

hawks, and chattering sea-crows that occupy their business in the

waters. A vine loaded with grapes was trained and grew luxuriantly

about the mouth of the cave; there were also four running rills of

water in channels cut pretty close together, and turned hither and

thither so as to irrigate the beds of violets and luscious herbage

over which they flowed. Even a god could not help being charmed with

such a lovely spot, so Mercury stood still and looked at it; but when

he had admired it sufficiently he went inside the cave.

Calypso knew him at once- for the gods all know each other, no matter

how far they live from one another- but Ulysses was not within; he

was on the sea-shore as usual, looking out upon the barren ocean with

tears in his eyes, groaning and breaking his heart for sorrow. Calypso

gave Mercury a seat and said: “Why have you come to see me, Mercury-

honoured, and ever welcome- for you do not visit me often? Say what

you want; I will do it for be you at once if I can, and if it can

be done at all; but come inside, and let me set refreshment before


As she spoke she drew a table loaded with ambrosia beside him and

mixed him some red nectar, so Mercury ate and drank till he had had

enough, and then said:

“We are speaking god and goddess to one another, one another, and

you ask me why I have come here, and I will tell you truly as you

would have me do. Jove sent me; it was no doing of mine; who could

possibly want to come all this way over the sea where there are no

cities full of people to offer me sacrifices or choice hecatombs?

Nevertheless I had to come, for none of us other gods can cross Jove,

nor transgress his orders. He says that you have here the most ill-starred

of alf those who fought nine years before the city of King Priam and

sailed home in the tenth year after having sacked it. On their way

home they sinned against Minerva, who raised both wind and waves against

them, so that all his brave companions perished, and he alone was

carried hither by wind and tide. Jove says that you are to let this

by man go at once, for it is decreed that he shall not perish here,

far from his own people, but shall return to his house and country

and see his friends again.”

Calypso trembled with rage when she heard this, “You gods,” she exclaimed,

to be ashamed of yourselves. You are always jealous and hate seeing

a goddess take a fancy to a mortal man, and live with him in open

matrimony. So when rosy-fingered Dawn made love to Orion, you precious

gods were all of you furious till Diana went and killed him in Ortygia.

So again when Ceres fell in love with Iasion, and yielded to him in

a thrice ploughed fallow field, Jove came to hear of it before so

long and killed Iasion with his thunder-bolts. And now you are angry

with me too because I have a man here. I found the poor creature sitting

all alone astride of a keel, for Jove had struck his ship with lightning

and sunk it in mid ocean, so that all his crew were drowned, while

he himself was driven by wind and waves on to my island. I got fond

of him and cherished him, and had set my heart on making him immortal,

so that he should never grow old all his days; still I cannot cross

Jove, nor bring his counsels to nothing; therefore, if he insists

upon it, let the man go beyond the seas again; but I cannot send him

anywhere myself for I have neither ships nor men who can take him.

Nevertheless I will readily give him such advice, in all good faith,

as will be likely to bring him safely to his own country.”

“Then send him away,” said Mercury, “or Jove will be angry with you

and punish you”‘

On this he took his leave, and Calypso went out to look for Ulysses,

for she had heard Jove’s message. She found him sitting upon the beach

with his eyes ever filled with tears, and dying of sheer home-sickness;

for he had got tired of Calypso, and though he was forced to sleep

with her in the cave by night, it was she, not he, that would have

it so. As for the day time, he spent it on the rocks and on the sea-shore,

weeping, crying aloud for his despair, and always looking out upon

the sea. Calypso then went close up to him said:

“My poor fellow, you shall not stay here grieving and fretting your

life out any longer. I am going to send you away of my own free will;

so go, cut some beams of wood, and make yourself a large raft with

an upper deck that it may carry you safely over the sea. I will put

bread, wine, and water on board to save you from starving. I will

also give you clothes, and will send you a fair wind to take you home,

if the gods in heaven so will it- for they know more about these things,

and can settle them better than I can.”

Ulysses shuddered as he heard her. “Now goddess,” he answered, “there

is something behind all this; you cannot be really meaning to help

me home when you bid me do such a dreadful thing as put to sea on

a raft. Not even a well-found ship with a fair wind could venture

on such a distant voyage: nothing that you can say or do shall mage

me go on board a raft unless you first solemnly swear that you mean

me no mischief.”

Calypso smiled at this and caressed him with her hand: “You know a

great deal,” said she, “but you are quite wrong here. May heaven above

and earth below be my witnesses, with the waters of the river Styx-

and this is the most solemn oath which a blessed god can take- that

I mean you no sort of harm, and am only advising you to do exactly

what I should do myself in your place. I am dealing with you quite

straightforwardly; my heart is not made of iron, and I am very sorry

for you.”

When she had thus spoken she led the way rapidly before him, and Ulysses

followed in her steps; so the pair, goddess and man, went on and on

till they came to Calypso’s cave, where Ulysses took the seat that

Mercury had just left. Calypso set meat and drink before him of the

food that mortals eat; but her maids brought ambrosia and nectar for

herself, and they laid their hands on the good things that were before

them. When they had satisfied themselves with meat and drink, Calypso

spoke, saying:

“Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, so you would start home to your own

land at once? Good luck go with you, but if you could only know how

much suffering is in store for you before you get back to your own

country, you would stay where you are, keep house along with me, and

let me make you immortal, no matter how anxious you may be to see

this wife of yours, of whom you are thinking all the time day after

day; yet I flatter myself that at am no whit less tall or well-looking

than she is, for it is not to be expected that a mortal woman should

compare in beauty with an immortal.”

“Goddess,” replied Ulysses, “do not be angry with me about this. I

am quite aware that my wife Penelope is nothing like so tall or so

beautiful as yourself. She is only a woman, whereas you are an immortal.

Nevertheless, I want to get home, and can think of nothing else. If

some god wrecks me when I am on the sea, 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.”

Presently the sun set and it became dark, whereon the pair retired

into the inner part of the cave and went to bed.

When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, Ulysses put

on his shirt and cloak, while the goddess wore a dress of a light

gossamer fabric, very fine and graceful, with a beautiful golden girdle

about her waist and a veil to cover her head. She at once set herself

to think how she could speed Ulysses on his way. So she gave him a

great bronze axe that suited his hands; it was sharpened on both sides,

and had a beautiful olive-wood handle fitted firmly on to it. She

also gave him a sharp adze, and then led the way to the far end of

the island where the largest trees grew- alder, poplar and pine, that

reached the sky- very dry and well seasoned, so as to sail light for

him in the water. Then, when she had shown him where the best trees

grew, Calypso went home, leaving him to cut them, which he soon finished

doing. He cut down twenty trees in all and adzed them smooth, squaring

them by rule in good workmanlike fashion. Meanwhile Calypso came back

with some augers, so he bored holes with them and fitted the timbers

together with bolts and rivets. He made the raft as broad as a skilled

shipwright makes the beam of a large vessel, and he filed a deck on

top of the ribs, and ran a gunwale all round it. He also made a mast

with a yard arm, and a rudder to steer with. He fenced the raft all

round with wicker hurdles as a protection against the waves, and then

he threw on a quantity of wood. By and by Calypso brought him some

linen to make the sails, and he made these too, excellently, making

them fast with braces and sheets. Last of all, with the help of levers,

he drew the raft down into the water.

In four days he had completed the whole work, and on the fifth Calypso

sent him from the island after washing him and giving him some clean

clothes. She gave him a goat skin full of black wine, and another

larger one of water; she also gave him a wallet full of provisions,

and found him in much good meat. Moreover, she made the wind fair

and warm for him, and gladly did Ulysses spread his sail before it,

while he sat and guided the raft skilfully by means of the rudder.

He never closed his eyes, but kept them fixed on the Pleiads, on late-setting

Bootes, and on the Bear- which men also call the wain, and which turns

round and round where it is, facing Orion, and alone never dipping

into the stream of Oceanus- for Calypso had told him to keep this

to his left. Days seven and ten did he sail over the sea, and on the

eighteenth the dim outlines of the mountains on the nearest part of

the Phaeacian coast appeared, rising like a shield on the horizon.

But King Neptune, who was returning from the Ethiopians, caught sight

of Ulysses a long way off, from the mountains of the Solymi. He could

see him sailing upon the sea, and it made him very angry, so he wagged

his head and muttered to himself, saying, heavens, so the gods have

been changing their minds about Ulysses while I was away in Ethiopia,

and now he is close to the land of the Phaeacians, where it is decreed

that he shall escape from the calamities that have befallen him. Still,

he shall have plenty of hardship yet before he has done with it.”

Thereon he gathered his clouds together, grasped his trident, stirred

it round in the sea, and roused the rage of every wind that blows

till earth, sea, and sky were hidden in cloud, and night sprang forth

out of the heavens. Winds from East, South, North, and West fell upon

him all at the same time, and a tremendous sea got up, so that Ulysses’

heart began to fail him. “Alas,” he said to himself in his dismay,

“what ever will become of me? I am afraid Calypso was right when she

said I should have trouble by sea before I got back home. It is all

coming true. How black is Jove making heaven with his clouds, and

what a sea the winds are raising from every quarter at once. I am

now safe to perish. Blest and thrice blest were those Danaans who

fell before Troy in the cause of the sons of Atreus. Would that had

been killed on the day when the Trojans were pressing me so sorely

about the dead body of Achilles, for then I should have had due burial

and the Achaeans would have honoured my name; but now it seems that

I shall come to a most pitiable end.”

As he spoke a sea broke over him with such terrific fury that the

raft reeled again, and he was carried overboard a long way off. He

let go the helm, and the force of the hurricane was so great that

it broke the mast half way up, and both sail and yard went over into

the sea. For a long time Ulysses was under water, and it was all he

could do to rise to the surface again, for the clothes Calypso had

given him weighed him down; but at last he got his head above water

and spat out the bitter brine that was running down his face in streams.

In spite of all this, however, he did not lose sight of his raft,

but swam as fast as he could towards it, got hold of it, and climbed

on board again so as to escape drowning. The sea took the raft and

tossed it about as Autumn winds whirl thistledown round and round

upon a road. It was as though the South, North, East, and West winds

were all playing battledore and shuttlecock with it at once.

When he was in this plight, Ino daughter of Cadmus, also called Leucothea,

saw him. She had formerly been a mere mortal, but had been since raised

to the rank of a marine goddess. Seeing in what great distress Ulysses

now was, she had compassion upon him, and, rising like a sea-gull

from the waves, took her seat upon the raft.

“My poor good man,” said she, “why is Neptune so furiously angry with

you? He is giving you a great deal of trouble, but for all his bluster

he will not kill you. You seem to be a sensible person, do then as

I bid you; strip, leave your raft to drive before the wind, and swim

to the Phaecian coast where better luck awaits you. And here, take

my veil and put it round your chest; it is enchanted, and you can

come to no harm so long as you wear it. As soon as you touch land

take it off, throw it back as far as you can into the sea, and then

go away again.” With these words she took off her veil and gave it

him. Then she dived down again like a sea-gull and vanished beneath

the dark blue waters.

But Ulysses did not know what to think. “Alas,” he said to himself

in his dismay, “this is only some one or other of the gods who is

luring me to ruin by advising me to will quit my raft. At any rate

I will not do so at present, for the land where she said I should

be quit of all troubles seemed to be still a good way off. I know

what I will do- I am sure it will be best- no matter what happens

I will stick to the raft as long as her timbers hold together, but

when the sea breaks her up I will swim for it; I do not see how I

can do any better than this.”

While he was thus in two minds, Neptune sent a terrible great wave

that seemed to rear itself above his head till it broke right over

the raft, which then went to pieces as though it were a heap of dry

chaff tossed about by a whirlwind. Ulysses got astride of one plank

and rode upon it as if he were on horseback; he then took off the

clothes Calypso had given him, bound Ino’s veil under his arms, and

plunged into the sea- meaning to swim on shore. King Neptune watched

him as he did so, and wagged his head, muttering to himself and saying,

“‘There now, swim up and down as you best can till you fall in with

well-to-do people. I do not think you will be able to say that I have

let you off too lightly.” On this he lashed his horses and drove to

Aegae where his palace is.

But Minerva resolved to help Ulysses, so she bound the ways of all

the winds except one, and made them lie quite still; but she roused

a good stiff breeze from the North that should lay the waters till

Ulysses reached the land of the Phaeacians where he would be safe.

Thereon he floated about for two nights and two days in the water,

with a heavy swell on the sea and death staring him in the face; but

when the third day broke, the wind fell and there was a dead calm

without so much as a breath of air stirring. As he rose on the swell

he looked eagerly ahead, and could see land quite near. Then, as children

rejoice when their dear father begins to get better after having for

a long time borne sore affliction sent him by some angry spirit, but

the gods deliver him from evil, so was Ulysses thankful when he again

saw land and trees, and swam on with all his strength that he might

once more set foot upon dry ground. When, however, he got within earshot,

he began to hear the surf thundering up against the rocks, for the

swell still broke against them with a terrific roar. Everything was

enveloped in spray; there were no harbours where a ship might ride,

nor shelter of any kind, but only headlands, low-lying rocks, and

mountain tops.

Ulysses’ heart now began to fail him, and he said despairingly to

himself, “Alas, Jove has let me see land after swimming so far that

I had given up all hope, but I can find no landing place, for the

coast is rocky and surf-beaten, the rocks are smooth and rise sheer

from the sea, with deep water close under them so that I cannot climb

out for want of foothold. I am afraid some great wave will lift me

off my legs and dash me against the rocks as I leave the water- which

would give me a sorry landing. If, on the other hand, I swim further

in search of some shelving beach or harbour, a hurricane may carry

me out to sea again sorely against my will, or heaven may send some

great monster of the deep to attack me; for Amphitrite breeds many

such, and I know that Neptune is very angry with me.”

While he was thus in two minds a wave caught him and took him with

such force against the rocks that he would have been smashed and torn

to pieces if Minerva had not shown him what to do. He caught hold

of the rock with both hands and clung to it groaning with pain till

the wave retired, so he was saved that time; but presently the wave

came on again and carried him back with it far into the sea-tearing

his hands as the suckers of a polypus are torn when some one plucks

it from its bed, and the stones come up along with it even so did

the rocks tear the skin from his strong hands, and then the wave drew

him deep down under the water.

Here poor Ulysses would have certainly perished even in spite of his

own destiny, if Minerva had not helped him to keep his wits about

him. He swam seaward again, beyond reach of the surf that was beating

against the land, and at the same time he kept looking towards the

shore to see if he could find some haven, or a spit that should take

the waves aslant. By and by, as he swam on, he came to the mouth of

a river, and here he thought would be the best place, for there were

no rocks, and it afforded shelter from the wind. He felt that there

was a current, so he prayed inwardly and said:

“Hear me, O King, whoever you may be, and save me from the anger of

the sea-god Neptune, for I approach you prayerfully. Any one who has

lost his way has at all times a claim even upon the gods, wherefore

in my distress I draw near to your stream, and cling to the knees

of your riverhood. Have mercy upon me, O king, for I declare myself

your suppliant.”

Then the god stayed his stream and stilled the waves, making all calm

before him, and bringing him safely into the mouth of the river. Here

at last Ulysses’ knees and strong hands failed him, for the sea had

completely broken him. His body was all swollen, and his mouth and

nostrils ran down like a river with sea-water, so that he could neither

breathe nor speak, and lay swooning from sheer exhaustion; presently,

when he had got his breath and came to himself again, he took off

the scarf that Ino had given him and threw it back into the salt stream

of the river, whereon Ino received it into her hands from the wave

that bore it towards her. Then he left the river, laid himself down

among the rushes, and kissed the bounteous earth.

“Alas,” he cried to himself in his dismay, “what ever will become

of me, and how is it all to end? If I stay here upon the river bed

through the long watches of the night, I am so exhausted that the

bitter cold and damp may make an end of me- for towards sunrise there

will be a keen wind blowing from off the river. If, on the other hand,

I climb the hill side, find shelter in the woods, and sleep in some

thicket, I may escape the cold and have a good night’s rest, but some

savage beast may take advantage of me and devour me.”

In the end he deemed it best to take to the woods, and he found one

upon some high ground not far from the water. There he crept beneath

two shoots of olive that grew from a single stock- the one an ungrafted

sucker, while the other had been grafted. No wind, however squally,

could break through the cover they afforded, nor could the sun’s rays

pierce them, nor the rain get through them, so closely did they grow

into one another. Ulysses crept under these and began to make himself

a bed to lie on, for there was a great litter of dead leaves lying

about- enough to make a covering for two or three men even in hard

winter weather. He was glad enough to see this, so he laid himself

down and heaped the leaves all round him. Then, as one who lives alone

in the country, far from any neighbor, hides a brand as fire-seed

in the ashes to save himself from having to get a light elsewhere,

even so did Ulysses cover himself up with leaves; and Minerva shed

a sweet sleep upon his eyes, closed his eyelids, and made him lose

all memories of his sorrows.



So here Ulysses slept, overcome by sleep and toil; but Minerva went

off to the country and city of the Phaecians- a people who used to

live in the fair town of Hypereia, near the lawless Cyclopes. Now

the Cyclopes were stronger than they and plundered them, so their

king Nausithous moved them thence and settled them in Scheria, far

from all other people. He surrounded the city with a wall, built houses

and temples, and divided the lands among his people; but he was dead

and gone to the house of Hades, and King Alcinous, whose counsels

were inspired of heaven, was now reigning. To his house, then, did

Minerva hie in furtherance of the return of Ulysses.

She went straight to the beautifully decorated bedroom in which there

slept a girl who was as lovely as a goddess, Nausicaa, daughter to

King Alcinous. Two maid servants were sleeping near her, both very

pretty, one on either side of the doorway, which was closed with well-made

folding doors. Minerva took the form of the famous sea captain Dymas’s

daughter, who was a bosom friend of Nausicaa and just her own age;

then, coming up to the girl’s bedside like a breath of wind, she hovered

over her head and said:

“Nausicaa, what can your mother have been about, to have such a lazy

daughter? Here are your clothes all lying in disorder, yet you are

going to be married almost immediately, and should not only be well

dressed yourself, but should find good clothes for those who attend

you. This is the way to get yourself a good name, and to make your

father and mother proud of you. Suppose, then, that we make tomorrow

a washing day, and start at daybreak. I will come and help you so

that you may have everything ready as soon as possible, for all the

best young men among your own people are courting you, and you are

not going to remain a maid much longer. Ask your father, therefore,

to have a waggon and mules ready for us at daybreak, to take the rugs,

robes, and girdles; and you can ride, too, which will be much pleasanter

for you than walking, for the washing-cisterns are some way from the


When she had said this Minerva went away to Olympus, which they say

is the everlasting home of the gods. Here no wind beats roughly, and

neither rain nor snow can fall; but it abides in everlasting sunshine

and in a great peacefulness of light, wherein the blessed gods are

illumined for ever and ever. This was the place to which the goddess

went when she had given instructions to the girl.

By and by morning came and woke Nausicaa, who began wondering about

her dream; she therefore went to the other end of the house to tell

her father and mother all about it, and found them in their own room.

Her mother was sitting by the fireside spinning her purple yarn with

her maids around her, and she happened to catch her father just as

he was going out to attend a meeting of the town council, which the

Phaeacian aldermen had convened. She stopped him and said:

“Papa dear, could you manage to let me have a good big waggon? I want

to take all our dirty clothes to the river and wash them. You are

the chief man here, so it is only right that you should have a clean

shirt when you attend meetings of the council. Moreover, you have

five sons at home, two of them married, while the other three are

good-looking bachelors; you know they always like to have clean linen

when they go to a dance, and I have been thinking about all this.”

She did not say a word about her own wedding, for she did not like

to, but her father knew and said, “You shall have the mules, my love,

and whatever else you have a mind for. Be off with you, and the men

shall get you a good strong waggon with a body to it that will hold

all your clothes.”

On this he gave his orders to the servants, who got the waggon out,

harnessed the mules, and put them to, while the girl brought the clothes

down from the linen room and placed them on the waggon. Her mother

prepared her a basket of provisions with all sorts of good things,

and a goat skin full of wine; the girl now got into the waggon, and

her mother gave her also a golden cruse of oil, that she and her women

might anoint themselves. Then she took the whip and reins and lashed

the mules on, whereon they set off, and their hoofs clattered on the

road. They pulled without flagging, and carried not only Nausicaa

and her wash of clothes, but the maids also who were with her.

When they reached the water side they went to the washing-cisterns,

through which there ran at all times enough pure water to wash any

quantity of linen, no matter how dirty. Here they unharnessed the

mules and turned them out to feed on the sweet juicy herbage that

grew by the water side. They took the clothes out of the waggon, put

them in the water, and vied with one another in treading them in the

pits to get the dirt out. After they had washed them and got them

quite clean, they laid them out by the sea side, where the waves had

raised a high beach of shingle, and set about washing themselves and

anointing themselves with olive oil. Then they got their dinner by

the side of the stream, and waited for the sun to finish drying the

clothes. When they had done dinner they threw off the veils that covered

their heads and began to play at ball, while Nausicaa sang for them.

As the huntress Diana goes forth upon the mountains of Taygetus or

Erymanthus to hunt wild boars or deer, and the wood-nymphs, daughters

of Aegis-bearing Jove, take their sport along with her (then is Leto

proud at seeing her daughter stand a full head taller than the others,

and eclipse the loveliest amid a whole bevy of beauties), even so

did the girl outshine her handmaids.

When it was time for them to start home, and they were folding the

clothes and putting them into the waggon, Minerva began to consider

how Ulysses should wake up and see the handsome girl who was to conduct

him to the city of the Phaeacians. The girl, therefore, threw a ball

at one of the maids, which missed her and fell into deep water. On

this they all shouted, and the noise they made woke Ulysses, who sat

up in his bed of leaves and began to wonder what it might all be.

“Alas,” said he to himself, “what kind of people have I come amongst?

Are they cruel, savage, and uncivilized, or hospitable and humane?

I seem to hear the voices of young women, and they sound like those

of the nymphs that haunt mountain tops, or springs of rivers and meadows

of green grass. At any rate I am among a race of men and women. Let

me try if I cannot manage to get a look at them.”

As he said this he crept from under his bush, and broke off a bough

covered with thick leaves to hide his nakedness. He looked like some

lion of the wilderness that stalks about exulting in his strength

and defying both wind and rain; his eyes glare as he prowls in quest

of oxen, sheep, or deer, for he is famished, and will dare break even

into a well-fenced homestead, trying to get at the sheep- even such

did Ulysses seem to the young women, as he drew near to them all naked

as he was, for he was in great want. On seeing one so unkempt and

so begrimed with salt water, the others scampered off along the spits

that jutted out into the sea, but the daughter of Alcinous stood firm,

for Minerva put courage into her heart and took away all fear from

her. She stood right in front of Ulysses, and he doubted whether he

should go up to her, throw himself at her feet, and embrace her knees

as a suppliant, or stay where he was and entreat her to give him some

clothes and show him the way to the town. In the end he deemed it

best to entreat her from a distance in case the girl should take offence

at his coming near enough to clasp her knees, so he addressed her

in honeyed and persuasive language.

“O queen,” he said, “I implore your aid- but tell me, are you a goddess

or are you a mortal woman? If you are a goddess and dwell in heaven,

I can only conjecture that you are Jove’s daughter Diana, for your

face and figure resemble none but hers; if on the other hand you are

a mortal and live on earth, thrice happy are your father and mother-

thrice happy, too, are your brothers and sisters; how proud and delighted

they must feel when they see so fair a scion as yourself going out

to a dance; most happy, however, of all will he be whose wedding gifts

have been the richest, and who takes you to his own home. I never

yet saw any one so beautiful, neither man nor woman, and am lost in

admiration as I behold you. I can only compare you to a young palm

tree which I saw when I was at Delos growing near the altar of Apollo-

for I was there, too, with much people after me, when I was on that

journey which has been the source of all my troubles. Never yet did

such a young plant shoot out of the ground as that was, and I admired

and wondered at it exactly as I now admire and wonder at yourself.

I dare not clasp your knees, but I am in great distress; yesterday

made the twentieth day that I had been tossing about upon the sea.

The winds and waves have taken me all the way from the Ogygian island,

and now fate has flung me upon this coast that I may endure still

further suffering; for I do not think that I have yet come to the

end of it, but rather that heaven has still much evil in store for


“And now, O queen, have pity upon me, for you are the first person

I have met, and I know no one else in this country. Show me the way

to your town, and let me have anything that you may have brought hither

to wrap your clothes in. May heaven grant you in all things your heart’s

desire- husband, house, and a happy, peaceful home; for there is nothing

better in this world than that man and wife should be of one mind

in a house. It discomfits their enemies, makes the hearts of their

friends glad, and they themselves know more about it than any one.”

To this Nausicaa answered, “Stranger, you appear to be a sensible,

well-disposed person. There is no accounting for luck; Jove gives

prosperity to rich and poor just as he chooses, so you must take what

he has seen fit to send you, and make the best of it. Now, however,

that you have come to this our country, you shall not want for clothes

nor for anything else that a foreigner in distress may reasonably

look for. I will show you the way to the town, and will tell you the

name of our people; we are called Phaeacians, and I am daughter to

Alcinous, in whom the whole power of the state is vested.”

Then she called her maids and said, “Stay where you are, you girls.

Can you not see a man without running away from him? Do you take him

for a robber or a murderer? Neither he nor any one else can come here

to do us Phaeacians any harm, for we are dear to the gods, and live

apart on a land’s end that juts into the sounding sea, and have nothing

to do with any other people. This is only some poor man who has lost

his way, and we must be kind to him, for strangers and foreigners

in distress are under Jove’s protection, and will take what they can

get and be thankful; so, girls, give the poor fellow something to

eat and drink, and wash him in the stream at some place that is sheltered

from the wind.”

On this the maids left off running away and began calling one another

back. They made Ulysses sit down in the shelter as Nausicaa had told

them, and brought him a shirt and cloak. They also brought him the

little golden cruse of oil, and told him to go wash in the stream.

But Ulysses said, “Young women, please to stand a little on one side

that I may wash the brine from my shoulders and anoint myself with

oil, for it is long enough since my skin has had a drop of oil upon

it. I cannot wash as long as you all keep standing there. I am ashamed

to strip before a number of good-looking young women.”

Then they stood on one side and went to tell the girl, while Ulysses

washed himself in the stream and scrubbed the brine from his back

and from his broad shoulders. When he had thoroughly washed himself,

and had got the brine out of his hair, he anointed himself with oil,

and put on the clothes which the girl had given him; Minerva then

made him look taller and stronger than before, she also made the hair

grow thick on the top of his head, and flow down in curls like hyacinth

blossoms; she glorified him about the head and shoulders as a skilful

workman who has studied art of all kinds under Vulcan and Minerva

enriches a piece of silver plate by gilding it- and his work is full

of beauty. Then he went and sat down a little way off upon the beach,

looking quite young and handsome, and the girl gazed on him with admiration;

then she said to her maids:

“Hush, my dears, for I want to say something. I believe the gods who

live in heaven have sent this man to the Phaeacians. When I first

saw him I thought him plain, but now his appearance is like that of

the gods who dwell in heaven. I should like my future husband to be

just such another as he is, if he would only stay here and not want

to go away. However, give him something to eat and drink.”

They did as they were told, and set food before Ulysses, who ate and

drank ravenously, for it was long since he had had food of any kind.

Meanwhile, Nausicaa bethought her of another matter. She got the linen

folded and placed in the waggon, she then yoked the mules, and, as

she took her seat, she called Ulysses:

“Stranger,” said she, “rise and let us be going back to the town;

I will introduce you at the house of my excellent father, where I

can tell you that you will meet all the best people among the Phaecians.

But be sure and do as I bid you, for you seem to be a sensible person.

As long as we are going past the fields- and farm lands, follow briskly

behind the waggon along with the maids and I will lead the way myself.

Presently, however, we shall come to the town, where you will find

a high wall running all round it, and a good harbour on either side

with a narrow entrance into the city, and the ships will be drawn

up by the road side, for every one has a place where his own ship

can lie. You will see the market place with a temple of Neptune in

the middle of it, and paved with large stones bedded in the earth.

Here people deal in ship’s gear of all kinds, such as cables and sails,

and here, too, are the places where oars are made, for the Phaeacians

are not a nation of archers; they know nothing about bows and arrows,

but are a sea-faring folk, and pride themselves on their masts, oars,

and ships, with which they travel far over the sea.

“I am afraid of the gossip and scandal that may be set on foot against

me later on; for the people here are very ill-natured, and some low

fellow, if he met us, might say, ‘Who is this fine-looking stranger

that is going about with Nausicaa? Where did she End him? I suppose

she is going to marry him. Perhaps he is a vagabond sailor whom she

has taken from some foreign vessel, for we have no neighbours; or

some god has at last come down from heaven in answer to her prayers,

and she is going to live with him all the rest of her life. It would

be a good thing if she would take herself of I for sh and find a husband

somewhere else, for she will not look at one of the many excellent

young Phaeacians who are in with her.’ This is the kind of disparaging

remark that would be made about me, and I could not complain, for

I should myself be scandalized at seeing any other girl do the like,

and go about with men in spite of everybody, while her father and

mother were still alive, and without having been married in the face

of all the world.

“If, therefore, you want my father to give you an escort and to help

you home, do as I bid you; you will see a beautiful grove of poplars

by the road side dedicated to Minerva; it has a well in it and a meadow

all round it. Here my father has a field of rich garden ground, about

as far from the town as a man’ voice will carry. Sit down there and

wait for a while till the rest of us can get into the town and reach

my father’s house. Then, when you think we must have done this, come

into the town and ask the way to the house of my father Alcinous.

You will have no difficulty in finding it; any child will point it

out to you, for no one else in the whole town has anything like such

a fine house as he has. When you have got past the gates and through

the outer court, go right across the inner court till you come to

my mother. You will find her sitting by the fire and spinning her

purple wool by firelight. It is a fine sight to see her as she leans

back against one of the bearing-posts with her maids all ranged behind

her. Close to her seat stands that of my father, on which he sits

and topes like an immortal god. Never mind him, but go up to my mother,

and lay your hands upon her knees if you would get home quickly. If

you can gain her over, you may hope to see your own country again,

no matter how distant it may be.”

So saying she lashed the mules with her whip and they left the river.

The mules drew well and their hoofs went up and down upon the road.

She was careful not to go too fast for Ulysses and the maids who were

following on foot along with the waggon, so she plied her whip with

judgement. As the sun was going down they came to the sacred grove

of Minerva, and there Ulysses sat down and prayed to the mighty daughter

of Jove.

“Hear me,” he cried, “daughter of Aegis-bearing Jove, unweariable,

hear me now, for you gave no heed to my prayers when Neptune was wrecking

me. Now, therefore, have pity upon me and grant that I may find friends

and be hospitably received by the Phaecians.”

Thus did he pray, and Minerva heard his prayer, but she would not

show herself to him openly, for she was afraid of her uncle Neptune,

who was still furious in his endeavors to prevent Ulysses from getting




Thus, then, did Ulysses wait and pray; but the girl drove on to the

town. When she reached her father’s house she drew up at the gateway,

and her brothers- comely as the gods- gathered round her, took the

mules out of the waggon, and carried the clothes into the house, while

she went to her own room, where an old servant, Eurymedusa of Apeira,

lit the fire for her. This old woman had been brought by sea from

Apeira, and had been chosen as a prize for Alcinous because he was

king over the Phaecians, and the people obeyed him as though he were

a god. She had been nurse to Nausicaa, and had now lit the fire for

her, and brought her supper for her into her own room.

Presently Ulysses got up to go towards the town; and Minerva shed

a thick mist all round him to hide him in case any of the proud Phaecians

who met him should be rude to him, or ask him who he was. Then, as

he was just entering the town, she came towards him in the likeness

of a little girl carrying a pitcher. She stood right in front of him,

and Ulysses said:

“My dear, will you be so kind as to show me the house of king Alcinous?

I am an unfortunate foreigner in distress, and do not know one in

your town and country.”

Then Minerva said, “Yes, father stranger, I will show you the house

you want, for Alcinous lives quite close to my own father. I will

go before you and show the way, but say not a word as you go, and

do not look at any man, nor ask him questions; for the people here

cannot abide strangers, and do not like men who come from some other

place. They are a sea-faring folk, and sail the seas by the grace

of Neptune in ships that glide along like thought, or as a bird in

the air.”

On this she led the way, and Ulysses followed in her steps; but not

one of the Phaecians could see him as he passed through the city in

the midst of them; for the great goddess Minerva in her good will

towards him had hidden him in a thick cloud of darkness. He admired

their harbours, ships, places of assembly, and the lofty walls of

the city, which, with the palisade on top of them, were very striking,

and when they reached the king’s house Minerva said:

“This is the house, father stranger, which you would have me show

you. You will find a number of great people sitting at table, but

do not be afraid; go straight in, for the bolder a man is the more

likely he is to carry his point, even though he is a stranger. First

find the queen. Her name is Arete, and she comes of the same family

as her husband Alcinous. They both descend originally from Neptune,

who was father to Nausithous by Periboea, a woman of great beauty.

Periboea was the youngest daughter of Eurymedon, who at one time reigned

over the giants, but he ruined his ill-fated people and lost his own

life to boot.

“Neptune, however, lay with his daughter, and she had a son by him,

the great Nausithous, who reigned over the Phaecians. Nausithous had

two sons Rhexenor and Alcinous; Apollo killed the first of them while

he was still a bridegroom and without male issue; but he left a daughter

Arete, whom Alcinous married, and honours as no other woman is honoured

of all those that keep house along with their husbands.

“Thus she both was, and still is, respected beyond measure by her

children, by Alcinous himself, and by the whole people, who look upon

her as a goddess, and greet her whenever she goes about the city,

for she is a thoroughly good woman both in head and heart, and when

any women are friends of hers, she will help their husbands also to

settle their disputes. If you can gain her good will, you may have

every hope of seeing your friends again, and getting safely back to

your home and country.”

Then Minerva left Scheria and went away over the sea. She went to

Marathon and to the spacious streets of Athens, where she entered

the abode of Erechtheus; but Ulysses went on to the house of Alcinous,

and he pondered much as he paused a while before reaching the threshold

of bronze, for the splendour of the palace was like that of the sun

or moon. The walls on either side were of bronze from end to end,

and the cornice was of blue enamel. The doors were gold, and hung

on pillars of silver that rose from a floor of bronze, while the lintel

was silver and the hook of the door was of gold.

On either side there stood gold and silver mastiffs which Vulcan,

with his consummate skill, had fashioned expressly to keep watch over

the palace of king Alcinous; so they were immortal and could never

grow old. Seats were ranged all along the wall, here and there from

one end to the other, with coverings of fine woven work which the

women of the house had made. Here the chief persons of the Phaecians

used to sit and eat and drink, for there was abundance at all seasons;

and there were golden figures of young men with lighted torches in

their hands, raised on pedestals, to give light by night to those

who were at table. There are fifty maid servants in the house, some

of whom are always grinding rich yellow grain at the mill, while others

work at the loom, or sit and spin, and their shuttles go, backwards

and forwards like the fluttering of aspen leaves, while the linen

is so closely woven that it will turn oil. As the Phaecians are the

best sailors in the world, so their women excel all others in weaving,

for Minerva has taught them all manner of useful arts, and they are

very intelligent.

Outside the gate of the outer court there is a large garden of about

four acres with a wall all round it. It is full of beautiful trees-

pears, pomegranates, and the most delicious apples. There are luscious

figs also, and olives in full growth. The fruits never rot nor fail

all the year round, neither winter nor summer, for the air is so soft

that a new crop ripens before the old has dropped. Pear grows on pear,

apple on apple, and fig on fig, and so also with the grapes, for there

is an excellent vineyard: on the level ground of a part of this, the

grapes are being made into raisins; in another part they are being

gathered; some are being trodden in the wine tubs, others further

on have shed their blossom and are beginning to show fruit, others

again are just changing colour. In the furthest part of the ground

there are beautifully arranged beds of flowers that are in bloom all

the year round. Two streams go through it, the one turned in ducts

throughout the whole garden, while the other is carried under the

ground of the outer court to the house itself, and the town’s people

draw water from it. Such, then, were the splendours with which the

gods had endowed the house of king Alcinous.

So here Ulysses stood for a while and looked about him, but when he

had looked long enough he crossed the threshold and went within the

precincts of the house. There he found all the chief people among

the Phaecians making their drink-offerings to Mercury, which they

always did the last thing before going away for the night. He went

straight through the court, still hidden by the cloak of darkness

in which Minerva had enveloped him, till he reached Arete and King

Alcinous; then he laid his hands upon the knees of the queen, and

at that moment the miraculous darkness fell away from him and he became

visible. Every one was speechless with surprise at seeing a man there,

but Ulysses began at once with his petition.

“Queen Arete,” he exclaimed, “daughter of great Rhexenor, in my distress

I humbly pray you, as also your husband and these your guests (whom

may heaven prosper with long life and happiness, and may they leave

their possessions to their children, and all the honours conferred

upon them by the state) to help me home to my own country as soon

as possible; for I have been long in trouble and away from my friends.”

Then he sat down on the hearth among the ashes and they all held their

peace, till presently the old hero Echeneus, who was an excellent

speaker and an elder among the Phaeacians, plainly and in all honesty

addressed them thus:

“Alcinous,” said he, “it is not creditable to you that a stranger

should be seen sitting among the ashes of your hearth; every one is

waiting to hear what you are about to say; tell him, then, to rise

and take a seat on a stool inlaid with silver, and bid your servants

mix some wine and water that we may make a drink-offering to Jove

the lord of thunder, who takes all well-disposed suppliants under

his protection; and let the housekeeper give him some supper, of whatever

there may be in the house.”

When Alcinous heard this he took Ulysses by the hand, raised him from

the hearth, and bade him take the seat of Laodamas, who had been sitting

beside him, and was his favourite son. A maid servant then brought

him water in a beautiful golden ewer and poured it into a silver basin

for him to wash his hands, and she drew a clean table beside him;

an upper servant brought him bread and offered him many good things

of what there was in the house, and Ulysses ate and drank. Then Alcinous

said to one of the servants, “Pontonous, mix a cup of wine and hand

it round that we may make drink-offerings to Jove the lord of thunder,

who is the protector of all well-disposed suppliants.”

Pontonous then mixed wine and water, and handed it round after giving

every man his drink-offering. When they had made their offerings,

and had drunk each as much as he was minded, Alcinous said:

“Aldermen and town councillors of the Phaeacians, hear my words. You

have had your supper, so now go home to bed. To-morrow morning I shall

invite a still larger number of aldermen, and will give a sacrificial

banquet in honour of our guest; we can then discuss the question of

his escort, and consider how we may at once send him back rejoicing

to his own country without trouble or inconvenience to himself, no

matter how distant it may be. We must see that he comes to no harm

while on his homeward journey, but when he is once at home he will

have to take the luck he was born with for better or worse like other

people. It is possible, however, that the stranger is one of the immortals

who has come down from heaven to visit us; but in this case the gods

are departing from their usual practice, for hitherto they have made

themselves perfectly clear to us when we have been offering them hecatombs.

They come and sit at our feasts just like one of our selves, and if

any solitary wayfarer happens to stumble upon some one or other of

them, they affect no concealment, for we are as near of kin to the

gods as the Cyclopes and the savage giants are.”

Then Ulysses said: “Pray, Alcinous, do not take any such notion into

your head. I have nothing of the immortal about me, neither in body

nor mind, and most resemble those among you who are the most afflicted.

Indeed, were I to tell you all that heaven has seen fit to lay upon

me, you would say that I was still worse off than they are. Nevertheless,

let me sup in spite of sorrow, for an empty stomach is a very importunate

thing, and thrusts itself on a man’s notice no matter how dire is

his distress. I am in great trouble, yet it insists that I shall eat

and drink, bids me lay aside all memory of my sorrows and dwell only

on the due replenishing of itself. As for yourselves, do as you propose,

and at break of day set about helping me to get home. I shall be content

to die if I may first once more behold my property, my bondsmen, and

all the greatness of my house.”

Thus did he speak. Every one approved his saying, and agreed that

he should have his escort inasmuch as he had spoken reasonably. Then

when they had made their drink-offerings, and had drunk each as much

as he was minded they went home to bed every man in his own abode,

leaving Ulysses in the cloister with Arete and Alcinous while the

servants were taking the things away after supper. Arete was the first

to speak, for she recognized the shirt, cloak, and good clothes that

Ulysses was wearing, as the work of herself and of her maids; so she

said, “Stranger, before we go any further, there is a question I should

like to ask you. Who, and whence are you, and who gave you those clothes?

Did you not say you had come here from beyond the sea?”

And Ulysses answered, “It would be a long story Madam, were I to relate

in full the tale of my misfortunes, for the hand of heaven has been

laid heavy upon me; but as regards your question, there is an island

far away in the sea which is called ‘the Ogygian.’ Here dwells the

cunning and powerful goddess Calypso, daughter of Atlas. She lives

by herself far from all neighbours human or divine. Fortune, however,

me to her hearth all desolate and alone, for Jove struck my ship with

his thunderbolts, and broke it up in mid-ocean. My brave comrades

were drowned every man of them, but I stuck to the keel and was carried

hither and thither for the space of nine days, till at last during

the darkness of the tenth night the gods brought me to the Ogygian

island where the great goddess Calypso lives. She took me in and treated

me with the utmost kindness; indeed she wanted to make me immortal

that I might never grow old, but she could not persuade me to let

her do so.

“I stayed with Calypso seven years straight on end, and watered the

good clothes she gave me with my tears during the whole time; but

at last when the eighth year came round she bade me depart of her

own free will, either because Jove had told her she must, or because

she had changed her mind. She sent me from her island on a raft, which

she provisioned with abundance of bread and wine. Moreover she gave

me good stout clothing, and sent me a wind that blew both warm and

fair. Days seven and ten did I sail over the sea, and on the eighteenth

I caught sight of the first outlines of the mountains upon your coast-

and glad indeed was I to set eyes upon them. Nevertheless there was

still much trouble in store for me, for at this point Neptune would

let me go no further, and raised a great storm against me; the sea

was so terribly high that I could no longer keep to my raft, which

went to pieces under the fury of the gale, and I had to swim for it,

till wind and current brought me to your shores.

“There I tried to land, but could not, for it was a bad place and

the waves dashed me against the rocks, so I again took to the sea

and swam on till I came to a river that seemed the most likely landing

place, for there were no rocks and it was sheltered from the wind.

Here, then, I got out of the water and gathered my senses together

again. Night was coming on, so I left the river, and went into a thicket,

where I covered myself all over with leaves, and presently heaven

sent me off into a very deep sleep. Sick and sorry as I was I slept

among the leaves all night, and through the next day till afternoon,

when I woke as the sun was westering, and saw your daughter’s maid

servants playing upon the beach, and your daughter among them looking

like a goddess. I besought her aid, and she proved to be of an excellent

disposition, much more so than could be expected from so young a person-

for young people are apt to be thoughtless. She gave me plenty of

bread and wine, and when she had had me washed in the river she also

gave me the clothes in which you see me. Now, therefore, though it

has pained me to do so, I have told you the whole truth.”

Then Alcinous said, “Stranger, it was very wrong of my daughter not

to bring you on at once to my house along with the maids, seeing that

she was the first person whose aid you asked.”

“Pray do not scold her,” replied Ulysses; “she is not to blame. She

did tell me to follow along with the maids, but I was ashamed and

afraid, for I thought you might perhaps be displeased if you saw me.

Every human being is sometimes a little suspicious and irritable.”

“Stranger,” replied Alcinous, “I am not the kind of man to get angry

about nothing; it is always better to be reasonable; but by Father

Jove, Minerva, and Apollo, now that I see what kind of person you

are, and how much you think as I do, I wish you would stay here, marry

my daughter, and become my son-in-law. If you will stay I will give

you a house and an estate, but no one (heaven forbid) shall keep you

here against your own wish, and that you may be sure of this I will

attend to-morrow to the matter of your escort. You can sleep during

the whole voyage if you like, and the men shall sail you over smooth

waters either to your own home, or wherever you please, even though

it be a long way further off than Euboea, which those of my people

who saw it when they took yellow-haired Rhadamanthus to see Tityus

the son of Gaia, tell me is the furthest of any place- and yet they

did the whole voyage in a single day without distressing themselves,

and came back again afterwards. You will thus see how much my ships

excel all others, and what magnificent oarsmen my sailors are.”

Then was Ulysses glad and prayed aloud saying, “Father Jove, grant

that Alcinous may do all as he has said, for so he will win an imperishable

name among mankind, and at the same time I shall return to my country.”

Thus did they converse. Then Arete told her maids to set a bed in

the room that was in the gatehouse, and make it with good red rugs,

and to spread coverlets on the top of them with woollen cloaks for

Ulysses to wear. The maids thereon went out with torches in their

hands, and when they had made the bed they came up to Ulysses and

said, “Rise, sir stranger, and come with us for your bed is ready,”

and glad indeed was he to go to his rest.

So Ulysses slept in a bed placed in a room over the echoing gateway;

but Alcinous lay in the inner part of the house, with the queen his

wife by his side.



Now when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, Alcinous

and Ulysses both rose, and Alcinous led the way to the Phaecian place

of assembly, which was near the ships. When they got there they sat

down side by side on a seat of polished stone, while Minerva took

the form of one of Alcinous’ servants, and went round the town in

order to help Ulysses to get home. She went up to the citizens, man

by man, and said, “Aldermen and town councillors of the Phaeacians,

come to the assembly all of you and listen to the stranger who has

just come off a long voyage to the house of King Alcinous; he looks

like an immortal god.”

With these words she made them all want to come, and they flocked

to the assembly till seats and standing room were alike crowded. Every

one was struck with the appearance of Ulysses, for Minerva had beautified

him about the head and shoulders, making him look taller and stouter

than he really was, that he might impress the Phaecians favourably

as being a very remarkable man, and might come off well in the many

trials of skill to which they would challenge him. Then, when they

were got together, Alcinous spoke:

“Hear me,” said he, “aldermen and town councillors of the Phaeacians,

that I may speak even as I am minded. This stranger, whoever he may

be, has found his way to my house from somewhere or other either East

or West. He wants an escort and wishes to have the matter settled.

Let us then get one ready for him, as we have done for others before

him; indeed, no one who ever yet came to my house has been able to

complain of me for not speeding on his way soon enough. Let us draw

a ship into the sea- one that has never yet made a voyage- and man

her with two and fifty of our smartest young sailors. Then when you

have made fast your oars each by his own seat, leave the ship and

come to my house to prepare a feast. I will find you in everything.

I am giving will these instructions to the young men who will form

the crew, for as regards you aldermen and town councillors, you will

join me in entertaining our guest in the cloisters. I can take no

excuses, and we will have Demodocus to sing to us; for there is no

bard like him whatever he may choose to sing about.”

Alcinous then led the way, and the others followed after, while a

servant went to fetch Demodocus. The fifty-two picked oarsmen went

to the sea shore as they had been told, and when they got there they

drew the ship into the water, got her mast and sails inside her, bound

the oars to the thole-pins with twisted thongs of leather, all in

due course, and spread the white sails aloft. They moored the vessel

a little way out from land, and then came on shore and went to the

house of King Alcinous. The outhouses, yards, and all the precincts

were filled with crowds of men in great multitudes both old and young;

and Alcinous killed them a dozen sheep, eight full grown pigs, and

two oxen. These they skinned and dressed so as to provide a magnificent


A servant presently led in the famous bard Demodocus, whom the muse

had dearly loved, but to whom she had given both good and evil, for

though she had endowed him with a divine gift of song, she had robbed

him of his eyesight. Pontonous set a seat for him among the guests,

leaning it up against a bearing-post. He hung the lyre for him on

a peg over his head, and showed him where he was to feel for it with

his hands. He also set a fair table with a basket of victuals by his

side, and a cup of wine from which he might drink whenever he was

so disposed.

The company then laid their hands upon the good things that were before

them, but as soon as they had had enough to eat and drink, the muse

inspired Demodocus to sing the feats of heroes, and more especially

a matter that was then in the mouths of all men, to wit, the quarrel

between Ulysses and Achilles, and the fierce words that they heaped

on one another as they gat together at a banquet. But Agamemnon was

glad when he heard his chieftains quarrelling with one another, for

Apollo had foretold him this at Pytho when he crossed the stone floor

to consult the oracle. Here was the beginning of the evil that by

the will of Jove fell both Danaans and Trojans.

Thus sang the bard, but Ulysses drew his purple mantle over his head

and covered his face, for he was ashamed to let the Phaeacians see

that he was weeping. When the bard left off singing he wiped the tears

from his eyes, uncovered his face, and, taking his cup, made a drink-offering

to the gods; but when the Phaeacians pressed Demodocus to sing further,

for they delighted in his lays, then Ulysses again drew his mantle

over his head and wept bitterly. No one noticed his distress except

Alcinous, who was sitting near him, and heard the heavy sighs that

he was heaving. So he at once said, “Aldermen and town councillors

of the Phaeacians, we have had enough now, both of the feast, and

of the minstrelsy that is its due accompaniment; let us proceed therefore

to the athletic sports, so that our guest on his return home may be

able to tell his friends how much we surpass all other nations as

boxers, wrestlers, jumpers, and runners.”

With these words he led the way, and the others followed after. A

servant hung Demodocus’s lyre on its peg for him, led him out of the

cloister, and set him on the same way as that along which all the

chief men of the Phaeacians were going to see the sports; a crowd

of several thousands of people followed them, and there were many

excellent competitors for all the prizes. Acroneos, Ocyalus, Elatreus,

Nauteus, Prymneus, Anchialus, Eretmeus, Ponteus, Proreus, Thoon, Anabesineus,

and Amphialus son of Polyneus son of Tecton. There was also Euryalus

son of Naubolus, who was like Mars himself, and was the best looking

man among the Phaecians except Laodamas. Three sons of Alcinous, Laodamas,

Halios, and Clytoneus, competed also.

The foot races came first. The course was set out for them from the

starting post, and they raised a dust upon the plain as they all flew

forward at the same moment. Clytoneus came in first by a long way;

he left every one else behind him by the length of the furrow that

a couple of mules can plough in a fallow field. They then turned to

the painful art of wrestling, and here Euryalus proved to be the best

man. Amphialus excelled all the others in jumping, while at throwing

the disc there was no one who could approach Elatreus. Alcinous’s

son Laodamas was the best boxer, and he it was who presently said,

when they had all been diverted with the games, “Let us ask the stranger

whether he excels in any of these sports; he seems very powerfully

built; his thighs, claves, hands, and neck are of prodigious strength,

nor is he at all old, but he has suffered much lately, and there is

nothing like the sea for making havoc with a man, no matter how strong

he is.”

“You are quite right, Laodamas,” replied Euryalus, “go up to your

guest and speak to him about it yourself.”

When Laodamas heard this he made his way into the middle of the crowd

and said to Ulysses, “I hope, Sir, that you will enter yourself for

some one or other of our competitions if you are skilled in any of

them- and you must have gone in for many a one before now. There is

nothing that does any one so much credit all his life long as the

showing himself a proper man with his hands and feet. Have a try therefore

at something, and banish all sorrow from your mind. Your return home

will not be long delayed, for the ship is already drawn into the water,

and the crew is found.”

Ulysses answered, “Laodamas, why do you taunt me in this way? my mind

is set rather on cares than contests; I have been through infinite

trouble, and am come among you now as a suppliant, praying your king

and people to further me on my return home.”

Then Euryalus reviled him outright and said, “I gather, then, that

you are unskilled in any of the many sports that men generally delight

in. I suppose you are one of those grasping traders that go about

in ships as captains or merchants, and who think of nothing but of

their outward freights and homeward cargoes. There does not seem to

be much of the athlete about you.”

“For shame, Sir,” answered Ulysses, fiercely, “you are an insolent

fellow- so true is it that the gods do not grace all men alike in

speech, person, and understanding. One man may be of weak presence,

but heaven has adorned this with such a good conversation that he

charms every one who sees him; his honeyed moderation carries his

hearers with him so that he is leader in all assemblies of his fellows,

and wherever he goes he is looked up to. Another may be as handsome

as a god, but his good looks are not crowned with discretion. This

is your case. No god could make a finer looking fellow than you are,

but you are a fool. Your ill-judged remarks have made me exceedingly

angry, and you are quite mistaken, for I excel in a great many athletic

exercises; indeed, so long as I had youth and strength, I was among

the first athletes of the age. Now, however, I am worn out by labour

and sorrow, for I have gone through much both on the field of battle

and by the waves of the weary sea; still, in spite of all this I will

compete, for your taunts have stung me to the quick.”

So he hurried up without even taking his cloak off, and seized a disc,

larger, more massive and much heavier than those used by the Phaeacians

when disc-throwing among themselves. Then, swinging it back, he threw

it from his brawny hand, and it made a humming sound in the air as

he did so. The Phaeacians quailed beneath the rushing of its flight

as it sped gracefully from his hand, and flew beyond any mark that

had been made yet. Minerva, in the form of a man, came and marked

the place where it had fallen. “A blind man, Sir,” said she, “could

easily tell your mark by groping for it- it is so far ahead of any

other. You may make your mind easy about this contest, for no Phaeacian

can come near to such a throw as yours.”

Ulysses was glad when he found he had a friend among the lookers-on,

so he began to speak more pleasantly. “Young men,” said he, “come

up to that throw if you can, and I will throw another disc as heavy

or even heavier. If anyone wants to have a bout with me let him come

on, for I am exceedingly angry; I will box, wrestle, or run, I do

not care what it is, with any man of you all except Laodamas, but

not with him because I am his guest, and one cannot compete with one’s

own personal friend. At least I do not think it a prudent or a sensible

thing for a guest to challenge his host’s family at any game, especially

when he is in a foreign country. He will cut the ground from under

his own feet if he does; but I make no exception as regards any one

else, for I want to have the matter out and know which is the best

man. I am a good hand at every kind of athletic sport known among

mankind. I am an excellent archer. In battle I am always the first

to bring a man down with my arrow, no matter how many more are taking

aim at him alongside of me. Philoctetes was the only man who could

shoot better than I could when we Achaeans were before Troy and in

practice. I far excel every one else in the whole world, of those

who still eat bread upon the face of the earth, but I should not like

to shoot against the mighty dead, such as Hercules, or Eurytus the

Cechalian-men who could shoot against the gods themselves. This in

fact was how Eurytus came prematurely by his end, for Apollo was angry

with him and killed him because he challenged him as an archer. I

can throw a dart farther than any one else can shoot an arrow. Running

is the only point in respect of which I am afraid some of the Phaecians

might beat me, for I have been brought down very low at sea; my provisions

ran short, and therefore I am still weak.”

They all held their peace except King Alcinous, who began, “Sir, we

have had much pleasure in hearing all that you have told us, from

which I understand that you are willing to show your prowess, as having

been displeased with some insolent remarks that have been made to

you by one of our athletes, and which could never have been uttered

by any one who knows how to talk with propriety. I hope you will apprehend

my meaning, and will explain to any be one of your chief men who may

be dining with yourself and your family when you get home, that we

have an hereditary aptitude for accomplishments of all kinds. We are

not particularly remarkable for our boxing, nor yet as wrestlers,

but we are singularly fleet of foot and are excellent sailors. We

are extremely fond of good dinners, music, and dancing; we also like

frequent changes of linen, warm baths, and good beds, so now, please,

some of you who are the best dancers set about dancing, that our guest

on his return home may be able to tell his friends how much we surpass

all other nations as sailors, runners, dancers, minstrels. Demodocus

has left his lyre at my house, so run some one or other of you and

fetch it for him.”

On this a servant hurried off to bring the lyre from the king’s house,

and the nine men who had been chosen as stewards stood forward. It

was their business to manage everything connected with the sports,

so they made the ground smooth and marked a wide space for the dancers.

Presently the servant came back with Demodocus’s lyre, and he took

his place in the midst of them, whereon the best young dancers in

the town began to foot and trip it so nimbly that Ulysses was delighted

with the merry twinkling of their feet.

Meanwhile the bard began to sing the loves of Mars and Venus, and

how they first began their intrigue in the house of Vulcan. Mars made

Venus many presents, and defiled King Vulcan’s marriage bed, so the

sun, who saw what they were about, told Vulcan. Vulcan was very angry

when he heard such dreadful news, so he went to his smithy brooding

mischief, got his great anvil into its place, and began to forge some

chains which none could either unloose or break, so that they might

stay there in that place. When he had finished his snare he went into

his bedroom and festooned the bed-posts all over with chains like

cobwebs; he also let many hang down from the great beam of the ceiling.

Not even a god could see them, so fine and subtle were they. As soon

as he had spread the chains all over the bed, he made as though he

were setting out for the fair state of Lemnos, which of all places

in the world was the one he was most fond of. But Mars kept no blind

look out, and as soon as he saw him start, hurried off to his house,

burning with love for Venus.

Now Venus was just come in from a visit to her father Jove, and was

about sitting down when Mars came inside the house, an said as he

took her hand in his own, “Let us go to the couch of Vulcan: he is

not at home, but is gone off to Lemnos among the Sintians, whose speech

is barbarous.”

She was nothing loth, so they went to the couch to take their rest,

whereon they were caught in the toils which cunning Vulcan had spread

for them, and could neither get up nor stir hand or foot, but found

too late that they were in a trap. Then Vulcan came up to them, for

he had turned back before reaching Lemnos, when his scout the sun

told him what was going on. He was in a furious passion, and stood

in the vestibule making a dreadful noise as he shouted to all the


“Father Jove,” he cried, “and all you other blessed gods who live

for ever, come here and see the ridiculous and disgraceful sight that

I will show you. Jove’s daughter Venus is always dishonouring me because

I am lame. She is in love with Mars, who is handsome and clean built,

whereas I am a cripple- but my parents are to blame for that, not

I; they ought never to have begotten me. Come and see the pair together

asleep on my bed. It makes me furious to look at them. They are very

fond of one another, but I do not think they will lie there longer

than they can help, nor do I think that they will sleep much; there,

however, they shall stay till her father has repaid me the sum I gave

him for his baggage of a daughter, who is fair but not honest.”

On this the gods gathered to the house of Vulcan. Earth-encircling

Neptune came, and Mercury the bringer of luck, and King Apollo, but

the goddesses stayed at home all of them for shame. Then the givers

of all good things stood in the doorway, and the blessed gods roared

with inextinguishable laughter, as they saw how cunning Vulcan had

been, whereon one would turn towards his neighbour saying:

“Ill deeds do not prosper, and the weak confound the strong. See how

limping Vulcan, lame as he is, has caught Mars who is the fleetest

god in heaven; and now Mars will be cast in heavy damages.”

Thus did they converse, but King Apollo said to Mercury, “Messenger

Mercury, giver of good things, you would not care how strong the chains

were, would you, if you could sleep with Venus?”

“King Apollo,” answered Mercury, “I only wish I might get the chance,

though there were three times as many chains- and you might look on,

all of you, gods and goddesses, but would sleep with her if I could.”

The immortal gods burst out laughing as they heard him, but Neptune

took it all seriously, and kept on imploring Vulcan to set Mars free

again. “Let him go,” he cried, “and I will undertake, as you require,

that he shall pay you all the damages that are held reasonable among

the immortal gods.”

“Do not,” replied Vulcan, “ask me to do this; a bad man’s bond is

bad security; what remedy could I enforce against you if Mars should

go away and leave his debts behind him along with his chains?”

“Vulcan,” said Neptune, “if Mars goes away without paying his damages,

I will pay you myself.” So Vulcan answered, “In this case I cannot

and must not refuse you.”

Thereon he loosed the bonds that bound them, and as soon as they were

free they scampered off, Mars to Thrace and laughter-loving Venus

to Cyprus and to Paphos, where is her grove and her altar fragrant

with burnt offerings. Here the Graces hathed her, and anointed her

with oil of ambrosia such as the immortal gods make use of, and they

clothed her in raiment of the most enchanting beauty.

Thus sang the bard, and both Ulysses and the seafaring Phaeacians

were charmed as they heard him.

Then Alcinous told Laodamas and Halius to dance alone, for there was

no one to compete with them. So they took a red ball which Polybus

had made for them, and one of them bent himself backwards and threw

it up towards the clouds, while the other jumped from off the ground

and caught it with ease before it came down again. When they had done

throwing the ball straight up into the air they began to dance, and

at the same time kept on throwing it backwards and forwards to one

another, while all the young men in the ring applauded and made a

great stamping with their feet. Then Ulysses said:

“King Alcinous, you said your people were the nimblest dancers in

the world, and indeed they have proved themselves to be so. I was

astonished as I saw them.”

The king was delighted at this, and exclaimed to the Phaecians “Aldermen

and town councillors, our guest seems to be a person of singular judgement;

let us give him such proof of our hospitality as he may reasonably

expect. There are twelve chief men among you, and counting myself

there are thirteen; contribute, each of you, a clean cloak, a shirt,

and a talent of fine gold; let us give him all this in a lump down

at once, so that when he gets his supper he may do so with a light

heart. As for Euryalus he will have to make a formal apology and a

present too, for he has been rude.”

Thus did he speak. The others all of them applauded his saying, and

sent their servants to fetch the presents. Then Euryalus said, “King

Alcinous, I will give the stranger all the satisfaction you require.

He shall have sword, which is of bronze, all but the hilt, which is

of silver. I will also give him the scabbard of newly sawn ivory into

which it fits. It will be worth a great deal to him.”

As he spoke he placed the sword in the hands of Ulysses and said,

“Good luck to you, father stranger; if anything has been said amiss

may the winds blow it away with them, and may heaven grant you a safe

return, for I understand you have been long away from home, and have

gone through much hardship.”

To which Ulysses answered, “Good luck to you too my friend, and may

the gods grant you every happiness. I hope you will not miss the sword

you have given me along with your apology.”

With these words he girded the sword about his shoulders and towards

sundown the presents began to make their appearance, as the servants

of the donors kept bringing them to the house of King Alcinous; here

his sons received them, and placed them under their mother’s charge.

Then Alcinous led the way to the house and bade his guests take their


“Wife,” said he, turning to Queen Arete, “Go, fetch the best chest

we have, and put a clean cloak and shirt in it. Also, set a copper

on the fire and heat some water; our guest will take a warm bath;

see also to the careful packing of the presents that the noble Phaeacians

have made him; he will thus better enjoy both his supper and the singing

that will follow. I shall myself give him this golden goblet- which

is of exquisite workmanship- that he may be reminded of me for the

rest of his life whenever he makes a drink-offering to Jove, or to

any of the gods.”

Then Arete told her maids to set a large tripod upon the fire as fast

as they could, whereon they set a tripod full of bath water on to

a clear fire; they threw on sticks to make it blaze, and the water

became hot as the flame played about the belly of the tripod. Meanwhile

Arete brought a magnificent chest her own room, and inside it she

packed all the beautiful presents of gold and raiment which the Phaeacians

had brought. Lastly she added a cloak and a good shirt from Alcinous,

and said to Ulysses:

“See to the lid yourself, and have the whole bound round at once,

for fear any one should rob you by the way when you are asleep in

your ship.”

When Ulysses heard this he put the lid on the chest and made it fast

with a bond that Circe had taught him. He had done so before an upper

servant told him to come to the bath and wash himself. He was very

glad of a warm bath, for he had had no one to wait upon him ever since

he left the house of Calypso, who as long as he remained with her

had taken as good care of him as though he had been a god. When the

servants had done washing and anointing him with oil, and had given

him a clean cloak and shirt, he left the bath room and joined the

guests who were sitting over their wine. Lovely Nausicaa stood by

one of the bearing-posts supporting the roof if the cloister, and

admired him as she saw him pass. “Farewell stranger,” said she, “do

not forget me when you are safe at home again, for it is to me first

that you owe a ransom for having saved your life.”

And Ulysses said, “Nausicaa, daughter of great Alcinous, may Jove

the mighty husband of Juno, grant that I may reach my home; so shall

I bless you as my guardian angel all my days, for it was you who saved


When he had said this, he seated himself beside Alcinous. Supper was

then served, and the wine was mixed for drinking. A servant led in

the favourite bard Demodocus, and set him in the midst of the company,

near one of the bearing-posts supporting the cloister, that he might

lean against it. Then Ulysses cut off a piece of roast pork with plenty

of fat (for there was abundance left on the joint) and said to a servant,

“Take this piece of pork over to Demodocus and tell him to eat it;

for all the pain his lays may cause me I will salute him none the

less; bards are honoured and respected throughout the world, for the

muse teaches them their songs and loves them.”

The servant carried the pork in his fingers over to Demodocus, who

took it and was very much pleased. They then laid their hands on the

good things that were before them, and as soon as they had had to

eat and drink, Ulysses said to Demodocus, “Demodocus, there is no

one in the world whom I admire more than I do you. You must have studied

under the Muse, Jove’s daughter, and under Apollo, so accurately do

you sing the return of the Achaeans with all their sufferings and

adventures. If you were not there yourself, you must have heard it

all from some one who was. Now, however, change your song and tell

us of the wooden horse which Epeus made with the assistance of Minerva,

and which Ulysses got by stratagem into the fort of Troy after freighting

it with the men who afterwards sacked the city. If you will sing this

tale aright I will tell all the world how magnificently heaven has

endowed you.”

The bard inspired of heaven took up the story at the point where some

of the Argives set fire to their tents and sailed away while others,

hidden within the horse, were waiting with Ulysses in the Trojan place

of assembly. For the Trojans themselves had drawn the horse into their

fortress, and it stood there while they sat in council round it, and

were in three minds as to what they should do. Some were for breaking

it up then and there; others would have it dragged to the top of the

rock on which the fortress stood, and then thrown down the precipice;

while yet others were for letting it remain as an offering and propitiation

for the gods. And this was how they settled it in the end, for the

city was doomed when it took in that horse, within which were all

the bravest of the Argives waiting to bring death and destruction

on the Trojans. Anon he sang how the sons of the Achaeans issued from

the horse, and sacked the town, breaking out from their ambuscade.

He sang how they over ran the city hither and thither and ravaged

it, and how Ulysses went raging like Mars along with Menelaus to the

house of Deiphobus. It was there that the fight raged most furiously,

nevertheless by Minerva’s help he was victorious.

All this he told, but Ulysses was overcome as he heard him, and his

cheeks were wet with tears. He wept as a woman weeps when she throws

herself on the body of her husband who has fallen before his own city

and people, fighting bravely in defence of his home and children.

She screams aloud and flings her arms about him as he lies gasping

for breath and dying, but her enemies beat her from behind about the

back and shoulders, and carry her off into slavery, to a life of labour

and sorrow, and the beauty fades from her cheeks- even so piteously

did Ulysses weep, but none of those present perceived his tears except

Alcinous, who was sitting near him, and could hear the sobs and sighs

that he was heaving. The king, therefore, at once rose and said:

“Aldermen and town councillors of the Phaeacians, let Demodocus cease

his song, for there are those present who do not seem to like it.

From the moment that we had done supper and Demodocus began to sing,

our guest has been all the time groaning and lamenting. He is evidently

in great trouble, so let the bard leave off, that we may all enjoy

ourselves, hosts and guest alike. This will be much more as it should

be, for all these festivities, with the escort and the presents that

we are making with so much good will, are wholly in his honour, and

any one with even a moderate amount of right feeling knows that he

ought to treat a guest and a suppliant as though he were his own brother.

“Therefore, Sir, do you on your part affect no more concealment nor

reserve in the matter about which I shall ask you; it will be more

polite in you to give me a plain answer; tell me the name by which

your father and mother over yonder used to call you, and by which

you were known among your neighbours and fellow-citizens. There is

no one, neither rich nor poor, who is absolutely without any name

whatever, for people’s fathers and mothers give them names as soon

as they are born. Tell me also your country, nation, and city, that

our ships may shape their purpose accordingly and take you there.

For the Phaeacians have no pilots; their vessels have no rudders as

those of other nations have, but the ships themselves understand what

it is that we are thinking about and want; they know all the cities

and countries in the whole world, and can traverse the sea just as

well even when it is covered with mist and cloud, so that there is

no danger of being wrecked or coming to any harm. Still I do remember

hearing my father say that Neptune was angry with us for being too

easy-going in the matter of giving people escorts. He said that one

of these days he should wreck a ship of ours as it was returning from

having escorted some one, and bury our city under a high mountain.

This is what my used to say, but whether the god will carry out his

threat or no is a matter which he will decide for himself.

“And now, tell me and tell me true. Where have you been wandering,

and in what countries have you travelled? Tell us of the peoples themselves,

and of their cities- who were hostile, savage and uncivilized, and

who, on the other hand, hospitable and humane. Tell us also why you

are made unhappy on hearing about the return of the Argive Danaans

from Troy. The gods arranged all this, and sent them their misfortunes

in order that future generations might have something to sing about.

Did you lose some brave kinsman of your wife’s when you were before

Troy? a son-in-law or father-in-law- which are the nearest relations

a man has outside his own flesh and blood? or was it some brave and

kindly-natured comrade- for a good friend is as dear to a man as his

own brother?”



And Ulysses answered, “King Alcinous, it is a good thing to hear

a bard with such a divine voice as this man has. There is nothing

better or more delightful than when a whole people make merry together,

with the guests sitting orderly to listen, while the table is loaded

with bread and meats, and the cup-bearer draws wine and fills his

cup for every man. This is indeed as fair a sight as a man can see.

Now, however, since you are inclined to ask the story of my sorrows,

and rekindle my own sad memories in respect of them, I do not know

how to begin, nor yet how to continue and conclude my tale, for the

hand of heaven has been laid heavily upon me.

“Firstly, then, I will tell you my name that you too may know it,

and one day, if I outlive this time of sorrow, may become my there

guests though I live so far away from all of you. I am Ulysses son

of Laertes, reknowned among mankind for all manner of subtlety, so

that my fame ascends to heaven. I live in Ithaca, where there is a

high mountain called Neritum, covered with forests; and not far from

it there is a group of islands very near to one another- Dulichium,

Same, and the wooded island of Zacynthus. It lies squat on the horizon,

all highest up in the sea towards the sunset, while the others lie

away from it towards dawn. It is a rugged island, but it breeds brave

men, and my eyes know none that they better love to look upon. The

goddess Calypso kept me with her in her cave, and wanted me to marry

her, as did also the cunning Aeaean goddess Circe; but they could

neither of them persuade me, for there is nothing dearer to a man

than his own country and his parents, and however splendid a home

he may have in a foreign country, if it be far from father or mother,

he does not care about it. Now, however, I will tell you of the many

hazardous adventures which by Jove’s will I met with on my return

from Troy.

“When I had set sail thence the wind took me first to Ismarus, which

is the city of the Cicons. There I sacked the town and put the people

to the sword. We took their wives and also much booty, which we divided

equitably amongst us, so that none might have reason to complain.

I then said that we had better make off at once, but my men very foolishly

would not obey me, so they stayed there drinking much wine and killing

great numbers of sheep and oxen on the sea shore. Meanwhile the Cicons

cried out for help to other Cicons who lived inland. These were more

in number, and stronger, and they were more skilled in the art of

war, for they could fight, either from chariots or on foot as the

occasion served; in the morning, therefore, they came as thick as

leaves and bloom in summer, and the hand of heaven was against us,

so that we were hard pressed. They set the battle in array near the

ships, and the hosts aimed their bronze-shod spears at one another.

So long as the day waxed and it was still morning, we held our own

against them, though they were more in number than we; but as the

sun went down, towards the time when men loose their oxen, the Cicons

got the better of us, and we lost half a dozen men from every ship

we had; so we got away with those that were left.

“Thence we sailed onward with sorrow in our hearts, but glad to have

escaped death though we had lost our comrades, nor did we leave till

we had thrice invoked each one of the poor fellows who had perished

by the hands of the Cicons. Then Jove raised the North wind against

us till it blew a hurricane, so that land and sky were hidden in thick

clouds, and night sprang forth out of the heavens. We let the ships

run before the gale, but the force of the wind tore our sails to tatters,

so we took them down for fear of shipwreck, and rowed our hardest

towards the land. There we lay two days and two nights suffering much

alike from toil and distress of mind, but on the morning of the third

day we again raised our masts, set sail, and took our places, letting

the wind and steersmen direct our ship. I should have got home at

that time unharmed had not the North wind and the currents been against

me as I was doubling Cape Malea, and set me off my course hard by

the island of Cythera.

“I was driven thence by foul winds for a space of nine days upon the

sea, but on the tenth day we reached the land of the Lotus-eater,

who live on a food that comes from a kind of flower. Here we landed

to take in fresh water, and our crews got their mid-day meal on the

shore near the ships. When they had eaten and drunk I sent two of

my company to see what manner of men the people of the place might

be, and they had a third man under them. They started at once, and

went about among the Lotus-eaters, who did them no hurt, but gave

them to eat of the lotus, which was so delicious that those who ate

of it left off caring about home, and did not even want to go back

and say what had happened to them, but were for staying and munching

lotus with the Lotus-eater without thinking further of their return;

nevertheless, though they wept bitterly I forced them back to the

ships and made them fast under the benches. Then I told the rest to

go on board at once, lest any of them should taste of the lotus and

leave off wanting to get home, so they took their places and smote

the grey sea with their oars.

“We sailed hence, always in much distress, till we came to the land

of the lawless and inhuman Cyclopes. Now the Cyclopes neither plant

nor plough, but trust in providence, and live on such wheat, barley,

and grapes as grow wild without any kind of tillage, and their wild

grapes yield them wine as the sun and the rain may grow them. They

have no laws nor assemblies of the people, but live in caves on the

tops of high mountains; each is lord and master in his family, and

they take no account of their neighbours.

“Now off their harbour there lies a wooded and fertile island not

quite close to the land of the Cyclopes, but still not far. It is

overrun with wild goats, that breed there in great numbers and are

never disturbed by foot of man; for sportsmen- who as a rule will

suffer so much hardship in forest or among mountain precipices- do

not go there, nor yet again is it ever ploughed or fed down, but it

lies a wilderness untilled and unsown from year to year, and has no

living thing upon it but only goats. For the Cyclopes have no ships,

nor yet shipwrights who could make ships for them; they cannot therefore

go from city to city, or sail over the sea to one another’s country

as people who have ships can do; if they had had these they would

have colonized the island, for it is a very good one, and would yield

everything in due season. There are meadows that in some places come

right down to the sea shore, well watered and full of luscious grass;

grapes would do there excellently; there is level land for ploughing,

and it would always yield heavily at harvest time, for the soil is

deep. There is a good harbour where no cables are wanted, nor yet

anchors, nor need a ship be moored, but all one has to do is to beach

one’s vessel and stay there till the wind becomes fair for putting

out to sea again. At the head of the harbour there is a spring of

clear water coming out of a cave, and there are poplars growing all

round it.

“Here we entered, but so dark was the night that some god must have

brought us in, for there was nothing whatever to be seen. A thick

mist hung all round our ships; the moon was hidden behind a mass of

clouds so that no one could have seen the island if he had looked

for it, nor were there any breakers to tell us we were close in shore

before we found ourselves upon the land itself; when, however, we

had beached the ships, we took down the sails, went ashore and camped

upon the beach till daybreak.

“When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, we admired

the island and wandered all over it, while the nymphs Jove’s daughters

roused the wild goats that we might get some meat for our dinner.

On this we fetched our spears and bows and arrows from the ships,

and dividing ourselves into three bands began to shoot the goats.

Heaven sent us excellent sport; I had twelve ships with me, and each

ship got nine goats, while my own ship had ten; thus through the livelong

day to the going down of the sun we ate and drank our fill,- and we

had plenty of wine left, for each one of us had taken many jars full

when we sacked the city of the Cicons, and this had not yet run out.

While we were feasting we kept turning our eyes towards the land of

the Cyclopes, which was hard by, and saw the smoke of their stubble

fires. We could almost fancy we heard their voices and the bleating

of their sheep and goats, but when the sun went down and it came on

dark, we camped down upon the beach, and next morning I called a council.

“‘Stay here, my brave fellows,’ said I, ‘all the rest of you, while

I go with my ship and exploit these people myself: I want to see if

they are uncivilized savages, or a hospitable and humane race.’

“I went on board, bidding my men to do so also and loose the hawsers;

so they took their places and smote the grey sea with their oars.

When we got to the land, which was not far, there, on the face of

a cliff near the sea, we saw a great cave overhung with laurels. It

was a station for a great many sheep and goats, and outside there

was a large yard, with a high wall round it made of stones built into

the ground and of trees both pine and oak. This was the abode of a

huge monster who was then away from home shepherding his flocks. He

would have nothing to do with other people, but led the life of an

outlaw. He was a horrid creature, not like a human being at all, but

resembling rather some crag that stands out boldly against the sky

on the top of a high mountain.

“I told my men to draw the ship ashore, and stay where they were,

all but the twelve best among them, who were to go along with myself.

I also took a goatskin of sweet black wine which had been given me

by Maron, Apollo son of Euanthes, who was priest of Apollo the patron

god of Ismarus, and lived within the wooded precincts of the temple.

When we were sacking the city we respected him, and spared his life,

as also his wife and child; so he made me some presents of great value-

seven talents of fine gold, and a bowl of silver, with twelve jars

of sweet wine, unblended, and of the most exquisite flavour. Not a

man nor maid in the house knew about it, but only himself, his wife,

and one housekeeper: when he drank it he mixed twenty parts of water

to one of wine, and yet the fragrance from the mixing-bowl was so

exquisite that it was impossible to refrain from drinking. I filled

a large skin with this wine, and took a wallet full of provisions

with me, for my mind misgave me that I might have to deal with some

savage who would be of great strength, and would respect neither right

nor law.

“We soon reached his cave, but he was out shepherding, so we went

inside and took stock of all that we could see. His cheese-racks were

loaded with cheeses, and he had more lambs and kids than his pens

could hold. They were kept in separate flocks; first there were the

hoggets, then the oldest of the younger lambs and lastly the very

young ones all kept apart from one another; as for his dairy, all

the vessels, bowls, and milk pails into which he milked, were swimming

with whey. When they saw all this, my men begged me to let them first

steal some cheeses, and make off with them to the ship; they would

then return, drive down the lambs and kids, put them on board and

sail away with them. It would have been indeed better if we had done

so but I would not listen to them, for I wanted to see the owner himself,

in the hope that he might give me a present. When, however, we saw

him my poor men found him ill to deal with.

“We lit a fire, offered some of the cheeses in sacrifice, ate others

of them, and then sat waiting till the Cyclops should come in with

his sheep. When he came, he brought in with him a huge load of dry

firewood to light the fire for his supper, and this he flung with

such a noise on to the floor of his cave that we hid ourselves for

fear at the far end of the cavern. Meanwhile he drove all the ewes

inside, as well as the she-goats that he was going to milk, leaving

the males, both rams and he-goats, outside in the yards. Then he rolled

a huge stone to the mouth of the cave- so huge that two and twenty

strong four-wheeled waggons would not be enough to draw it from its

place against the doorway. When he had so done he sat down and milked

his ewes and goats, all in due course, and then let each of them have

her own young. He curdled half the milk and set it aside in wicker

strainers, but the other half he poured into bowls that he might drink

it for his supper. When he had got through with all his work, he lit

the fire, and then caught sight of us, whereon he said:

“‘Strangers, who are you? Where do sail from? Are you traders, or

do you sail the as rovers, with your hands against every man, and

every man’s hand against you?’

“We were frightened out of our senses by his loud voice and monstrous

form, but I managed to say, ‘We are Achaeans on our way home from

Troy, but by the will of Jove, and stress of weather, we have been

driven far out of our course. We are the people of Agamemnon, son

of Atreus, who has won infinite renown throughout the whole world,

by sacking so great a city and killing so many people. We therefore

humbly pray you to show us some hospitality, and otherwise make us

such presents as visitors may reasonably expect. May your excellency

fear the wrath of heaven, for we are your suppliants, and Jove takes

all respectable travellers under his protection, for he is the avenger

of all suppliants and foreigners in distress.’

“To this he gave me but a pitiless answer, ‘Stranger,’ said he, ‘you

are a fool, or else you know nothing of this country. Talk to me,

indeed, about fearing the gods or shunning their anger? We Cyclopes

do not care about Jove or any of your blessed gods, for we are ever

so much stronger than they. I shall not spare either yourself or your

companions out of any regard for Jove, unless I am in the humour for

doing so. And now tell me where you made your ship fast when you came

on shore. Was it round the point, or is she lying straight off the


“He said this to draw me out, but I was too cunning to be caught in

that way, so I answered with a lie; ‘Neptune,’ said I, ‘sent my ship

on to the rocks at the far end of your country, and wrecked it. We

were driven on to them from the open sea, but I and those who are

with me escaped the jaws of death.’

“The cruel wretch vouchsafed me not one word of answer, but with a

sudden clutch he gripped up two of my men at once and dashed them

down upon the ground as though they had been puppies. Their brains

were shed upon the ground, and the earth was wet with their blood.

Then he tore them limb from limb and supped upon them. He gobbled

them up like a lion in the wilderness, flesh, bones, marrow, and entrails,

without leaving anything uneaten. As for us, we wept and lifted up

our hands to heaven on seeing such a horrid sight, for we did not

know what else to do; but when the Cyclops had filled his huge paunch,

and had washed down his meal of human flesh with a drink of neat milk,

he stretched himself full length upon the ground among his sheep,

and went to sleep. I was at first inclined to seize my sword, draw

it, and drive it into his vitals, but I reflected that if I did we

should all certainly be lost, for we should never be able to shift

the stone which the monster had put in front of the door. So we stayed

sobbing and sighing where we were till morning came.

“When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, he again

lit his fire, milked his goats and ewes, all quite rightly, and then

let each have her own young one; as soon as he had got through with

all his work, he clutched up two more of my men, and began eating

them for his morning’s meal. Presently, with the utmost ease, he rolled

the stone away from the door and drove out his sheep, but he at once

put it back again- as easily as though he were merely clapping the

lid on to a quiver full of arrows. As soon as he had done so he shouted,

and cried ‘Shoo, shoo,’ after his sheep to drive them on to the mountain;

so I was left to scheme some way of taking my revenge and covering

myself with glory.

“In the end I deemed it would be the best plan to do as follows. The

Cyclops had a great club which was lying near one of the sheep pens;

it was of green olive wood, and he had cut it intending to use it

for a staff as soon as it should be dry. It was so huge that we could

only compare it to the mast of a twenty-oared merchant vessel of large

burden, and able to venture out into open sea. I went up to this club

and cut off about six feet of it; I then gave this piece to the men

and told them to fine it evenly off at one end, which they proceeded

to do, and lastly I brought it to a point myself, charring the end

in the fire to make it harder. When I had done this I hid it under

dung, which was lying about all over the cave, and told the men to

cast lots which of them should venture along with myself to lift it

and bore it into the monster’s eye while he was asleep. The lot fell

upon the very four whom I should have chosen, and I myself made five.

In the evening the wretch came back from shepherding, and drove his

flocks into the cave- this time driving them all inside, and not leaving

any in the yards; I suppose some fancy must have taken him, or a god

must have prompted him to do so. As soon as he had put the stone back

to its place against the door, he sat down, milked his ewes and his

goats all quite rightly, and then let each have her own young one;

when he had got through with all this work, he gripped up two more

of my men, and made his supper off them. So I went up to him with

an ivy-wood bowl of black wine in my hands:

“‘Look here, Cyclops,’ said I, you have been eating a great deal of

man’s flesh, so take this and drink some wine, that you may see what

kind of liquor we had on board my ship. I was bringing it to you as

a drink-offering, in the hope that you would take compassion upon

me and further me on my way home, whereas all you do is to go on ramping

and raving most intolerably. You ought to be ashamed yourself; how

can you expect people to come see you any more if you treat them in

this way?’

“He then took the cup and drank. He was so delighted with the taste

of the wine that he begged me for another bowl full. ‘Be so kind,’

he said, ‘as to give me some more, and tell me your name at once.

I want to make you a present that you will be glad to have. We have

wine even in this country, for our soil grows grapes and the sun ripens

them, but this drinks like nectar and ambrosia all in one.’

“I then gave him some more; three times did I fill the bowl for him,

and three times did he drain it without thought or heed; then, when

I saw that the wine had got into his head, I said to him as plausibly

as I could: ‘Cyclops, you ask my name and I will tell it you; give

me, therefore, the present you promised me; my name is Noman; this

is what my father and mother and my friends have always called me.’

“But the cruel wretch said, ‘Then I will eat all Noman’s comrades

before Noman himself, and will keep Noman for the last. This is the

present that I will make him.’

As he spoke he reeled, and fell sprawling face upwards on the ground.

His great neck hung heavily backwards and a deep sleep took hold upon

him. Presently he turned sick, and threw up both wine and the gobbets

of human flesh on which he had been gorging, for he was very drunk.

Then I thrust the beam of wood far into the embers to heat it, and

encouraged my men lest any of them should turn faint-hearted. When

the wood, green though it was, was about to blaze, I drew it out of

the fire glowing with heat, and my men gathered round me, for heaven

had filled their hearts with courage. We drove the sharp end of the

beam into the monster’s eye, and bearing upon it with all my weight

I kept turning it round and round as though I were boring a hole in

a ship’s plank with an auger, which two men with a wheel and strap

can keep on turning as long as they choose. Even thus did we bore

the red hot beam into his eye, till the boiling blood bubbled all

over it as we worked it round and round, so that the steam from the

burning eyeball scalded his eyelids and eyebrows, and the roots of

the eye sputtered in the fire. As a blacksmith plunges an axe or hatchet

into cold water to temper it- for it is this that gives strength to

the iron- and it makes a great hiss as he does so, even thus did the

Cyclops’ eye hiss round the beam of olive wood, and his hideous yells

made the cave ring again. We ran away in a fright, but he plucked

the beam all besmirched with gore from his eye, and hurled it from

him in a frenzy of rage and pain, shouting as he did so to the other

Cyclopes who lived on the bleak headlands near him; so they gathered

from all quarters round his cave when they heard him crying, and asked

what was the matter with him.

“‘What ails you, Polyphemus,’ said they, ‘that you make such a noise,

breaking the stillness of the night, and preventing us from being

able to sleep? Surely no man is carrying off your sheep? Surely no

man is trying to kill you either by fraud or by force?

“But Polyphemus shouted to them from inside the cave, ‘Noman is killing

me by fraud! Noman is killing me by force!’

“‘Then,’ said they, ‘if no man is attacking you, you must be ill;

when Jove makes people ill, there is no help for it, and you had better

pray to your father Neptune.’

“Then they went away, and I laughed inwardly at the success of my

clever stratagem, but the Cyclops, groaning and in an agony of pain,

felt about with his hands till he found the stone and took it from

the door; then he sat in the doorway and stretched his hands in front

of it to catch anyone going out with the sheep, for he thought I might

be foolish enough to attempt this.

“As for myself I kept on puzzling to think how I could best save my

own life and those of my companions; I schemed and schemed, as one

who knows that his life depends upon it, for the danger was very great.

In the end I deemed that this plan would be the best. The male sheep

were well grown, and carried a heavy black fleece, so I bound them

noiselessly in threes together, with some of the withies on which

the wicked monster used to sleep. There was to be a man under the

middle sheep, and the two on either side were to cover him, so that

there were three sheep to each man. As for myself there was a ram

finer than any of the others, so I caught hold of him by the back,

esconced myself in the thick wool under his belly, and flung on patiently

to his fleece, face upwards, keeping a firm hold on it all the time.

“Thus, then, did we wait in great fear of mind till morning came,

but when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, the male

sheep hurried out to feed, while the ewes remained bleating about

the pens waiting to be milked, for their udders were full to bursting;

but their master in spite of all his pain felt the backs of all the

sheep as they stood upright, without being sharp enough to find out

that the men were underneath their bellies. As the ram was going out,

last of all, heavy with its fleece and with the weight of my crafty

self; Polyphemus laid hold of it and said:

“‘My good ram, what is it that makes you the last to leave my cave

this morning? You are not wont to let the ewes go before you, but

lead the mob with a run whether to flowery mead or bubbling fountain,

and are the first to come home again at night; but now you lag last

of all. Is it because you know your master has lost his eye, and are

sorry because that wicked Noman and his horrid crew have got him down

in his drink and blinded him? But I will have his life yet. If you

could understand and talk, you would tell me where the wretch is hiding,

and I would dash his brains upon the ground till they flew all over

the cave. I should thus have some satisfaction for the harm a this

no-good Noman has done me.’

“As spoke he drove the ram outside, but when we were a little way

out from the cave and yards, I first got from under the ram’s belly,

and then freed my comrades; as for the sheep, which were very fat,

by constantly heading them in the right direction we managed to drive

them down to the ship. The crew rejoiced greatly at seeing those of

us who had escaped death, but wept for the others whom the Cyclops

had killed. However, I made signs to them by nodding and frowning

that they were to hush their crying, and told them to get all the

sheep on board at once and put out to sea; so they went aboard, took

their places, and smote the grey sea with their oars. Then, when I

had got as far out as my voice would reach, I began to jeer at the


“‘Cyclops,’ said I, ‘you should have taken better measure of your

man before eating up his comrades in your cave. You wretch, eat up

your visitors in your own house? You might have known that your sin

would find you out, and now Jove and the other gods have punished


“He got more and more furious as he heard me, so he tore the top from

off a high mountain, and flung it just in front of my ship so that

it was within a little of hitting the end of the rudder. The sea quaked

as the rock fell into it, and the wash of the wave it raised carried

us back towards the mainland, and forced us towards the shore. But

I snatched up a long pole and kept the ship off, making signs to my

men by nodding my head, that they must row for their lives, whereon

they laid out with a will. When we had got twice as far as we were

before, I was for jeering at the Cyclops again, but the men begged

and prayed of me to hold my tongue.

“‘Do not,’ they exclaimed, ‘be mad enough to provoke this savage creature

further; he has thrown one rock at us already which drove us back

again to the mainland, and we made sure it had been the death of us;

if he had then heard any further sound of voices he would have pounded

our heads and our ship’s timbers into a jelly with the rugged rocks

he would have heaved at us, for he can throw them a long way.’

“But I would not listen to them, and shouted out to him in my rage,

‘Cyclops, if any one asks you who it was that put your eye out and

spoiled your beauty, say it was the valiant warrior Ulysses, son of

Laertes, who lives in Ithaca.’

“On this he groaned, and cried out, ‘Alas, alas, then the old prophecy

about me is coming true. There was a prophet here, at one time, a

man both brave and of great stature, Telemus son of Eurymus, who was

an excellent seer, and did all the prophesying for the Cyclopes till

he grew old; he told me that all this would happen to me some day,

and said I should lose my sight by the hand of Ulysses. I have been

all along expecting some one of imposing presence and superhuman strength,

whereas he turns out to be a little insignificant weakling, who has

managed to blind my eye by taking advantage of me in my drink; come

here, then, Ulysses, that I may make you presents to show my hospitality,

and urge Neptune to help you forward on your journey- for Neptune

and I are father and son. He, if he so will, shall heal me, which

no one else neither god nor man can do.’

“Then I said, ‘I wish I could be as sure of killing you outright and

sending you down to the house of Hades, as I am that it will take

more than Neptune to cure that eye of yours.’

“On this he lifted up his hands to the firmament of heaven and prayed,

saying, ‘Hear me, great Neptune; if I am indeed your own true-begotten

son, grant that Ulysses may never reach his home alive; or if he must

get back to his friends at last, let him do so late and in sore plight

after losing all his men [let him reach his home in another man’s

ship and find trouble in his house.’]

“Thus did he pray, and Neptune heard his prayer. Then he picked up

a rock much larger than the first, swung it aloft and hurled it with

prodigious force. It fell just short of the ship, but was within a

little of hitting the end of the rudder. The sea quaked as the rock

fell into it, and the wash of the wave it raised drove us onwards

on our way towards the shore of the island.

“When at last we got to the island where we had left the rest of our

ships, we found our comrades lamenting us, and anxiously awaiting

our return. We ran our vessel upon the sands and got out of her on

to the sea shore; we also landed the Cyclops’ sheep, and divided them

equitably amongst us so that none might have reason to complain. As

for the ram, my companions agreed that I should have it as an extra

share; so I sacrificed it on the sea shore, and burned its thigh bones

to Jove, who is the lord of all. But he heeded not my sacrifice, and

only thought how he might destroy my ships and my comrades.

“Thus through the livelong day to the going down of the sun we feasted

our fill on meat and drink, but when the sun went down and it came

on dark, we camped upon the beach. When the child of morning, rosy-fingered

Dawn, appeared, I bade my men on board and loose the hawsers. Then

they took their places and smote the grey sea with their oars; so

we sailed on with sorrow in our hearts, but glad to have escaped death

though we had lost our comrades.



Thence we went on to the Aeoli island where lives Aeolus son of Hippotas,

dear to the immortal gods. It is an island that floats (as it were)

upon the sea, iron bound with a wall that girds it. Now, Aeolus has

six daughters and six lusty sons, so he made the sons marry the daughters,

and they all live with their dear father and mother, feasting and

enjoying every conceivable kind of luxury. All day long the atmosphere

of the house is loaded with the savour of roasting meats till it groans

again, yard and all; but by night they sleep on their well-made bedsteads,

each with his own wife between the blankets. These were the people

among whom we had now come.

“Aeolus entertained me for a whole month asking me questions all the

time about Troy, the Argive fleet, and the return of the Achaeans.

I told him exactly how everything had happened, and when I said I

must go, and asked him to further me on my way, he made no sort of

difficulty, but set about doing so at once. Moreover, he flayed me

a prime ox-hide to hold the ways of the roaring winds, which he shut

up in the hide as in a sack- for Jove had made him captain over the

winds, and he could stir or still each one of them according to his

own pleasure. He put the sack in the ship and bound the mouth so tightly

with a silver thread that not even a breath of a side-wind could blow

from any quarter. The West wind which was fair for us did he alone

let blow as it chose; but it all came to nothing, for we were lost

through our own folly.

“Nine days and nine nights did we sail, and on the tenth day our native

land showed on the horizon. We got so close in that we could see the

stubble fires burning, and I, being then dead beat, fell into a light

sleep, for I had never let the rudder out of my own hands, that we

might get home the faster. On this the men fell to talking among themselves,

and said I was bringing back gold and silver in the sack that Aeolus

had given me. ‘Bless my heart,’ would one turn to his neighbour, saying,

‘how this man gets honoured and makes friends to whatever city or

country he may go. See what fine prizes he is taking home from Troy,

while we, who have travelled just as far as he has, come back with

hands as empty as we set out with- and now Aeolus has given him ever

so much more. Quick- let us see what it all is, and how much gold

and silver there is in the sack he gave him.’

“Thus they talked and evil counsels prevailed. They loosed the sack,

whereupon the wind flew howling forth and raised a storm that carried

us weeping out to sea and away from our own country. Then I awoke,

and knew not whether to throw myself into the sea or to live on and

make the best of it; but I bore it, covered myself up, and lay down

in the ship, while the men lamented bitterly as the fierce winds bore

our fleet back to the Aeolian island.

“When we reached it we went ashore to take in water, and dined hard

by the ships. Immediately after dinner I took a herald and one of

my men and went straight to the house of Aeolus, where I found him

feasting with his wife and family; so we sat down as suppliants on

the threshold. They were astounded when they saw us and said, ‘Ulysses,

what brings you here? What god has been ill-treating you? We took

great pains to further you on your way home to Ithaca, or wherever

it was that you wanted to go to.’

“Thus did they speak, but I answered sorrowfully, ‘My men have undone

me; they, and cruel sleep, have ruined me. My friends, mend me this

mischief, for you can if you will.’

“I spoke as movingly as I could, but they said nothing, till their

father answered, ‘Vilest of mankind, get you gone at once out of the

island; him whom heaven hates will I in no wise help. Be off, for

you come here as one abhorred of heaven. “And with these words he

sent me sorrowing from his door.

“Thence we sailed sadly on till the men were worn out with long and

fruitless rowing, for there was no longer any wind to help them. Six

days, night and day did we toil, and on the seventh day we reached

the rocky stronghold of Lamus- Telepylus, the city of the Laestrygonians,

where the shepherd who is driving in his sheep and goats [to be milked]

salutes him who is driving out his flock [to feed] and this last answers

the salute. In that country a man who could do without sleep might

earn double wages, one as a herdsman of cattle, and another as a shepherd,

for they work much the same by night as they do by day.

“When we reached the harbour we found it land-locked under steep cliffs,

with a narrow entrance between two headlands. My captains took all

their ships inside, and made them fast close to one another, for there

was never so much as a breath of wind inside, but it was always dead

calm. I kept my own ship outside, and moored it to a rock at the very

end of the point; then I climbed a high rock to reconnoitre, but could

see no sign neither of man nor cattle, only some smoke rising from

the ground. So I sent two of my company with an attendant to find

out what sort of people the inhabitants were.

“The men when they got on shore followed a level road by which the

people draw their firewood from the mountains into the town, till

presently they met a young woman who had come outside to fetch water,

and who was daughter to a Laestrygonian named Antiphates. She was

going to the fountain Artacia from which the people bring in their

water, and when my men had come close up to her, they asked her who

the king of that country might be, and over what kind of people he

ruled; so she directed them to her father’s house, but when they got

there they found his wife to be a giantess as huge as a mountain,

and they were horrified at the sight of her.

“She at once called her husband Antiphates from the place of assembly,

and forthwith he set about killing my men. He snatched up one of them,

and began to make his dinner off him then and there, whereon the other

two ran back to the ships as fast as ever they could. But Antiphates

raised a hue and cry after them, and thousands of sturdy Laestrygonians

sprang up from every quarter- ogres, not men. They threw vast rocks

at us from the cliffs as though they had been mere stones, and I heard

the horrid sound of the ships crunching up against one another, and

the death cries of my men, as the Laestrygonians speared them like

fishes and took them home to eat them. While they were thus killing

my men within the harbour I drew my sword, cut the cable of my own

ship, and told my men to row with alf their might if they too would

not fare like the rest; so they laid out for their lives, and we were

thankful enough when we got into open water out of reach of the rocks

they hurled at us. As for the others there was not one of them left.

“Thence we sailed sadly on, glad to have escaped death, though we

had lost our comrades, and came to the Aeaean island, where Circe

lives a great and cunning goddess who is own sister to the magician

Aeetes- for they are both children of the sun by Perse, who is daughter

to Oceanus. We brought our ship into a safe harbour without a word,

for some god guided us thither, and having landed we there for two

days and two nights, worn out in body and mind. When the morning of

the third day came I took my spear and my sword, and went away from

the ship to reconnoitre, and see if I could discover signs of human

handiwork, or hear the sound of voices. Climbing to the top of a high

look-out I espied the smoke of Circe’s house rising upwards amid a

dense forest of trees, and when I saw this I doubted whether, having

seen the smoke, I would not go on at once and find out more, but in

the end I deemed it best to go back to the ship, give the men their

dinners, and send some of them instead of going myself.

“When I had nearly got back to the ship some god took pity upon my

solitude, and sent a fine antlered stag right into the middle of my

path. He was coming down his pasture in the forest to drink of the

river, for the heat of the sun drove him, and as he passed I struck

him in the middle of the back; the bronze point of the spear went

clean through him, and he lay groaning in the dust until the life

went out of him. Then I set my foot upon him, drew my spear from the

wound, and laid it down; I also gathered rough grass and rushes and

twisted them into a fathom or so of good stout rope, with which I

bound the four feet of the noble creature together; having so done

I hung him round my neck and walked back to the ship leaning upon

my spear, for the stag was much too big for me to be able to carry

him on my shoulder, steadying him with one hand. As I threw him down

in front of the ship, I called the men and spoke cheeringly man by

man to each of them. ‘Look here my friends,’ said I, ‘we are not going

to die so much before our time after all, and at any rate we will

not starve so long as we have got something to eat and drink on board.’

On this they uncovered their heads upon the sea shore and admired

the stag, for he was indeed a splendid fellow. Then, when they had

feasted their eyes upon him sufficiently, they washed their hands

and began to cook him for dinner.

“Thus through the livelong day to the going down of the sun we stayed

there eating and drinking our fill, but when the sun went down and

it came on dark, we camped upon the sea shore. When the child of morning,

fingered Dawn, appeared, I called a council and said, ‘My friends,

we are in very great difficulties; listen therefore to me. We have

no idea where the sun either sets or rises, so that we do not even

know East from West. I see no way out of it; nevertheless, we must

try and find one. We are certainly on an island, for I went as high

as I could this morning, and saw the sea reaching all round it to

the horizon; it lies low, but towards the middle I saw smoke rising

from out of a thick forest of trees.’

“Their hearts sank as they heard me, for they remembered how they

had been treated by the Laestrygonian Antiphates, and by the savage

ogre Polyphemus. They wept bitterly in their dismay, but there was

nothing to be got by crying, so I divided them into two companies

and set a captain over each; I gave one company to Eurylochus, while

I took command of the other myself. Then we cast lots in a helmet,

and the lot fell upon Eurylochus; so he set out with his twenty-two

men, and they wept, as also did we who were left behind.

“When they reached Circe’s house they found it built of cut stones,

on a site that could be seen from far, in the middle of the forest.

There were wild mountain wolves and lions prowling all round it- poor

bewitched creatures whom she had tamed by her enchantments and drugged

into subjection. They did not attack my men, but wagged their great

tails, fawned upon them, and rubbed their noses lovingly against them.

As hounds crowd round their master when they see him coming from dinner-

for they know he will bring them something- even so did these wolves

and lions with their great claws fawn upon my men, but the men were

terribly frightened at seeing such strange creatures. Presently they

reached the gates of the goddess’s house, and as they stood there

they could hear Circe within, singing most beautifully as she worked

at her loom, making a web so fine, so soft, and of such dazzling colours

as no one but a goddess could weave. On this Polites, whom I valued

and trusted more than any other of my men, said, ‘There is some one

inside working at a loom and singing most beautifully; the whole place

resounds with it, let us call her and see whether she is woman or


“They called her and she came down, unfastened the door, and bade

them enter. They, thinking no evil, followed her, all except Eurylochus,

who suspected mischief and stayed outside. When she had got them into

her house, she set them upon benches and seats and mixed them a mess

with cheese, honey, meal, and Pramnian but she drugged it with wicked

poisons to make them forget their homes, and when they had drunk she

turned them into pigs by a stroke of her wand, and shut them up in

her pigsties. They were like pigs-head, hair, and all, and they grunted

just as pigs do; but their senses were the same as before, and they

remembered everything.

“Thus then were they shut up squealing, and Circe threw them some

acorns and beech masts such as pigs eat, but Eurylochus hurried back

to tell me about the sad fate of our comrades. He was so overcome

with dismay that though he tried to speak he could find no words to

do so; his eyes filled with tears and he could only sob and sigh,

till at last we forced his story out of him, and he told us what had

happened to the others.

“‘We went,’ said he, as you told us, through the forest, and in the

middle of it there was a fine house built with cut stones in a place

that could be seen from far. There we found a woman, or else she was

a goddess, working at her loom and singing sweetly; so the men shouted

to her and called her, whereon she at once came down, opened the door,

and invited us in. The others did not suspect any mischief so they

followed her into the house, but I stayed where I was, for I thought

there might be some treachery. From that moment I saw them no more,

for not one of them ever came out, though I sat a long time watching

for them.’

“Then I took my sword of bronze and slung it over my shoulders; I

also took my bow, and told Eurylochus to come back with me and show

me the way. But he laid hold of me with both his hands and spoke piteously,

saying, ‘Sir, do not force me to go with you, but let me stay here,

for I know you will not bring one of them back with you, nor even

return alive yourself; let us rather see if we cannot escape at any

rate with the few that are left us, for we may still save our lives.’

“‘Stay where you are, then, ‘answered I, ‘eating and drinking at the

ship, but I must go, for I am most urgently bound to do so.’

“With this I left the ship and went up inland. When I got through

the charmed grove, and was near the great house of the enchantress

Circe, I met Mercury with his golden wand, disguised as a young man

in the hey-day of his youth and beauty with the down just coming upon

his face. He came up to me and took my hand within his own, saying,

‘My poor unhappy man, whither are you going over this mountain top,

alone and without knowing the way? Your men are shut up in Circe’s

pigsties, like so many wild boars in their lairs. You surely do not

fancy that you can set them free? I can tell you that you will never

get back and will have to stay there with the rest of them. But never

mind, I will protect you and get you out of your difficulty. Take

this herb, which is one of great virtue, and keep it about you when

you go to Circe’s house, it will be a talisman to you against every

kind of mischief.

“‘And I will tell you of all the wicked witchcraft that Circe will

try to practise upon you. She will mix a mess for you to drink, and

she will drug the meal with which she makes it, but she will not be

able to charm you, for the virtue of the herb that I shall give you

will prevent her spells from working. I will tell you all about it.

When Circe strikes you with her wand, draw your sword and spring upon

her as though you were goings to kill her. She will then be frightened

and will desire you to go to bed with her; on this you must not point

blank refuse her, for you want her to set your companions free, and

to take good care also of yourself, but you make her swear solemnly

by all the blessed that she will plot no further mischief against

you, or else when she has got you naked she will unman you and make

you fit for nothing.’

“As he spoke he pulled the herb out of the ground an showed me what

it was like. The root was black, while the flower was as white as

milk; the gods call it Moly, and mortal men cannot uproot it, but

the gods can do whatever they like.

“Then Mercury went back to high Olympus passing over the wooded island;

but I fared onward to the house of Circe, and my heart was clouded

with care as I walked along. When I got to the gates I stood there

and called the goddess, and as soon as she heard me she came down,

opened the door, and asked me to come in; so I followed her- much

troubled in my mind. She set me on a richly decorated seat inlaid

with silver, there was a footstool also under my feet, and she mixed

a mess in a golden goblet for me to drink; but she drugged it, for

she meant me mischief. When she had given it me, and I had drunk it

without its charming me, she struck she, struck me with her wand.

‘There now,’ she cried, ‘be off to the pigsty, and make your lair

with the rest of them.’

“But I rushed at her with my sword drawn as though I would kill her,

whereon she fell with a loud scream, clasped my knees, and spoke piteously,

saying, ‘Who and whence are you? from what place and people have you

come? How can it be that my drugs have no power to charm you? Never

yet was any man able to stand so much as a taste of the herb I gave

you; you must be spell-proof; surely you can be none other than the

bold hero Ulysses, who Mercury always said would come here some day

with his ship while on his way home form Troy; so be it then; sheathe

your sword and let us go to bed, that we may make friends and learn

to trust each other.’

“And I answered, ‘Circe, how can you expect me to be friendly with

you when you have just been turning all my men into pigs? And now

that you have got me here myself, you mean me mischief when you ask

me to go to bed with you, and will unman me and make me fit for nothing.

I shall certainly not consent to go to bed with you unless you will

first take your solemn oath to plot no further harm against me.’

“So she swore at once as I had told her, and when she had completed

her oath then I went to bed with her.

“Meanwhile her four servants, who are her housemaids, set about their

work. They are the children of the groves and fountains, and of the

holy waters that run down into the sea. One of them spread a fair

purple cloth over a seat, and laid a carpet underneath it. Another

brought tables of silver up to the seats, and set them with baskets

of gold. A third mixed some sweet wine with water in a silver bowl

and put golden cups upon the tables, while the fourth she brought

in water and set it to boil in a large cauldron over a good fire which

she had lighted. When the water in the cauldron was boiling, she poured

cold into it till it was just as I liked it, and then she set me in

a bath and began washing me from the cauldron about the head and shoulders,

to take the tire and stiffness out of my limbs. As soon as she had

done washing me and anointing me with oil, she arrayed me in a good

cloak and shirt and led me to a richly decorated seat inlaid with

silver; there was a footstool also under my feet. A maid servant then

brought me water in a beautiful golden ewer and poured it into a silver

basin for me to wash my hands, and she drew a clean table beside me;

an upper servant brought me bread and offered me many things of what

there was in the house, and then Circe bade me eat, but I would not,

and sat without heeding what was before me, still moody and suspicious.

“When Circe saw me sitting there without eating, and in great grief,

she came to me and said, ‘Ulysses, why do you sit like that as though

you were dumb, gnawing at your own heart, and refusing both meat and

drink? Is it that you are still suspicious? You ought not to be, for

I have already sworn solemnly that I will not hurt you.’

“And I said, ‘Circe, no man with any sense of what is right can think

of either eating or drinking in your house until you have set his

friends free and let him see them. If you want me to eat and drink,

you must free my men and bring them to me that I may see them with

my own eyes.’

“When I had said this she went straight through the court with her

wand in her hand and opened the pigsty doors. My men came out like

so many prime hogs and stood looking at her, but she went about among

them and anointed each with a second drug, whereon the bristles that

the bad drug had given them fell off, and they became men again, younger

than they were before, and much taller and better looking. They knew

me at once, seized me each of them by the hand, and wept for joy till

the whole house was filled with the sound of their hullabalooing,

and Circe herself was so sorry for them that she came up to me and

said, ‘Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, go back at once to the sea where

you have left your ship, and first draw it on to the land. Then, hide

all your ship’s gear and property in some cave, and come back here

with your men.’

“I agreed to this, so I went back to the sea shore, and found the

men at the ship weeping and wailing most piteously. When they saw

me the silly blubbering fellows began frisking round me as calves

break out and gambol round their mothers, when they see them coming

home to be milked after they have been feeding all day, and the homestead

resounds with their lowing. They seemed as glad to see me as though

they had got back to their own rugged Ithaca, where they had been

born and bred. ‘Sir,’ said the affectionate creatures, ‘we are as

glad to see you back as though we had got safe home to Ithaca; but

tell us all about the fate of our comrades.’

“I spoke comfortingly to them and said, ‘We must draw our ship on

to the land, and hide the ship’s gear with all our property in some

cave; then come with me all of you as fast as you can to Circe’s house,

where you will find your comrades eating and drinking in the midst

of great abundance.’

“On this the men would have come with me at once, but Eurylochus tried

to hold them back and said, ‘Alas, poor wretches that we are, what

will become of us? Rush not on your ruin by going to the house of

Circe, who will turn us all into pigs or wolves or lions, and we shall

have to keep guard over her house. Remember how the Cyclops treated

us when our comrades went inside his cave, and Ulysses with them.

It was all through his sheer folly that those men lost their lives.’

“When I heard him I was in two minds whether or no to draw the keen

blade that hung by my sturdy thigh and cut his head off in spite of

his being a near relation of my own; but the men interceded for him

and said, ‘Sir, if it may so be, let this fellow stay here and mind

the ship, but take the rest of us with you to Circe’s house.’

“On this we all went inland, and Eurylochus was not left behind after

all, but came on too, for he was frightened by the severe reprimand

that I had given him.

“Meanwhile Circe had been seeing that the men who had been left behind

were washed and anointed with olive oil; she had also given them woollen

cloaks and shirts, and when we came we found them all comfortably

at dinner in her house. As soon as the men saw each other face to

face and knew one another, they wept for joy and cried aloud till

the whole palace rang again. Thereon Circe came up to me and said,

‘Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, tell your men to leave off crying;

I know how much you have all of you suffered at sea, and how ill you

have fared among cruel savages on the mainland, but that is over now,

so stay here, and eat and drink till you are once more as strong and

hearty as you were when you left Ithaca; for at present you are weakened

both in body and mind; you keep all the time thinking of the hardships-

you have suffered during your travels, so that you have no more cheerfulness

left in you.’

“Thus did she speak and we assented. We stayed with Circe for a whole

twelvemonth feasting upon an untold quantity both of meat and wine.

But when the year had passed in the waning of moons and the long days

had come round, my men called me apart and said, ‘Sir, it is time

you began to think about going home, if so be you are to be spared

to see your house and native country at all.’

“Thus did they speak and I assented. Thereon through the livelong

day to the going down of the sun we feasted our fill on meat and wine,

but when the sun went down and it came on dark the men laid themselves

down to sleep in the covered cloisters. I, however, after I had got

into bed with Circe, besought her by her knees, and the goddess listened

to what I had got to say. ‘Circe,’ said I, ‘please to keep the promise

you made me about furthering me on my homeward voyage. I want to get

back and so do my men, they are always pestering me with their complaints

as soon as ever your back is turned.’

“And the goddess answered, ‘Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, you shall

none of you stay here any longer if you do not want to, but there

is another journey which you have got to take before you can sail

homewards. You must go to the house of Hades and of dread Proserpine

to consult the ghost of the blind Theban prophet Teiresias whose reason

is still unshaken. To him alone has Proserpine left his understanding

even in death, but the other ghosts flit about aimlessly.’

“I was dismayed when I heard this. I sat up in bed and wept, and would

gladly have lived no longer to see the light of the sun, but presently

when I was tired of weeping and tossing myself about, I said, ‘And

who shall guide me upon this voyage- for the house of Hades is a port

that no ship can reach.’

“‘You will want no guide,’ she answered; ‘raise you mast, set your

white sails, sit quite still, and the North Wind will blow you there

of itself. When your ship has traversed the waters of Oceanus, you

will reach the fertile shore of Proserpine’s country with its groves

of tall poplars and willows that shed their fruit untimely; here beach

your ship upon the shore of Oceanus, and go straight on to the dark

abode of Hades. You will find it near the place where the rivers Pyriphlegethon

and Cocytus (which is a branch of the river Styx) flow into Acheron,

and you will see a rock near it, just where the two roaring rivers

run into one another.

“‘When you have reached this spot, as I now tell you, dig a trench

a cubit or so in length, breadth, and depth, and pour into it as a

drink-offering to all the dead, first, honey mixed with milk, then

wine, and in the third place water-sprinkling white barley meal over

the whole. Moreover you must offer many prayers to the poor feeble

ghosts, and promise them that when you get back to Ithaca you will

sacrifice a barren heifer to them, the best you have, and will load

the pyre with good things. More particularly you must promise that

Teiresias shall have a black sheep all to himself, the finest in all

your flocks.

“‘When you shall have thus besought the ghosts with your prayers,

offer them a ram and a black ewe, bending their heads towards Erebus;

but yourself turn away from them as though you would make towards

the river. On this, many dead men’s ghosts will come to you, and you

must tell your men to skin the two sheep that you have just killed,

and offer them as a burnt sacrifice with prayers to Hades and to Proserpine.

Then draw your sword and sit there, so as to prevent any other poor

ghost from coming near the split blood before Teiresias shall have

answered your questions. The seer will presently come to you, and

will tell you about your voyage- what stages you are to make, and

how you are to sail the see so as to reach your home.’

“It was day-break by the time she had done speaking, so she dressed

me in my shirt and cloak. As for herself she threw a beautiful light

gossamer fabric over her shoulders, fastening it with a golden girdle

round her waist, and she covered her head with a mantle. Then I went

about among the men everywhere all over the house, and spoke kindly

to each of them man by man: ‘You must not lie sleeping here any longer,’

said I to them, ‘we must be going, for Circe has told me all about

it.’ And this they did as I bade them.

“Even so, however, I did not get them away without misadventure. We

had with us a certain youth named Elpenor, not very remarkable for

sense or courage, who had got drunk and was lying on the house-top

away from the rest of the men, to sleep off his liquor in the cool.

When he heard the noise of the men bustling about, he jumped up on

a sudden and forgot all about coming down by the main staircase, so

he tumbled right off the roof and broke his neck, and his soul went

down to the house of Hades.

“When I had got the men together I said to them, ‘You think you are

about to start home again, but Circe has explained to me that instead

of this, we have got to go to the house of Hades and Proserpine to

consult the ghost of the Theban prophet Teiresias.’

“The men were broken-hearted as they heard me, and threw themselves

on the ground groaning and tearing their hair, but they did not mend

matters by crying. When we reached the sea shore, weeping and lamenting

our fate, Circe brought the ram and the ewe, and we made them fast

hard by the ship. She passed through the midst of us without our knowing

it, for who can see the comings and goings of a god, if the god does

not wish to be seen?



Then, when we had got down to the sea shore we drew our ship into

the water and got her mast and sails into her; we also put the sheep

on board and took our places, weeping and in great distress of mind.

Circe, that great and cunning goddess, sent us a fair wind that blew

dead aft and stayed steadily with us keeping our sails all the time

well filled; so we did whatever wanted doing to the ship’s gear and

let her go as the wind and helmsman headed her. All day long her sails

were full as she held her course over the sea, but when the sun went

down and darkness was over all the earth, we got into the deep waters

of the river Oceanus, where lie the land and city of the Cimmerians

who live enshrouded in mist and darkness which the rays of the sun

never pierce neither at his rising nor as he goes down again out of

the heavens, but the poor wretches live in one long melancholy night.

When we got there we beached the ship, took the sheep out of her,

and went along by the waters of Oceanus till we came to the place

of which Circe had told us.

“Here Perimedes and Eurylochus held the victims, while I drew my sword

and dug the trench a cubit each way. I made a drink-offering to all

the dead, first with honey and milk, then with wine, and thirdly with

water, and I sprinkled white barley meal over the whole, praying earnestly

to the poor feckless ghosts, and promising them that when I got back

to Ithaca I would sacrifice a barren heifer for them, the best I had,

and would load the pyre with good things. I also particularly promised

that Teiresias should have a black sheep to himself, the best in all

my flocks. When I had prayed sufficiently to the dead, I cut the throats

of the two sheep and let the blood run into the trench, whereon the

ghosts came trooping up from Erebus- brides, young bachelors, old

men worn out with toil, maids who had been crossed in love, and brave

men who had been killed in battle, with their armour still smirched

with blood; they came from every quarter and flitted round the trench

with a strange kind of screaming sound that made me turn pale with

fear. When I saw them coming I told the men to be quick and flay the

carcasses of the two dead sheep and make burnt offerings of them,

and at the same time to repeat prayers to Hades and to Proserpine;

but I sat where I was with my sword drawn and would not let the poor

feckless ghosts come near the blood till Teiresias should have answered

my questions.

“The first ghost ‘that came was that of my comrade Elpenor, for he

had not yet been laid beneath the earth. We had left his body unwaked

and unburied in Circe’s house, for we had had too much else to do.

I was very sorry for him, and cried when I saw him: ‘Elpenor,’ said

I, ‘how did you come down here into this gloom and darkness? You have

here on foot quicker than I have with my ship.’

“‘Sir,’ he answered with a groan, ‘it was all bad luck, and my own

unspeakable drunkenness. I was lying asleep on the top of Circe’s

house, and never thought of coming down again by the great staircase

but fell right off the roof and broke my neck, so my soul down to

the house of Hades. And now I beseech you by all those whom you have

left behind you, though they are not here, by your wife, by the father

who brought you up when you were a child, and by Telemachus who is

the one hope of your house, do what I shall now ask you. I know that

when you leave this limbo you will again hold your ship for the Aeaean

island. Do not go thence leaving me unwaked and unburied behind you,

or I may bring heaven’s anger upon you; but burn me with whatever

armour I have, build a barrow for me on the sea shore, that may tell

people in days to come what a poor unlucky fellow I was, and plant

over my grave the oar I used to row with when I was yet alive and

with my messmates.’ And I said, ‘My poor fellow, I will do all that

you have asked of me.’

“Thus, then, did we sit and hold sad talk with one another, I on the

one side of the trench with my sword held over the blood, and the

ghost of my comrade saying all this to me from the other side. Then

came the ghost of my dead mother Anticlea, daughter to Autolycus.

I had left her alive when I set out for Troy and was moved to tears

when I saw her, but even so, for all my sorrow I would not let her

come near the blood till I had asked my questions of Teiresias.

“Then came also the ghost of Theban Teiresias, with his golden sceptre

in his hand. He knew me and said, ‘Ulysses, noble son of Laertes,

why, poor man, have you left the light of day and come down to visit

the dead in this sad place? Stand back from the trench and withdraw

your sword that I may drink of the blood and answer your questions


“So I drew back, and sheathed my sword, whereon when he had drank

of the blood he began with his prophecy.

“You want to know,’ said he, ‘about your return home, but heaven will

make this hard for you. I do not think that you will escape the eye

of Neptune, who still nurses his bitter grudge against you for having

blinded his son. Still, after much suffering you may get home if you

can restrain yourself and your companions when your ship reaches the

Thrinacian island, where you will find the sheep and cattle belonging

to the sun, who sees and gives ear to everything. If you leave these

flocks unharmed and think of nothing but of getting home, you may

yet after much hardship reach Ithaca; but if you harm them, then I

forewarn you of the destruction both of your ship and of your men.

Even though you may yourself escape, you will return in bad plight

after losing all your men, [in another man’s ship, and you will find

trouble in your house, which will be overrun by high-handed people,

who are devouring your substance under the pretext of paying court

and making presents to your wife.

“‘When you get home you will take your revenge on these suitors; and

after you have killed them by force or fraud in your own house, you

must take a well-made oar and carry it on and on, till you come to

a country where the people have never heard of the sea and do not

even mix salt with their food, nor do they know anything about ships,

and oars that are as the wings of a ship. I will give you this certain

token which cannot escape your notice. A wayfarer will meet you and

will say it must be a winnowing shovel that you have got upon your

shoulder; on this you must fix the oar in the ground and sacrifice

a ram, a bull, and a boar to Neptune. Then go home and offer hecatombs

to an the gods in heaven one after the other. As for yourself, death

shall come to you from the sea, and your life shall ebb away very

gently when you are full of years and peace of mind, and your people

shall bless you. All that I have said will come true].’

“‘This,’ I answered, ‘must be as it may please heaven, but tell me

and tell me and tell me true, I see my poor mother’s ghost close by

us; she is sitting by the blood without saying a word, and though

I am her own son she does not remember me and speak to me; tell me,

Sir, how I can make her know me.’

“‘That,’ said he, ‘I can soon do Any ghost that you let taste of the

blood will talk with you like a reasonable being, but if you do not

let them have any blood they will go away again.’

“On this the ghost of Teiresias went back to the house of Hades, for

his prophecyings had now been spoken, but I sat still where I was

until my mother came up and tasted the blood. Then she knew me at

once and spoke fondly to me, saying, ‘My son, how did you come down

to this abode of darkness while you are still alive? It is a hard

thing for the living to see these places, for between us and them

there are great and terrible waters, and there is Oceanus, which no

man can cross on foot, but he must have a good ship to take him. Are

you all this time trying to find your way home from Troy, and have

you never yet got back to Ithaca nor seen your wife in your own house?’

“‘Mother,’ said I, ‘I was forced to come here to consult the ghost

of the Theban prophet Teiresias. I have never yet been near the Achaean

land nor set foot on my native country, and I have had nothing but

one long series of misfortunes from the very first day that I set

out with Agamemnon for Ilius, the land of noble steeds, to fight the

Trojans. But tell me, and tell me true, in what way did you die? Did

you have a long illness, or did heaven vouchsafe you a gentle easy

passage to eternity? Tell me also about my father, and the son whom

I left behind me; is my property still in their hands, or has some

one else got hold of it, who thinks that I shall not return to claim

it? Tell me again what my wife intends doing, and in what mind she

is; does she live with my son and guard my estate securely, or has

she made the best match she could and married again?’

“My mother answered, ‘Your wife still remains in your house, but she

is in great distress of mind and spends her whole time in tears both

night and day. No one as yet has got possession of your fine property,

and Telemachus still holds your lands undisturbed. He has to entertain

largely, as of course he must, considering his position as a magistrate,

and how every one invites him; your father remains at his old place

in the country and never goes near the town. He has no comfortable

bed nor bedding; in the winter he sleeps on the floor in front of

the fire with the men and goes about all in rags, but in summer, when

the warm weather comes on again, he lies out in the vineyard on a

bed of vine leaves thrown anyhow upon the ground. He grieves continually

about your never having come home, and suffers more and more as he

grows older. As for my own end it was in this wise: heaven did not

take me swiftly and painlessly in my own house, nor was I attacked

by any illness such as those that generally wear people out and kill

them, but my longing to know what you were doing and the force of

my affection for you- this it was that was the death of me.’

“Then I tried to find some way of embracing my mother’s ghost. Thrice

I sprang towards her and tried to clasp her in my arms, but each time

she flitted from my embrace as it were a dream or phantom, and being

touched to the quick I said to her, ‘Mother, why do you not stay still

when I would embrace you? If we could throw our arms around one another

we might find sad comfort in the sharing of our sorrows even in the

house of Hades; does Proserpine want to lay a still further load of

grief upon me by mocking me with a phantom only?’

“‘My son,’ she answered, ‘most ill-fated of all mankind, it is not

Proserpine that is beguiling you, but all people are like this when

they are dead. The sinews no longer hold the flesh and bones together;

these perish in the fierceness of consuming fire as soon as life has

left the body, and the soul flits away as though it were a dream.

Now, however, go back to the light of day as soon as you can, and

note all these things that you may tell them to your wife hereafter.’

“Thus did we converse, and anon Proserpine sent up the ghosts of the

wives and daughters of all the most famous men. They gathered in crowds

about the blood, and I considered how I might question them severally.

In the end I deemed that it would be best to draw the keen blade that

hung by my sturdy thigh, and keep them from all drinking the blood

at once. So they came up one after the other, and each one as I questioned

her told me her race and lineage.

“The first I saw was Tyro. She was daughter of Salmoneus and wife

of Cretheus the son of Aeolus. She fell in love with the river Enipeus

who is much the most beautiful river in the whole world. Once when

she was taking a walk by his side as usual, Neptune, disguised as

her lover, lay with her at the mouth of the river, and a huge blue

wave arched itself like a mountain over them to hide both woman and

god, whereon he loosed her virgin girdle and laid her in a deep slumber.

When the god had accomplished the deed of love, he took her hand in

his own and said, ‘Tyro, rejoice in all good will; the embraces of

the gods are not fruitless, and you will have fine twins about this

time twelve months. Take great care of them. I am Neptune, so now

go home, but hold your tongue and do not tell any one.’

“Then he dived under the sea, and she in due course bore Pelias and

Neleus, who both of them served Jove with all their might. Pelias

was a great breeder of sheep and lived in Iolcus, but the other lived

in Pylos. The rest of her children were by Cretheus, namely, Aeson,

Pheres, and Amythaon, who was a mighty warrior and charioteer.

“Next to her I saw Antiope, daughter to Asopus, who could boast of

having slept in the arms of even Jove himself, and who bore him two

sons Amphion and Zethus. These founded Thebes with its seven gates,

and built a wall all round it; for strong though they were they could

not hold Thebes till they had walled it.

“Then I saw Alcmena, the wife of Amphitryon, who also bore to Jove

indomitable Hercules; and Megara who was daughter to great King Creon,

and married the redoubtable son of Amphitryon.

“I also saw fair Epicaste mother of king OEdipodes whose awful lot

it was to marry her own son without suspecting it. He married her

after having killed his father, but the gods proclaimed the whole

story to the world; whereon he remained king of Thebes, in great grief

for the spite the gods had borne him; but Epicaste went to the house

of the mighty jailor Hades, having hanged herself for grief, and the

avenging spirits haunted him as for an outraged mother- to his ruing

bitterly thereafter.

“Then I saw Chloris, whom Neleus married for her beauty, having given

priceless presents for her. She was youngest daughter to Amphion son

of Iasus and king of Minyan Orchomenus, and was Queen in Pylos. She

bore Nestor, Chromius, and Periclymenus, and she also bore that marvellously

lovely woman Pero, who was wooed by all the country round; but Neleus

would only give her to him who should raid the cattle of Iphicles

from the grazing grounds of Phylace, and this was a hard task. The

only man who would undertake to raid them was a certain excellent

seer, but the will of heaven was against him, for the rangers of the

cattle caught him and put him in prison; nevertheless when a full

year had passed and the same season came round again, Iphicles set

him at liberty, after he had expounded all the oracles of heaven.

Thus, then, was the will of Jove accomplished.

“And I saw Leda the wife of Tyndarus, who bore him two famous sons,

Castor breaker of horses, and Pollux the mighty boxer. Both these

heroes are lying under the earth, though they are still alive, for

by a special dispensation of Jove, they die and come to life again,

each one of them every other day throughout all time, and they have

the rank of gods.

“After her I saw Iphimedeia wife of Aloeus who boasted the embrace

of Neptune. She bore two sons Otus and Ephialtes, but both were short

lived. They were the finest children that were ever born in this world,

and the best looking, Orion only excepted; for at nine years old they

were nine fathoms high, and measured nine cubits round the chest.

They threatened to make war with the gods in Olympus, and tried to

set Mount Ossa on the top of Mount Olympus, and Mount Pelion on the

top of Ossa, that they might scale heaven itself, and they would have

done it too if they had been grown up, but Apollo, son of Leto, killed

both of them, before they had got so much as a sign of hair upon their

cheeks or chin.

“Then I saw Phaedra, and Procris, and fair Ariadne daughter of the

magician Minos, whom Theseus was carrying off from Crete to Athens,

but he did not enjoy her, for before he could do so Diana killed her

in the island of Dia on account of what Bacchus had said against her.

“I also saw Maera and Clymene and hateful Eriphyle, who sold her own

husband for gold. But it would take me all night if I were to name

every single one of the wives and daughters of heroes whom I saw,

and it is time for me to go to bed, either on board ship with my crew,

or here. As for my escort, heaven and yourselves will see to it.”

Here he ended, and the guests sat all of them enthralled and speechless

throughout the covered cloister. Then Arete said to them:

“What do you think of this man, O Phaecians? Is he not tall and good

looking, and is he not Clever? True, he is my own guest, but all of

you share in the distinction. Do not he a hurry to send him away,

nor niggardly in the presents you make to one who is in such great

need, for heaven has blessed all of you with great abundance.”

Then spoke the aged hero Echeneus who was one of the oldest men among

them, “My friends,” said he, “what our august queen has just said

to us is both reasonable and to the purpose, therefore be persuaded

by it; but the decision whether in word or deed rests ultimately with

King Alcinous.”

“The thing shall be done,” exclaimed Alcinous, “as surely as I still

live and reign over the Phaeacians. Our guest is indeed very anxious

to get home, still we must persuade him to remain with us until to-morrow,

by which time I shall be able to get together the whole sum that I

mean to give him. As regards- his escort it will be a matter for you

all, and mine above all others as the chief person among you.”

And Ulysses answered, “King Alcinous, if you were to bid me to stay

here for a whole twelve months, and then speed me on my way, loaded

with your noble gifts, I should obey you gladly and it would redound

greatly to my advantage, for I should return fuller-handed to my own

people, and should thus be more respected and beloved by all who see

me when I get back to Ithaca.”

“Ulysses,” replied Alcinous, “not one of us who sees you has any idea

that you are a charlatan or a swindler. I know there are many people

going about who tell such plausible stories that it is very hard to

see through them, but there is a style about your language which assures

me of your good disposition. Moreover you have told the story of your

own misfortunes, and those of the Argives, as though you were a practised

bard; but tell me, and tell me true, whether you saw any of the mighty

heroes who went to Troy at the same time with yourself, and perished

there. The evenings are still at their longest, and it is not yet

bed time- go on, therefore, with your divine story, for I could stay

here listening till to-morrow morning, so long as you will continue

to tell us of your adventures.”

“Alcinous,” answered Ulysses, “there is a time for making speeches,

and a time for going to bed; nevertheless, since you so desire, I

will not refrain from telling you the still sadder tale of those of

my comrades who did not fall fighting with the Trojans, but perished

on their return, through the treachery of a wicked woman.

“When Proserpine had dismissed the female ghosts in all directions,

the ghost of Agamemnon son of Atreus came sadly up tome, surrounded

by those who had perished with him in the house of Aegisthus. As soon

as he had tasted the blood he knew me, and weeping bitterly stretched

out his arms towards me to embrace me; but he had no strength nor

substance any more, and I too wept and pitied him as I beheld him.

‘How did you come by your death,’ said I, ‘King Agamemnon? Did Neptune

raise his winds and waves against you when you were at sea, or did

your enemies make an end of you on the mainland when you were cattle-lifting

or sheep-stealing, or while they were fighting in defence of their

wives and city?’

“‘Ulysses,’ he answered, ‘noble son of Laertes, was not lost at sea

in any storm of Neptune’s raising, nor did my foes despatch me upon

the mainland, but Aegisthus and my wicked wife were the death of me

between them. He asked me to his house, feasted me, and then butchered

me most miserably as though I were a fat beast in a slaughter house,

while all around me my comrades were slain like sheep or pigs for

the wedding breakfast, or picnic, or gorgeous banquet of some great

nobleman. You must have seen numbers of men killed either in a general

engagement, or in single combat, but you never saw anything so truly

pitiable as the way in which we fell in that cloister, with the mixing-bowl

and the loaded tables lying all about, and the ground reeking with

our-blood. I heard Priam’s daughter Cassandra scream as Clytemnestra

killed her close beside me. I lay dying upon the earth with the sword

in my body, and raised my hands to kill the slut of a murderess, but

she slipped away from me; she would not even close my lips nor my

eyes when I was dying, for there is nothing in this world so cruel

and so shameless as a woman when she has fallen into such guilt as

hers was. Fancy murdering her own husband! I thought I was going to

be welcomed home by my children and my servants, but her abominable

crime has brought disgrace on herself and all women who shall come

after- even on the good ones.’

“And I said, ‘In truth Jove has hated the house of Atreus from first

to last in the matter of their women’s counsels. See how many of us

fell for Helen’s sake, and now it seems that Clytemnestra hatched

mischief against too during your absence.’

“‘Be sure, therefore,’ continued Agamemnon, ‘and not be too friendly

even with your own wife. Do not tell her all that you know perfectly

well yourself. Tell her a part only, and keep your own counsel about

the rest. Not that your wife, Ulysses, is likely to murder you, for

Penelope is a very admirable woman, and has an excellent nature. We

left her a young bride with an infant at her breast when we set out

for Troy. This child no doubt is now grown up happily to man’s estate,

and he and his father will have a joyful meeting and embrace one another

as it is right they should do, whereas my wicked wife did not even

allow me the happiness of looking upon my son, but killed me ere I

could do so. Furthermore I say- and lay my saying to your heart- do

not tell people when you are bringing your ship to Ithaca, but steal

a march upon them, for after all this there is no trusting women.

But now tell me, and tell me true, can you give me any news of my

son Orestes? Is he in Orchomenus, or at Pylos, or is he at Sparta

with Menelaus- for I presume that he is still living.’

“And I said, ‘Agamemnon, why do you ask me? I do not know whether

your son is alive or dead, and it is not right to talk when one does

not know.’

“As we two sat weeping and talking thus sadly with one another the

ghost of Achilles came up to us with Patroclus, Antilochus, and Ajax

who was the finest and goodliest man of all the Danaans after the

son of Peleus. The fleet descendant of Aeacus knew me and spoke piteously,

saying, ‘Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, what deed of daring will you

undertake next, that you venture down to the house of Hades among

us silly dead, who are but the ghosts of them that can labour no more?’

“And I said, ‘Achilles, son of Peleus, foremost champion of the Achaeans,

I came to consult Teiresias, and see if he could advise me about my

return home to Ithaca, for I have never yet been able to get near

the Achaean land, nor to set foot in my own country, but have been

in trouble all the time. As for you, Achilles, no one was ever yet

so fortunate as you have been, nor ever will be, for you were adored

by all us Argives as long as you were alive, and now that you are

here you are a great prince among the dead. Do not, therefore, take

it so much to heart even if you are dead.’

“‘Say not a word,’ he answered, ‘in death’s favour; I would rather

be a paid servant in a poor man’s house and be above ground than king

of kings among the dead. But give me news about son; is he gone to

the wars and will he be a great soldier, or is this not so? Tell me

also if you have heard anything about my father Peleus- does he still

rule among the Myrmidons, or do they show him no respect throughout

Hellas and Phthia now that he is old and his limbs fail him? Could

I but stand by his side, in the light of day, with the same strength

that I had when I killed the bravest of our foes upon the plain of

Troy- could I but be as I then was and go even for a short time to

my father’s house, any one who tried to do him violence or supersede

him would soon me it.’

“‘I have heard nothing,’ I answered, ‘of Peleus, but I can tell you

all about your son Neoptolemus, for I took him in my own ship from

Scyros with the Achaeans. In our councils of war before Troy he was

always first to speak, and his judgement was unerring. Nestor and

I were the only two who could surpass him; and when it came to fighting

on the plain of Troy, he would never remain with the body of his men,

but would dash on far in front, foremost of them all in valour. Many

a man did he kill in battle- I cannot name every single one of those

whom he slew while fighting on the side of the Argives, but will only

say how he killed that valiant hero Eurypylus son of Telephus, who

was the handsomest man I ever saw except Memnon; many others also

of the Ceteians fell around him by reason of a woman’s bribes. Moreover,

when all the bravest of the Argives went inside the horse that Epeus

had made, and it was left to me to settle when we should either open

the door of our ambuscade, or close it, though all the other leaders

and chief men among the Danaans were drying their eyes and quaking

in every limb, I never once saw him turn pale nor wipe a tear from

his cheek; he was all the time urging me to break out from the horse-

grasping the handle of his sword and his bronze-shod spear, and breathing

fury against the foe. Yet when we had sacked the city of Priam he

got his handsome share of the prize money and went on board (such

is the fortune of war) without a wound upon him, neither from a thrown

spear nor in close combat, for the rage of Mars is a matter of great


“When I had told him this, the ghost of Achilles strode off across

a meadow full of asphodel, exulting over what I had said concerning

the prowess of his son.

“The ghosts of other dead men stood near me and told me each his own

melancholy tale; but that of Ajax son of Telamon alone held aloof-

still angry with me for having won the cause in our dispute about

the armour of Achilles. Thetis had offered it as a prize, but the

Trojan prisoners and Minerva were the judges. Would that I had never

gained the day in such a contest, for it cost the life of Ajax, who

was foremost of all the Danaans after the son of Peleus, alike in

stature and prowess.

“When I saw him I tried to pacify him and said, ‘Ajax, will you not

forget and forgive even in death, but must the judgement about that

hateful armour still rankle with you? It cost us Argives dear enough

to lose such a tower of strength as you were to us. We mourned you

as much as we mourned Achilles son of Peleus himself, nor can the

blame be laid on anything but on the spite which Jove bore against

the Danaans, for it was this that made him counsel your destruction-

come hither, therefore, bring your proud spirit into subjection, and

hear what I can tell you.’

“He would not answer, but turned away to Erebus and to the other ghosts;

nevertheless, I should have made him talk to me in spite of his being

so angry, or I should have gone talking to him, only that there were

still others among the dead whom I desired to see.

“Then I saw Minos son of Jove with his golden sceptre in his hand

sitting in judgement on the dead, and the ghosts were gathered sitting

and standing round him in the spacious house of Hades, to learn his

sentences upon them.

“After him I saw huge Orion in a meadow full of asphodel driving the

ghosts of the wild beasts that he had killed upon the mountains, and

he had a great bronze club in his hand, unbreakable for ever and ever.

“And I saw Tityus son of Gaia stretched upon the plain and covering

some nine acres of ground. Two vultures on either side of him were

digging their beaks into his liver, and he kept on trying to beat

them off with his hands, but could not; for he had violated Jove’s

mistress Leto as she was going through Panopeus on her way to Pytho.

“I saw also the dreadful fate of Tantalus, who stood in a lake that

reached his chin; he was dying to quench his thirst, but could never

reach the water, for whenever the poor creature stooped to drink,

it dried up and vanished, so that there was nothing but dry ground-

parched by the spite of heaven. There were tall trees, moreover, that

shed their fruit over his head- pears, pomegranates, apples, sweet

figs and juicy olives, but whenever the poor creature stretched out

his hand to take some, the wind tossed the branches back again to

the clouds.

“And I saw Sisyphus at his endless task raising his prodigious stone

with both his hands. With hands and feet he’ tried to roll it up to

the top of the hill, but always, just before he could roll it over

on to the other side, its weight would be too much for him, and the

pitiless stone would come thundering down again on to the plain. Then

he would begin trying to push it up hill again, and the sweat ran

off him and the steam rose after him.

“After him I saw mighty Hercules, but it was his phantom only, for

he is feasting ever with the immortal gods, and has lovely Hebe to

wife, who is daughter of Jove and Juno. The ghosts were screaming

round him like scared birds flying all whithers. He looked black as

night with his bare bow in his hands and his arrow on the string,

glaring around as though ever on the point of taking aim. About his

breast there was a wondrous golden belt adorned in the most marvellous

fashion with bears, wild boars, and lions with gleaming eyes; there

was also war, battle, and death. The man who made that belt, do what

he might, would never be able to make another like it. Hercules knew

me at once when he saw me, and spoke piteously, saying, my poor Ulysses,

noble son of Laertes, are you too leading the same sorry kind of life

that I did when I was above ground? I was son of Jove, but I went

through an infinity of suffering, for I became bondsman to one who

was far beneath me- a low fellow who set me all manner of labours.

He once sent me here to fetch the hell-hound- for he did not think

he could find anything harder for me than this, but I got the hound

out of Hades and brought him to him, for Mercury and Minerva helped


“On this Hercules went down again into the house of Hades, but I stayed

where I was in case some other of the mighty dead should come to me.

And I should have seen still other of them that are gone before, whom

I would fain have seen- Theseus and Pirithous glorious children of

the gods, but so many thousands of ghosts came round me and uttered

such appalling cries, that I was panic stricken lest Proserpine should

send up from the house of Hades the head of that awful monster Gorgon.

On this I hastened back to my ship and ordered my men to go on board

at once and loose the hawsers; so they embarked and took their places,

whereon the ship went down the stream of the river Oceanus. We had

to row at first, but presently a fair wind sprang up.



“After we were clear of the river Oceanus, and had got out into the

open sea, we went on till we reached the Aeaean island where there

is dawn and sunrise as in other places. We then drew our ship on to

the sands and got out of her on to the shore, where we went to sleep

and waited till day should break.

“Then, when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, I

sent some men to Circe’s house to fetch the body of Elpenor. We cut

firewood from a wood where the headland jutted out into the sea, and

after we had wept over him and lamented him we performed his funeral

rites. When his body and armour had been burned to ashes, we raised

a cairn, set a stone over it, and at the top of the cairn we fixed

the oar that he had been used to row with.

“While we were doing all this, Circe, who knew that we had got back

from the house of Hades, dressed herself and came to us as fast as

she could; and her maid servants came with her bringing us bread,

meat, and wine. Then she stood in the midst of us and said, ‘You have

done a bold thing in going down alive to the house of Hades, and you

will have died twice, to other people’s once; now, then, stay here

for the rest of the day, feast your fill, and go on with your voyage

at daybreak tomorrow morning. In the meantime I will tell Ulysses

about your course, and will explain everything to him so as to prevent

your suffering from misadventure either by land or sea.’

“We agreed to do as she had said, and feasted through the livelong

day to the going down of the sun, but when the sun had set and it

came on dark, the men laid themselves down to sleep by the stern cables

of the ship. Then Circe took me by the hand and bade me be seated

away from the others, while she reclined by my side and asked me all

about our adventures.

“‘So far so good,’ said she, when I had ended my story, ‘and now pay

attention to what I am about to tell you- heaven itself, indeed, will

recall it to your recollection. First you will come to the Sirens

who enchant all who come near them. If any one unwarily draws in too

close and hears the singing of the Sirens, his wife and children will

never welcome him home again, for they sit in a green field and warble

him to death with the sweetness of their song. There is a great heap

of dead men’s bones lying all around, with the flesh still rotting

off them. Therefore pass these Sirens by, and stop your men’s ears

with wax that none of them may hear; but if you like you can listen

yourself, for you may get the men to bind you as you stand upright

on a cross-piece half way up the mast, and they must lash the rope’s

ends to the mast itself, that you may have the pleasure of listening.

If you beg and pray the men to unloose you, then they must bind you


“‘When your crew have taken you past these Sirens, I cannot give you

coherent directions as to which of two courses you are to take; I

will lay the two alternatives before you, and you must consider them

for yourself. On the one hand there are some overhanging rocks against

which the deep blue waves of Amphitrite beat with terrific fury; the

blessed gods call these rocks the Wanderers. Here not even a bird

may pass, no, not even the timid doves that bring ambrosia to Father

Jove, but the sheer rock always carries off one of them, and Father

Jove has to send another to make up their number; no ship that ever

yet came to these rocks has got away again, but the waves and whirlwinds

of fire are freighted with wreckage and with the bodies of dead men.

The only vessel that ever sailed and got through, was the famous Argo

on her way from the house of Aetes, and she too would have gone against

these great rocks, only that Juno piloted her past them for the love

she bore to Jason.

“‘Of these two rocks the one reaches heaven and its peak is lost in

a dark cloud. This never leaves it, so that the top is never clear

not even in summer and early autumn. No man though he had twenty hands

and twenty feet could get a foothold on it and climb it, for it runs

sheer up, as smooth as though it had been polished. In the middle

of it there is a large cavern, looking West and turned towards Erebus;

you must take your ship this way, but the cave is so high up that

not even the stoutest archer could send an arrow into it. Inside it

Scylla sits and yelps with a voice that you might take to be that

of a young hound, but in truth she is a dreadful monster and no one-

not even a god- could face her without being terror-struck. She has

twelve mis-shapen feet, and six necks of the most prodigious length;

and at the end of each neck she has a frightful head with three rows

of teeth in each, all set very close together, so that they would

crunch any one to death in a moment, and she sits deep within her

shady cell thrusting out her heads and peering all round the rock,

fishing for dolphins or dogfish or any larger monster that she can

catch, of the thousands with which Amphitrite teems. No ship ever

yet got past her without losing some men, for she shoots out all her

heads at once, and carries off a man in each mouth.

“‘You will find the other rocks lie lower, but they are so close together

that there is not more than a bowshot between them. [A large fig tree

in full leaf grows upon it], and under it lies the sucking whirlpool

of Charybdis. Three times in the day does she vomit forth her waters,

and three times she sucks them down again; see that you be not there

when she is sucking, for if you are, Neptune himself could not save

you; you must hug the Scylla side and drive ship by as fast as you

can, for you had better lose six men than your whole crew.’

“‘Is there no way,’ said I, ‘of escaping Charybdis, and at the same

time keeping Scylla off when she is trying to harm my men?’

“‘You dare-devil,’ replied the goddess, you are always wanting to

fight somebody or something; you will not let yourself be beaten even

by the immortals. For Scylla is not mortal; moreover she is savage,

extreme, rude, cruel and invincible. There is no help for it; your

best chance will be to get by her as fast as ever you can, for if

you dawdle about her rock while you are putting on your armour, she

may catch you with a second cast of her six heads, and snap up another

half dozen of your men; so drive your ship past her at full speed,

and roar out lustily to Crataiis who is Scylla’s dam, bad luck to

her; she will then stop her from making a second raid upon you.

“‘You will now come to the Thrinacian island, and here you will see

many herds of cattle and flocks of sheep belonging to the sun-god-

seven herds of cattle and seven flocks of sheep, with fifty head in

each flock. They do not breed, nor do they become fewer in number,

and they are tended by the goddesses Phaethusa and Lampetie, who are

children of the sun-god Hyperion by Neaera. Their mother when she

had borne them and had done suckling them sent them to the Thrinacian

island, which was a long way off, to live there and look after their

father’s flocks and herds. If you leave these flocks unharmed, and

think of nothing but getting home, you may yet after much hardship

reach Ithaca; but if you harm them, then I forewarn you of the destruction

both of your ship and of your comrades; and even though you may yourself

escape, you will return late, in bad plight, after losing all your


“Here she ended, and dawn enthroned in gold began to show in heaven,

whereon she returned inland. I then went on board and told my men

to loose the ship from her moorings; so they at once got into her,

took their places, and began to smite the grey sea with their oars.

Presently the great and cunning goddess Circe befriended us with a

fair wind that blew dead aft, and stayed steadily with us, keeping

our sails well filled, so we did whatever wanted doing to the ship’s

gear, and let her go as wind and helmsman headed her.

“Then, being much troubled in mind, I said to my men, ‘My friends,

it is not right that one or two of us alone should know the prophecies

that Circe has made me, I will therefore tell you about them, so that

whether we live or die we may do so with our eyes open. First she

said we were to keep clear of the Sirens, who sit and sing most beautifully

in a field of flowers; but she said I might hear them myself so long

as no one else did. Therefore, take me and bind me to the crosspiece

half way up the mast; bind me as I stand upright, with a bond so fast

that I cannot possibly break away, and lash the rope’s ends to the

mast itself. If I beg and pray you to set me free, then bind me more

tightly still.’

“I had hardly finished telling everything to the men before we reached

the island of the two Sirens, for the wind had been very favourable.

Then all of a sudden it fell dead calm; there was not a breath of

wind nor a ripple upon the water, so the men furled the sails and

stowed them; then taking to their oars they whitened the water with

the foam they raised in rowing. Meanwhile I look a large wheel of

wax and cut it up small with my sword. Then I kneaded the wax in my

strong hands till it became soft, which it soon did between the kneading

and the rays of the sun-god son of Hyperion. Then I stopped the ears

of all my men, and they bound me hands and feet to the mast as I stood

upright on the crosspiece; but they went on rowing themselves. When

we had got within earshot of the land, and the ship was going at a

good rate, the Sirens saw that we were getting in shore and began

with their singing.

“‘Come here,’ they sang, ‘renowned Ulysses, honour to the Achaean

name, and listen to our two voices. No one ever sailed past us without

staying to hear the enchanting sweetness of our song- and he who listens

will go on his way not only charmed, but wiser, for we know all the

ills that the gods laid upon the Argives and Trojans before Troy,

and can tell you everything that is going to happen over the whole


“They sang these words most musically, and as I longed to hear them

further I made by frowning to my men that they should set me free;

but they quickened their stroke, and Eurylochus and Perimedes bound

me with still stronger bonds till we had got out of hearing of the

Sirens’ voices. Then my men took the wax from their ears and unbound


“Immediately after we had got past the island I saw a great wave from

which spray was rising, and I heard a loud roaring sound. The men

were so frightened that they loosed hold of their oars, for the whole

sea resounded with the rushing of the waters, but the ship stayed

where it was, for the men had left off rowing. I went round, therefore,

and exhorted them man by man not to lose heart.

“‘My friends,’ said I, ‘this is not the first time that we have been

in danger, and we are in nothing like so bad a case as when the Cyclops

shut us up in his cave; nevertheless, my courage and wise counsel

saved us then, and we shall live to look back on all this as well.

Now, therefore, let us all do as I say, trust in Jove and row on with

might and main. As for you, coxswain, these are your orders; attend

to them, for the ship is in your hands; turn her head away from these

steaming rapids and hug the rock, or she will give you the slip and

be over yonder before you know where you are, and you will be the

death of us.’

“So they did as I told them; but I said nothing about the awful monster

Scylla, for I knew the men would not on rowing if I did, but would

huddle together in the hold. In one thing only did I disobey Circe’s

strict instructions- I put on my armour. Then seizing two strong spears

I took my stand on the ship Is bows, for it was there that I expected

first to see the monster of the rock, who was to do my men so much

harm; but I could not make her out anywhere, though I strained my

eyes with looking the gloomy rock all over and over

“Then we entered the Straits in great fear of mind, for on the one

hand was Scylla, and on the other dread Charybdis kept sucking up

the salt water. As she vomited it up, it was like the water in a cauldron

when it is boiling over upon a great fire, and the spray reached the

top of the rocks on either side. When she began to suck again, we

could see the water all inside whirling round and round, and it made

a deafening sound as it broke against the rocks. We could see the

bottom of the whirlpool all black with sand and mud, and the men were

at their wit’s ends for fear. While we were taken up with this, and

were expecting each moment to be our last, Scylla pounced down suddenly

upon us and snatched up my six best men. I was looking at once after

both ship and men, and in a moment I saw their hands and feet ever

so high above me, struggling in the air as Scylla was carrying them

off, and I heard them call out my name in one last despairing cry.

As a fisherman, seated, spear in hand, upon some jutting rock throws

bait into the water to deceive the poor little fishes, and spears

them with the ox’s horn with which his spear is shod, throwing them

gasping on to the land as he catches them one by one- even so did

Scylla land these panting creatures on her rock and munch them up

at the mouth of her den, while they screamed and stretched out their

hands to me in their mortal agony. This was the most sickening sight

that I saw throughout all my voyages.

“When we had passed the [Wandering] rocks, with Scylla and terrible

Charybdis, we reached the noble island of the sun-god, where were

the goodly cattle and sheep belonging to the sun Hyperion. While still

at sea in my ship I could bear the cattle lowing as they came home

to the yards, and the sheep bleating. Then I remembered what the blind

Theban prophet Teiresias had told me, and how carefully Aeaean Circe

had warned me to shun the island of the blessed sun-god. So being

much troubled I said to the men, ‘My men, I know you are hard pressed,

but listen while I tell you the prophecy that Teiresias made me, and

how carefully Aeaean Circe warned me to shun the island of the blessed

sun-god, for it was here, she said, that our worst danger would lie.

Head the ship, therefore, away from the island.’

“The men were in despair at this, and Eurylochus at once gave me an

insolent answer. ‘Ulysses,’ said he, ‘you are cruel; you are very

strong yourself and never get worn out; you seem to be made of iron,

and now, though your men are exhausted with toil and want of sleep,

you will not let them land and cook themselves a good supper upon

this island, but bid them put out to sea and go faring fruitlessly

on through the watches of the flying night. It is by night that the

winds blow hardest and do so much damage; how can we escape should

one of those sudden squalls spring up from South West or West, which

so often wreck a vessel when our lords the gods are unpropitious?

Now, therefore, let us obey the of night and prepare our supper here

hard by the ship; to-morrow morning we will go on board again and

put out to sea.’

“Thus spoke Eurylochus, and the men approved his words. I saw that

heaven meant us a mischief and said, ‘You force me to yield, for you

are many against one, but at any rate each one of you must take his

solemn oath that if he meet with a herd of cattle or a large flock

of sheep, he will not be so mad as to kill a single head of either,

but will be satisfied with the food that Circe has given us.’

“They all swore as I bade them, and when they had completed their

oath we made the ship fast in a harbour that was near a stream of

fresh water, and the men went ashore and cooked their suppers. As

soon as they had had enough to eat and drink, they began talking about

their poor comrades whom Scylla had snatched up and eaten; this set

them weeping and they went on crying till they fell off into a sound


“In the third watch of the night when the stars had shifted their

places, Jove raised a great gale of wind that flew a hurricane so

that land and sea were covered with thick clouds, and night sprang

forth out of the heavens. When the child of morning, rosy-fingered

Dawn, appeared, we brought the ship to land and drew her into a cave

wherein the sea-nymphs hold their courts and dances, and I called

the men together in council.

“‘My friends,’ said I, ‘we have meat and drink in the ship, let us

mind, therefore, and not touch the cattle, or we shall suffer for

it; for these cattle and sheep belong to the mighty sun, who sees

and gives ear to everything. And again they promised that they would


“For a whole month the wind blew steadily from the South, and there

was no other wind, but only South and East. As long as corn and wine

held out the men did not touch the cattle when they were hungry; when,

however, they had eaten all there was in the ship, they were forced

to go further afield, with hook and line, catching birds, and taking

whatever they could lay their hands on; for they were starving. One

day, therefore, I went up inland that I might pray heaven to show

me some means of getting away. When I had gone far enough to be clear

of all my men, and had found a place that was well sheltered from

the wind, I washed my hands and prayed to all the gods in Olympus

till by and by they sent me off into a sweet sleep.

“Meanwhile Eurylochus had been giving evil counsel to the men, ‘Listen

to me,’ said he, ‘my poor comrades. All deaths are bad enough but

there is none so bad as famine. Why should not we drive in the best

of these cows and offer them in sacrifice to the immortal Rods? If

we ever get back to Ithaca, we can build a fine temple to the sun-god

and enrich it with every kind of ornament; if, however, he is determined

to sink our ship out of revenge for these homed cattle, and the other

gods are of the same mind, I for one would rather drink salt water

once for all and have done with it, than be starved to death by inches

in such a desert island as this is.’

“Thus spoke Eurylochus, and the men approved his words. Now the cattle,

so fair and goodly, were feeding not far from the ship; the men, therefore

drove in the best of them, and they all stood round them saying their

prayers, and using young oak-shoots instead of barley-meal, for there

was no barley left. When they had done praying they killed the cows

and dressed their carcasses; they cut out the thigh bones, wrapped

them round in two layers of fat, and set some pieces of raw meat on

top of them. They had no wine with which to make drink-offerings over

the sacrifice while it was cooking, so they kept pouring on a little

water from time to time while the inward meats were being grilled;

then, when the thigh bones were burned and they had tasted the inward

meats, they cut the rest up small and put the pieces upon the spits.

“By this time my deep sleep had left me, and I turned back to the

ship and to the sea shore. As I drew near I began to smell hot roast

meat, so I groaned out a prayer to the immortal gods. ‘Father Jove,’

I exclaimed, ‘and all you other gods who live in everlasting bliss,

you have done me a cruel mischief by the sleep into which you have

sent me; see what fine work these men of mine have been making in

my absence.’

“Meanwhile Lampetie went straight off to the sun and told him we had

been killing his cows, whereon he flew into a great rage, and said

to the immortals, ‘Father Jove, and all you other gods who live in

everlasting bliss, I must have vengeance on the crew of Ulysses’ ship:

they have had the insolence to kill my cows, which were the one thing

I loved to look upon, whether I was going up heaven or down again.

If they do not square accounts with me about my cows, I will go down

to Hades and shine there among the dead.’

“‘Sun,’ said Jove, ‘go on shining upon us gods and upon mankind over

the fruitful earth. I will shiver their ship into little pieces with

a bolt of white lightning as soon as they get out to sea.’

“I was told all this by Calypso, who said she had heard it from the

mouth of Mercury.

“As soon as I got down to my ship and to the sea shore I rebuked each

one of the men separately, but we could see no way out of it, for

the cows were dead already. And indeed the gods began at once to show

signs and wonders among us, for the hides of the cattle crawled about,

and the joints upon the spits began to low like cows, and the meat,

whether cooked or raw, kept on making a noise just as cows do.

“For six days my men kept driving in the best cows and feasting upon

them, but when Jove the son of Saturn had added a seventh day, the

fury of the gale abated; we therefore went on board, raised our masts,

spread sail, and put out to sea. As soon as we were well away from

the island, and could see nothing but sky and sea, the son of Saturn

raised a black cloud over our ship, and the sea grew dark beneath

it. We not get on much further, for in another moment we were caught

by a terrific squall from the West that snapped the forestays of the

mast so that it fell aft, while all the ship’s gear tumbled about

at the bottom of the vessel. The mast fell upon the head of the helmsman

in the ship’s stern, so that the bones of his head were crushed to

pieces, and he fell overboard as though he were diving, with no more

life left in him.

“Then Jove let fly with his thunderbolts, and the ship went round

and round, and was filled with fire and brimstone as the lightning

struck it. The men all fell into the sea; they were carried about

in the water round the ship, looking like so many sea-gulls, but the

god presently deprived them of all chance of getting home again.

“I stuck to the ship till the sea knocked her sides from her keel

(which drifted about by itself) and struck the mast out of her in

the direction of the keel; but there was a backstay of stout ox-thong

still hanging about it, and with this I lashed the mast and keel together,

and getting astride of them was carried wherever the winds chose to

take me.

“[The gale from the West had now spent its force, and the wind got

into the South again, which frightened me lest I should be taken back

to the terrible whirlpool of Charybdis. This indeed was what actually

happened, for I was borne along by the waves all night, and by sunrise

had reacfied the rock of Scylla, and the whirlpool. She was then sucking

down the salt sea water, but I was carried aloft toward the fig tree,

which I caught hold of and clung on to like a bat. I could not plant

my feet anywhere so as to stand securely, for the roots were a long

way off and the boughs that overshadowed the whole pool were too high,

too vast, and too far apart for me to reach them; so I hung patiently

on, waiting till the pool should discharge my mast and raft again-

and a very long while it seemed. A juryman is not more glad to get

home to supper, after having been long detained in court by troublesome

cases, than I was to see my raft beginning to work its way out of

the whirlpool again. At last I let go with my hands and feet, and

fell heavily into the sea, bard by my raft on to which I then got,

and began to row with my hands. As for Scylla, the father of gods

and men would not let her get further sight of me- otherwise I should

have certainly been lost.]

“Hence I was carried along for nine days till on the tenth night the

gods stranded me on the Ogygian island, where dwells the great and

powerful goddess Calypso. She took me in and was kind to me, but I

need say no more about this, for I told you and your noble wife all

about it yesterday, and I hate saying the same thing over and over




Thus did he speak, and they all held their peace throughout the covered

cloister, enthralled by the charm of his story, till presently Alcinous

began to speak.

“Ulysses,” said he, “now that you have reached my house I doubt not

you will get home without further misadventure no matter how much

you have suffered in the past. To you others, however, who come here

night after night to drink my choicest wine and listen to my bard,

I would insist as follows. Our guest has already packed up the clothes,

wrought gold, and other valuables which you have brought for his acceptance;

let us now, therefore, present him further, each one of us, with a

large tripod and a cauldron. We will recoup ourselves by the levy

of a general rate; for private individuals cannot be expected to bear

the burden of such a handsome present.”

Every one approved of this, and then they went home to bed each in

his own abode. When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared,

they hurried down to the ship and brought their cauldrons with them.

Alcinous went on board and saw everything so securely stowed under

the ship’s benches that nothing could break adrift and injure the

rowers. Then they went to the house of Alcinous to get dinner, and

he sacrificed a bull for them in honour of Jove who is the lord of

all. They set the steaks to grill and made an excellent dinner, after

which the inspired bard, Demodocus, who was a favourite with every

one, sang to them; but Ulysses kept on turning his eyes towards the

sun, as though to hasten his setting, for he was longing to be on

his way. As one who has been all day ploughing a fallow field with

a couple of oxen keeps thinking about his supper and is glad when

night comes that he may go and get it, for it is all his legs can

do to carry him, even so did Ulysses rejoice when the sun went down,

and he at once said to the Phaecians, addressing himself more particularly

to King Alcinous:

“Sir, and all of you, farewell. Make your drink-offerings and send

me on my way rejoicing, for you have fulfilled my heart’s desire by

giving me an escort, and making me presents, which heaven grant that

I may turn to good account; may I find my admirable wife living in

peace among friends, and may you whom I leave behind me give satisfaction

to your wives and children; may heaven vouchsafe you every good grace,

and may no evil thing come among your people.”

Thus did he speak. His hearers all of them approved his saying and

agreed that he should have his escort inasmuch as he had spoken reasonably.

Alcinous therefore said to his servant, “Pontonous, mix some wine

and hand it round to everybody, that we may offer a prayer to father

Jove, and speed our guest upon his way.”

Pontonous mixed the wine and handed it to every one in turn; the others

each from his own seat made a drink-offering to the blessed gods that

live in heaven, but Ulysses rose and placed the double cup in the

hands of queen Arete.

“Farewell, queen,” said he, “henceforward and for ever, till age and

death, the common lot of mankind, lay their hands upon you. I now

take my leave; be happy in this house with your children, your people,

and with king Alcinous.”

As he spoke he crossed the threshold, and Alcinous sent a man to conduct

him to his ship and to the sea shore. Arete also sent some maid servants

with him- one with a clean shirt and cloak, another to carry his strong-box,

and a third with corn and wine. When they got to the water side the

crew took these things and put them on board, with all the meat and

drink; but for Ulysses they spread a rug and a linen sheet on deck

that he might sleep soundly in the stern of the ship. Then he too

went on board and lay down without a word, but the crew took every

man his place and loosed the hawser from the pierced stone to which

it had been bound. Thereon, when they began rowing out to sea, Ulysses

fell into a deep, sweet, and almost deathlike slumber.

The ship bounded forward on her way as a four in hand chariot flies

over the course when the horses feel the whip. Her prow curveted as

it were the neck of a stallion, and a great wave of dark blue water

seethed in her wake. She held steadily on her course, and even a falcon,

swiftest of all birds, could not have kept pace with her. Thus, then,

she cut her way through the water. carrying one who was as cunning

as the gods, but who was now sleeping peacefully, forgetful of all

that he had suffered both on the field of battle and by the waves

of the weary sea.

When the bright star that heralds the approach of dawn began to show.

the ship drew near to land. Now there is in Ithaca a haven of the

old merman Phorcys, which lies between two points that break the line

of the sea and shut the harbour in. These shelter it from the storms

of wind and sea that rage outside, so that, when once within it, a

ship may lie without being even moored. At the head of this harbour

there is a large olive tree, and at no distance a fine overarching

cavern sacred to the nymphs who are called Naiads. There are mixing-bowls

within it and wine-jars of stone, and the bees hive there. Moreover,

there are great looms of stone on which the nymphs weave their robes

of sea purple- very curious to see- and at all times there is water

within it. It has two entrances, one facing North by which mortals

can go down into the cave, while the other comes from the South and

is more mysterious; mortals cannot possibly get in by it, it is the

way taken by the gods.

Into this harbour, then, they took their ship, for they knew the place,

She had so much way upon her that she ran half her own length on to

the shore; when, however, they had landed, the first thing they did

was to lift Ulysses with his rug and linen sheet out of the ship,

and lay him down upon the sand still fast asleep. Then they took out

the presents which Minerva had persuaded the Phaeacians to give him

when he was setting out on his voyage homewards. They put these all

together by the root of the olive tree, away from the road, for fear

some passer by might come and steal them before Ulysses awoke; and

then they made the best of their way home again.

But Neptune did not forget the threats with which he had already threatened

Ulysses, so he took counsel with Jove. “Father Jove,” said he, “I

shall no longer be held in any sort of respect among you gods, if

mortals like the Phaeacians, who are my own flesh and blood, show

such small regard for me. I said I would Ulysses get home when he

had suffered sufficiently. I did not say that he should never get

home at all, for I knew you had already nodded your head about it,

and promised that he should do so; but now they have brought him in

a ship fast asleep and have landed him in Ithaca after loading him

with more magnificent presents of bronze, gold, and raiment than he

would ever have brought back from Troy, if he had had his share of

the spoil and got home without misadventure.”

And Jove answered, “What, O Lord of the Earthquake, are you talking

about? The gods are by no means wanting in respect for you. It would

be monstrous were they to insult one so old and honoured as you are.

As regards mortals, however, if any of them is indulging in insolence

and treating you disrespectfully, it will always rest with yourself

to deal with him as you may think proper, so do just as you please.”

“I should have done so at once,” replied Neptune, “if I were not anxious

to avoid anything that might displease you; now, therefore, I should

like to wreck the Phaecian ship as it is returning from its escort.

This will stop them from escorting people in future; and I should

also like to bury their city under a huge mountain.”

“My good friend,” answered Jove, “I should recommend you at the very

moment when the people from the city are watching the ship on her

way, to turn it into a rock near the land and looking like a ship.

This will astonish everybody, and you can then bury their city under

the mountain.”

When earth-encircling Neptune heard this he went to Scheria where

the Phaecians live, and stayed there till the ship, which was making

rapid way, had got close-in. Then he went up to it, turned it into

stone, and drove it down with the flat of his hand so as to root it

in the ground. After this he went away.

The Phaeacians then began talking among themselves, and one would

turn towards his neighbour, saying, “Bless my heart, who is it that

can have rooted the ship in the sea just as she was getting into port?

We could see the whole of her only moment ago.”

This was how they talked, but they knew nothing about it; and Alcinous

said, “I remember now the old prophecy of my father. He said that

Neptune would be angry with us for taking every one so safely over

the sea, and would one day wreck a Phaeacian ship as it was returning

from an escort, and bury our city under a high mountain. This was

what my old father used to say, and now it is all coming true. Now

therefore let us all do as I say; in the first place we must leave

off giving people escorts when they come here, and in the next let

us sacrifice twelve picked bulls to Neptune that he may have mercy

upon us, and not bury our city under the high mountain.” When the

people heard this they were afraid and got ready the bulls.

Thus did the chiefs and rulers of the Phaecians to king Neptune, standing

round his altar; and at the same time Ulysses woke up once more upon

his own soil. He had been so long away that he did not know it again;

moreover, Jove’s daughter Minerva had made it a foggy day, so that

people might not know of his having come, and that she might tell

him everything without either his wife or his fellow citizens and

friends recognizing him until he had taken his revenge upon the wicked

suitors. Everything, therefore, seemed quite different to him- the

long straight tracks, the harbours, the precipices, and the goodly

trees, appeared all changed as he started up and looked upon his native

land. So he smote his thighs with the flat of his hands and cried

aloud despairingly.

“Alas,” he exclaimed, “among what manner of people am I fallen? Are

they savage and uncivilized or hospitable and humane? Where shall

I put all this treasure, and which way shall I go? I wish I had stayed

over there with the Phaeacians; or I could have gone to some other

great chief who would have been good to me and given me an escort.

As it is I do not know where to put my treasure, and I cannot leave

it here for fear somebody else should get hold of it. In good truth

the chiefs and rulers of the Phaeacians have not been dealing fairly

by me, and have left me in the wrong country; they said they would

take me back to Ithaca and they have not done so: may Jove the protector

of suppliants chastise them, for he watches over everybody and punishes

those who do wrong. Still, I suppose I must count my goods and see

if the crew have gone off with any of them.”

He counted his goodly coppers and cauldrons, his gold and all his

clothes, but there was nothing missing; still he kept grieving about

not being in his own country, and wandered up and down by the shore

of the sounding sea bewailing his hard fate. Then Minerva came up

to him disguised as a young shepherd of delicate and princely mien,

with a good cloak folded double about her shoulders; she had sandals

on her comely feet and held a javelin in her hand. Ulysses was glad

when he saw her, and went straight up to her.

“My friend,” said he, “you are the first person whom I have met with

in this country; I salute you, therefore, and beg you to be will disposed

towards me. Protect these my goods, and myself too, for I embrace

your knees and pray to you as though you were a god. Tell me, then,

and tell me truly, what land and country is this? Who are its inhabitants?

Am I on an island, or is this the sea board of some continent?”

Minerva answered, “Stranger, you must be very simple, or must have

come from somewhere a long way off, not to know what country this

is. It is a very celebrated place, and everybody knows it East and

West. It is rugged and not a good driving country, but it is by no

means a bid island for what there is of it. It grows any quantity

of corn and also wine, for it is watered both by rain and dew; it

breeds cattle also and goats; all kinds of timber grow here, and there

are watering places where the water never runs dry; so, sir, the name

of Ithaca is known even as far as Troy, which I understand to be a

long way off from this Achaean country.”

Ulysses was glad at finding himself, as Minerva told him, in his own

country, and he began to answer, but he did not speak the truth, and

made up a lying story in the instinctive wiliness of his heart.

“I heard of Ithaca,” said he, “when I was in Crete beyond the seas,

and now it seems I have reached it with all these treasures. I have

left as much more behind me for my children, but am flying because

I killed Orsilochus son of Idomeneus, the fleetest runner in Crete.

I killed him because he wanted to rob me of the spoils I had got from

Troy with so much trouble and danger both on the field of battle and

by the waves of the weary sea; he said I had not served his father

loyally at Troy as vassal, but had set myself up as an independent

ruler, so I lay in wait for him and with one of my followers by the

road side, and speared him as he was coming into town from the country.

my It was a very dark night and nobody saw us; it was not known, therefore,

that I had killed him, but as soon as I had done so I went to a ship

and besought the owners, who were Phoenicians, to take me on board

and set me in Pylos or in Elis where the Epeans rule, giving them

as much spoil as satisfied them. They meant no guile, but the wind

drove them off their course, and we sailed on till we came hither

by night. It was all we could do to get inside the harbour, and none

of us said a word about supper though we wanted it badly, but we all

went on shore and lay down just as we were. I was very tired and fell

asleep directly, so they took my goods out of the ship, and placed

them beside me where I was lying upon the sand. Then they sailed away

to Sidonia, and I was left here in great distress of mind.”

Such was his story, but Minerva smiled and caressed him with her hand.

Then she took the form of a woman, fair, stately, and wise, “He must

be indeed a shifty lying fellow,” said she, “who could surpass you

in all manner of craft even though you had a god for your antagonist.

Dare-devil that you are, full of guile, unwearying in deceit, can

you not drop your tricks and your instinctive falsehood, even now

that you are in your own country again? We will say no more, however,

about this, for we can both of us deceive upon occasion- you are the

most accomplished counsellor and orator among all mankind, while I

for diplomacy and subtlety have no equal among the gods. Did you not

know Jove’s daughter Minerva- me, who have been ever with you, who

kept watch over you in all your troubles, and who made the Phaeacians

take so great a liking to you? And now, again, I am come here to talk

things over with you, and help you to hide the treasure I made the

Phaeacians give you; I want to tell you about the troubles that await

you in your own house; you have got to face them, but tell no one,

neither man nor woman, that you have come home again. Bear everything,

and put up with every man’s insolence, without a word.”

And Ulysses answered, “A man, goddess, may know a great deal, but

you are so constantly changing your appearance that when he meets

you it is a hard matter for him to know whether it is you or not.

This much, however, I know exceedingly well; you were very kind to

me as long as we Achaeans were fighting before Troy, but from the

day on which we went on board ship after having sacked the city of

Priam, and heaven dispersed us- from that day, Minerva, I saw no more

of you, and cannot ever remember your coming to my ship to help me

in a difficulty; I had to wander on sick and sorry till the gods delivered

me from evil and I reached the city of the Phaeacians, where you encouraged

me and took me into the town. And now, I beseech you in your father’s

name, tell me the truth, for I do not believe I am really back in

Ithaca. I am in some other country and you are mocking me and deceiving

me in all you have been saying. Tell me then truly, have I really

got back to my own country?”

“You are always taking something of that sort into your head,” replied

Minerva, “and that is why I cannot desert you in your afflictions;

you are so plausible, shrewd and shifty. Any one but yourself on returning

from so long a voyage would at once have gone home to see his wife

and children, but you do not seem to care about asking after them

or hearing any news about them till you have exploited your wife,

who remains at home vainly grieving for you, and having no peace night

or day for the tears she sheds on your behalf. As for my not coming

near you, I was never uneasy about you, for I was certain you would

get back safely though you would lose all your men, and I did not

wish to quarrel with my uncle Neptune, who never forgave you for having

blinded his son. I will now, however, point out to you the lie of

the land, and you will then perhaps believe me. This is the haven

of the old merman Phorcys, and here is the olive tree that grows at

the head of it; [near it is the cave sacred to the Naiads;] here too

is the overarching cavern in which you have offered many an acceptable

hecatomb to the nymphs, and this is the wooded mountain Neritum.”

As she spoke the goddess dispersed the mist and the land appeared.

Then Ulysses rejoiced at finding himself again in his own land, and

kissed the bounteous soil; he lifted up his hands and prayed to the

nymphs, saying, “Naiad nymphs, daughters of Jove, I made sure that

I was never again to see you, now therefore I greet you with all loving

salutations, and I will bring you offerings as in the old days, if

Jove’s redoubtable daughter will grant me life, and bring my son to


“Take heart, and do not trouble yourself about that,” rejoined Minerva,

“let us rather set about stowing your things at once in the cave,

where they will be quite safe. Let us see how we can best manage it


Therewith she went down into the cave to look for the safest hiding

places, while Ulysses brought up all the treasure of gold, bronze,

and good clothing which the Phaecians had given him. They stowed everything

carefully away, and Minerva set a stone against the door of the cave.

Then the two sat down by the root of the great olive, and consulted

how to compass the destruction of the wicked suitors.

“Ulysses,” said Minerva, “noble son of Laertes, think how you can

lay hands on these disreputable people who have been lording it in

your house these three years, courting your wife and making wedding

presents to her, while she does nothing but lament your absence, giving

hope and sending your encouraging messages to every one of them, but

meaning the very opposite of all she says’

And Ulysses answered, “In good truth, goddess, it seems I should have

come to much the same bad end in my own house as Agamemnon did, if

you had not given me such timely information. Advise me how I shall

best avenge myself. Stand by my side and put your courage into my

heart as on the day when we loosed Troy’s fair diadem from her brow.

Help me now as you did then, and I will fight three hundred men, if

you, goddess, will be with me.”

“Trust me for that,” said she, “I will not lose sight of you when

once we set about it, and I would imagine that some of those who are

devouring your substance will then bespatter the pavement with their

blood and brains. I will begin by disguising you so that no human

being shall know you; I will cover your body with wrinkles; you shall

lose all your yellow hair; I will clothe you in a garment that shall

fill all who see it with loathing; I will blear your fine eyes for

you, and make you an unseemly object in the sight of the suitors,

of your wife, and of the son whom you left behind you. Then go at

once to the swineherd who is in charge of your pigs; he has been always

well affected towards you, and is devoted to Penelope and your son;

you will find him feeding his pigs near the rock that is called Raven

by the fountain Arethusa, where they are fattening on beechmast and

spring water after their manner. Stay with him and find out how things

are going, while I proceed to Sparta and see your son, who is with

Menelaus at Lacedaemon, where he has gone to try and find out whether

you are still alive.”

“But why,” said Ulysses, “did you not tell him, for you knew all about

it? Did you want him too to go sailing about amid all kinds of hardship

while others are eating up his estate?”

Minerva answered, “Never mind about him, I sent him that he might

be well spoken of for having gone. He is in no sort of difficulty,

but is staying quite comfortably with Menelaus, and is surrounded

with abundance of every kind. The suitors have put out to sea and

are lying in wait for him, for they mean to kill him before he can

get home. I do not much think they will succeed, but rather that some

of those who are now eating up your estate will first find a grave


As she spoke Minerva touched him with her wand and covered him with

wrinkles, took away all his yellow hair, and withered the flesh over

his whole body; she bleared his eyes, which were naturally very fine

ones; she changed his clothes and threw an old rag of a wrap about

him, and a tunic, tattered, filthy, and begrimed with smoke; she also

gave him an undressed deer skin as an outer garment, and furnished

him with a staff and a wallet all in holes, with a twisted thong for

him to sling it over his shoulder.

When the pair had thus laid their plans they parted, and the goddess

went straight to Lacedaemon to fetch Telemachus.



Ulysses now left the haven, and took the rough track up through the

wooded country and over the crest of the mountain till he reached

the place where Minerva had said that he would find the swineherd,

who was the most thrifty servant he had. He found him sitting in front

of his hut, which was by the yards that he had built on a site which

could be seen from far. He had made them spacious and fair to see,

with a free ran for the pigs all round them; he had built them during

his master’s absence, of stones which he had gathered out of the ground,

without saying anything to Penelope or Laertes, and he had fenced

them on top with thorn bushes. Outside the yard he had run a strong

fence of oaken posts, split, and set pretty close together, while

inside lie had built twelve sties near one another for the sows to

lie in. There were fifty pigs wallowing in each sty, all of them breeding

sows; but the boars slept outside and were much fewer in number, for

the suitors kept on eating them, and die swineherd had to send them

the best he had continually. There were three hundred and sixty boar

pigs, and the herdsman’s four hounds, which were as fierce as wolves,

slept always with them. The swineherd was at that moment cutting out

a pair of sandals from a good stout ox hide. Three of his men were

out herding the pigs in one place or another, and he had sent the

fourth to town with a boar that he had been forced to send the suitors

that they might sacrifice it and have their fill of meat.

When the hounds saw Ulysses they set up a furious barking and flew

at him, but Ulysses was cunning enough to sit down and loose his hold

of the stick that he had in his hand: still, he would have been torn

by them in his own homestead had not the swineherd dropped his ox

hide, rushed full speed through the gate of the yard and driven the

dogs off by shouting and throwing stones at them. Then he said to

Ulysses, “Old man, the dogs were likely to have made short work of

you, and then you would have got me into trouble. The gods have given

me quite enough worries without that, for I have lost the best of

masters, and am in continual grief on his account. I have to attend

swine for other people to eat, while he, if he yet lives to see the

light of day, is starving in some distant land. But come inside, and

when you have had your fill of bread and wine, tell me where you come

from, and all about your misfortunes.”

On this the swineherd led the way into the hut and bade him sit down.

He strewed a good thick bed of rushes upon the floor, and on the top

of this he threw the shaggy chamois skin- a great thick one- on which

he used to sleep by night. Ulysses was pleased at being made thus

welcome, and said “May Jove, sir, and the rest of the gods grant you

your heart’s desire in return for the kind way in which you have received


To this you answered, O swineherd Eumaeus, “Stranger, though a still

poorer man should come here, it would not be right for me to insult

him, for all strangers and beggars are from Jove. You must take what

you can get and be thankful, for servants live in fear when they have

young lords for their masters; and this is my misfortune now, for

heaven has hindered the return of him who would have been always good

to me and given me something of my own- a house, a piece of land,

a good looking wife, and all else that a liberal master allows a servant

who has worked hard for him, and whose labour the gods have prospered

as they have mine in the situation which I hold. If my master had

grown old here he would have done great things by me, but he is gone,

and I wish that Helen’s whole race were utterly destroyed, for she

has been the death of many a good man. It was this matter that took

my master to Ilius, the land of noble steeds, to fight the Trojans

in the cause of kin Agamemnon.”

As he spoke he bound his girdle round him and went to the sties where

the young sucking pigs were penned. He picked out two which he brought

back with him and sacrificed. He singed them, cut them up, and spitted

on them; when the meat was cooked he brought it all in and set it

before Ulysses, hot and still on the spit, whereon Ulysses sprinkled

it over with white barley meal. The swineherd then mixed wine in a

bowl of ivy-wood, and taking a seat opposite Ulysses told him to begin.

“Fall to, stranger,” said he, “on a dish of servant’s pork. The fat

pigs have to go to the suitors, who eat them up without shame or scruple;

but the blessed gods love not such shameful doings, and respect those

who do what is lawful and right. Even the fierce free-booters who

go raiding on other people’s land, and Jove gives them their spoil-

even they, when they have filled their ships and got home again live

conscience-stricken, and look fearfully for judgement; but some god

seems to have told these people that Ulysses is dead and gone; they

will not, therefore, go back to their own homes and make their offers

of marriage in the usual way, but waste his estate by force, without

fear or stint. Not a day or night comes out of heaven, but they sacrifice

not one victim nor two only, and they take the run of his wine, for

he was exceedingly rich. No other great man either in Ithaca or on

the mainland is as rich as he was; he had as much as twenty men put

together. I will tell you what he had. There are twelve herds of cattle

upon the mainland, and as many flocks of sheep, there are also twelve

droves of pigs, while his own men and hired strangers feed him twelve

widely spreading herds of goats. Here in Ithaca he runs even large

flocks of goats on the far end of the island, and they are in the

charge of excellent goatherds. Each one of these sends the suitors

the best goat in the flock every day. As for myself, I am in charge

of the pigs that you see here, and I have to keep picking out the

best I have and sending it to them.”

This was his story, but Ulysses went on eating and drinking ravenously

without a word, brooding his revenge. When he had eaten enough and

was satisfied, the swineherd took the bowl from which he usually drank,

filled it with wine, and gave it to Ulysses, who was pleased, and

said as he took it in his hands, “My friend, who was this master of

yours that bought you and paid for you, so rich and so powerful as

you tell me? You say he perished in the cause of King Agamemnon; tell

me who he was, in case I may have met with such a person. Jove and

the other gods know, but I may be able to give you news of him, for

I have travelled much.”

Eumaeus answered, “Old man, no traveller who comes here with news

will get Ulysses’ wife and son to believe his story. Nevertheless,

tramps in want of a lodging keep coming with their mouths full of

lies, and not a word of truth; every one who finds his way to Ithaca

goes to my mistress and tells her falsehoods, whereon she takes them

in, makes much of them, and asks them all manner of questions, crying

all the time as women will when they have lost their husbands. And

you too, old man, for a shirt and a cloak would doubtless make up

a very pretty story. But the wolves and birds of prey have long since

torn Ulysses to pieces, or the fishes of the sea have eaten him, and

his bones are lying buried deep in sand upon some foreign shore; he

is dead and gone, and a bad business it is for all his friends- for

me especially; go where I may I shall never find so good a master,

not even if I were to go home to my mother and father where I was

bred and born. I do not so much care, however, about my parents now,

though I should dearly like to see them again in my own country; it

is the loss of Ulysses that grieves me most; I cannot speak of him

without reverence though he is here no longer, for he was very fond

of me, and took such care of me that whereever he may be I shall always

honour his memory.”

“My friend,” replied Ulysses, “you are very positive, and very hard

of belief about your master’s coming home again, nevertheless I will

not merely say, but will swear, that he is coming. Do not give me

anything for my news till he has actually come, you may then give

me a shirt and cloak of good wear if you will. I am in great want,

but I will not take anything at all till then, for I hate a man, even

as I hate hell fire, who lets his poverty tempt him into lying. I

swear by king Jove, by the rites of hospitality, and by that hearth

of Ulysses to which I have now come, that all will surely happen as

I have said it will. Ulysses will return in this self same year; with

the end of this moon and the beginning of the next he will be here

to do vengeance on all those who are ill treating his wife and son.”

To this you answered, O swineherd Eumaeus, “Old man, you will neither

get paid for bringing good news, nor will Ulysses ever come home;

drink you wine in peace, and let us talk about something else. Do

not keep on reminding me of all this; it always pains me when any

one speaks about my honoured master. As for your oath we will let

it alone, but I only wish he may come, as do Penelope, his old father

Laertes, and his son Telemachus. I am terribly unhappy too about this

same boy of his; he was running up fast into manhood, and bade fare

to be no worse man, face and figure, than his father, but some one,

either god or man, has been unsettling his mind, so he has gone off

to Pylos to try and get news of his father, and the suitors are lying

in wait for him as he is coming home, in the hope of leaving the house

of Arceisius without a name in Ithaca. But let us say no more about

him, and leave him to be taken, or else to escape if the son of Saturn

holds his hand over him to protect him. And now, old man, tell me

your own story; tell me also, for I want to know, who you are and

where you come from. Tell me of your town and parents, what manner

of ship you came in, how crew brought you to Ithaca, and from what

country they professed to come- for you cannot have come by land.”

And Ulysses answered, “I will tell you all about it. If there were

meat and wine enough, and we could stay here in the hut with nothing

to do but to eat and drink while the others go to their work, I could

easily talk on for a whole twelve months without ever finishing the

story of the sorrows with which it has pleased heaven to visit me.

“I am by birth a Cretan; my father was a well-to-do man, who had many

sons born in marriage, whereas I was the son of a slave whom he had

purchased for a concubine; nevertheless, my father Castor son of Hylax

(whose lineage I claim, and who was held in the highest honour among

the Cretans for his wealth, prosperity, and the valour of his sons)

put me on the same level with my brothers who had been born in wedlock.

When, however, death took him to the house of Hades, his sons divided

his estate and cast lots for their shares, but to me they gave a holding

and little else; nevertheless, my valour enabled me to marry into

a rich family, for I was not given to bragging, or shirking on the

field of battle. It is all over now; still, if you look at the straw

you can see what the ear was, for I have had trouble enough and to

spare. Mars and Minerva made me doughty in war; when I had picked

my men to surprise the enemy with an ambuscade I never gave death

so much as a thought, but was the first to leap forward and spear

all whom I could overtake. Such was I in battle, but I did not care

about farm work, nor the frugal home life of those who would bring

up children. My delight was in ships, fighting, javelins, and arrows-

things that most men shudder to think of; but one man likes one thing

and another another, and this was what I was most naturally inclined

to. Before the Achaeans went to Troy, nine times was I in command

of men and ships on foreign service, and I amassed much wealth. I

had my pick of the spoil in the first instance, and much more was

allotted to me later on.

“My house grew apace and I became a great man among the Cretans, but

when Jove counselled that terrible expedition, in which so many perished,

the people required me and Idomeneus to lead their ships to Troy,

and there was no way out of it, for they insisted on our doing so.

There we fought for nine whole years, but in the tenth we sacked the

city of Priam and sailed home again as heaven dispersed us. Then it

was that Jove devised evil against me. I spent but one month happily

with my children, wife, and property, and then I conceived the idea

of making a descent on Egypt, so I fitted out a fine fleet and manned

it. I had nine ships, and the people flocked to fill them. For six

days I and my men made feast, and I found them many victims both for

sacrifice to the gods and for themselves, but on the seventh day we

went on board and set sail from Crete with a fair North wind behind

us though we were going down a river. Nothing went ill with any of

our ships, and we had no sickness on board, but sat where we were

and let the ships go as the wind and steersmen took them. On the fifth

day we reached the river Aegyptus; there I stationed my ships in the

river, bidding my men stay by them and keep guard over them while

I sent out scouts to reconnoitre from every point of vantage.

“But the men disobeyed my orders, took to their own devices, and ravaged

the land of the Egyptians, killing the men, and taking their wives

and children captive. The alarm was soon carried to the city, and

when they heard the war cry, the people came out at daybreak till

the plain was filled with horsemen and foot soldiers and with the

gleam of armour. Then Jove spread panic among my men, and they would

no longer face the enemy, for they found themselves surrounded. The

Egyptians killed many of us, and took the rest alive to do forced

labour for them. Jove, however, put it in my mind to do thus- and

I wish I had died then and there in Egypt instead, for there was much

sorrow in store for me- I took off my helmet and shield and dropped

my spear from my hand; then I went straight up to the king’s chariot,

clasped his knees and kissed them, whereon he spared my life, bade

me get into his chariot, and took me weeping to his own home. Many

made at me with their ashen spears and tried to kil me in their fury,

but the king protected me, for he feared the wrath of Jove the protector

of strangers, who punishes those who do evil.

“I stayed there for seven years and got together much money among

the Egyptians, for they all gave me something; but when it was now

going on for eight years there came a certain Phoenician, a cunning

rascal, who had already committed all sorts of villainy, and this

man talked me over into going with him to Phoenicia, where his house

and his possessions lay. I stayed there for a whole twelve months,

but at the end of that time when months and days had gone by till

the same season had come round again, he set me on board a ship bound

for Libya, on a pretence that I was to take a cargo along with him

to that place, but really that he might sell me as a slave and take

the money I fetched. I suspected his intention, but went on board

with him, for I could not help it.

“The ship ran before a fresh North wind till we had reached the sea

that lies between Crete and Libya; there, however, Jove counselled

their destruction, for as soon as we were well out from Crete and

could see nothing but sea and sky, he raised a black cloud over our

ship and the sea grew dark beneath it. Then Jove let fly with his

thunderbolts and the ship went round and round and was filled with

fire and brimstone as the lightning struck it. The men fell all into

the sea; they were carried about in the water round the ship looking

like so many sea-gulls, but the god presently deprived them of all

chance of getting home again. I was all dismayed; Jove, however, sent

the ship’s mast within my reach, which saved my life, for I clung

to it, and drifted before the fury of the gale. Nine days did I drift

but in the darkness of the tenth night a great wave bore me on to

the Thesprotian coast. There Pheidon king of the Thesprotians entertained

me hospitably without charging me anything at all for his son found

me when I was nearly dead with cold and fatigue, whereon he raised

me by the hand, took me to his father’s house and gave me clothes

to wear.

“There it was that I heard news of Ulysses, for the king told me he

had entertained him, and shown him much hospitality while he was on

his homeward journey. He showed me also the treasure of gold, and

wrought iron that Ulysses had got together. There was enough to keep

his family for ten generations, so much had he left in the house of

king Pheidon. But the king said Ulysses had gone to Dodona that he

might learn Jove’s mind from the god’s high oak tree, and know whether

after so long an absence he should return to Ithaca openly, or in

secret. Moreover the king swore in my presence, making drink-offerings

in his own house as he did so, that the ship was by the water side,

and the crew found, that should take him to his own country. He sent

me off however before Ulysses returned, for there happened to be a

Thesprotian ship sailing for the wheat-growing island of Dulichium,

and he told those in charge of her to be sure and take me safely to

King Acastus.

“These men hatched a plot against me that would have reduced me to

the very extreme of misery, for when the ship had got some way out

from land they resolved on selling me as a slave. They stripped me

of the shirt and cloak that I was wearing, and gave me instead the

tattered old clouts in which you now see me; then, towards nightfall,

they reached the tilled lands of Ithaca, and there they bound me with

a strong rope fast in the ship, while they went on shore to get supper

by the sea side. But the gods soon undid my bonds for me, and having

drawn my rags over my head I slid down the rudder into the sea, where

I struck out and swam till I was well clear of them, and came ashore

near a thick wood in which I lay concealed. They were very angry at

my having escaped and went searching about for me, till at last they

thought it was no further use and went back to their ship. The gods,

having hidden me thus easily, then took me to a good man’s door- for

it seems that I am not to die yet awhile.”

To this you answered, O swineherd Eumaeus, “Poor unhappy stranger,

I have found the story of your misfortunes extremely interesting,

but that part about Ulysses is not right; and you will never get me

to believe it. Why should a man like you go about telling lies in

this way? I know all about the return of my master. The gods one and

all of them detest him, or they would have taken him before Troy,

or let him die with friends around him when the days of his fighting

were done; for then the Achaeans would have built a mound over his

ashes and his son would have been heir to his renown, but now the

storm winds have spirited him away we know not whither.

“As for me I live out of the way here with the pigs, and never go

to the town unless when Penelope sends for me on the arrival of some

news about Ulysses. Then they all sit round and ask questions, both

those who grieve over the king’s absence, and those who rejoice at

it because they can eat up his property without paying for it. For

my own part I have never cared about asking anyone else since the

time when I was taken in by an Aetolian, who had killed a man and

come a long way till at last he reached my station, and I was very

kind to him. He said he had seen Ulysses with Idomeneus among the

Cretans, refitting his ships which had been damaged in a gale. He

said Ulysses would return in the following summer or autumn with his

men, and that he would bring back much wealth. And now you, you unfortunate

old man, since fate has brought you to my door, do not try to flatter

me in this way with vain hopes. It is not for any such reason that

I shall treat you kindly, but only out of respect for Jove the god

of hospitality, as fearing him and pitying you.”

Ulysses answered, “I see that you are of an unbelieving mind; I have

given you my oath, and yet you will not credit me; let us then make

a bargain, and call all the gods in heaven to witness it. If your

master comes home, give me a cloak and shirt of good wear, and send

me to Dulichium where I want to go; but if he does not come as I say

he will, set your men on to me, and tell them to throw me from yonder

precepice, as a warning to tramps not to go about the country telling


“And a pretty figure I should cut then,” replied Eumaeus, both now

and hereafter, if I were to kill you after receiving you into my hut

and showing you hospitality. I should have to say my prayers in good

earnest if I did; but it is just supper time and I hope my men will

come in directly, that we may cook something savoury for supper.”

Thus did they converse, and presently the swineherds came up with

the pigs, which were then shut up for the night in their sties, and

a tremendous squealing they made as they were being driven into them.

But Eumaeus called to his men and said, “Bring in the best pig you

have, that I may sacrifice for this stranger, and we will take toll

of him ourselves. We have had trouble enough this long time feeding

pigs, while others reap the fruit of our labour.”

On this he began chopping firewood, while the others brought in a

fine fat five year old boar pig, and set it at the altar. Eumaeus

did not forget the gods, for he was a man of good principles, so the

first thing he did was to cut bristles from the pig’s face and throw

them into the fire, praying to all the gods as he did so that Ulysses

might return home again. Then he clubbed the pig with a billet of

oak which he had kept back when he was chopping the firewood, and

stunned it, while the others slaughtered and singed it. Then they

cut it up, and Eumaeus began by putting raw pieces from each joint

on to some of the fat; these he sprinkled with barley meal, and laid

upon the embers; they cut the rest of the meat up small, put the pieces

upon the spits and roasted them till they were done; when they had

taken them off the spits they threw them on to the dresser in a heap.

The swineherd, who was a most equitable man, then stood up to give

every one his share. He made seven portions; one of these he set apart

for Mercury the son of Maia and the nymphs, praying to them as he

did so; the others he dealt out to the men man by man. He gave Ulysses

some slices cut lengthways down the loin as a mark of especial honour,

and Ulysses was much pleased. “I hope, Eumaeus,” said he, “that Jove

will be as well disposed towards you as I am, for the respect you

are showing to an outcast like myself.”

To this you answered, O swineherd Eumaeus, “Eat, my good fellow, and

enjoy your supper, such as it is. God grants this, and withholds that,

just as he thinks right, for he can do whatever he chooses.”

As he spoke he cut off the first piece and offered it as a burnt sacrifice

to the immortal gods; then he made them a drink-offering, put the

cup in the hands of Ulysses, and sat down to his own portion. Mesaulius

brought them their bread; the swineherd had bought this man on his

own account from among the Taphians during his master’s absence, and

had paid for him with his own money without saying anything either

to his mistress or Laertes. They then laid their hands upon the good

things that were before them, and when they had had enough to eat

and drink, Mesaulius took away what was left of the bread, and they

all went to bed after having made a hearty supper.

Now the night came on stormy and very dark, for there was no moon.

It poured without ceasing, and the wind blew strong from the West,

which is a wet quarter, so Ulysses thought he would see whether Eumaeus,

in the excellent care he took of him, would take off his own cloak

and give it him, or make one of his men give him one. “Listen to me,”

said he, “Eumaeus and the rest of you; when I have said a prayer I

will tell you something. It is the wine that makes me talk in this

way; wine will make even a wise man fall to singing; it will make

him chuckle and dance and say many a word that he had better leave

unspoken; still, as I have begun, I will go on. Would that I were

still young and strong as when we got up an ambuscade before Troy.

Menelaus and Ulysses were the leaders, but I was in command also,

for the other two would have it so. When we had come up to the wall

of the city we crouched down beneath our armour and lay there under

cover of the reeds and thick brush-wood that grew about the swamp.

It came on to freeze with a North wind blowing; the snow fell small

and fine like hoar frost, and our shields were coated thick with rime.

The others had all got cloaks and shirts, and slept comfortably enough

with their shields about their shoulders, but I had carelessly left

my cloak behind me, not thinking that I should be too cold, and had

gone off in nothing but my shirt and shield. When the night was two-thirds

through and the stars had shifted their their places, I nudged Ulysses

who was close to me with my elbow, and he at once gave me his ear.

“‘Ulysses,’ said I, ‘this cold will be the death of me, for I have

no cloak; some god fooled me into setting off with nothing on but

my shirt, and I do not know what to do.’

“Ulysses, who was as crafty as he was valiant, hit upon the following


“‘Keep still,’ said he in a low voice, ‘or the others will hear you.’

Then he raised his head on his elbow.

“‘My friends,’ said he, ‘I have had a dream from heaven in my sleep.

We are a long way from the ships; I wish some one would go down and

tell Agamemnon to send us up more men at once.’

“On this Thoas son of Andraemon threw off his cloak and set out running

to the ships, whereon I took the cloak and lay in it comfortably enough

till morning. Would that I were still young and strong as I was in

those days, for then some one of you swineherds would give me a cloak

both out of good will and for the respect due to a brave soldier;

but now people look down upon me because my clothes are shabby.”

And Eumaeus answered, “Old man, you have told us an excellent story,

and have said nothing so far but what is quite satisfactory; for the

present, therefore, you shall want neither clothing nor anything else

that a stranger in distress may reasonably expect, but to-morrow morning

you have to shake your own old rags about your body again, for we

have not many spare cloaks nor shirts up here, but every man has only

one. When Ulysses’ son comes home again he will give you both cloak

and shirt, and send you wherever you may want to go.”

With this he got up and made a bed for Ulysses by throwing some goatskins

and sheepskins on the ground in front of the fire. Here Ulysses lay

down, and Eumaeus covered him over with a great heavy cloak that he

kept for a change in case of extraordinarily bad weather.

Thus did Ulysses sleep, and the young men slept beside him. But the

swineherd did not like sleeping away from his pigs, so he got ready

to go and Ulysses was glad to see that he looked after his property

during his master’s absence. First he slung his sword over his brawny

shoulders and put on a thick cloak to keep out the wind. He also took

the skin of a large and well fed goat, and a javelin in case of attack

from men or dogs. Thus equipped he went to his rest where the pigs

were camping under an overhanging rock that gave them shelter from

the North wind.



But Minerva went to the fair city of Lacedaemon to tell Ulysses’

son that he was to return at once. She found him and Pisistratus sleeping

in the forecourt of Menelaus’s house; Pisistratus was fast asleep,

but Telemachus could get no rest all night for thinking of his unhappy

father, so Minerva 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 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. 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; every one 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 Jove, the mighty husband of Juno,

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 Vulcan. 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 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


“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 Ulysses

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 Ulysses, after having travelled

far and suffered much, will return to take his revenge- if indeed

he is not back already and hatching mischief for the suitors.”

“May Jove 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 travelled 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’s

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


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 Minerva

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 Erinyes 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 Jove 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 ‘Ulysses, 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 ox hide. Minerva 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 pass sage 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 Ulysses 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, Ulysses 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 any one will give me a drink and a piece

of bread. I should like also to go to the house of Ulysses 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

Mercury 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.”

Ulysses 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 ways 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 about

Ulysses’ 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 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 neighbour 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 humour.”

Ulysses 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 plenty of 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 two 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 Diana 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 some one

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 harbour,

where the Phoenician ship was lying. When they had got on board they

sailed their ways over the sea, taking us with them, and Jove sent

then a fair wind; six days did we sail both night and day, but on

the seventh day Diana 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.”

Ulysses answered, “Eumaeus, I have heard the story of your misfortunes

with the most lively interest and pity, but Jove 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 meantime Telemachus and

his crew were nearing land, so they loosed the sails, took down the

mast, and rowed the ship into the harbour. 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 every one 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 Ulysses’ place. Jove, 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.



Meanwhile Ulysses and the swineherd had lit a fire in the hut and

were were getting breakfast ready at daybreak for they had sent the

men out with the pigs. When Telemachus came up, the dogs did not bark,

but fawned upon him, so Ulysses, hearing the sound of feet and noticing

that the dogs did not bark, said to Eumaeus:

“Eumaeus, I hear footsteps; I suppose one of your men or some one

of your acquaintance is coming here, for the dogs are fawning urn

him and not barking.”

The words were hardly out of his mouth before his son stood at the

door. Eumaeus sprang to his feet, and the bowls in which he was mixing

wine fell from his hands, as he made towards his master. He kissed

his head and both his beautiful eyes, and wept for joy. A father could

not be more delighted at the return of an only son, the child of his

old age, after ten years’ absence in a foreign country and after having

gone through much hardship. He embraced him, kissed him all over as

though he had come back from the dead, and spoke fondly to him saying:

“So you are come, Telemachus, light of my eyes that you are. When

I heard you had gone to Pylos I made sure I was never going to see

you any more. Come in, my dear child, and sit down, that I may have

a good look at you now you are home again; it is not very often you

come into the country to see us herdsmen; you stick pretty close to

the town generally. I suppose you think it better to keep an eye on

what the suitors are doing.”

“So be it, old friend,” answered Telemachus, “but I am come now because

I want to see you, and to learn whether my mother is still at her

old home or whether some one else has married her, so that the bed

of Ulysses is without bedding and covered with cobwebs.”

“She is still at the house,” replied Eumaeus, “grieving and breaking

her heart, and doing nothing but weep, both night and day continually.”

As spoke he took Telemachus’ spear, whereon he crossed the stone threshold

and came inside. Ulysses rose from his seat to give him place as he

entered, but Telemachus checked him; “Sit down, stranger.” said he,

“I can easily find another seat, and there is one here who will lay

it for me.”

Ulysses went back to his own place, and Eumaeus strewed some green

brushwood on the floor and threw a sheepskin on top of it for Telemachus

to sit upon. Then the swineherd brought them platters of cold meat,

the remains from what they had eaten the day before, and he filled

the bread baskets with bread as fast as he could. He mixed wine also

in bowls of ivy-wood, and took his seat facing Ulysses. Then they

laid their hands on the good things that were before them, and as

soon as they had had enough to eat and drink Telemachus said to Eumaeus,

“Old friend, where does this stranger come from? How did his crew

bring him to Ithaca, and who were they?-for assuredly he did not come

here by land”‘

To this you answered, O swineherd Eumaeus, “My son, I will tell you

the real truth. He says he is a Cretan, and that he has been a great

traveller. At this moment he is running away from a Thesprotian ship,

and has refuge at my station, so I will put him into your hands. Do

whatever you like with him, only remember that he is your suppliant.”

“I am very much distressed,” said Telemachus, “by what you have just

told me. How can I take this stranger into my house? I am as yet young,

and am not strong enough to hold my own if any man attacks me. My

mother cannot make up her mind whether to stay where she is and look

after the house out of respect for public opinion and the memory of

her husband, or whether the time is now come for her to take the best

man of those who are wooing her, and the one who will make her the

most advantageous offer; still, as the stranger has come to your station

I will find him a cloak and shirt of good wear, with a sword and sandals,

and will send him wherever he wants to go. Or if you like you can

keep him here at the station, and I will send him clothes and food

that he may be no burden on you and on your men; but I will not have

him go near the suitors, for they are very insolent, and are sure

to ill-treat him in a way that would greatly grieve me; no matter

how valiant a man may be he can do nothing against numbers, for they

will be too strong for him.”

Then Ulysses said, “Sir, it is right that I should say something myself.

I am much shocked about what you have said about the insolent way

in which the suitors are behaving in despite of such a man as you

are. Tell me, do you submit to such treatment tamely, or has some

god set your people against you? May you not complain of your brothers-

for it is to these that a man may look for support, however great

his quarrel may be? I wish I were as young as you are and in my present

mind; if I were son to Ulysses, or, indeed, Ulysses himself, I would

rather some one came and cut my head off, but I would go to the house

and be the bane of every one of these men. If they were too many for

me- I being single-handed- I would rather die fighting in my own house

than see such disgraceful sights day after day, strangers grossly

maltreated, and men dragging the women servants about the house in

an unseemly way, wine drawn recklessly, and bread wasted all to no

purpose for an end that shall never be accomplished.”

And Telemachus answered, “I will tell you truly everything. There

is no emnity between me and my people, nor can I complain of brothers,

to whom a man may look for support however great his quarrel may be.

Jove has made us a race of only sons. Laertes was the only son of

Arceisius, and Ulysses only son of Laertes. I am myself the only son

of Ulysses who left me behind him when he went away, so that I have

never been of any use to him. Hence it comes that my house is in the

hands of numberless marauders; for the chiefs from all the neighbouring

islands, Dulichium, Same, Zacynthus, as also all the principal men

of Ithaca itself, are eating up my house under the pretext of paying

court to my mother, who will neither say point blank that she will

not marry, nor yet bring matters to an end, so they are making havoc

of my estate, and before long will do so with myself into the bargain.

The issue, however, rests with heaven. But do you, old friend Eumaeus,

go at once and tell Penelope that I am safe and have returned from

Pylos. Tell it to herself alone, and then come back here without letting

any one else know, for there are many who are plotting mischief against


“I understand and heed you,” replied Eumaeus; “you need instruct me

no further, only I am going that way say whether I had not better

let poor Laertes know that you are returned. He used to superintend

the work on his farm in spite of his bitter sorrow about Ulysses,

and he would eat and drink at will along with his servants; but they

tell me that from the day on which you set out for Pylos he has neither

eaten nor drunk as he ought to do, nor does he look after his farm,

but sits weeping and wasting the flesh from off his bones.”

“More’s the pity,” answered Telemachus, “I am sorry for him, but we

must leave him to himself just now. If people could have everything

their own way, the first thing I should choose would be the return

of my father; but go, and give your message; then make haste back

again, and do not turn out of your way to tell Laertes. Tell my mother

to send one of her women secretly with the news at once, and let him

hear it from her.”

Thus did he urge the swineherd; Eumaeus, therefore, took his sandals,

bound them to his feet, and started for the town. Minerva watched

him well off the station, and then came up to it in the form of a

woman- fair, stately, and wise. She stood against the side of the

entry, and revealed herself to Ulysses, but Telemachus could not see

her, and knew not that she was there, for the gods do not let themselves

be seen by everybody. Ulysses saw her, and so did the dogs, for they

did not bark, but went scared and whining off to the other side of

the yards. She nodded her head and motioned to Ulysses with her eyebrows;

whereon he left the hut and stood before her outside the main wall

of the yards. Then she said to him:

“Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, it is now time for you to tell your

son: do not keep him in the dark any longer, but lay your plans for

the destruction of the suitors, and then make for the town. I will

not be long in joining you, for I too am eager for the fray.”

As she spoke she touched him with her golden wand. First she threw

a fair clean shirt and cloak about his shoulders; then she made him

younger and of more imposing presence; she gave him back his colour,

filled out his cheeks, and let his beard become dark again. Then she

went away and Ulysses came back inside the hut. His son was astounded

when he saw him, and turned his eyes away for fear he might be looking

upon a god.

“Stranger,” said he, “how suddenly you have changed from what you

were a moment or two ago. You are dressed differently and your colour

is not the same. Are you some one or other of the gods that live in

heaven? If so, be propitious to me till I can make you due sacrifice

and offerings of wrought gold. Have mercy upon me.”

And Ulysses said, “I am no god, why should you take me for one? I

am your father, on whose account you grieve and suffer so much at

the hands of lawless men.”

As he spoke he kissed his son, and a tear fell from his cheek on to

the ground, for he had restrained all tears till now. but Telemachus

could not yet believe that it was his father, and said:

“You are not my father, but some god is flattering me with vain hopes

that I may grieve the more hereafter; no mortal man could of himself

contrive to do as you have been doing, and make yourself old and young

at a moment’s notice, unless a god were with him. A second ago you

were old and all in rags, and now you are like some god come down

from heaven.”

Ulysses answered, “Telemachus, you ought not to be so immeasurably

astonished at my being really here. There is no other Ulysses who

will come hereafter. Such as I am, it is I, who after long wandering

and much hardship have got home in the twentieth year to my own country.

What you wonder at is the work of the redoubtable goddess Minerva,

who does with me whatever she will, for she can do what she pleases.

At one moment she makes me like a beggar, and the next I am a young

man with good clothes on my back; it is an easy matter for the gods

who live in heaven to make any man look either rich or poor.”

As he spoke he sat down, and Telemachus threw his arms about his father

and wept. They were both so much moved that they cried aloud like

eagles or vultures with crooked talons that have been robbed of their

half fledged young by peasants. Thus piteously did they weep, and

the sun would have gone down upon their mourning if Telemachus had

not suddenly said, “In what ship, my dear father, did your crew bring

you to Ithaca? Of what nation did they declare themselves to be- for

you cannot have come by land?”

“I will tell you the truth, my son,” replied Ulysses. “It was the

Phaeacians who brought me here. They are great sailors, and are in

the habit of giving escorts to any one who reaches their coasts. They

took me over the sea while I was fast asleep, and landed me in Ithaca,

after giving me many presents in bronze, gold, and raiment. These

things by heaven’s mercy are lying concealed in a cave, and I am now

come here on the suggestion of Minerva that we may consult about killing

our enemies. First, therefore, give me a list of the suitors, with

their number, that I may learn who, and how many, they are. I can

then turn the matter over in my mind, and see whether we two can fight

the whole body of them ourselves, or whether we must find others to

help us.”

To this Telemachus answered, “Father, I have always heard of your

renown both in the field and in council, but the task you talk of

is a very great one: I am awed at the mere thought of it; two men

cannot stand against many and brave ones. There are not ten suitors

only, nor twice ten, but ten many times over; you shall learn their

number at once. There are fifty-two chosen youths from Dulichium,

and they have six servants; from Same there are twenty-four; twenty

young Achaeans from Zacynthus, and twelve from Ithaca itself, all

of them well born. They have with them a servant Medon, a bard, and

two men who can carve at table. If we face such numbers as this, you

may have bitter cause to rue your coming, and your revenge. See whether

you cannot think of some one who would be willing to come and help


“Listen to me,” replied Ulysses, “and think whether Minerva and her

father Jove may seem sufficient, or whether I am to try and find some

one else as well.”

“Those whom you have named,” answered Telemachus, “are a couple of

good allies, for though they dwell high up among the clouds they have

power over both gods and men.”

“These two,” continued Ulysses, “will not keep long out of the fray,

when the suitors and we join fight in my house. Now, therefore, return

home early to-morrow morning, and go about among the suitors as before.

Later on the swineherd will bring me to the city disguised as a miserable

old beggar. If you see them ill-treating me, steel your heart against

my sufferings; even though they drag me feet foremost out of the house,

or throw things at me, look on and do nothing beyond gently trying

to make them behave more reasonably; but they will not listen to you,

for the day of their reckoning is at hand. Furthermore I say, and

lay my saying to your heart, when Minerva shall put it in my mind,

I will nod my head to you, and on seeing me do this you must collect

all the armour that is in the house and hide it in the strong store

room. Make some excuse when the suitors ask you why you are removing

it; say that you have taken it to be out of the way of the smoke,

inasmuch as it is no longer what it was when Ulysses went away, but

has become soiled and begrimed with soot. Add to this more particularly

that you are afraid Jove may set them on to quarrel over their wine,

and that they may do each other some harm which may disgrace both

banquet and wooing, for the sight of arms sometimes tempts people

to use them. But leave a sword and a spear apiece for yourself and

me, and a couple oxhide shields so that we can snatch them up at any

moment; Jove and Minerva will then soon quiet these people. There

is also another matter; if you are indeed my son and my blood runs

in your veins, let no one know that Ulysses is within the house- neither

Laertes, nor yet the swineherd, nor any of the servants, nor even

Penelope herself. Let you and me exploit the women alone, and let

us also make trial of some other of the men servants, to see who is

on our side and whose hand is against us.”

“Father,” replied Telemachus, “you will come to know me by and by,

and when you do you will find that I can keep your counsel. I do not

think, however, the plan you propose will turn out well for either

of us. Think it over. It will take us a long time to go the round

of the farms and exploit the men, and all the time the suitors will

be wasting your estate with impunity and without compunction. Prove

the women by all means, to see who are disloyal and who guiltless,

but I am not in favour of going round and trying the men. We can attend

to that later on, if you really have some sign from Jove that he will

support you.”

Thus did they converse, and meanwhile the ship which had brought Telemachus

and his crew from Pylos had reached the town of Ithaca. When they

had come inside the harbour they drew the ship on to the land; their

servants came and took their armour from them, and they left all the

presents at the house of Clytius. Then they sent a servant to tell

Penelope that Telemachus had gone into the country, but had sent the

ship to the town to prevent her from being alarmed and made unhappy.

This servant and Eumaeus happened to meet when they were both on the

same errand of going to tell Penelope. When they reached the House,

the servant stood up and said to the queen in the presence of the

waiting women, “Your son, Madam, is now returned from Pylos”; but

Eumaeus went close up to Penelope, and said privately that her son

had given bidden him tell her. When he had given his message he left

the house with its outbuildings and went back to his pigs again.

The suitors were surprised and angry at what had happened, so they

went outside the great wall that ran round the outer court, and held

a council near the main entrance. Eurymachus, son of Polybus, was

the first to speak.

“My friends,” said he, “this voyage of Telemachus’s is a very serious

matter; we had made sure that it would come to nothing. Now, however,

let us draw a ship into the water, and get a crew together to send

after the others and tell them to come back as fast as they can.”

He had hardly done speaking when Amphinomus turned in his place and

saw the ship inside the harbour, with the crew lowering her sails,

and putting by their oars; so he laughed, and said to the others,

“We need not send them any message, for they are here. Some god must

have told them, or else they saw the ship go by, and could not overtake


On this they rose and went to the water side. The crew then drew the

ship on shore; their servants took their armour from them, and they

went up in a body to the place of assembly, but they would not let

any one old or young sit along with them, and Antinous, son of Eupeithes,

spoke first.

“Good heavens,” said he, “see how the gods have saved this man from

destruction. We kept a succession of scouts upon the headlands all

day long, and when the sun was down we never went on shore to sleep,

but waited in the ship all night till morning in the hope of capturing

and killing him; but some god has conveyed him home in spite of us.

Let us consider how we can make an end of him. He must not escape

us; our affair is never likely to come off while is alive, for he

is very shrewd, and public feeling is by no means all on our side.

We must make haste before he can call the Achaeans in assembly; he

will lose no time in doing so, for he will be furious with us, and

will tell all the world how we plotted to kill him, but failed to

take him. The people will not like this when they come to know of

it; we must see that they do us no hurt, nor drive us from our own

country into exile. Let us try and lay hold of him either on his farm

away from the town, or on the road hither. Then we can divide up his

property amongst us, and let his mother and the man who marries her

have the house. If this does not please you, and you wish Telemachus

to live on and hold his father’s property, then we must not gather

here and eat up his goods in this way, but must make our offers to

Penelope each from his own house, and she can marry the man who will

give the most for her, and whose lot it is to win her.”

They all held their peace until Amphinomus rose to speak. He was the

son of Nisus, who was son to king Aretias, and he was foremost among

all the suitors from the wheat-growing and well grassed island of

Dulichium; his conversation, moreover, was more agreeable to Penelope

than that of any of the other for he was a man of good natural disposition.

“My friends,” said he, speaking to them plainly and in all honestly,

“I am not in favour of killing Telemachus. It is a heinous thing to

kill one who is of noble blood. Let us first take counsel of the gods,

and if the oracles of Jove advise it, I will both help to kill him

myself, and will urge everyone else to do so; but if they dissuade

us, I would have you hold your hands.”

Thus did he speak, and his words pleased them well, so they rose forthwith

and went to the house of Ulysses where they took their accustomed


Then Penelope resolved that she would show herself to the suitors.

She knew of the plot against Telemachus, for the servant Medon had

overheard their counsels and had told her; she went down therefore

to the court attended by her maidens, and when she reached the suitors

she stood by one of the bearing-posts supporting the roof of the cloister

holding a veil before her face, and rebuked Antinous saying:

“Antinous, insolent and wicked schemer, they say you are the best

speaker and counsellor of any man your own age in Ithaca, but you

are nothing of the kind. Madman, why should you try to compass the

death of Telemachus, and take no heed of suppliants, whose witness

is Jove himself? It is not right for you to plot thus against one

another. Do you not remember how your father fled to this house in

fear of the people, who were enraged against him for having gone with

some Taphian pirates and plundered the Thesprotians who were at peace

with us? They wanted to tear him in pieces and eat up everything he

had, but Ulysses stayed their hands although they were infuriated,

and now you devour his property without paying for it, and break my

heart by his wooing his wife and trying to kill his son. Leave off

doing so, and stop the others also.”

To this Eurymachus son of Polybus answered, “Take heart, Queen Penelope

daughter of Icarius, and do not trouble yourself about these matters.

The man is not yet born, nor never will be, who shall lay hands upon

your son Telemachus, while I yet live to look upon the face of the

earth. I say- and it shall surely be- that my spear shall be reddened

with his blood; for many a time has Ulysses taken me on his knees,

held wine up to my lips to drink, and put pieces of meat into my hands.

Therefore Telemachus is much the dearest friend I have, and has nothing

to fear from the hands of us suitors. Of course, if death comes to

him from the gods, he cannot escape it.” He said this to quiet her,

but in reality he was plotting against Telemachus.

Then Penelope went upstairs again and mourned her husband till Minerva

shed sleep over her eyes. In the evening Eumaeus got back to Ulysses

and his son, who had just sacrificed a young pig of a year old and

were ready; helping one another to get supper ready; Minerva therefore

came up to Ulysses, turned him into an old man with a stroke of her

wand, and clad him in his old clothes again, for fear that the swineherd

might recognize him and not keep the secret, but go and tell Penelope.

Telemachus was the first to speak. “So you have got back, Eumaeus,”

said he. “What is the news of the town? Have the suitors returned,

or are they still waiting over yonder, to take me on my way home?”

“I did not think of asking about that,” replied Eumaeus, “when I was

in the town. I thought I would give my message and come back as soon

as I could. I met a man sent by those who had gone with you to Pylos,

and he was the first to tell the new your mother, but I can say what

I saw with my own eyes; I had just got on to the crest of the hill

of Mercury above the town when I saw a ship coming into harbour with

a number of men in her. They had many shields and spears, and I thought

it was the suitors, but I cannot be sure.”

On hearing this Telemachus smiled to his father, but so that Eumaeus

could not see him.

Then, when they had finished their work and the meal was ready, they

ate it, and every man had his full share so that all were satisfied.

As soon as they had had enough to eat and drink, they laid down to

rest and enjoyed the boon of sleep.



When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, Telemachus

bound on his sandals and took a strong spear that suited his hands,

for he wanted to go into the city. “Old friend,” said he to the swineherd,

“I will now go to the town and show myself to my mother, for she will

never leave off grieving till she has seen me. As for this unfortunate

stranger, take him to the town and let him beg there of any one who

will give him a drink and a piece of bread. I have trouble enough

of my own, and cannot be burdened with other people. If this makes

him angry so much the worse for him, but I like to say what I mean.”

Then Ulysses said, “Sir, I do not want to stay here; a beggar can

always do better in town than country, for any one who likes can give

him something. I am too old to care about remaining here at the beck

and call of a master. Therefore let this man do as you have just told

him, and take me to the town as soon as I have had a warm by the fire,

and the day has got a little heat in it. My clothes are wretchedly

thin, and this frosty morning I shall be perished with cold, for you

say the city is some way off.”

On this Telemachus strode off through the yards, brooding his revenge

upon the When he reached home he stood his spear against a bearing-post

of the cloister, crossed the stone floor of the cloister itself, and

went inside.

Nurse Euryclea saw him long before any one else did. She was putting

the fleeces on to the seats, and she burst out crying as she ran up

to him; all the other maids came up too, and covered his head and

shoulders with their kisses. Penelope came out of her room looking

like Diana or Venus, and wept as she flung her arms about her son.

She kissed his forehead and both his beautiful eyes, “Light of my

eyes,” she cried as she spoke fondly to him, “so you are come home

again; I made sure I was never going to see you any more. To think

of your having gone off to Pylos without saying anything about it

or obtaining my consent. But come, tell me what you saw.”

“Do not scold me, mother,’ answered Telemachus, “nor vex me, seeing

what a narrow escape I have had, but wash your face, change your dress,

go upstairs with your maids, and promise full and sufficient hecatombs

to all the gods if Jove will only grant us our revenge upon the suitors.

I must now go to the place of assembly to invite a stranger who has

come back with me from Pylos. I sent him on with my crew, and told

Piraeus to take him home and look after him till I could come for

him myself.”

She heeded her son’s words, washed her face, changed her dress, and

vowed full and sufficient hecatombs to all the gods if they would

only vouchsafe her revenge upon the suitors.

Telemachus went through, and out of, the cloisters spear in hand-

not alone, for his two fleet dogs went with him. Minerva endowed him

with a presence of such divine comeliness that all marvelled at him

as he went by, and the suitors gathered round him with fair words

in their mouths and malice in their hearts; but he avoided them, and

went to sit with Mentor, Antiphus, and Halitherses, old friends of

his father’s house, and they made him tell them all that had happened

to him. Then Piraeus came up with Theoclymenus, whom he had escorted

through the town to the place of assembly, whereon Telemachus at once

joined them. Piraeus was first to speak: “Telemachus,” said he, “I

wish you would send some of your women to my house to take awa the

presents Menelaus gave you.”

“We do not know, Piraeus,” answered Telemachus, “what may happen.

If the suitors kill me in my own house and divide my property among

them, I would rather you had the presents than that any of those people

should get hold of them. If on the other hand I manage to kill them,

I shall be much obliged if you will kindly bring me my presents.”

With these words he took Theoclymenus to his own house. When they

got there they laid their cloaks on the benches and seats, went into

the baths, and washed themselves. When the maids had washed and anointed

them, and had given them cloaks and shirts, they took their seats

at table. A maid servant then 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.

Opposite them sat Penelope, reclining on a couch by one of the bearing-posts

of the cloister, and spinning. Then they laid their hands on the good

things that were before them, and as soon as they had had enough to

eat and drink Penelope said:

“Telemachus, I shall go upstairs and lie down on that sad couch, which

I have not ceased to water with my tears, from the day Ulysses set

out for Troy with the sons of Atreus. You failed, however, to make

it clear to me before the suitors came back to the house, whether

or no you had been able to hear anything about the return of your


“I will tell you then truth,” replied her son. “We went to Pylos and

saw Nestor, who took me to his house and treated me as hospitably

as though I were a son of his own who had just returned after a long

absence; so also did his sons; but he said he had not heard a word

from any human being about Ulysses, whether he was alive or dead.

He sent me, therefore, with a chariot and horses to Menelaus. There

I saw Helen, for whose sake so many, both Argives and Trojans, were

in heaven’s wisdom doomed to suffer. Menelaus asked me what it was

that had brought me to Lacedaemon, and I told him the whole truth,

whereon he said, ‘So, then, these cowards would usurp a brave man’s

bed? A hind might as well lay her new-born young in the lair of a

lion, and then go off to feed in the forest or in some grassy dell.

The lion, when he comes back to his lair, will make short work with

the pair of them, and so will Ulysses with these suitors. By father

Jove, Minerva, and Apollo, if Ulysses is still the man that he was

when he wrestled with Philomeleides in Lesbos, and threw him so heavily

that all the Greeks cheered him- if he is still such, and were to

come near these suitors, they would have a short shrift and a sorry

wedding. As regards your question, however, I will not prevaricate

nor deceive you, but what the old man of the sea told me, so much

will I tell you in full. He said he could see Ulysses on an island

sorrowing bitterly in the house of the nymph Calypso, who was keeping

him prisoner, and he could not reach his home, for he had no ships

nor sailors to take him over the sea.’ This was what Menelaus told

me, and when I had heard his story I came away; the gods then gave

me a fair wind and soon brought me safe home again.”

With these words he moved the heart of Penelope. Then Theoclymenus

said to her:

“Madam, wife of Ulysses, Telemachus does not understand these things;

listen therefore to me, for I can divine them surely, and will hide

nothing from you. May Jove the king of heaven be my witness, and the

rites of hospitality, with that hearth of Ulysses to which I now come,

that Ulysses himself is even now in Ithaca, and, either going about

the country or staying in one place, is enquiring into all these evil

deeds and preparing a day of reckoning for the suitors. I saw an omen

when I was on the ship which meant this, and I told Telemachus about


“May it be even so,” answered Penelope; “if your words come true,

you shall have such gifts and such good will from me that all who

see you shall congratulate you.”

Thus did they converse. Meanwhile the suitors were throwing discs,

or aiming with spears at a mark on the levelled ground in front of

the house, and behaving with all their old insolence. But when it

was now time for dinner, and the flock of sheep and goats had come

into the town from all the country round, with their shepherds as

usual, then Medon, who was their favourite servant, and who waited

upon them at table, said, “Now then, my young masters, you have had

enough sport, so come inside that we may get dinner ready. Dinner

is not a bad thing, at dinner time.”

They left their sports as he told them, and when they were within

the house, they laid their cloaks on the benches and seats inside,

and then sacrificed some sheep, goats, pigs, and a heifer, all of

them fat and well grown. Thus they made ready for their meal. In the

meantime Ulysses and the swineherd were about starting for the town,

and the swineherd said, “Stranger, I suppose you still want to go

to town to-day, as my master said you were to do; for my own part

I should have liked you to stay here as a station hand, but I must

do as my master tells me, or he will scold me later on, and a scolding

from one’s master is a very serious thing. Let us then be off, for

it is now broad day; it will be night again directly and then you

will find it colder.”

“I know, and understand you,” replied Ulysses; “you need say no more.

Let us be going, but if you have a stick ready cut, let me have it

to walk with, for you say the road is a very rough one.”

As he spoke he threw his shabby old tattered wallet over his shoulders,

by the cord from which it hung, and Eumaeus gave him a stick to his

liking. The two then started, leaving the station in charge of the

dogs and herdsmen who remained behind; the swineherd led the way and

his master followed after, looking like some broken-down old tramp

as he leaned upon his staff, and his clothes were all in rags. When

they had got over the rough steep ground and were nearing the city,

they reached the fountain from which the citizens drew their water.

This had been made by Ithacus, Neritus, and Polyctor. There was a

grove of water-loving poplars planted in a circle all round it, and

the clear cold water came down to it from a rock high up, while above

the fountain there was an altar to the nymphs, at which all wayfarers

used to sacrifice. Here Melanthius son of Dolius overtook them as

he was driving down some goats, the best in his flock, for the suitors’

dinner, and there were two shepherds with him. When he saw Eumaeus

and Ulysses he reviled them with outrageous and unseemly language,

which made Ulysses very angry.

“There you go,” cried he, “and a precious pair you are. See how heaven

brings birds of the same feather to one another. Where, pray, master

swineherd, are you taking this poor miserable object? It would make

any one sick to see such a creature at table. A fellow like this never

won a prize for anything in his life, but will go about rubbing his

shoulders against every man’s door post, and begging, not for swords

and cauldrons like a man, but only for a few scraps not worth begging

for. If you would give him to me for a hand on my station, he might

do to clean out the folds, or bring a bit of sweet feed to the kids,

and he could fatten his thighs as much as he pleased on whey; but

he has taken to bad ways and will not go about any kind of work; he

will do nothing but beg victuals all the town over, to feed his insatiable

belly. I say, therefore and it shall surely be- if he goes near Ulysses’

house he will get his head broken by the stools they will fling at

him, till they turn him out.”

On this, as he passed, he gave Ulysses a kick on the hip out of pure

wantonness, but Ulysses stood firm, and did not budge from the path.

For a moment he doubted whether or no to fly at Melanthius and kill

him with his staff, or fling him to the ground and beat his brains

out; he resolved, however, to endure it and keep himself in check,

but the swineherd looked straight at Melanthius and rebuked him, lifting

up his hands and praying to heaven as he did so.

“Fountain nymphs,” he cried, “children of Jove, if ever Ulysses burned

you thigh bones covered with fat whether of lambs or kids, grant my

prayer that heaven may send him home. He would soon put an end to

the swaggering threats with which such men as you go about insulting

people-gadding all over the town while your flocks are going to ruin

through bad shepherding.”

Then Melanthius the goatherd answered, “You ill-conditioned cur, what

are you talking about? Some day or other I will put you on board ship

and take you to a foreign country, where I can sell you and pocket

the money you will fetch. I wish I were as sure that Apollo would

strike Telemachus dead this very day, or that the suitors would kill

him, as I am that Ulysses will never come home again.”

With this he left them to come on at their leisure, while he went

quickly forward and soon reached the house of his master. When he

got there he went in and took his seat among the suitors opposite

Eurymachus, who liked him better than any of the others. The servants

brought him a portion of meat, and an upper woman servant set bread

before him that he might eat. Presently Ulysses and the swineherd

came up to the house and stood by it, amid a sound of music, for Phemius

was just beginning to sing to the suitors. Then Ulysses took hold

of the swineherd’s hand, and said:

“Eumaeus, this house of Ulysses is a very fine place. No matter how

far you go you will find few like it. One building keeps following

on after another. The outer court has a wall with battlements all

round it; the doors are double folding, and of good workmanship; it

would be a hard matter to take it by force of arms. I perceive, too,

that there are many people banqueting within it, for there is a smell

of roast meat, and I hear a sound of music, which the gods have made

to go along with feasting.”

Then Eumaeus said, “You have perceived aright, as indeed you generally

do; but let us think what will be our best course. Will you go inside

first and join the suitors, leaving me here behind you, or will you

wait here and let me go in first? But do not wait long, or some one

may you loitering about outside, and throw something at you. Consider

this matter I pray you.”

And Ulysses answered, “I understand and heed. Go in first and leave

me here where I am. I am quite used to being beaten and having things

thrown at me. I have been so much buffeted about in war and by sea

that I am case-hardened, and this too may go with the rest. But a

man cannot hide away the cravings of a hungry belly; this is an enemy

which gives much trouble to all men; it is because of this that ships

are fitted out to sail the seas, and to make war upon other people.”

As they were thus talking, a dog that had been lying asleep raised

his head and pricked up his ears. This was Argos, whom Ulysses had

bred before setting out for Troy, but he had never had any work out

of him. In the old days he used to be taken out by the young men when

they went hunting wild goats, or deer, or hares, but now that his

master was gone he was lying neglected on the heaps of mule and cow

dung that lay in front of the stable doors till the men should come

and draw it away to manure the great close; and he was full of fleas.

As soon as he saw Ulysses standing there, he dropped his ears and

wagged his tail, but he could not get close up to his master. When

Ulysses saw the dog on the other side of the yard, dashed a tear from

his eyes without Eumaeus seeing it, and said:

“Eumaeus, what a noble hound that is over yonder on the manure heap:

his build is splendid; is he as fine a fellow as he looks, or is he

only one of those dogs that come begging about a table, and are kept

merely for show?”

“This hound,” answered Eumaeus, “belonged to him who has died in a

far country. If he were what he was when Ulysses left for Troy, he

would soon show you what he could do. There was not a wild beast in

the forest that could get away from him when he was once on its tracks.

But now he has fallen on evil times, for his master is dead and gone,

and the women take no care of him. Servants never do their work when

their master’s hand is no longer over them, for Jove takes half the

goodness out of a man when he makes a slave of him.”

As he spoke he went inside the buildings to the cloister where the

suitors were, but Argos died as soon as he had recognized his master.

Telemachus saw Eumaeus long before any one else did, and beckoned

him to come and sit beside him; so he looked about and saw a seat

lying near where the carver sat serving out their portions to the

suitors; he picked it up, brought it to Telemachus’s table, and sat

down opposite him. Then the servant brought him his portion, and gave

him bread from the bread-basket.

Immediately afterwards Ulysses came inside, looking like a poor miserable

old beggar, leaning on his staff and with his clothes all in rags.

He sat down upon the threshold of ash-wood just inside the doors leading

from the outer to the inner court, and against a bearing-post of cypress-wood

which the carpenter had skillfully planed, and had made to join truly

with rule and line. Telemachus took a whole loaf from the bread-basket,

with as much meat as he could hold in his two hands, and said to Eumaeus,

“Take this to the stranger, and tell him to go the round of the suitors,

and beg from them; a beggar must not be shamefaced.”

So Eumaeus went up to him and said, “Stranger, Telemachus sends you

this, and says you are to go the round of the suitors begging, for

beggars must not be shamefaced.”

Ulysses answered, “May King Jove grant all happiness to Telemachus,

and fulfil the desire of his heart.”

Then with both hands he took what Telemachus had sent him, and laid

it on the dirty old wallet at his feet. He went on eating it while

the bard was singing, and had just finished his dinner as he left

off. The suitors applauded the bard, whereon Minerva went up to Ulysses

and prompted him to beg pieces of bread from each one of the suitors,

that he might see what kind of people they were, and tell the good

from the bad; but come what might she was not going to save a single

one of them. Ulysses, therefore, went on his round, going from left

to right, and stretched out his hands to beg as though he were a real

beggar. Some of them pitied him, and were curious about him, asking

one another who he was and where he came from; whereon the goatherd

Melanthius said, “Suitors of my noble mistress, I can tell you something

about him, for I have seen him before. The swineherd brought him here,

but I know nothing about the man himself, nor where he comes from.”

On this Antinous began to abuse the swineherd. “You precious idiot,”

he cried, “what have you brought this man to town for? Have we not

tramps and beggars enough already to pester us as we sit at meat?

Do you think it a small thing that such people gather here to waste

your master’s property and must you needs bring this man as well?”

And Eumaeus answered, “Antinous, your birth is good but your words

evil. It was no doing of mine that he came here. Who is likely to

invite a stranger from a foreign country, unless it be one of those

who can do public service as a seer, a healer of hurts, a carpenter,

or a bard who can charm us with his Such men are welcome all the world

over, but no one is likely to ask a beggar who will only worry him.

You are always harder on Ulysses’ servants than any of the other suitors

are, and above all on me, but I do not care so long as Telemachus

and Penelope are alive and here.”

But Telemachus said, “Hush, do not answer him; Antinous has the bitterest

tongue of all the suitors, and he makes the others worse.”

Then turning to Antinous he said, “Antinous, you take as much care

of my interests as though I were your son. Why should you want to

see this stranger turned out of the house? Heaven forbid; take’ something

and give it him yourself; I do not grudge it; I bid you take it. Never

mind my mother, nor any of the other servants in the house; but I

know you will not do what I say, for you are more fond of eating things

yourself than of giving them to other people.”

“What do you mean, Telemachus,” replied Antinous, “by this swaggering

talk? If all the suitors were to give him as much as I will, he would

not come here again for another three months.”

As he spoke he drew the stool on which he rested his dainty feet from

under the table, and made as though he would throw it at Ulysses,

but the other suitors all gave him something, and filled his wallet

with bread and meat; he was about, therefore, to go back to the threshold

and eat what the suitors had given him, but he first went up to Antinous

and said:

“Sir, give me something; you are not, surely, the poorest man here;

you seem to be a chief, foremost among them all; therefore you should

be the better giver, and I will tell far and wide of your bounty.

I too was a rich man once, and had a fine house of my own; in those

days I gave to many a tramp such as I now am, no matter who he might

be nor what he wanted. I had any number of servants, and all the other

things which people have who live well and are accounted wealthy,

but it pleased Jove to take all away from me. He sent me with a band

of roving robbers to Egypt; it was a long voyage and I was undone

by it. I stationed my bade ships in the river Aegyptus, and bade my

men stay by them and keep guard over them, while sent out scouts to

reconnoitre from every point of vantage.

“But the men disobeyed my orders, took to their own devices, and ravaged

the land of the Egyptians, killing the men, and taking their wives

and children captives. The alarm was soon carried to the city, and

when they heard the war-cry, the people came out at daybreak till

the plain was filled with soldiers horse and foot, and with the gleam

of armour. Then Jove spread panic among my men, and they would no

longer face the enemy, for they found themselves surrounded. The Egyptians

killed many of us, and took the rest alive to do forced labour for

them; as for myself, they gave me to a friend who met them, to take

to Cyprus, Dmetor by name, son of Iasus, who was a great man in Cyprus.

Thence I am come hither in a state of great misery.”

Then Antinous said, “What god can have sent such a pestilence to plague

us during our dinner? Get out, into the open part of the court, or

I will give you Egypt and Cyprus over again for your insolence and

importunity; you have begged of all the others, and they have given

you lavishly, for they have abundance round them, and it is easy to

be free with other people’s property when there is plenty of it.”

On this Ulysses began to move off, and said, “Your looks, my fine

sir, are better than your breeding; if you were in your own house

you would not spare a poor man so much as a pinch of salt, for though

you are in another man’s, and surrounded with abundance, you cannot

find it in you to give him even a piece of bread.”

This made Antinous very angry, and he scowled at him saying, “You

shall pay for this before you get clear of the court.” With these

words he threw a footstool at him, and hit him on the right shoulder-blade

near the top of his back. Ulysses stood firm as a rock and the blow

did not even stagger him, but he shook his head in silence as he brooded

on his revenge. Then he went back to the threshold and sat down there,

laying his well-filled wallet at his feet.

“Listen to me,” he cried, “you suitors of Queen Penelope, that I may

speak even as I am minded. A man knows neither ache nor pain if he

gets hit while fighting for his money, or for his sheep or his cattle;

and even so Antinous has hit me while in the service of my miserable

belly, which is always getting people into trouble. Still, if the

poor have gods and avenging deities at all, I pray them that Antinous

may come to a bad end before his marriage.”

“Sit where you are, and eat your victuals in silence, or be off elsewhere,”

shouted Antinous. “If you say more I will have you dragged hand and

foot through the courts, and the servants shall flay you alive.”

The other suitors were much displeased at this, and one of the young

men said, “Antinous, you did ill in striking that poor wretch of a

tramp: it will be worse for you if he should turn out to be some god-

and we know the gods go about disguised in all sorts of ways as people

from foreign countries, and travel about the world to see who do amiss

and who righteously.”

Thus said the suitors, but Antinous paid them no heed. Meanwhile Telemachus

was furious about the blow that had been given to his father, and

though no tear fell from him, he shook his head in silence and brooded

on his revenge.

Now when Penelope heard that the beggar had been struck in the banqueting-cloister,

she said before her maids, “Would that Apollo would so strike you,

Antinous,” and her waiting woman Eurynome answered, “If our prayers

were answered not one of the suitors would ever again see the sun

rise.” Then Penelope said, “Nurse, I hate every single one of them,

for they mean nothing but mischief, but I hate Antinous like the darkness

of death itself. A poor unfortunate tramp has come begging about the

house for sheer want. Every one else has given him something to put

in his wallet, but Antinous has hit him on the right shoulder-blade

with a footstool.”

Thus did she talk with her maids as she sat in her own room, and in

the meantime Ulysses was getting his dinner. Then she called for the

swineherd and said, “Eumaeus, go and tell the stranger to come here,

I want to see him and ask him some questions. He seems to have travelled

much, and he may have seen or heard something of my unhappy husband.”

To this you answered, O swineherd Eumaeus, “If these Achaeans, Madam,

would only keep quiet, you would be charmed with the history of his

adventures. I had him three days and three nights with me in my hut,

which was the first place he reached after running away from his ship,

and he has not yet completed the story of his misfortunes. If he had

been the most heaven-taught minstrel in the whole world, on whose

lips all hearers hang entranced, I could not have been more charmed

as I sat in my hut and listened to him. He says there is an old friendship

between his house and that of Ulysses, and that he comes from Crete

where the descendants of Minos live, after having been driven hither

and thither by every kind of misfortune; he also declares that he

has heard of Ulysses as being alive and near at hand among the Thesprotians,

and that he is bringing great wealth home with him.”

“Call him here, then,” said Penelope, “that I too may hear his story.

As for the suitors, let them take their pleasure indoors or out as

they will, for they have nothing to fret about. Their corn and wine

remain unwasted in their houses with none but servants to consume

them, while they keep hanging about our house day after day sacrificing

our oxen, sheep, and fat goats for their banquets, and never giving

so much as a thought to the quantity of wine they drink. No estate

can stand such recklessness, for we have now no Ulysses to protect

us. If he were to come again, he and his son would soon have their


As she spoke Telemachus sneezed so loudly that the whole house resounded

with it. Penelope laughed when she heard this, and said to Eumaeus,

“Go and call the stranger; did you not hear how my son sneezed just

as I was speaking? This can only mean that all the suitors are going

to be killed, and that not one of them shall escape. Furthermore I

say, and lay my saying to your heart: if I am satisfied that the stranger

is speaking the truth I shall give him a shirt and cloak of good wear.”

When Eumaeus heard this he went straight to Ulysses and said, “Father

stranger, my mistress Penelope, mother of Telemachus, has sent for

you; she is in great grief, but she wishes to hear anything you can

tell her about her husband, and if she is satisfied that you are speaking

the truth, she will give you a shirt and cloak, which are the very

things that you are most in want of. As for bread, you can get enough

of that to fill your belly, by begging about the town, and letting

those give that will.”

“I will tell Penelope,” answered Ulysses, “nothing but what is strictly

true. I know all about her husband, and have been partner with him

in affliction, but I am afraid of passing. through this crowd of cruel

suitors, for their pride and insolence reach heaven. Just now, moreover,

as I was going about the house without doing any harm, a man gave

me a blow that hurt me very much, but neither Telemachus nor any one

else defended me. Tell Penelope, therefore, to be patient and wait

till sundown. Let her give me a seat close up to the fire, for my

clothes are worn very thin- you know they are, for you have seen them

ever since I first asked you to help me- she can then ask me about

the return of her husband.”

The swineherd went back when he heard this, and Penelope said as she

saw him cross the threshold, “Why do you not bring him here, Eumaeus?

Is he afraid that some one will ill-treat him, or is he shy of coming

inside the house at all? Beggars should not be shamefaced.”

To this you answered, O swineherd Eumaeus, “The stranger is quite

reasonable. He is avoiding the suitors, and is only doing what any

one else would do. He asks you to wait till sundown, and it will be

much better, madam, that you should have him all to yourself, when

you can hear him and talk to him as you will.”

“The man is no fool,” answered Penelope, “it would very likely be

as he says, for there are no such abominable people in the whole world

as these men are.”

When she had done speaking Eumaeus went back to the suitors, for he

had explained everything. Then he went up to Telemachus and said in

his ear so that none could overhear him, “My dear sir, I will now

go back to the pigs, to see after your property and my own business.

You will look to what is going on here, but above all be careful to

keep out of danger, for there are many who bear you ill will. May

Jove bring them to a bad end before they do us a mischief.”

“Very well,” replied Telemachus, “go home when you have had your dinner,

and in the morning come here with the victims we are to sacrifice

for the day. Leave the rest to heaven and me.”

On this Eumaeus took his seat again, and when he had finished his

dinner he left the courts and the cloister with the men at table,

and went back to his pigs. As for the suitors, they presently began

to amuse themselves with singing and dancing, for it was now getting

on towards evening.



Now there came a certain common tramp who used to go begging all

over the city of Ithaca, and was notorious as an incorrigible glutton

and drunkard. This man had no strength nor stay in him, but he was

a great hulking fellow to look at; his real name, the one his mother

gave him, was Arnaeus, but the young men of the place called him Irus,

because he used to run errands for any one who would send him. As

soon as he came he began to insult Ulysses, and to try and drive him

out of his own house.

“Be off, old man,” he cried, “from the doorway, or you shall be dragged

out neck and heels. Do you not see that they are all giving me the

wink, and wanting me to turn you out by force, only I do not like

to do so? Get up then, and go of yourself, or we shall come to blows.”

Ulysses frowned on him and said, “My friend, I do you no manner of

harm; people give you a great deal, but I am not jealous. There is

room enough in this doorway for the pair of us, and you need not grudge

me things that are not yours to give. You seem to be just such another

tramp as myself, but perhaps the gods will give us better luck by

and by. Do not, however, talk too much about fighting or you will

incense me, and old though I am, I shall cover your mouth and chest

with blood. I shall have more peace to-morrow if I do, for you will

not come to the house of Ulysses any more.”

Irus was very angry and answered, “You filthy glutton, you run on

trippingly like an old fish-fag. I have a good mind to lay both hands

about you, and knock your teeth out of your head like so many boar’s

tusks. Get ready, therefore, and let these people here stand by and

look on. You will never be able to fight one who is so much younger

than yourself.”

Thus roundly did they rate one another on the smooth pavement in front

of the doorway, and when Antinous saw what was going on he laughed

heartily and said to the others, “This is the finest sport that you

ever saw; heaven never yet sent anything like it into this house.

The stranger and Irus have quarreled and are going to fight, let us

set them on to do so at once.”

The suitors all came up laughing, and gathered round the two ragged

tramps. “Listen to me,” said Antinous, “there are some goats’ paunches

down at the fire, which we have filled with blood and fat, and set

aside for supper; he who is victorious and proves himself to be the

better man shall have his pick of the lot; he shall be free of our

table and we will not allow any other beggar about the house at all.”

The others all agreed, but Ulysses, to throw them off the scent, said,

“Sirs, an old man like myself, worn out with suffering, cannot hold

his own against a young one; but my irrepressible belly urges me on,

though I know it can only end in my getting a drubbing. You must swear,

however that none of you will give me a foul blow to favour Irus and

secure him the victory.”

They swore as he told them, and when they had completed their oath

Telemachus put in a word and said, “Stranger, if you have a mind to

settle with this fellow, you need not be afraid of any one here. Whoever

strikes you will have to fight more than one. I am host, and the other

chiefs, Antinous and Eurymachus, both of them men of understanding,

are of the same mind as I am.”

Every one assented, and Ulysses girded his old rags about his loins,

thus baring his stalwart thighs, his broad chest and shoulders, and

his mighty arms; but Minerva came up to him and made his limbs even

stronger still. The suitors were beyond measure astonished, and one

would turn towards his neighbour saying, “The stranger has brought

such a thigh out of his old rags that there will soon be nothing left

of Irus.”

Irus began to be very uneasy as he heard them, but the servants girded

him by force, and brought him [into the open part of the court] in

such a fright that his limbs were all of a tremble. Antinous scolded

him and said, “You swaggering bully, you ought never to have been

born at all if you are afraid of such an old broken-down creature

as this tramp is. I say, therefore- and it shall surely be- if he

beats you and proves himself the better man, I shall pack you off

on board ship to the mainland and send you to king Echetus, who kills

every one that comes near him. He will cut off your nose and ears,

and draw out your entrails for the dogs to eat.”

This frightened Irus still more, but they brought him into the middle

of the court, and the two men raised their hands to fight. Then Ulysses

considered whether he should let drive so hard at him as to make an

end of him then and there, or whether he should give him a lighter

blow that should only knock him down; in the end he deemed it best

to give the lighter blow for fear the Achaeans should begin to suspect

who he was. Then they began to fight, and Irus hit Ulysses on the

right shoulder; but Ulysses gave Irus a blow on the neck under the

ear that broke in the bones of his skull, and the blood came gushing

out of his mouth; he fell groaning in the dust, gnashing his teeth

and kicking on the ground, but the suitors threw up their hands and

nearly died of laughter, as Ulysses caught hold of him by the foot

and dragged him into the outer court as far as the gate-house. There

he propped him up against the wall and put his staff in his hands.

“Sit here,” said he, “and keep the dogs and pigs off; you are a pitiful

creature, and if you try to make yourself king of the beggars any

more you shall fare still worse.”

Then he threw his dirty old wallet, all tattered and torn, over his

shoulder with the cord by which it hung, and went back to sit down

upon the threshold; but the suitors went within the cloisters, laughing

and saluting him, “May Jove, and all the other gods,” said they, ‘grant

you whatever you want for having put an end to the importunity of

this insatiable tramp. We will take him over to the mainland presently,

to king Echetus, who kills every one that comes near him.”

Ulysses hailed this as of good omen, and Antinous set a great goat’s

paunch before him filled with blood and fat. Amphinomus took two loaves

out of the bread-basket and brought them to him, pledging him as he

did so in a golden goblet of wine. “Good luck to you,” he said, “father

stranger, you are very badly off at present, but I hope you will have

better times by and by.”

To this Ulysses answered, “Amphinomus, you seem to be a man of good

understanding, as indeed you may well be, seeing whose son you are.

I have heard your father well spoken of; he is Nisus of Dulichium,

a man both brave and wealthy. They tell me you are his son, and you

appear to be a considerable person; listen, therefore, and take heed

to what I am saying. Man is the vainest of all creatures that have

their being upon earth. As long as heaven vouchsafes him health and

strength, he thinks that he shall come to no harm hereafter, and even

when the blessed gods bring sorrow upon him, he bears it as he needs

must, and makes the best of it; for God Almighty gives men their daily

minds day by day. I know all about it, for I was a rich man once,

and did much wrong in the stubbornness of my pride, and in the confidence

that my father and my brothers would support me; therefore let a man

fear God in all things always, and take the good that heaven may see

fit to send him without vainglory. Consider the infamy of what these

suitors are doing; see how they are wasting the estate, and doing

dishonour to the wife, of one who is certain to return some day, and

that, too, not long hence. Nay, he will be here soon; may heaven send

you home quietly first that you may not meet with him in the day of

his coming, for once he is here the suitors and he will not part bloodlessly.”

With these words he made a drink-offering, and when he had drunk he

put the gold cup again into the hands of Amphinomus, who walked away

serious and bowing his head, for he foreboded evil. But even so he

did not escape destruction, for Minerva had doomed him fall by the

hand of Telemachus. So he took his seat again at the place from which

he had come.

Then Minerva put it into the mind of Penelope to show herself to the

suitors, that she might make them still more enamoured of her, and

win still further honour from her son and husband. So she feigned

a mocking laugh and said, “Eurynome, I have changed my and have a

fancy to show myself to the suitors although I detest them. I should

like also to give my son a hint that he had better not have anything

more to do with them. They speak fairly enough but they mean mischief.”

“My dear child,” answered Eurynome, “all that you have said is true,

go and tell your son about it, but first wash yourself and anoint

your face. Do not go about with your cheeks all covered with tears;

it is not right that you should grieve so incessantly; for Telemachus,

whom you always prayed that you might live to see with a beard, is

already grown up.”

“I know, Eurynome,” replied Penelope, “that you mean well, but do

not try and persuade me to wash and to anoint myself, for heaven robbed

me of all my beauty on the day my husband sailed; nevertheless, tell

Autonoe and Hippodamia that I want them. They must be with me when

I am in the cloister; I am not going among the men alone; it would

not be proper for me to do so.”

On this the old woman went out of the room to bid the maids go to

their mistress. In the meantime Minerva bethought her of another matter,

and sent Penelope off into a sweet slumber; so she lay down on her

couch and her limbs became heavy with sleep. Then the goddess shed

grace and beauty over her that all the Achaeans might admire her.

She washed her face with the ambrosial loveliness that Venus wears

when she goes dancing with the Graces; she made her taller and of

a more commanding figure, while as for her complexion it was whiter

than sawn ivory. When Minerva had done all this she went away, whereon

the maids came in from the women’s room and woke Penelope with the

sound of their talking.

“What an exquisitely delicious sleep I have been having,” said she,

as she passed her hands over her face, “in spite of all my misery.

I wish Diana would let me die so sweetly now at this very moment,

that I might no longer waste in despair for the loss of my dear husband,

who possessed every kind of good quality and was the most distinguished

man among the Achaeans.”

With these words she came down from her upper room, not alone but

attended by two of her maidens, and when she reached the suitors she

stood by one of the bearing-posts supporting the roof of the cloister,

holding a veil before her face, and with a staid maid servant on either

side of her. As they beheld her the suitors were so overpowered and

became so desperately enamoured of her, that each one prayed he might

win her for his own bed fellow.

“Telemachus,” said she, addressing her son, “I fear you are no longer

so discreet and well conducted as you used to be. When you were younger

you had a greater sense of propriety; now, however, that you are grown

up, though a stranger to look at you would take you for the son of

a well-to-do father as far as size and good looks go, your conduct

is by no means what it should be. What is all this disturbance that

has been going on, and how came you to allow a stranger to be so disgracefully

ill-treated? What would have happened if he had suffered serious injury

while a suppliant in our house? Surely this would have been very discreditable

to you.”

“I am not surprised, my dear mother, at your displeasure,” replied

Telemachus, “I understand all about it and know when things are not

as they should be, which I could not do when I was younger; I cannot,

however, behave with perfect propriety at all times. First one and

then another of these wicked people here keeps driving me out of my

mind, and I have no one to stand by me. After all, however, this fight

between Irus and the stranger did not turn out as the suitors meant

it to do, for the stranger got the best of it. I wish Father Jove,

Minerva, and Apollo would break the neck of every one of these wooers

of yours, some inside the house and some out; and I wish they might

all be as limp as Irus is over yonder in the gate of the outer court.

See how he nods his head like a drunken man; he has had such a thrashing

that he cannot stand on his feet nor get back to his home, wherever

that may be, for has no strength left in him.”

Thus did they converse. Eurymachus then came up and said, “Queen Penelope,

daughter of Icarius, if all the Achaeans in Iasian Argos could see

you at this moment, you would have still more suitors in your house

by tomorrow morning, for you are the most admirable woman in the whole

world both as regards personal beauty and strength of understanding.”

To this Penelope replied, “Eurymachus, heaven robbed me of all my

beauty whether of face or figure when the Argives set sail for Troy

and my dear husband with them. If he were to return and look after

my affairs, I should both be more respected and show a better presence

to the world. As it is, I am oppressed with care, and with the afflictions

which heaven has seen fit to heap upon me. My husband foresaw it all,

and when he was leaving home he took my right wrist in his hand- ‘Wife,

‘he said, ‘we shall not all of us come safe home from Troy, for the

Trojans fight well both with bow and spear. They are excellent also

at fighting from chariots, and nothing decides the issue of a fight

sooner than this. I know not, therefore, whether heaven will send

me back to you, or whether I may not fall over there at Troy. In the

meantime do you look after things here. Take care of my father and

mother as at present, and even more so during my absence, but when

you see our son growing a beard, then marry whom you will, and leave

this your present home. This is what he said and now it is all coming

true. A night will come when I shall have to yield myself to a marriage

which I detest, for Jove has taken from me all hope of happiness.

This further grief, moreover, cuts me to the very heart. You suitors

are not wooing me after the custom of my country. When men are courting

a woman who they think will be a good wife to them and who is of noble

birth, and when they are each trying to win her for himself, they

usually bring oxen and sheep to feast the friends of the lady, and

they make her magnificent presents, instead of eating up other people’s

property without paying for it.”

This was what she said, and Ulysses was glad when he heard her trying

to get presents out of the suitors, and flattering them with fair

words which he knew she did not mean.

Then Antinous said, “Queen Penelope, daughter of Icarius, take as

many presents as you please from any one who will give them to you;

it is not well to refuse a present; but we will not go about our business

nor stir from where we are, till you have married the best man among

us whoever he may be.”

The others applauded what Antinous had said, and each one sent his

servant to bring his present. Antinous’s man returned with a large

and lovely dress most exquisitely embroidered. It had twelve beautifully

made brooch pins of pure gold with which to fasten it. Eurymachus

immediately brought her a magnificent chain of gold and amber beads

that gleamed like sunlight. Eurydamas’s two men returned with some

earrings fashioned into three brilliant pendants which glistened most

beautifully; while king Pisander son of Polyctor gave her a necklace

of the rarest workmanship, and every one else brought her a beautiful

present of some kind.

Then the queen went back to her room upstairs, and her maids brought

the presents after her. Meanwhile the suitors took to singing and

dancing, and stayed till evening came. They danced and sang till it

grew dark; they then brought in three braziers to give light, and

piled them up with chopped firewood very and dry, and they lit torches

from them, which the maids held up turn and turn about. Then Ulysses


“Maids, servants of Ulysses who has so long been absent, go to the

queen inside the house; sit with her and amuse her, or spin, and pick

wool. I will hold the light for all these people. They may stay till

morning, but shall not beat me, for I can stand a great deal.”

The maids looked at one another and laughed, while pretty Melantho

began to gibe at him contemptuously. She was daughter to Dolius, but

had been brought up by Penelope, who used to give her toys to play

with, and looked after her when she was a child; but in spite of all

this she showed no consideration for the sorrows of her mistress,

and used to misconduct herself with Eurymachus, with whom she was

in love.

“Poor wretch,” said she, “are you gone clean out of your mind? Go

and sleep in some smithy, or place of public gossips, instead of chattering

here. Are you not ashamed of opening your mouth before your betters-

so many of them too? Has the wine been getting into your head, or

do you always babble in this way? You seem to have lost your wits

because you beat the tramp Irus; take care that a better man than

he does not come and cudgel you about the head till he pack you bleeding

out of the house.”

“Vixen,” replied Ulysses, scowling at her, “I will go and tell Telemachus

what you have been saying, and he will have you torn limb from limb.”

With these words he scared the women, and they went off into the body

of the house. They trembled all aver, for they thought he would do

as he said. But Ulysses took his stand near the burning braziers,

holding up torches and looking at the people- brooding the while on

things that should surely come to pass.

But Minerva would not let the suitors for one moment cease their insolence,

for she wanted Ulysses to become even more bitter against them; she

therefore set Eurymachus son of Polybus on to gibe at him, which made

the others laugh. “Listen to me,” said he, “you suitors of Queen Penelope,

that I may speak even as I am minded. It is not for nothing that this

man has come to the house of Ulysses; I believe the light has not

been coming from the torches, but from his own head- for his hair

is all gone, every bit of it.”

Then turning to Ulysses he said, “Stranger, will you work as a servant,

if I send you to the wolds and see that you are well paid? Can you

build a stone fence, or plant trees? I will have you fed all the year

round, and will find you in shoes and clothing. Will you go, then?

Not you; for you have got into bad ways, and do not want to work;

you had rather fill your belly by going round the country begging.”

“Eurymachus,” answered Ulysses, “if you and I were to work one against

the other in early summer when the days are at their longest- give

me a good scythe, and take another yourself, and let us see which

will fast the longer or mow the stronger, from dawn till dark when

the mowing grass is about. Or if you will plough against me, let us

each take a yoke of tawny oxen, well-mated and of great strength and

endurance: turn me into a four acre field, and see whether you or

I can drive the straighter furrow. If, again, war were to break out

this day, give me a shield, a couple of spears and a helmet fitting

well upon my temples- you would find me foremost in the fray, and

would cease your gibes about my belly. You are insolent and cruel,

and think yourself a great man because you live in a little world,

ind that a bad one. If Ulysses comes to his own again, the doors of

his house are wide, but you will find them narrow when you try to

fly through them.”

Eurymachus was furious at all this. He scowled at him and cried, “You

wretch, I will soon pay you out for daring to say such things to me,

and in public too. Has the wine been getting into your head or do

you always babble in this way? You seem to have lost your wits because

you beat the tramp Irus. With this he caught hold of a footstool,

but Ulysses sought protection at the knees of Amphinomus of Dulichium,

for he was afraid. The stool hit the cupbearer on his right hand and

knocked him down: the man fell with a cry flat on his back, and his

wine-jug fell ringing to the ground. The suitors in the covered cloister

were now in an uproar, and one would turn towards his neighbour, saying,

“I wish the stranger had gone somewhere else, bad luck to hide, for

all the trouble he gives us. We cannot permit such disturbance about

a beggar; if such ill counsels are to prevail we shall have no more

pleasure at our banquet.”

On this Telemachus came forward and said, “Sirs, are you mad? Can

you not carry your meat and your liquor decently? Some evil spirit

has possessed you. I do not wish to drive any of you away, but you

have had your suppers, and the sooner you all go home to bed the better.”

The suitors bit their lips and marvelled at the boldness of his speech;

but Amphinomus the son of Nisus, who was son to Aretias, said, “Do

not let us take offence; it is reasonable, so let us make no answer.

Neither let us do violence to the stranger nor to any of Ulysses’

servants. Let the cupbearer go round with the drink-offerings, that

we may make them and go home to our rest. As for the stranger, let

us leave Telemachus to deal with him, for it is to his house that

he has come.”

Thus did he speak, and his saying pleased them well, so Mulius of

Dulichium, servant to Amphinomus, mixed them a bowl of wine and water

and handed it round to each of them man by man, whereon they made

their drink-offerings to the blessed gods: Then, when they had made

their drink-offerings and had drunk each one as he was minded, they

took their several ways each of them to his own abode.



Ulysses was left in the cloister, pondering on the means whereby

with Minerva’s help he might be able to kill the suitors. Presently

he said to Telemachus, “Telemachus, we must get the armour together

and take it down inside. Make some excuse when the suitors ask you

why you have removed it. Say that you have taken it to be out of the

way of the smoke, inasmuch as it is no longer what it was when Ulysses

went away, but has become soiled and begrimed with soot. Add to this

more particularly that you are afraid Jove may set them on to quarrel

over their wine, and that they may do each other some harm which may

disgrace both banquet and wooing, for the sight of arms sometimes

tempts people to use them.”

Telemachus approved of what his father had said, so he called nurse

Euryclea and said, “Nurse, shut the women up in their room, while

I take the armour that my father left behind him down into the store

room. No one looks after it now my father is gone, and it has got

all smirched with soot during my own boyhood. I want to take it down

where the smoke cannot reach it.”

“I wish, child,” answered Euryclea, “that you would take the management

of the house into your own hands altogether, and look after all the

property yourself. But who is to go with you and light you to the

store room? The maids would have so, but you would not let them.

“The stranger,” said Telemachus, “shall show me a light; when people

eat my bread they must earn it, no matter where they come from.”

Euryclea did as she was told, and bolted the women inside their room.

Then Ulysses and his son made all haste to take the helmets, shields,

and spears inside; and Minerva went before them with a gold lamp in

her hand that shed a soft and brilliant radiance, whereon Telemachus

said, “Father, my eyes behold a great marvel: the walls, with the

rafters, crossbeams, and the supports on which they rest are all aglow

as with a flaming fire. Surely there is some god here who has come

down from heaven.”

“Hush,” answered Ulysses, “hold your peace and ask no questions, for

this is the manner of the gods. Get you to your bed, and leave me

here to talk with your mother and the maids. Your mother in her grief

will ask me all sorts of questions.”

On this Telemachus went by torch-light to the other side of the inner

court, to the room in which he always slept. There he lay in his bed

till morning, while Ulysses was left in the cloister pondering on

the means whereby with Minerva’s help he might be able to kill the


Then Penelope came down from her room looking like Venus or Diana,

and they set her a seat inlaid with scrolls of silver and ivory near

the fire in her accustomed place. It had been made by Icmalius and

had a footstool all in one piece with the seat itself; and it was

covered with a thick fleece: on this she now sat, and the maids came

from the women’s room to join her. They set about removing the tables

at which the wicked suitors had been dining, and took away the bread

that was left, with the cups from which they had drunk. They emptied

the embers out of the braziers, and heaped much wood upon them to

give both light and heat; but Melantho began to rail at Ulysses a

second time and said, “Stranger, do you mean to plague us by hanging

about the house all night and spying upon the women? Be off, you wretch,

outside, and eat your supper there, or you shall be driven out with

a firebrand.”

Ulysses scowled at her and answered, “My good woman, why should you

be so angry with me? Is it because I am not clean, and my clothes

are all in rags, and because I am obliged to go begging about after

the manner of tramps and beggars generall? I too was a rich man once,

and had a fine house of my own; in those days I gave to many a tramp

such as I now am, no matter who he might be nor what he wanted. I

had any number of servants, and all the other things which people

have who live well and are accounted wealthy, but it pleased Jove

to take all away from me; therefore, woman, beware lest you too come

to lose that pride and place in which you now wanton above your fellows;

have a care lest you get out of favour with your mistress, and lest

Ulysses should come home, for there is still a chance that he may

do so. Moreover, though he be dead as you think he is, yet by Apollo’s

will he has left a son behind him, Telemachus, who will note anything

done amiss by the maids in the house, for he is now no longer in his


Penelope heard what he was saying and scolded the maid, “Impudent

baggage, said she, “I see how abominably you are behaving, and you

shall smart for it. You knew perfectly well, for I told you myself,

that I was going to see the stranger and ask him about my husband,

for whose sake I am in such continual sorrow.”

Then she said to her head waiting woman Eurynome, “Bring a seat with

a fleece upon it, for the stranger to sit upon while he tells his

story, and listens to what I have to say. I wish to ask him some questions.”

Eurynome brought the seat at once and set a fleece upon it, and as

soon as Ulysses had sat down Penelope began by saying, “Stranger,

I shall first ask you who and whence are you? Tell me of your town

and parents.”

“Madam;” answered Ulysses, “who on the face of the whole earth can

dare to chide with you? Your fame reaches the firmament of heaven

itself; you are like some blameless king, who upholds righteousness,

as the monarch over a great and valiant nation: the earth yields its

wheat and barley, the trees are loaded with fruit, the ewes bring

forth lambs, and the sea abounds with fish by reason of his virtues,

and his people do good deeds under him. Nevertheless, as I sit here

in your house, ask me some other question and do not seek to know

my race and family, or you will recall memories that will yet more

increase my sorrow. I am full of heaviness, but I ought not to sit

weeping and wailing in another person’s house, nor is it well to be

thus grieving continually. I shall have one of the servants or even

yourself complaining of me, and saying that my eyes swim with tears

because I am heavy with wine.”

Then Penelope answered, “Stranger, heaven robbed me of all beauty,

whether of face or figure, when the Argives set sail for Troy and

my dear husband with them. If he were to return and look after my

affairs I should be both more respected and should show a better presence

to the world. As it is, I am oppressed with care, and with the afflictions

which heaven has seen fit to heap upon me. The chiefs from all our

islands- Dulichium, Same, and Zacynthus, as also from Ithaca itself,

are wooing me against my will and are wasting my estate. I can therefore

show no attention to strangers, nor suppliants, nor to people who

say that they are skilled artisans, but am all the time brokenhearted

about Ulysses. They want me to marry again at once, and I have to

invent stratagems in order to deceive them. In the first place heaven

put it in my mind to set up a great tambour-frame in my room, and

to begin working upon an enormous piece of fine needlework. Then I

said to them, ‘Sweethearts, Ulysses is indeed dead, still, do not

press me to marry again immediately; wait- for I would not have my

skill in needlework perish unrecorded- till I have finished making

a pall for the hero Laertes, to be ready against the time when death

shall take him. He is very rich, and the women of the place will talk

if he is laid out without a pall.’ This was what I said, and they

assented; whereon I used to keep working at my great web all day long,

but at night I would unpick the stitches again by torch light. I fooled

them in this way for three years without their finding it out, but

as time wore on and I was now in my fourth year, in the waning of

moons, and many days had been accomplished, those good-for-nothing

hussies my maids betrayed me to the suitors, who broke in upon me

and caught me; they were very angry with me, so I was forced to finish

my work whether I would or no. And now I do not see how I can find

any further shift for getting out of this marriage. My parents are

putting great pressure upon me, and my son chafes at the ravages the

suitors are making upon his estate, for he is now old enough to understand

all about it and is perfectly able to look after his own affairs,

for heaven has blessed him with an excellent disposition. Still, notwithstanding

all this, tell me who you are and where you come from- for you must

have had father and mother of some sort; you cannot be the son of

an oak or of a rock.”

Then Ulysses answered, “madam, wife of Ulysses, since you persist

in asking me about my family, I will answer, no matter what it costs

me: people must expect to be pained when they have been exiles as

long as I have, and suffered as much among as many peoples. Nevertheless,

as regards your question I will tell you all you ask. There is a fair

and fruitful island in mid-ocean called Crete; it is thickly peopled

and there are nine cities in it: the people speak many different languages

which overlap one another, for there are Achaeans, brave Eteocretans,

Dorians of three-fold race, and noble Pelasgi. There is a great town

there, Cnossus, where Minos reigned who every nine years had a conference

with Jove himself. Minos was father to Deucalion, whose son I am,

for Deucalion had two sons Idomeneus and myself. Idomeneus sailed

for Troy, and I, who am the younger, am called Aethon; my brother,

however, was at once the older and the more valiant of the two; hence

it was in Crete that I saw Ulysses and showed him hospitality, for

the winds took him there as he was on his way to Troy, carrying him

out of his course from cape Malea and leaving him in Amnisus off the

cave of Ilithuia, where the harbours are difficult to enter and he

could hardly find shelter from the winds that were then xaging. As

soon as he got there he went into the town and asked for Idomeneus,

claiming to be his old and valued friend, but Idomeneus had already

set sail for Troy some ten or twelve days earlier, so I took him to

my own house and showed him every kind of hospitality, for I had abundance

of everything. Moreover, I fed the men who were with him with barley

meal from the public store, and got subscriptions of wine and oxen

for them to sacrifice to their heart’s content. They stayed with me

twelve days, for there was a gale blowing from the North so strong

that one could hardly keep one’s feet on land. I suppose some unfriendly

god had raised it for them, but on the thirteenth day the wind dropped,

and they got away.”

Many a plausible tale did Ulysses further tell her, and Penelope wept

as she listened, for her heart was melted. As the snow wastes upon

the mountain tops when the winds from South East and West have breathed

upon it and thawed it till the rivers run bank full with water, even

so did her cheeks overflow with tears for the husband who was all

the time sitting by her side. Ulysses felt for her and was for her,

but he kept his eyes as hard as or iron without letting them so much

as quiver, so cunningly did he restrain his tears. Then, when she

had relieved herself by weeping, she turned to him again and said:

“Now, stranger, I shall put you to the test and see whether or no

you really did entertain my husband and his men, as you say you did.

Tell me, then, how he was dressed, what kind of a man he was to look

at, and so also with his companions.”

“Madam,” answered Ulysses, “it is such a long time ago that I can

hardly say. Twenty years are come and gone since he left my home,

and went elsewhither; but I will tell you as well as I can recollect.

Ulysses wore a mantle of purple wool, double lined, and it was fastened

by a gold brooch with two catches for the pin. On the face of this

there was a device that showed a dog holding a spotted fawn between

his fore paws, and watching it as it lay panting upon the ground.

Every one marvelled at the way in which these things had been done

in gold, the dog looking at the fawn, and strangling it, while the

fawn was struggling convulsively to escape. As for the shirt that

he wore next his skin, it was so soft that it fitted him like the

skin of an onion, and glistened in the sunlight to the admiration

of all the women who beheld it. Furthermore I say, and lay my saying

to your heart, that I do not know whether Ulysses wore these clothes

when he left home, or whether one of his companions had given them

to him while he was on his voyage; or possibly some one at whose house

he was staying made him a present of them, for he was a man of many

friends and had few equals among the Achaeans. I myself gave him a

sword of bronze and a beautiful purple mantle, double lined, with

a shirt that went down to his feet, and I sent him on board his ship

with every mark of honour. He had a servant with him, a little older

than himself, and I can tell you what he was like; his shoulders were

hunched, he was dark, and he had thick curly hair. His name was Eurybates,

and Ulysses treated him with greater familiarity than he did any of

the others, as being the most like-minded with himself.”

Penelope was moved still more deeply as she heard the indisputable

proofs that Ulysses laid before her; and when she had again found

relief in tears she said to him, “Stranger, I was already disposed

to pity you, but henceforth you shall be honoured and made welcome

in my house. It was I who gave Ulysses the clothes you speak of. I

took them out of the store room and folded them up myself, and I gave

him also the gold brooch to wear as an ornament. Alas! I shall never

welcome him home again. It was by an ill fate that he ever set out

for that detested city whose very name I cannot bring myself even

to mention.”

Then Ulysses answered, “Madam, wife of Ulysses, do not disfigure yourself

further by grieving thus bitterly for your loss, though I can hardly

blame you for doing so. A woman who has loved her husband and borne

him children, would naturally be grieved at losing him, even though

he were a worse man than Ulysses, who they say was like a god. Still,

cease your tears and listen to what I can tell I will hide nothing

from you, and can say with perfect truth that I have lately heard

of Ulysses as being alive and on his way home; he is among the Thesprotians,

and is bringing back much valuable treasure that he has begged from

one and another of them; but his ship and all his crew were lost as

they were leaving the Thrinacian island, for Jove and the sun-god

were angry with him because his men had slaughtered the sun-god’s

cattle, and they were all drowned to a man. But Ulysses stuck to the

keel of the ship and was drifted on to the land of the Phaecians,

who are near of kin to the immortals, and who treated him as though

he had been a god, giving him many presents, and wishing to escort

him home safe and sound. In fact Ulysses would have been here long

ago, had he not thought better to go from land to land gathering wealth;

for there is no man living who is so wily as he is; there is no one

can compare with him. Pheidon king of the Thesprotians told me all

this, and he swore to me- making drink-offerings in his house as he

did so- that the ship was by the water side and the crew found who

would take Ulysses to his own country. He sent me off first, for there

happened to be a Thesprotian ship sailing for the wheat-growing island

of Dulichium, but he showed me all treasure Ulysses had got together,

and he had enough lying in the house of king Pheidon to keep his family

for ten generations; but the king said Ulysses had gone to Dodona

that he might learn Jove’s mind from the high oak tree, and know whether

after so long an absence he should return to Ithaca openly or in secret.

So you may know he is safe and will be here shortly; he is close at

hand and cannot remain away from home much longer; nevertheless I

will confirm my words with an oath, and call Jove who is the first

and mightiest of all gods to witness, as also that hearth of Ulysses

to which I have now come, that all I have spoken shall surely come

to pass. Ulysses will return in this self same year; with the end

of this moon and the beginning of the next he will be here.”

“May it be even so,” answered Penelope; “if your words come true you

shall have such gifts and such good will from me that all who see

you shall congratulate you; but I know very well how it will be. Ulysses

will not return, neither will you get your escort hence, for so surely

as that Ulysses ever was, there are now no longer any such masters

in the house as he was, to receive honourable strangers or to further

them on their way home. And now, you maids, wash his feet for him,

and make him a bed on a couch with rugs and blankets, that he may

be warm and quiet till morning. Then, at day break wash him and anoint

him again, that he may sit in the cloister and take his meals with

Telemachus. It shall be the worse for any one of these hateful people

who is uncivil to him; like it or not, he shall have no more to do

in this house. For how, sir, shall you be able to learn whether or

no I am superior to others of my sex both in goodness of heart and

understanding, if I let you dine in my cloisters squalid and ill clad?

Men live but for a little season; if they are hard, and deal hardly,

people wish them ill so long as they are alive, and speak contemptuously

of them when they are dead, but he that is righteous and deals righteously,

the people tell of his praise among all lands, and many shall call

him blessed.”

Ulysses answered, “Madam, I have foresworn rugs and blankets from

the day that I left the snowy ranges of Crete to go on shipboard.

I will lie as I have lain on many a sleepless night hitherto. Night

after night have I passed in any rough sleeping place, and waited

for morning. Nor, again, do I like having my feet washed; I shall

not let any of the young hussies about your house touch my feet; but,

if you have any old and respectable woman who has gone through as

much trouble as I have, I will allow her to wash them.”

To this Penelope said, “My dear sir, of all the guests who ever yet

came to my house there never was one who spoke in all things with

such admirable propriety as you do. There happens to be in the house

a most respectable old woman- the same who received my poor dear husband

in her arms the night he was born, and nursed him in infancy. She

is very feeble now, but she shall wash your feet.” “Come here,” said

she, “Euryclea, and wash your master’s age-mate; I suppose Ulysses’

hands and feet are very much the same now as his are, for trouble

ages all of us dreadfully fast.”

On these words the old woman covered her face with her hands; she

began to weep and made lamentation saying, “My dear child, I cannot

think whatever I am to do with you. I am certain no one was ever more

god-fearing than yourself, and yet Jove hates you. No one in the whole

world ever burned him more thigh bones, nor gave him finer hecatombs

when you prayed you might come to a green old age yourself and see

your son grow up to take after you; yet see how he has prevented you

alone from ever getting back to your own home. I have no doubt the

women in some foreign palace which Ulysses has got to are gibing at

him as all these sluts here have been gibing you. I do not wonder

at your not choosing to let them wash you after the manner in which

they have insulted you; I will wash your feet myself gladly enough,

as Penelope has said that I am to do so; I will wash them both for

Penelope’s sake and for your own, for you have raised the most lively

feelings of compassion in my mind; and let me say this moreover, which

pray attend to; we have had all kinds of strangers in distress come

here before now, but I make bold to say that no one ever yet came

who was so like Ulysses in figure, voice, and feet as you are.”

“Those who have seen us both,” answered Ulysses, “have always said

we were wonderfully like each other, and now you have noticed it too.

Then the old woman took the cauldron in which she was going to wash

his feet, and poured plenty of cold water into it, adding hot till

the bath was warm enough. Ulysses sat by the fire, but ere long he

turned away from the light, for it occurred to him that when the old

woman had hold of his leg she would recognize a certain scar which

it bore, whereon the whole truth would come out. And indeed as soon

as she began washing her master, she at once knew the scar as one

that had been given him by a wild boar when he was hunting on Mount

Parnassus with his excellent grandfather Autolycus- who was the most

accomplished thief and perjurer in the whole world- and with the sons

of Autolycus. Mercury himself had endowed him with this gift, for

he used to burn the thigh bones of goats and kids to him, so he took

pleasure in his companionship. It happened once that Autolycus had

gone to Ithaca and had found the child of his daughter just born.

As soon as he had done supper Euryclea set the infant upon his knees

and said, you must find a name for your grandson; you greatly wished

that you might have one.”

‘Son-in-law and daughter,” replied Autolycus, “call the child thus:

I am highly displeased with a large number of people in one place

and another, both men and women; so name the child ‘Ulysses,’ or the

child of anger. When he grows up and comes to visit his mother’s family

on Mount Parnassus, where my possessions lie, I will make him a present

and will send him on his way rejoicing.”

Ulysses, therefore, went to Parnassus to get the presents from Autolycus,

who with his sons shook hands with him and gave him welcome. His grandmother

Amphithea threw her arms about him, and kissed his head, and both

his beautiful eyes, while Autolycus desired his sons to get dinner

ready, and they did as he told them. They brought in a five year old

bull, flayed it, made it ready and divided it into joints; these they

then cut carefully up into smaller pieces and spitted them; they roasted

them sufficiently and served the portions round. Thus through the

livelong day to the going down of the sun they feasted, and every

man had his full share so that all were satisfied; but when the sun

set and it came on dark, they went to bed and enjoyed the boon of


When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, the sons

of Autolycus went out with their hounds hunting, and Ulysses went

too. They climbed the wooded slopes of Parnassus and soon reached

its breezy upland valleys; but as the sun was beginning to beat upon

the fields, fresh-risen from the slow still currents of Oceanus, they

came to a mountain dell. The dogs were in front searching for the

tracks of the beast they were chasing, and after them came the sons

of Autolycus, among whom was Ulysses, close behind the dogs, and he

had a long spear in his hand. Here was the lair of a huge boar among

some thick brushwood, so dense that the wind and rain could not get

through it, nor could the sun’s rays pierce it, and the ground underneath

lay thick with fallen leaves. The boar heard the noise of the men’s

feet, and the hounds baying on every side as the huntsmen came up

to him, so rushed from his lair, raised the bristles on his neck,

and stood at bay with fire flashing from his eyes. Ulysses was the

first to raise his spear and try to drive it into the brute, but the

boar was too quick for him, and charged him sideways, ripping him

above the knee with a gash that tore deep though it did not reach

the bone. As for the boar, Ulysses hit him on the right shoulder,

and the point of the spear went right through him, so that he fell

groaning in the dust until the life went out of him. The sons of Autolycus

busied themselves with the carcass of the boar, and bound Ulysses’

wound; then, after saying a spell to stop the bleeding, they went

home as fast as they could. But when Autolycus and his sons had thoroughly

healed Ulysses, they made him some splendid presents, and sent him

back to Ithaca with much mutual good will. When he got back, his father

and mother were rejoiced to see him, and asked him all about it, and

how he had hurt himself to get the scar; so he told them how the boar

had ripped him when he was out hunting with Autolycus and his sons

on Mount Parnassus.

As soon as Euryclea had got the scarred limb in her hands and had

well hold of it, she recognized it and dropped the foot at once. The

leg fell into the bath, which rang out and was overturned, so that

all the water was spilt on the ground; Euryclea’s eyes between her

joy and her grief filled with tears, and she could not speak, but

she caught Ulysses by the beard and said, “My dear child, I am sure

you must be Ulysses himself, only I did not know you till I had actually

touched and handled you.”

As she spoke she looked towards Penelope, as though wanting to tell

her that her dear husband was in the house, but Penelope was unable

to look in that direction and observe what was going on, for Minerva

had diverted her attention; so Ulysses caught Euryclea by the throat

with his right hand and with his left drew her close to him, and said,

“Nurse, do you wish to be the ruin of me, you who nursed me at your

own breast, now that after twenty years of wandering I am at last

come to my own home again? Since it has been borne in upon you by

heaven to recognize me, hold your tongue, and do not say a word about

it any one else in the house, for if you do I tell you- and it shall

surely be- that if heaven grants me to take the lives of these suitors,

I will not spare you, though you are my own nurse, when I am killing

the other women.”

“My child,” answered Euryclea, “what are you talking about? You know

very well that nothing can either bend or break me. I will hold my

tongue like a stone or a piece of iron; furthermore let me say, and

lay my saying to your heart, when heaven has delivered the suitors

into your hand, I will give you a list of the women in the house who

have been ill-behaved, and of those who are guiltless.”

And Ulysses answered, “Nurse, you ought not to speak in that way;

I am well able to form my own opinion about one and all of them; hold

your tongue and leave everything to heaven.”

As he said this Euryclea left the cloister to fetch some more water,

for the first had been all spilt; and when she had washed him and

anointed him with oil, Ulysses drew his seat nearer to the fire to

warm himself, and hid the scar under his rags. Then Penelope began

talking to him and said:

“Stranger, I should like to speak with you briefly about another matter.

It is indeed nearly bed time- for those, at least, who can sleep in

spite of sorrow. As for myself, heaven has given me a life of such

unmeasurable woe, that even by day when I am attending to my duties

and looking after the servants, I am still weeping and lamenting during

the whole time; then, when night comes, and we all of us go to bed,

I lie awake thinking, and my heart comes a prey to the most incessant

and cruel tortures. As the dun nightingale, daughter of Pandareus,

sings in the early spring from her seat in shadiest covert hid, and

with many a plaintive trill pours out the tale how by mishap she killed

her own child Itylus, son of king Zethus, even so does my mind toss

and turn in its uncertainty whether I ought to stay with my son here,

and safeguard my substance, my bondsmen, and the greatness of my house,

out of regard to public opinion and the memory of my late husband,

or whether it is not now time for me to go with the best of these

suitors who are wooing me and making me such magnificent presents.

As long as my son was still young, and unable to understand, he would

not hear of my leaving my husband’s house, but now that he is full

grown he begs and prays me to do so, being incensed at the way in

which the suitors are eating up his property. Listen, then, to a dream

that I have had and interpret it for me if you can. I have twenty

geese about the house that eat mash out of a trough, and of which

I am exceedingly fond. I dreamed that a great eagle came swooping

down from a mountain, and dug his curved beak into the neck of each

of them till he had killed them all. Presently he soared off into

the sky, and left them lying dead about the yard; whereon I wept in

my room till all my maids gathered round me, so piteously was I grieving

because the eagle had killed my geese. Then he came back again, and

perching on a projecting rafter spoke to me with human voice, and

told me to leave off crying. ‘Be of good courage,’ he said, ‘daughter

of Icarius; this is no dream, but a vision of good omen that shall

surely come to pass. The geese are the suitors, and I am no longer

an eagle, but your own husband, who am come back to you, and who will

bring these suitors to a disgraceful end.’ On this I woke, and when

I looked out I saw my geese at the trough eating their mash as usual.”

“This dream, Madam,” replied Ulysses, “can admit but of one interpretation,

for had not Ulysses himself told you how it shall be fulfilled? The

death of the suitors is portended, and not one single one of them

will escape.”

And Penelope answered, “Stranger, dreams are very curious and unaccountable

things, and they do not by any means invariably come true. There are

two gates through which these unsubstantial fancies proceed; the one

is of horn, and the other ivory. Those that come through the gate

of ivory are fatuous, but those from the gate of horn mean something

to those that see them. I do not think, however, that my own dream

came through the gate of horn, though I and my son should be most

thankful if it proves to have done so. Furthermore I say- and lay

my saying to your heart- the coming dawn will usher in the ill-omened

day that is to sever me from the house of Ulysses, for I am about

to hold a tournament of axes. My husband used to set up twelve axes

in the court, one in front of the other, like the stays upon which

a ship is built; he would then go back from them and shoot an arrow

through the whole twelve. I shall make the suitors try to do the same

thing, and whichever of them can string the bow most easily, and send

his arrow through all the twelve axes, him will I follow, and quit

this house of my lawful husband, so goodly and so abounding in wealth.

But even so, I doubt not that I shall remember it in my dreams.”

Then Ulysses answered, “Madam wife of Ulysses, you need not defer

your tournament, for Ulysses will return ere ever they can string

the bow, handle it how they will, and send their arrows through the


To this Penelope said, “As long, sir, as you will sit here and talk

to me, I can have no desire to go to bed. Still, people cannot do

permanently without sleep, and heaven has appointed us dwellers on

earth a time for all things. I will therefore go upstairs and recline

upon that couch which I have never ceased to flood with my tears from

the day Ulysses set out for the city with a hateful name.”

She then went upstairs to her own room, not alone, but attended by

her maidens, and when there, she lamented her dear husband till Minerva

shed sweet sleep over her eyelids.



Ulysses slept in the cloister upon an undressed bullock’s hide, on

the top of which he threw several skins of the sheep the suitors had

eaten, and Eurynome threw a cloak over him after he had laid himself

down. There, then, Ulysses lay wakefully brooding upon the way in

which he should kill the suitors; and by and by, the women who had

been in the habit of misconducting themselves with them, left the

house giggling and laughing with one another. This made Ulysses very

angry, and he doubted whether to get up and kill every single one

of them then and there, or to let them sleep one more and last time

with the suitors. His heart growled within him, and as a bitch with

puppies growls and shows her teeth when she sees a stranger, so did

his heart growl with anger at the evil deeds that were being done:

but he beat his breast and said, “Heart, be still, you had worse than

this to bear on the day when the terrible Cyclops ate your brave companions;

yet you bore it in silence till your cunning got you safe out of the

cave, though you made sure of being killed.”

Thus he chided with his heart, and checked it into endurance, but

he tossed about as one who turns a paunch full of blood and fat in

front of a hot fire, doing it first on one side and then on the other,

that he may get it cooked as soon as possible, even so did he turn

himself about from side to side, thinking all the time how, single

handed as he was, he should contrive to kill so large a body of men

as the wicked suitors. But by and by Minerva came down from heaven

in the likeness of a woman, and hovered over his head saying, “My

poor unhappy man, why do you lie awake in this way? This is your house:

your wife is safe inside it, and so is your son who is just such a

young man as any father may be proud of.”

“Goddess,” answered Ulysses, “all that you have said is true, but

I am in some doubt as to how I shall be able to kill these wicked

suitors single handed, seeing what a number of them there always are.

And there is this further difficulty, which is still more considerable.

Supposing that with Jove’s and your assistance I succeed in killing

them, I must ask you to consider where I am to escape to from their

avengers when it is all over.”

“For shame,” replied Minerva, “why, any one else would trust a worse

ally than myself, even though that ally were only a mortal and less

wise than I am. Am I not a goddess, and have I not protected you throughout

in all your troubles? I tell you plainly that even though there were

fifty bands of men surrounding us and eager to kill us, you should

take all their sheep and cattle, and drive them away with you. But

go to sleep; it is a very bad thing to lie awake all night, and you

shall be out of your troubles before long.”

As she spoke she shed sleep over his eyes, and then went back to Olympus.

While Ulysses was thus yielding himself to a very deep slumber that

eased the burden of his sorrows, his admirable wife awoke, and sitting

up in her bed began to cry. When she had relieved herself by weeping

she prayed to Diana saying, “Great Goddess Diana, daughter of Jove,

drive an arrow into my heart and slay me; or let some whirlwind snatch

me up and bear me through paths of darkness till it drop me into the

mouths of overflowing Oceanus, as it did the daughters of Pandareus.

The daughters of Pandareus lost their father and mother, for the gods

killed them, so they were left orphans. But Venus took care of them,

and fed them on cheese, honey, and sweet wine. Juno taught them to

excel all women in beauty of form and understanding; Diana gave them

an imposing presence, and Minerva endowed them with every kind of

accomplishment; but one day when Venus had gone up to Olympus to see

Jove about getting them married (for well does he know both what shall

happen and what not happen to every one) the storm winds came and

spirited them away to become handmaids to the dread Erinyes. Even

so I wish that the gods who live in heaven would hide me from mortal

sight, or that fair Diana might strike me, for I would fain go even

beneath the sad earth if I might do so still looking towards Ulysses

only, and without having to yield myself to a worse man than he was.

Besides, no matter how much people may grieve by day, they can put

up with it so long as they can sleep at night, for when the eyes are

closed in slumber people forget good and ill alike; whereas my misery

haunts me even in my dreams. This very night methought there was one

lying by my side who was like Ulysses as he was when he went away

with his host, and I rejoiced, for I believed that it was no dream,

but the very truth itself.”

On this the day broke, but Ulysses heard the sound of her weeping,

and it puzzled him, for it seemed as though she already knew him and

was by his side. Then he gathered up the cloak and the fleeces on

which he had lain, and set them on a seat in the cloister, but he

took the bullock’s hide out into the open. He lifted up his hands

to heaven, and prayed, saying “Father Jove, since you have seen fit

to bring me over land and sea to my own home after all the afflictions

you have laid upon me, give me a sign out of the mouth of some one

or other of those who are now waking within the house, and let me

have another sign of some kind from outside.”

Thus did he pray. Jove heard his prayer and forthwith thundered high

up among the from the splendour of Olympus, and Ulysses was glad when

he heard it. At the same time within the house, a miller-woman from

hard by in the mill room lifted up her voice and gave him another

sign. There were twelve miller-women whose business it was to grind

wheat and barley which are the staff of life. The others had ground

their task and had gone to take their rest, but this one had not yet

finished, for she was not so strong as they were, and when she heard

the thunder she stopped grinding and gave the sign to her master.

“Father Jove,” said she, “you who rule over heaven and earth, you

have thundered from a clear sky without so much as a cloud in it,

and this means something for somebody; grant the prayer, then, of

me your poor servant who calls upon you, and let this be the very

last day that the suitors dine in the house of Ulysses. They have

worn me out with the labour of grinding meal for them, and I hope

they may never have another dinner anywhere at all.”

Ulysses was glad when he heard the omens conveyed to him by the woman’s

speech, and by the thunder, for he knew they meant that he should

avenge himself on the suitors.

Then the other maids in the house rose and lit the fire on the hearth;

Telemachus also rose and put on his clothes. He girded his sword about

his shoulder, bound his sandals on his comely feet, and took a doughty

spear with a point of sharpened bronze; then he went to the threshold

of the cloister and said to Euryclea, “Nurse, did you make the stranger

comfortable both as regards bed and board, or did you let him shift

for himself?- for my mother, good woman though she is, has a way of

paying great attention to second-rate people, and of neglecting others

who are in reality much better men.”

“Do not find fault child,” said Euryclea, “when there is no one to

find fault with. The stranger sat and drank his wine as long as he

liked: your mother did ask him if he would take any more bread and

he said he would not. When he wanted to go to bed she told the servants

to make one for him, but he said he was re such wretched outcast that

he would not sleep on a bed and under blankets; he insisted on having

an undressed bullock’s hide and some sheepskins put for him in the

cloister and I threw a cloak over him myself.”

Then Telemachus went out of the court to the place where the Achaeans

were meeting in assembly; he had his spear in his hand, and he was

not alone, for his two dogs went with him. But Euryclea called the

maids and said, “Come, wake up; set about sweeping the cloisters and

sprinkling them with water to lay the dust; put the covers on the

seats; wipe down the tables, some of you, with a wet sponge; clean

out the mixing-jugs and the cups, and for water from the fountain

at once; the suitors will be here directly; they will be here early,

for it is a feast day.”

Thus did she speak, and they did even as she had said: twenty of them

went to the fountain for water, and the others set themselves busily

to work about the house. The men who were in attendance on the suitors

also came up and began chopping firewood. By and by the women returned

from the fountain, and the swineherd came after them with the three

best pigs he could pick out. These he let feed about the premises,

and then he said good-humouredly to Ulysses, “Stranger, are the suitors

treating you any better now, or are they as insolent as ever?”

“May heaven,” answered Ulysses, “requite to them the wickedness with

which they deal high-handedly in another man’s house without any sense

of shame.”

Thus did they converse; meanwhile Melanthius the goatherd came up,

for he too was bringing in his best goats for the suitors’ dinner;

and he had two shepherds with him. They tied the goats up under the

gatehouse, and then Melanthius began gibing at Ulysses. “Are you still

here, stranger,” said he, “to pester people by begging about the house?

Why can you not go elsewhere? You and I shall not come to an understanding

before we have given each other a taste of our fists. You beg without

any sense of decency: are there not feasts elsewhere among the Achaeans,

as well as here?”

Ulysses made no answer, but bowed his head and brooded. Then a third

man, Philoetius, joined them, who was bringing in a barren heifer

and some goats. These were brought over by the boatmen who are there

to take people over when any one comes to them. So Philoetius made

his heifer and his goats secure under the gatehouse, and then went

up to the swineherd. “Who, Swineherd,” said he, “is this stranger

that is lately come here? Is he one of your men? What is his family?

Where does he come from? Poor fellow, he looks as if he had been some

great man, but the gods give sorrow to whom they will- even to kings

if it so pleases them

As he spoke he went up to Ulysses and saluted him with his right hand;

“Good day to you, father stranger,” said he, “you seem to be very

poorly off now, but I hope you will have better times by and by. Father

Jove, of all gods you are the most malicious. We are your own children,

yet you show us no mercy in all our misery and afflictions. A sweat

came over me when I saw this man, and my eyes filled with tears, for

he reminds me of Ulysses, who I fear is going about in just such rags

as this man’s are, if indeed he is still among the living. If he is

already dead and in the house of Hades, then, alas! for my good master,

who made me his stockman when I was quite young among the Cephallenians,

and now his cattle are countless; no one could have done better with

them than I have, for they have bred like ears of corn; nevertheless

I have to keep bringing them in for others to eat, who take no heed

of his son though he is in the house, and fear not the wrath of heaven,

but are already eager to divide Ulysses’ property among them because

he has been away so long. I have often thought- only it would not

be right while his son is living- of going off with the cattle to

some foreign country; bad as this would be, it is still harder to

stay here and be ill-treated about other people’s herds. My position

is intolerable, and I should long since have run away and put myself

under the protection of some other chief, only that I believe my poor

master will yet return, and send all these suitors flying out of the


“Stockman,” answered Ulysses, “you seem to be a very well-disposed

person, and I can see that you are a man of sense. Therefore I will

tell you, and will confirm my words with an oath: by Jove, the chief

of all gods, and by that hearth of Ulysses to which I am now come,

Ulysses shall return before you leave this place, and if you are so

minded you shall see him killing the suitors who are now masters here.”

“If Jove were to bring this to pass,” replied the stockman, “you should

see how I would do my very utmost to help him.”

And in like manner Eumaeus prayed that Ulysses might return home.

Thus did they converse. Meanwhile the suitors were hatching a plot

to murder Telemachus: but a bird flew near them on their left hand-

an eagle with a dove in its talons. On this Amphinomus said, “My friends,

this plot of ours to murder Telemachus will not succeed; let us go

to dinner instead.”

The others assented, so they went inside and laid their cloaks on

the benches and seats. They sacrificed the sheep, goats, pigs, and

the heifer, and when the inward meats were cooked they served them

round. They mixed the wine in the mixing-bowls, and the swineherd

gave every man his cup, while Philoetius handed round the bread in

the breadbaskets, and Melanthius poured them out their wine. Then

they laid their hands upon the good things that were before them.

Telemachus purposely made Ulysses sit in the part of the cloister

that was paved with stone; he gave him a shabby-looking seat at a

little table to himself, and had his portion of the inward meats brought

to him, with his wine in a gold cup. “Sit there,” said he, “and drink

your wine among the great people. I will put a stop to the gibes and

blows of the suitors, for this is no public house, but belongs to

Ulysses, and has passed from him to me. Therefore, suitors, keep your

hands and your tongues to yourselves, or there will be mischief.”

The suitors bit their lips, and marvelled at the boldness of his speech;

then Antinous said, “We do not like such language but we will put

up with it, for Telemachus is threatening us in good earnest. If Jove

had let us we should have put a stop to his brave talk ere now.”

Thus spoke Antinous, but Telemachus heeded him not. Meanwhile the

heralds were bringing the holy hecatomb through the city, and the

Achaeans gathered under the shady grove of Apollo.

Then they roasted the outer meat, drew it off the spits, gave every

man his portion, and feasted to their hearts’ content; those who waited

at table gave Ulysses exactly the same portion as the others had,

for Telemachus had told them to do so.

But Minerva would not let the suitors for one moment drop their insolence,

for she wanted Ulysses to become still more bitter against them. Now

there happened to be among them a ribald fellow, whose name was Ctesippus,

and who came from Same. This man, confident in his great wealth, was

paying court to the wife of Ulysses, and said to the suitors, “Hear

what I have to say. The stranger has already had as large a portion

as any one else; this is well, for it is not right nor reasonable

to ill-treat any guest of Telemachus who comes here. I will, however,

make him a present on my own account, that he may have something to

give to the bath-woman, or to some other of Ulysses’ servants.”

As he spoke he picked up a heifer’s foot from the meat-basket in which

it lay, and threw it at Ulysses, but Ulysses turned his head a little

aside, and avoided it, smiling grimly Sardinian fashion as he did

so, and it hit the wall, not him. On this Telemachus spoke fiercely

to Ctesippus, “It is a good thing for you,” said he, “that the stranger

turned his head so that you missed him. If you had hit him I should

have run you through with my spear, and your father would have had

to see about getting you buried rather than married in this house.

So let me have no more unseemly behaviour from any of you, for I am

grown up now to the knowledge of good and evil and understand what

is going on, instead of being the child that I have been heretofore.

I have long seen you killing my sheep and making free with my corn

and wine: I have put up with this, for one man is no match for many,

but do me no further violence. Still, if you wish to kill me, kill

me; I would far rather die than see such disgraceful scenes day after

day- guests insulted, and men dragging the women servants about the

house in an unseemly way.”

They all held their peace till at last Agelaus son of Damastor said,

“No one should take offence at what has just been said, nor gainsay

it, for it is quite reasonable. Leave off, therefore, ill-treating

the stranger, or any one else of the servants who are about the house;

I would say, however, a friendly word to Telemachus and his mother,

which I trust may commend itself to both. ‘As long,’ I would say,

‘as you had ground for hoping that Ulysses would one day come home,

no one could complain of your waiting and suffering the suitors to

be in your house. It would have been better that he should have returned,

but it is now sufficiently clear that he will never do so; therefore

talk all this quietly over with your mother, and tell her to marry

the best man, and the one who makes her the most advantageous offer.

Thus you will yourself be able to manage your own inheritance, and

to eat and drink in peace, while your mother will look after some

other man’s house, not yours.”‘

To this Telemachus answered, “By Jove, Agelaus, and by the sorrows

of my unhappy father, who has either perished far from Ithaca, or

is wandering in some distant land, I throw no obstacles in the way

of my mother’s marriage; on the contrary I urge her to choose whomsoever

she will, and I will give her numberless gifts into the bargain, but

I dare not insist point blank that she shall leave the house against

her own wishes. Heaven forbid that I should do this.”

Minerva now made the suitors fall to laughing immoderately, and set

their wits wandering; but they were laughing with a forced laughter.

Their meat became smeared with blood; their eyes filled with tears,

and their hearts were heavy with forebodings. Theoclymenus saw this

and said, “Unhappy men, what is it that ails you? There is a shroud

of darkness drawn over you from head to foot, your cheeks are wet

with tears; the air is alive with wailing voices; the walls and roof-beams

drip blood; the gate of the cloisters and the court beyond them are

full of ghosts trooping down into the night of hell; the sun is blotted

out of heaven, and a blighting gloom is over all the land.”

Thus did he speak, and they all of them laughed heartily. Eurymachus

then said, “This stranger who has lately come here has lost his senses.

Servants, turn him out into the streets, since he finds it so dark


But Theoclymenus said, “Eurymachus, you need not send any one with

me. I have eyes, ears, and a pair of feet of my own, to say nothing

of an understanding mind. I will take these out of the house with

me, for I see mischief overhanging you, from which not one of you

men who are insulting people and plotting ill deeds in the house of

Ulysses will be able to escape.”

He left the house as he spoke, and went back to Piraeus who gave him

welcome, but the suitors kept looking at one another and provoking

Telemachus fly laughing at the strangers. One insolent fellow said

to him, “Telemachus, you are not happy in your guests; first you have

this importunate tramp, who comes begging bread and wine and has no

skill for work or for hard fighting, but is perfectly useless, and

now here is another fellow who is setting himself up as a prophet.

Let me persuade you, for it will be much better, to put them on board

ship and send them off to the Sicels to sell for what they will bring.”

Telemachus gave him no heed, but sat silently watching his father,

expecting every moment that he would begin his attack upon the suitors.

Meanwhile the daughter of Icarius, wise Penelope, had had had a rich

seat placed for her facing the court and cloisters, so that she could

hear what every one was saying. The dinner indeed had been prepared

amid merriment; it had been both good and abundant, for they had sacrificed

many victims; but the supper was yet to come, and nothing can be conceived

more gruesome than the meal which a goddess and a brave man were soon

to lay before them- for they had brought their doom upon themselves.



Minerva now put it in Penelope’s mind to make the suitors try their

skill with the bow and with the iron axes, in contest among themselves,

as a means of bringing about their destruction. She went upstairs

and got the store room key, which was made of bronze and had a handle

of ivory; she then went with her maidens into the store room at the

end of the house, where her husband’s treasures of gold, bronze, and

wrought iron were kept, and where was also his bow, and the quiver

full of deadly arrows that had been given him by a friend whom he

had met in Lacedaemon- Iphitus the son of Eurytus. The two fell in

with one another in Messene at the house of Ortilochus, where Ulysses

was staying in order to recover a debt that was owing from the whole

people; for the Messenians had carried off three hundred sheep from

Ithaca, and had sailed away with them and with their shepherds. In

quest of these Ulysses took a long journey while still quite young,

for his father and the other chieftains sent him on a mission to recover

them. Iphitus had gone there also to try and get back twelve brood

mares that he had lost, and the mule foals that were running with

them. These mares were the death of him in the end, for when he went

to the house of Jove’s son, mighty Hercules, who performed such prodigies

of valour, Hercules to his shame killed him, though he was his guest,

for he feared not heaven’s vengeance, nor yet respected his own table

which he had set before Iphitus, but killed him in spite of everything,

and kept the mares himself. It was when claiming these that Iphitus

met Ulysses, and gave him the bow which mighty Eurytus had been used

to carry, and which on his death had been left by him to his son.

Ulysses gave him in return a sword and a spear, and this was the beginning

of a fast friendship, although they never visited at one another’s

houses, for Jove’s son Hercules killed Iphitus ere they could do so.

This bow, then, given him by Iphitus, had not been taken with him

by Ulysses when he sailed for Troy; he had used it so long as he had

been at home, but had left it behind as having been a keepsake from

a valued friend.

Penelope presently reached the oak threshold of the store room; the

carpenter had planed this duly, and had drawn a line on it so as to

get it quite straight; he had then set the door posts into it and

hung the doors. She loosed the strap from the handle of the door,

put in the key, and drove it straight home to shoot back the bolts

that held the doors; these flew open with a noise like a bull bellowing

in a meadow, and Penelope stepped upon the raised platform, where

the chests stood in which the fair linen and clothes were laid by

along with fragrant herbs: reaching thence, she took down the bow

with its bow case from the peg on which it hung. She sat down with

it on her knees, weeping bitterly as she took the bow out of its case,

and when her tears had relieved her, she went to the cloister where

the suitors were, carrying the bow and the quiver, with the many deadly

arrows that were inside it. Along with her came her maidens, bearing

a chest that contained much iron and bronze which her husband had

won as prizes. When she reached the suitors, she stood by one of the

bearing-posts supporting the roof of the cloister, holding a veil

before her face, and with a maid on either side of her. Then she said:

“Listen to me you suitors, who persist in abusing the hospitality

of this house because its owner has been long absent, and without

other pretext than that you want to marry me; this, then, being the

prize that you are contending for, I will bring out the mighty bow

of Ulysses, and whomsoever of you shall string it most easily and

send his arrow through each one of twelve axes, him will I follow

and quit this house of my lawful husband, so goodly, and so abounding

in wealth. But even so I doubt not that I shall remember it in my


As she spoke, she told Eumaeus to set the bow and the pieces of iron

before the suitors, and Eumaeus wept as he took them to do as she

had bidden him. Hard by, the stockman wept also when he saw his master’s

bow, but Antinous scolded them. “You country louts,” said he, “silly

simpletons; why should you add to the sorrows of your mistress by

crying in this way? She has enough to grieve her in the loss of her

husband; sit still, therefore, and eat your dinners in silence, or

go outside if you want to cry, and leave the bow behind you. We suitors

shall have to contend for it with might and main, for we shall find

it no light matter to string such a bow as this is. There is not a

man of us all who is such another as Ulysses; for I have seen him

and remember him, though I was then only a child.”

This was what he said, but all the time he was expecting to be able

to string the bow and shoot through the iron, whereas in fact he was

to be the first that should taste of the arrows from the hands of

Ulysses, whom he was dishonouring in his own house- egging the others

on to do so also.

Then Telemachus spoke. “Great heavens!” he exclaimed, “Jove must have

robbed me of my senses. Here is my dear and excellent mother saying

she will quit this house and marry again, yet I am laughing and enjoying

myself as though there were nothing happening. But, suitors, as the

contest has been agreed upon, let it go forward. It is for a woman

whose peer is not to be found in Pylos, Argos, or Mycene, nor yet

in Ithaca nor on the mainland. You know this as well as I do; what

need have I to speak in praise of my mother? Come on, then, make no

excuses for delay, but let us see whether you can string the bow or

no. I too will make trial of it, for if I can string it and shoot

through the iron, I shall not suffer my mother to quit this house

with a stranger, not if I can win the prizes which my father won before


As he spoke he sprang from his seat, threw his crimson cloak from

him, and took his sword from his shoulder. First he set the axes in

a row, in a long groove which he had dug for them, and had Wade straight

by line. Then he stamped the earth tight round them, and everyone

was surprised when they saw him set up so orderly, though he had never

seen anything of the kind before. This done, he went on to the pavement

to make trial of the bow; thrice did he tug at it, trying with all

his might to draw the string, and thrice he had to leave off, though

he had hoped to string the bow and shoot through the iron. He was

trying for the fourth time, and would have strung it had not Ulysses

made a sign to check him in spite of all his eagerness. So he said:

“Alas! I shall either be always feeble and of no prowess, or I am

too young, and have not yet reached my full strength so as to be able

to hold my own if any one attacks me. You others, therefore, who are

stronger than I, make trial of the bow and get this contest settled.”

On this he put the bow down, letting it lean against the door [that

led into the house] with the arrow standing against the top of the

bow. Then he sat down on the seat from which he had risen, and Antinous


“Come on each of you in his turn, going towards the right from the

place at which the. cupbearer begins when he is handing round the


The rest agreed, and Leiodes son of OEnops was the first to rise.

He was sacrificial priest to the suitors, and sat in the corner near

the mixing-bowl. He was the only man who hated their evil deeds and

was indignant with the others. He was now the first to take the bow

and arrow, so he went on to the pavement to make his trial, but he

could not string the bow, for his hands were weak and unused to hard

work, they therefore soon grew tired, and he said to the suitors,

“My friends, I cannot string it; let another have it; this bow shall

take the life and soul out of many a chief among us, for it is better

to die than to live after having missed the prize that we have so

long striven for, and which has brought us so long together. Some

one of us is even now hoping and praying that he may marry Penelope,

but when he has seen this bow and tried it, let him woo and make bridal

offerings to some other woman, and let Penelope marry whoever makes

her the best offer and whose lot it is to win her.”

On this he put the bow down, letting it lean against the door, with

the arrow standing against the tip of the bow. Then he took his seat

again on the seat from which he had risen; and Antinous rebuked him


“Leiodes, what are you talking about? Your words are monstrous and

intolerable; it makes me angry to listen to you. Shall, then, this

bow take the life of many a chief among us, merely because you cannot

bend it yourself? True, you were not born to be an archer, but there

are others who will soon string it.”

Then he said to Melanthius the goatherd, “Look sharp, light a fire

in the court, and set a seat hard by with a sheep skin on it; bring

us also a large ball of lard, from what they have in the house. Let

us warm the bow and grease it we will then make trial of it again,

and bring the contest to an end.”

Melanthius lit the fire, and set a seat covered with sheep skins beside

it. He also brought a great ball of lard from what they had in the

house, and the suitors warmed the bow and again made trial of it,

but they were none of them nearly strong enough to string it. Nevertheless

there still remained Antinous and Eurymachus, who were the ringleaders

among the suitors and much the foremost among them all.

Then the swineherd and the stockman left the cloisters together, and

Ulysses followed them. When they had got outside the gates and the

outer yard, Ulysses said to them quietly:

“Stockman, and you swineherd, I have something in my mind which I

am in doubt whether to say or no; but I think I will say it. What

manner of men would you be to stand by Ulysses, if some god should

bring him back here all of a sudden? Say which you are disposed to

do- to side with the suitors, or with Ulysses?”

“Father Jove,” answered the stockman, “would indeed that you might

so ordain it. If some god were but to bring Ulysses back, you should

see with what might and main I would fight for him.”

In like words Eumaeus prayed to all the gods that Ulysses might return;

when, therefore, he saw for certain what mind they were of, Ulysses

said, “It is I, Ulysses, who am here. I have suffered much, but at

last, in the twentieth year, I am come back to my own country. I find

that you two alone of all my servants are glad that I should do so,

for I have not heard any of the others praying for my return. To you

two, therefore, will I unfold the truth as it shall be. If heaven

shall deliver the suitors into my hands, I will find wives for both

of you, will give you house and holding close to my own, and you shall

be to me as though you were brothers and friends of Telemachus. I

will now give you convincing proofs that you may know me and be assured.

See, here is the scar from the boar’s tooth that ripped me when I

was out hunting on Mount Parnassus with the sons of Autolycus.”

As he spoke he drew his rags aside from the great scar, and when they

had examined it thoroughly, they both of them wept about Ulysses,

threw their arms round him and kissed his head and shoulders, while

Ulysses kissed their hands and faces in return. The sun would have

gone down upon their mourning if Ulysses had not checked them and


“Cease your weeping, lest some one should come outside and see us,

and tell those who a are within. When you go in, do so separately,

not both together; I will go first, and do you follow afterwards;

Let this moreover be the token between us; the suitors will all of

them try to prevent me from getting hold of the bow and quiver; do

you, therefore, Eumaeus, place it in my hands when you are carrying

it about, and tell the women to close the doors of their apartment.

If they hear any groaning or uproar as of men fighting about the house,

they must not come out; they must keep quiet, and stay where they

are at their work. And I charge you, Philoetius, to make fast the

doors of the outer court, and to bind them securely at once.”

When he had thus spoken, he went back to the house and took the seat

that he had left. Presently, his two servants followed him inside.

At this moment the bow was in the hands of Eurymachus, who was warming

it by the fire, but even so he could not string it, and he was greatly

grieved. He heaved a deep sigh and said, “I grieve for myself and

for us all; I grieve that I shall have to forgo the marriage, but

I do not care nearly so much about this, for there are plenty of other

women in Ithaca and elsewhere; what I feel most is the fact of our

being so inferior to Ulysses in strength that we cannot string his

bow. This will disgrace us in the eyes of those who are yet unborn.”

“It shall not be so, Eurymachus,” said Antinous, “and you know it

yourself. To-day is the feast of Apollo throughout all the land; who

can string a bow on such a day as this? Put it on one side- as for

the axes they can stay where they are, for no one is likely to come

to the house and take them away: let the cupbearer go round with his

cups, that we may make our drink-offerings and drop this matter of

the bow; we will tell Melanthius to bring us in some goats to-morrow-

the best he has; we can then offer thigh bones to Apollo the mighty

archer, and again make trial of the bow, so as to bring the contest

to an end.”

The rest approved his words, and thereon men servants poured water

over the hands of the guests, while pages filled the mixing-bowls

with wine and water and handed it round after giving every man his

drink-offering. Then, when they had made their offerings and had drunk

each as much as he desired, Ulysses craftily said:

“Suitors of the illustrious queen, listen that I may speak even as

I am minded. I appeal more especially to Eurymachus, and to Antinous

who has just spoken with so much reason. Cease shooting for the present

and leave the matter to the gods, but in the morning let heaven give

victory to whom it will. For the moment, however, give me the bow

that I may prove the power of my hands among you all, and see whether

I still have as much strength as I used to have, or whether travel

and neglect have made an end of it.”

This made them all very angry, for they feared he might string the

bow; Antinous therefore rebuked him fiercely saying, “Wretched creature,

you have not so much as a grain of sense in your whole body; you ought

to think yourself lucky in being allowed to dine unharmed among your

betters, without having any smaller portion served you than we others

have had, and in being allowed to hear our conversation. No other

beggar or stranger has been allowed to hear what we say among ourselves;

the wine must have been doing you a mischief, as it does with all

those drink immoderately. It was wine that inflamed the Centaur Eurytion

when he was staying with Peirithous among the Lapithae. When the wine

had got into his head he went mad and did ill deeds about the house

of Peirithous; this angered the heroes who were there assembled, so

they rushed at him and cut off his ears and nostrils; then they dragged

him through the doorway out of the house, so he went away crazed,

and bore the burden of his crime, bereft of understanding. Henceforth,

therefore, there was war between mankind and the centaurs, but he

brought it upon himself through his own drunkenness. In like manner

I can tell you that it will go hardly with you if you string the bow:

you will find no mercy from any one here, for we shall at once ship

you off to king Echetus, who kills every one that comes near him:

you will never get away alive, so drink and keep quiet without getting

into a quarrel with men younger than yourself.”

Penelope then spoke to him. “Antinous,” said she, “it is not right

that you should ill-treat any guest of Telemachus who comes to this

house. If the stranger should prove strong enough to string the mighty

bow of Ulysses, can you suppose that he would take me home with him

and make me his wife? Even the man himself can have no such idea in

his mind: none of you need let that disturb his feasting; it would

be out of all reason.”

“Queen Penelope,” answered Eurymachus, “we do not suppose that this

man will take you away with him; it is impossible; but we are afraid

lest some of the baser sort, men or women among the Achaeans, should

go gossiping about and say, ‘These suitors are a feeble folk; they

are paying court to the wife of a brave man whose bow not one of them

was able to string, and yet a beggarly tramp who came to the house

strung it at once and sent an arrow through the iron.’ This is what

will be said, and it will be a scandal against us.”

“Eurymachus,” Penelope answered, “people who persist in eating up

the estate of a great chieftain and dishonouring his house must not

expect others to think well of them. Why then should you mind if men

talk as you think they will? This stranger is strong and well-built,

he says moreover that he is of noble birth. Give him the bow, and

let us see whether he can string it or no. I say- and it shall surely

be- that if Apollo vouchsafes him the glory of stringing it, I will

give him a cloak and shirt of good wear, with a javelin to keep off

dogs and robbers, and a sharp sword. I will also give him sandals,

and will see him sent safely whereever he wants to go.”

Then Telemachus said, “Mother, I am the only man either in Ithaca

or in the islands that are over against Elis who has the right to

let any one have the bow or to refuse it. No one shall force me one

way or the other, not even though I choose to make the stranger a

present of the bow outright, and let him take it away with him. Go,

then, within the house and busy yourself with your daily duties, your

loom, your distaff, and the ordering of your servants. This bow is

a man’s matter, and mine above all others, for it is I who am master


She went wondering back into the house, and laid her son’s saying

in her heart. Then going upstairs with her handmaids into her room,

she mourned her dear husband till Minerva sent sweet sleep over her


The swineherd now took up the bow and was for taking it to Ulysses,

but the suitors clamoured at him from all parts of the cloisters,

and one of them said, “You idiot, where are you taking the bow to?

Are you out of your wits? If Apollo and the other gods will grant

our prayer, your own boarhounds shall get you into some quiet little

place, and worry you to death.”

Eumaeus was frightened at the outcry they all raised, so he put the

bow down then and there, but Telemachus shouted out at him from the

other side of the cloisters, and threatened him saying, “Father Eumaeus,

bring the bow on in spite of them, or young as I am I will pelt you

with stones back to the country, for I am the better man of the two.

I wish I was as much stronger than all the other suitors in the house

as I am than you, I would soon send some of them off sick and sorry,

for they mean mischief.”

Thus did he speak, and they all of them laughed heartily, which put

them in a better humour with Telemachus; so Eumaeus brought the bow

on and placed it in the hands of Ulysses. When he had done this, he

called Euryclea apart and said to her, “Euryclea, Telemachus says

you are to close the doors of the women’s apartments. If they hear

any groaning or uproar as of men fighting about the house, they are

not to come out, but are to keep quiet and stay where they are at

their work.”

Euryclea did as she was told and closed the doors of the women’s apartments.

Meanwhile Philoetius slipped quietly out and made fast the gates of

the outer court. There was a ship’s cable of byblus fibre lying in

the gatehouse, so he made the gates fast with it and then came in

again, resuming the seat that he had left, and keeping an eye on Ulysses,

who had now got the bow in his hands, and was turning it every way

about, and proving it all over to see whether the worms had been eating

into its two horns during his absence. Then would one turn towards

his neighbour saying, “This is some tricky old bow-fancier; either

he has got one like it at home, or he wants to make one, in such workmanlike

style does the old vagabond handle it.”

Another said, “I hope he may be no more successful in other things

than he is likely to be in stringing this bow.”

But Ulysses, when he had taken it up and examined it all over, strung

it as easily as a skilled bard strings a new peg of his lyre and makes

the twisted gut fast at both ends. Then he took it in his right hand

to prove the string, and it sang sweetly under his touch like the

twittering of a swallow. The suitors were dismayed, and turned colour

as they heard it; at that moment, moreover, Jove thundered loudly

as a sign, and the heart of Ulysses rejoiced as he heard the omen

that the son of scheming Saturn had sent him.

He took an arrow that was lying upon the table- for those which the

Achaeans were so shortly about to taste were all inside the quiver-

he laid it on the centre-piece of the bow, and drew the notch of the

arrow and the string toward him, still seated on his seat. When he

had taken aim he let fly, and his arrow pierced every one of the handle-holes

of the axes from the first onwards till it had gone right through

them, and into the outer courtyard. Then he said to Telemachus:

“Your guest has not disgraced you, Telemachus. I did not miss what

I aimed at, and I was not long in stringing my bow. I am still strong,

and not as the suitors twit me with being. Now, however, it is time

for the Achaeans to prepare supper while there is still daylight,

and then otherwise to disport themselves with song and dance which

are the crowning ornaments of a banquet.”

As he spoke he made a sign with his eyebrows, and Telemachus girded

on his sword, grasped his spear, and stood armed beside his father’s




Then Ulysses tore off his rags, and sprang on to the broad pavement

with his bow and his quiver full of arrows. He shed the arrows on

to the ground at his feet and said, “The mighty contest is at an end.

I will now see whether Apollo will vouchsafe it to me to hit another

mark which no man has yet hit.”

On this he aimed a deadly arrow at Antinous, who was about to take

up a two-handled gold cup to drink his wine and already had it in

his hands. He had no thought of death- who amongst all the revellers

would think that one man, however brave, would stand alone among so

many and kill him? The arrow struck Antinous in the throat, and the

point went clean through his neck, so that he fell over and the cup

dropped from his hand, while a thick stream of blood gushed from his

nostrils. He kicked the table from him and upset the things on it,

so that the bread and roasted meats were all soiled as they fell over

on to the ground. The suitors were in an uproar when they saw that

a man had been hit; they sprang in dismay one and all of them from

their seats and looked everywhere towards the walls, but there was

neither shield nor spear, and they rebuked Ulysses very angrily. “Stranger,”

said they, “you shall pay for shooting people in this way: om yi you

shall see no other contest; you are a doomed man; he whom you have

slain was the foremost youth in Ithaca, and the vultures shall devour

you for having killed him.”

Thus they spoke, for they thought that he had killed Antinous by mistake,

and did not perceive that death was hanging over the head of every

one of them. But Ulysses glared at them and said:

“Dogs, did you think that I should not come back from Troy? You have

wasted my substance, have forced my women servants to lie with you,

and have wooed my wife while I was still living. You have feared neither

Cod nor man, and now you shall die.”

They turned pale with fear as he spoke, and every man looked round

about to see whither he might fly for safety, but Eurymachus alone


“If you are Ulysses,” said he, “then what you have said is just. We

have done much wrong on your lands and in your house. But Antinous

who was the head and front of the offending lies low already. It was

all his doing. It was not that he wanted to marry Penelope; he did

not so much care about that; what he wanted was something quite different,

and Jove has not vouchsafed it to him; he wanted to kill your son

and to be chief man in Ithaca. Now, therefore, that he has met the

death which was his due, spare the lives of your people. We will make

everything good among ourselves, and pay you in full for all that

we have eaten and drunk. Each one of us shall pay you a fine worth

twenty oxen, and we will keep on giving you gold and bronze till your

heart is softened. Until we have done this no one can complain of

your being enraged against us.”

Ulysses again glared at him and said, “Though you should give me all

that you have in the world both now and all that you ever shall have,

I will not stay my hand till I have paid all of you in full. You must

fight, or fly for your lives; and fly, not a man of you shall.”

Their hearts sank as they heard him, but Eurymachus again spoke saying:

“My friends, this man will give us no quarter. He will stand where

he is and shoot us down till he has killed every man among us. Let

us then show fight; draw your swords, and hold up the tables to shield

you from his arrows. Let us have at him with a rush, to drive him

from the pavement and doorway: we can then get through into the town,

and raise such an alarm as shall soon stay his shooting.”

As he spoke he drew his keen blade of bronze, sharpened on both sides,

and with a loud cry sprang towards Ulysses, but Ulysses instantly

shot an arrow into his breast that caught him by the nipple and fixed

itself in his liver. He dropped his sword and fell doubled up over

his table. The cup and all the meats went over on to the ground as

he smote the earth with his forehead in the agonies of death, and

he kicked the stool with his feet until his eyes were closed in darkness.

Then Amphinomus drew his sword and made straight at Ulysses to try

and get him away from the door; but Telemachus was too quick for him,

and struck him from behind; the spear caught him between the shoulders

and went right through his chest, so that he fell heavily to the ground

and struck the earth with his forehead. Then Telemachus sprang away

from him, leaving his spear still in the body, for he feared that

if he stayed to draw it out, some one of the Achaeans might come up

and hack at him with his sword, or knock him down, so he set off at

a run, and immediately was at his father’s side. Then he said:

“Father, let me bring you a shield, two spears, and a brass helmet

for your temples. I will arm myself as well, and will bring other

armour for the swineherd and the stockman, for we had better be armed.”

“Run and fetch them,” answered Ulysses, “while my arrows hold out,

or when I am alone they may get me away from the door.”

Telemachus did as his father said, and went off to the store room

where the armour was kept. He chose four shields, eight spears, and

four brass helmets with horse-hair plumes. He brought them with all

speed to his father, and armed himself first, while the stockman and

the swineherd also put on their armour, and took their places near

Ulysses. Meanwhile Ulysses, as long as his arrows lasted, had been

shooting the suitors one by one, and they fell thick on one another:

when his arrows gave out, he set the bow to stand against the end

wall of the house by the door post, and hung a shield four hides thick

about his shoulders; on his comely head he set his helmet, well wrought

with a crest of horse-hair that nodded menacingly above it, and he

grasped two redoubtable bronze-shod spears.

Now there was a trap door on the wall, while at one end of the pavement

there was an exit leading to a narrow passage, and this exit was closed

by a well-made door. Ulysses told Philoetius to stand by this door

and guard it, for only one person could attack it at a time. But Agelaus

shouted out, “Cannot some one go up to the trap door and tell the

people what is going on? Help would come at once, and we should soon

make an end of this man and his shooting.”

“This may not be, Agelaus,” answered Melanthius, “the mouth of the

narrow passage is dangerously near the entrance to the outer court.

One brave man could prevent any number from getting in. But I know

what I will do, I will bring you arms from the store room, for I am

sure it is there that Ulysses and his son have put them.”

On this the goatherd Melanthius went by back passages to the store

room of Ulysses, house. There he chose twelve shields, with as many

helmets and spears, and brought them back as fast as he could to give

them to the suitors. Ulysses’ heart began to fail him when he saw

the suitors putting on their armour and brandishing their spears.

He saw the greatness of the danger, and said to Telemachus, “Some

one of the women inside is helping the suitors against us, or it may

be Melanthius.”

Telemachus answered, “The fault, father, is mine, and mine only; I

left the store room door open, and they have kept a sharper look out

than I have. Go, Eumaeus, put the door to, and see whether it is one

of the women who is doing this, or whether, as I suspect, it is Melanthius

the son of Dolius.”

Thus did they converse. Meanwhile Melanthius was again going to the

store room to fetch more armour, but the swineherd saw him and said

to Ulysses who was beside him, “Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, it

is that scoundrel Melanthius, just as we suspected, who is going to

the store room. Say, shall I kill him, if I can get the better of

him, or shall I bring him here that you may take your own revenge

for all the many wrongs that he has done in your house?”

Ulysses answered, “Telemachus and I will hold these suitors in check,

no matter what they do; go back both of you and bind Melanthius’ hands

and feet behind him. Throw him into the store room and make the door

fast behind you; then fasten a noose about his body, and string him

close up to the rafters from a high bearing-post, that he may linger

on in an agony.”

Thus did he speak, and they did even as he had said; they went to

the store room, which they entered before Melanthius saw them, for

he was busy searching for arms in the innermost part of the room,

so the two took their stand on either side of the door and waited.

By and by Melanthius came out with a helmet in one hand, and an old

dry-rotted shield in the other, which had been borne by Laertes when

he was young, but which had been long since thrown aside, and the

straps had become unsewn; on this the two seized him, dragged him

back by the hair, and threw him struggling to the ground. They bent

his hands and feet well behind his back, and bound them tight with

a painful bond as Ulysses had told them; then they fastened a noose

about his body and strung him up from a high pillar till he was close

up to the rafters, and over him did you then vaunt, O swineherd Eumaeus,

saying, “Melanthius, you will pass the night on a soft bed as you

deserve. You will know very well when morning comes from the streams

of Oceanus, and it is time for you to be driving in your goats for

the suitors to feast on.”

There, then, they left him in very cruel bondage, and having put on

their armour they closed the door behind them and went back to take

their places by the side of Ulysses; whereon the four men stood in

the cloister, fierce and full of fury; nevertheless, those who were

in the body of the court were still both brave and many. Then Jove’s

daughter Minerva came up to them, having assumed the voice and form

of Mentor. Ulysses was glad when he saw her and said, “Mentor, lend

me your help, and forget not your old comrade, nor the many good turns

he has done you. Besides, you are my age-mate.”

But all the time he felt sure it was Minerva, and the suitors from

the other side raised an uproar when they saw her. Agelaus was the

first to reproach her. “Mentor,” he cried, “do not let Ulysses beguile

you into siding with him and fighting the suitors. This is what we

will do: when we have killed these people, father and son, we will

kill you too. You shall pay for it with your head, and when we have

killed you, we will take all you have, in doors or out, and bring

it into hotch-pot with Ulysses’ property; we will not let your sons

live in your house, nor your daughters, nor shall your widow continue

to live in the city of Ithaca.”

This made Minerva still more furious, so she scolded Ulysses very

angrily. “Ulysses,” said she, “your strength and prowess are no longer

what they were when you fought for nine long years among the Trojans

about the noble lady Helen. You killed many a man in those days, and

it was through your stratagem that Priam’s city was taken. How comes

it that you are so lamentably less valiant now that you are on your

own ground, face to face with the suitors in your own house? Come

on, my good fellow, stand by my side and see how Mentor, son of Alcinous

shall fight your foes and requite your kindnesses conferred upon him.”

But she would not give him full victory as yet, for she wished still

further to prove his own prowess and that of his brave son, so she

flew up to one of the rafters in the roof of the cloister and sat

upon it in the form of a swallow.

Meanwhile Agelaus son of Damastor, Eurynomus, Amphimedon, Demoptolemus,

Pisander, and Polybus son of Polyctor bore the brunt of the fight

upon the suitors’ side; of all those who were still fighting for their

lives they were by far the most valiant, for the others had already

fallen under the arrows of Ulysses. Agelaus shouted to them and said,

“My friends, he will soon have to leave off, for Mentor has gone away

after having done nothing for him but brag. They are standing at the

doors unsupported. Do not aim at him all at once, but six of you throw

your spears first, and see if you cannot cover yourselves with glory

by killing him. When he has fallen we need not be uneasy about the


They threw their spears as he bade them, but Minerva made them all

of no effect. One hit the door post; another went against the door;

the pointed shaft of another struck the wall; and as soon as they

had avoided all the spears of the suitors Ulysses said to his own

men, “My friends, I should say we too had better let drive into the

middle of them, or they will crown all the harm they have done us

by us outright.”

They therefore aimed straight in front of them and threw their spears.

Ulysses killed Demoptolemus, Telemachus Euryades, Eumaeus Elatus,

while the stockman killed Pisander. These all bit the dust, and as

the others drew back into a corner Ulysses and his men rushed forward

and regained their spears by drawing them from the bodies of the dead.

The suitors now aimed a second time, but again Minerva made their

weapons for the most part without effect. One hit a bearing-post of

the cloister; another went against the door; while the pointed shaft

of another struck the wall. Still, Amphimedon just took a piece of

the top skin from off Telemachus’s wrist, and Ctesippus managed to

graze Eumaeus’s shoulder above his shield; but the spear went on and

fell to the ground. Then Ulysses and his men let drive into the crowd

of suitors. Ulysses hit Eurydamas, Telemachus Amphimedon, and Eumaeus

Polybus. After this the stockman hit Ctesippus in the breast, and

taunted him saying, “Foul-mouthed son of Polytherses, do not be so

foolish as to talk wickedly another time, but let heaven direct your

speech, for the gods are far stronger than men. I make you a present

of this advice to repay you for the foot which you gave Ulysses when

he was begging about in his own house.”

Thus spoke the stockman, and Ulysses struck the son of Damastor with

a spear in close fight, while Telemachus hit Leocritus son of Evenor

in the belly, and the dart went clean through him, so that he fell

forward full on his face upon the ground. Then Minerva from her seat

on the rafter held up her deadly aegis, and the hearts of the suitors

quailed. They fled to the other end of the court like a herd of cattle

maddened by the gadfly in early summer when the days are at their

longest. As eagle-beaked, crook-taloned vultures from the mountains

swoop down on the smaller birds that cower in flocks upon the ground,

and kill them, for they cannot either fight or fly, and lookers on

enjoy the sport- even so did Ulysses and his men fall upon the suitors

and smite them on every side. They made a horrible groaning as their

brains were being battered in, and the ground seethed with their blood.

Leiodes then caught the knees of Ulysses and said, “Ulysses I beseech

you have mercy upon me and spare me. I never wronged any of the women

in your house either in word or deed, and I tried to stop the others.

I saw them, but they would not listen, and now they are paying for

their folly. I was their sacrificing priest; if you kill me, I shall

die without having done anything to deserve it, and shall have got

no thanks for all the good that I did.”

Ulysses looked sternly at him and answered, “If you were their sacrificing

priest, you must have prayed many a time that it might be long before

I got home again, and that you might marry my wife and have children

by her. Therefore you shall die.”

With these words he picked up the sword that Agelaus had dropped when

he was being killed, and which was lying upon the ground. Then he

struck Leiodes on the back of his neck, so that his head fell rolling

in the dust while he was yet speaking.

The minstrel Phemius son of Terpes- he who had been forced by the

suitors to sing to them- now tried to save his life. He was standing

near towards the trap door, and held his lyre in his hand. He did

not know whether to fly out of the cloister and sit down by the altar

of Jove that was in the outer court, and on which both Laertes and

Ulysses had offered up the thigh bones of many an ox, or whether to

go straight up to Ulysses and embrace his knees, but in the end he

deemed it best to embrace Ulysses’ knees. So he laid his lyre on the

ground the ground between the mixing-bowl and the silver-studded seat;

then going up to Ulysses he caught hold of his knees and said, “Ulysses,

I beseech you have mercy on me and spare me. You will be sorry for

it afterwards if you kill a bard who can sing both for gods and men

as I can. I make all my lays myself, and heaven visits me with every

kind of inspiration. I would sing to you as though you were a god,

do not therefore be in such a hurry to cut my head off. Your own son

Telemachus will tell you that I did not want to frequent your house

and sing to the suitors after their meals, but they were too many

and too strong for me, so they made me.”

Telemachus heard him, and at once went up to his father. “Hold!” he

cried, “the man is guiltless, do him no hurt; and we will Medon too,

who was always good to me when I was a boy, unless Philoetius or Eumaeus

has already killed him, or he has fallen in your way when you were

raging about the court.”

Medon caught these words of Telemachus, for he was crouching under

a seat beneath which he had hidden by covering himself up with a freshly

flayed heifer’s hide, so he threw off the hide, went up to Telemachus,

and laid hold of his knees.

“Here I am, my dear sir,” said he, “stay your hand therefore, and

tell your father, or he will kill me in his rage against the suitors

for having wasted his substance and been so foolishly disrespectful

to yourself.”

Ulysses smiled at him and answered, “Fear not; Telemachus has saved

your life, that you may know in future, and tell other people, how

greatly better good deeds prosper than evil ones. Go, therefore, outside

the cloisters into the outer court, and be out of the way of the slaughter-

you and the bard- while I finish my work here inside.”

The pair went into the outer court as fast as they could, and sat

down by Jove’s great altar, looking fearfully round, and still expecting

that they would be killed. Then Ulysses searched the whole court carefully

over, to see if anyone had managed to hide himself and was still living,

but he found them all lying in the dust and weltering in their blood.

They were like fishes which fishermen have netted out of the sea,

and thrown upon the beach to lie gasping for water till the heat of

the sun makes an end of them. Even so were the suitors lying all huddled

up one against the other.

Then Ulysses said to Telemachus, “Call nurse Euryclea; I have something

to say to her.”

Telemachus went and knocked at the door of the women’s room. “Make

haste,” said he, “you old woman who have been set over all the other

women in the house. Come outside; my father wishes to speak to you.”

When Euryclea heard this she unfastened the door of the women’s room

and came out, following Telemachus. She found Ulysses among the corpses

bespattered with blood and filth like a lion that has just been devouring

an ox, and his breast and both his cheeks are all bloody, so that

he is a fearful sight; even so was Ulysses besmirched from head to

foot with gore. When she saw all the corpses and such a quantity of

blood, she was beginning to cry out for joy, for she saw that a great

deed had been done; but Ulysses checked her, “Old woman,” said he,

“rejoice in silence; restrain yourself, and do not make any noise

about it; it is an unholy thing to vaunt over dead men. Heaven’s doom

and their own evil deeds have brought these men to destruction, for

they respected no man in the whole world, neither rich nor poor, who

came near them, and they have come to a bad end as a punishment for

their wickedness and folly. Now, however, tell me which of the women

in the house have misconducted themselves, and who are innocent.”

“I will tell you the truth, my son,” answered Euryclea. “There are

fifty women in the house whom we teach to do things, such as carding

wool, and all kinds of household work. Of these, twelve in all have

misbehaved, and have been wanting in respect to me, and also to Penelope.

They showed no disrespect to Telemachus, for he has only lately grown

and his mother never permitted him to give orders to the female servants;

but let me go upstairs and tell your wife all that has happened, for

some god has been sending her to sleep.”

“Do not wake her yet,” answered Ulysses, “but tell the women who have

misconducted themselves to come to me.”

Euryclea left the cloister to tell the women, and make them come to

Ulysses; in the meantime he called Telemachus, the stockman, and the

swineherd. “Begin,” said he, “to remove the dead, and make the women

help you. Then, get sponges and clean water to swill down the tables

and seats. When you have thoroughly cleansed the whole cloisters,

take the women into the space between the domed room and the wall

of the outer court, and run them through with your swords till they

are quite dead, and have forgotten all about love and the way in which

they used to lie in secret with the suitors.”

On this the women came down in a body, weeping and wailing bitterly.

First they carried the dead bodies out, and propped them up against

one another in the gatehouse. Ulysses ordered them about and made

them do their work quickly, so they had to carry the bodies out. When

they had done this, they cleaned all the tables and seats with sponges

and water, while Telemachus and the two others shovelled up the blood

and dirt from the ground, and the women carried it all away and put

it out of doors. Then when they had made the whole place quite clean

and orderly, they took the women out and hemmed them in the narrow

space between the wall of the domed room and that of the yard, so

that they could not get away: and Telemachus said to the other two,

“I shall not let these women die a clean death, for they were insolent

to me and my mother, and used to sleep with the suitors.”

So saying he made a ship’s cable fast to one of the bearing-posts

that supported the roof of the domed room, and secured it all around

the building, at a good height, lest any of the women’s feet should

touch the ground; and as thrushes or doves beat against a net that

has been set for them in a thicket just as they were getting to their

nest, and a terrible fate awaits them, even so did the women have

to put their heads in nooses one after the other and die most miserably.

Their feet moved convulsively for a while, but not for very long.

As for Melanthius, they took him through the cloister into the inner

court. There they cut off his nose and his ears; they drew out his

vitals and gave them to the dogs raw, and then in their fury they

cut off his hands and his feet.

When they had done this they washed their hands and feet and went

back into the house, for all was now over; and Ulysses said to the

dear old nurse Euryclea, “Bring me sulphur, which cleanses all pollution,

and fetch fire also that I may burn it, and purify the cloisters.

Go, moreover, and tell Penelope to come here with her attendants,

and also all the maid servants that are in the house.”

“All that you have said is true,” answered Euryclea, “but let me bring

you some clean clothes- a shirt and cloak. Do not keep these rags

on your back any longer. It is not right.”

“First light me a fire,” replied Ulysses.

She brought the fire and sulphur, as he had bidden her, and Ulysses

thoroughly purified the cloisters and both the inner and outer courts.

Then she went inside to call the women and tell them what had happened;

whereon they came from their apartment with torches in their hands,

and pressed round Ulysses to embrace him, kissing his head and shoulders

and taking hold of his hands. It made him feel as if he should like

to weep, for he remembered every one of them.



Euryclea now went upstairs laughing to tell her mistress that her

dear husband had come home. Her aged knees became young again and

her feet were nimble for joy as she went up to her mistress and bent

over her head to speak to her. “Wake up Penelope, my dear child,”

she exclaimed, “and see with your own eyes something that you have

been wanting this long time past. Ulysses has at last indeed come

home again, and has killed the suitors who were giving so much trouble

in his house, eating up his estate and ill-treating his son.”

“My good nurse,” answered Penelope, “you must be mad. The gods sometimes

send some very sensible people out of their minds, and make foolish

people become sensible. This is what they must have been doing to

you; for you always used to be a reasonable person. Why should you

thus mock me when I have trouble enough already- talking such nonsense,

and waking me up out of a sweet sleep that had taken possession of

my eyes and closed them? I have never slept so soundly from the day

my poor husband went to that city with the ill-omened name. Go back

again into the women’s room; if it had been any one else, who had

woke me up to bring me such absurd news I should have sent her away

with a severe scolding. As it is, your age shall protect you.”

“My dear child,” answered Euryclea, “I am not mocking you. It is quite

true as I tell you that Ulysses is come home again. He was the stranger

whom they all kept on treating so badly in the cloister. Telemachus

knew all the time that he was come back, but kept his father’s secret

that he might have his revenge on all these wicked people.

Then Penelope sprang up from her couch, threw her arms round Euryclea,

and wept for joy. “But my dear nurse,” said she, “explain this to

me; if he has really come home as you say, how did he manage to overcome

the wicked suitors single handed, seeing what a number of them there

always were?”

“I was not there,” answered Euryclea, “and do not know; I only heard

them groaning while they were being killed. We sat crouching and huddled

up in a corner of the women’s room with the doors closed, till your

son came to fetch me because his father sent him. Then I found Ulysses

standing over the corpses that were lying on the ground all round

him, one on top of the other. You would have enjoyed it if you could

have seen him standing there all bespattered with blood and filth,

and looking just like a lion. But the corpses are now all piled up

in the gatehouse that is in the outer court, and Ulysses has lit a

great fire to purify the house with sulphur. He has sent me to call

you, so come with me that you may both be happy together after all;

for now at last the desire of your heart has been fulfilled; your

husband is come home to find both wife and son alive and well, and

to take his revenge in his own house on the suitors who behaved so

badly to him.”

“‘My dear nurse,” said Penelope, “do not exult too confidently over

all this. You know how delighted every one would be to see Ulysses

come home- more particularly myself, and the son who has been born

to both of us; but what you tell me cannot be really true. It is some

god who is angry with the suitors for their great wickedness, and

has made an end of them; for they respected no man in the whole world,

neither rich nor poor, who came near them, who came near them, and

they have come to a bad end in consequence of their iniquity. Ulysses

is dead far away from the Achaean land; he will never return home


Then nurse Euryclea said, “My child, what are you talking about? but

you were all hard of belief and have made up your mind that your husband

is never coming, although he is in the house and by his own fire side

at this very moment. Besides I can give you another proof; when I

was washing him I perceived the scar which the wild boar gave him,

and I wanted to tell you about it, but in his wisdom he would not

let me, and clapped his hands over my mouth; so come with me and I

will make this bargain with you- if I am deceiving you, you may have

me killed by the most cruel death you can think of.”

“My dear nurse,” said Penelope, “however wise you may be you can hardly

fathom the counsels of the gods. Nevertheless, we will go in search

of my son, that I may see the corpses of the suitors, and the man

who has killed them.”

On this she came down from her upper room, and while doing so she

considered whether she should keep at a distance from her husband

and question him, or whether she should at once go up to him and embrace

him. When, however, she had crossed the stone floor of the cloister,

she sat down opposite Ulysses by the fire, against the wall at right

angles [to that by which she had entered], while Ulysses sat near

one of the bearing-posts, looking upon the ground, and waiting to

see what his wife would say to him when she saw him. For a long time

she sat silent and as one lost in amazement. At one moment she looked

him full in the face, but then again directly, she was misled by his

shabby clothes and failed to recognize him, till Telemachus began

to reproach her and said:

“Mother- but you are so hard that I cannot call you by such a name-

why do you keep away from my father in this way? Why do you not sit

by his side and begin talking to him and asking him questions? No

other woman could bear to keep away from her husband when he had come

back to her after twenty years of absence, and after having gone through

so much; but your heart always was as hard as a stone.”

Penelope answered, “My son, I am so lost in astonishment that I can

find no words in which either to ask questions or to answer them.

I cannot even look him straight in the face. Still, if he really is

Ulysses come back to his own home again, we shall get to understand

one another better by and by, for there are tokens with which we two

are alone acquainted, and which are hidden from all others.”

Ulysses smiled at this, and said to Telemachus, “Let your mother put

me to any proof she likes; she will make up her mind about it presently.

She rejects me for the moment and believes me to be somebody else,

because I am covered with dirt and have such bad clothes on; let us,

however, consider what we had better do next. When one man has killed

another, even though he was not one who would leave many friends to

take up his quarrel, the man who has killed him must still say good

bye to his friends and fly the country; whereas we have been killing

the stay of a whole town, and all the picked youth of Ithaca. I would

have you consider this matter.”

“Look to it yourself, father,” answered Telemachus, “for they say

you are the wisest counsellor in the world, and that there is no other

mortal man who can compare with you. We will follow you with right

good will, nor shall you find us fail you in so far as our strength

holds out.”

“I will say what I think will be best,” answered Ulysses. “First wash

and put your shirts on; tell the maids also to go to their own room

and dress; Phemius shall then strike up a dance tune on his lyre,

so that if people outside hear, or any of the neighbours, or some

one going along the street happens to notice it, they may think there

is a wedding in the house, and no rumours about the death of the suitors

will get about in the town, before we can escape to the woods upon

my own land. Once there, we will settle which of the courses heaven

vouchsafes us shall seem wisest.”

Thus did he speak, and they did even as he had said. First they washed

and put their shirts on, while the women got ready. Then Phemius took

his lyre and set them all longing for sweet song and stately dance.

The house re-echoed with the sound of men and women dancing, and the

people outside said, “I suppose the queen has been getting married

at last. She ought to be ashamed of herself for not continuing to

protect her husband’s property until he comes home.”

This was what they said, but they did not know what it was that had

been happening. The upper servant Eurynome washed and anointed Ulysses

in his own house and gave him a shirt and cloak, while Minerva made

him look taller and stronger than before; she also made the hair grow

thick on the top of his head, and flow down in curls like hyacinth

blossoms; she glorified him about the head and shoulders just as a

skilful workman who has studied art of all kinds under Vulcan or Minerva-

and his work is full of beauty- enriches a piece of silver plate by

gilding it. He came from the bath looking like one of the immortals,

and sat down opposite his wife on the seat he had left. “My dear,”

said he, “heaven has endowed you with a heart more unyielding than

woman ever yet had. No other woman could bear to keep away from her

husband when he had come back to her after twenty years of absence,

and after having gone through so much. But come, nurse, get a bed

ready for me; I will sleep alone, for this woman has a heart as hard

as iron.”

“My dear,” answered Penelope, “I have no wish to set myself up, nor

to depreciate you; but I am not struck by your appearance, for I very

well remember what kind of a man you were when you set sail from Ithaca.

Nevertheless, Euryclea, take his bed outside the bed chamber that

he himself built. Bring the bed outside this room, and put bedding

upon it with fleeces, good coverlets, and blankets.”

She said this to try him, but Ulysses was very angry and said, “Wife,

I am much displeased at what you have just been saying. Who has been

taking my bed from the place in which I left it? He must have found

it a hard task, no matter how skilled a workman he was, unless some

god came and helped him to shift it. There is no man living, however

strong and in his prime, who could move it from its place, for it

is a marvellous curiosity which I made with my very own hands. There

was a young olive growing within the precincts of the house, in full

vigour, and about as thick as a bearing-post. I built my room round

this with strong walls of stone and a roof to cover them, and I made

the doors strong and well-fitting. Then I cut off the top boughs of

the olive tree and left the stump standing. This I dressed roughly

from the root upwards and then worked with carpenter’s tools well

and skilfully, straightening my work by drawing a line on the wood,

and making it into a bed-prop. I then bored a hole down the middle,

and made it the centre-post of my bed, at which I worked till I had

finished it, inlaying it with gold and silver; after this I stretched

a hide of crimson leather from one side of it to the other. So you

see I know all about it, and I desire to learn whether it is still

there, or whether any one has been removing it by cutting down the

olive tree at its roots.”

When she heard the sure proofs Ulysses now gave her, she fairly broke

down. She flew weeping to his side, flung her arms about his neck,

and kissed him. “Do not be angry with me Ulysses,” she cried, “you,

who are the wisest of mankind. We have suffered, both of us. Heaven

has denied us the happiness of spending our youth, and of growing

old, together; do not then be aggrieved or take it amiss that I did

not embrace you thus as soon as I saw you. I have been shuddering

all the time through fear that someone might come here and deceive

me with a lying story; for there are many very wicked people going

about. Jove’s daughter Helen would never have yielded herself to a

man from a foreign country, if she had known that the sons of Achaeans

would come after her and bring her back. Heaven put it in her heart

to do wrong, and she gave no thought to that sin, which has been the

source of all our sorrows. Now, however, that you have convinced me

by showing that you know all about our bed (which no human being has

ever seen but you and I and a single maid servant, the daughter of

Actor, who was given me by my father on my marriage, and who keeps

the doors of our room) hard of belief though I have been I can mistrust

no longer.”

Then Ulysses in his turn melted, and wept as he clasped his dear and

faithful wife to his bosom. As the sight of land is welcome to men

who are swimming towards the shore, when Neptune has wrecked their

ship with the fury of his winds and waves- a few alone reach the land,

and these, covered with brine, are thankful when they find themselves

on firm ground and out of danger- even so was her husband welcome

to her as she looked upon him, and she could not tear her two fair

arms from about his neck. Indeed they would have gone on indulging

their sorrow till rosy-fingered morn appeared, had not Minerva determined

otherwise, and held night back in the far west, while she would not

suffer Dawn to leave Oceanus, nor to yoke the two steeds Lampus and

Phaethon that bear her onward to break the day upon mankind.

At last, however, Ulysses said, “Wife, we have not yet reached the

end of our troubles. I have an unknown amount of toil still to undergo.

It is long and difficult, but I must go through with it, for thus

the shade of Teiresias prophesied concerning me, on the day when I

went down into Hades to ask about my return and that of my companions.

But now let us go to bed, that we may lie down and enjoy the blessed

boon of sleep.”

“You shall go to bed as soon as you please,” replied Penelope, “now

that the gods have sent you home to your own good house and to your

country. But as heaven has put it in your mind to speak of it, tell

me about the task that lies before you. I shall have to hear about

it later, so it is better that I should be told at once.”

“My dear,” answered Ulysses, “why should you press me to tell you?

Still, I will not conceal it from you, though you will not like it.

I do not like it myself, for Teiresias bade me travel far and wide,

carrying an oar, till I came to a country where the people have never

heard of the sea, and do not even mix salt with their food. They know

nothing about ships, nor oars that are as the wings of a ship. He

gave me this certain token which I will not hide from you. He said

that a wayfarer should meet me and ask me whether it was a winnowing

shovel that I had on my shoulder. On this, I was to fix my oar in

the ground and sacrifice a ram, a bull, and a boar to Neptune; after

which I was to go home and offer hecatombs to all the gods in heaven,

one after the other. As for myself, he said that death should come

to me from the sea, and that my life should ebb away very gently when

I was full of years and peace of mind, and my people should bless

me. All this, he said, should surely come to pass.”

And Penelope said, “If the gods are going to vouchsafe you a happier

time in your old age, you may hope then to have some respite from


Thus did they converse. Meanwhile Eurynome and the nurse took torches

and made the bed ready with soft coverlets; as soon as they had laid

them, the nurse went back into the house to go to her rest, leaving

the bed chamber woman Eurynome to show Ulysses and Penelope to bed

by torch light. When she had conducted them to their room she went

back, and they then came joyfully to the rites of their own old bed.

Telemachus, Philoetius, and the swineherd now left off dancing, and

made the women leave off also. They then laid themselves down to sleep

in the cloisters.

When Ulysses and Penelope had had their fill of love they fell talking

with one another. She told him how much she had had to bear in seeing

the house filled with a crowd of wicked suitors who had killed so

many sheep and oxen on her account, and had drunk so many casks of

wine. Ulysses in his turn told her what he had suffered, and how much

trouble he had himself given to other people. He told her everything,

and she was so delighted to listen that she never went to sleep till

he had ended his whole story.

He began with his victory over the Cicons, and how he thence reached

the fertile land of the Lotus-eaters. He told her all about the Cyclops

and how he had punished him for having so ruthlessly eaten his brave

comrades; how he then went on to Aeolus, who received him hospitably

and furthered him on his way, but even so he was not to reach home,

for to his great grief a hurricane carried him out to sea again; how

he went on to the Laestrygonian city Telepylos, where the people destroyed

all his ships with their crews, save himself and his own ship only.

Then he told of cunning Circe and her craft, and how he sailed to

the chill house of Hades, to consult the ghost of the Theban prophet

Teiresias, and how he saw his old comrades in arms, and his mother

who bore him and brought him up when he was a child; how he then heard

the wondrous singing of the Sirens, and went on to the wandering rocks

and terrible Charybdis and to Scylla, whom no man had ever yet passed

in safety; how his men then ate the cattle of the sun-god, and how

Jove therefore struck the ship with his thunderbolts, so that all

his men perished together, himself alone being left alive; how at

last he reached the Ogygian island and the nymph Calypso, who kept

him there in a cave, and fed him, and wanted him to marry her, in

which case she intended making him immortal so that he should never

grow old, but she could not persuade him to let her do so; and how

after much suffering he had found his way to the Phaeacians, who had

treated him as though he had been a god, and sent him back in a ship

to his own country after having given him gold, bronze, and raiment

in great abundance. This was the last thing about which he told her,

for here a deep sleep took hold upon him and eased the burden of his


Then Minerva bethought her of another matter. When she deemed that

Ulysses had had both of his wife and of repose, she bade gold-enthroned

Dawn rise out of Oceanus that she might shed light upon mankind. On

this, Ulysses rose from his comfortable bed and said to Penelope,

“Wife, we have both of us had our full share of troubles, you, here,

in lamenting my absence, and I in being prevented from getting home

though I was longing all the time to do so. Now, however, that we

have at last come together, take care of the property that is in the

house. As for the sheep and goats which the wicked suitors have eaten,

I will take many myself by force from other people, and will compel

the Achaeans to make good the rest till they shall have filled all

my yards. I am now going to the wooded lands out in the country to

see my father who has so long been grieved on my account, and to yourself

I will give these instructions, though you have little need of them.

At sunrise it will at once get abroad that I have been killing the

suitors; go upstairs, therefore, and stay there with your women. See

nobody and ask no questions.”

As he spoke he girded on his armour. Then he roused Telemachus, Philoetius,

and Eumaeus, and told them all to put on their armour also. This they

did, and armed themselves. When they had done so, they opened the

gates and sallied forth, Ulysses leading the way. It was now daylight,

but Minerva nevertheless concealed them in darkness and led them quickly

out of the town.



Then Mercury of Cyllene summoned the ghosts of the suitors, and in

his hand he held the fair golden wand with which he seals men’s eyes

in sleep or wakes them just as he pleases; with this he roused the

ghosts and led them, while they followed whining and gibbering behind

him. As bats fly squealing in the hollow of some great cave, when

one of them has fallen out of the cluster in which they hang, even

so did the ghosts whine and squeal as Mercury the healer of sorrow

led them down into the dark abode of death. When they had passed the

waters of Oceanus and the rock Leucas, they came to the gates of the

sun and the land of dreams, whereon they reached the meadow of asphodel

where dwell the souls and shadows of them that can labour no more.

Here they found the ghost of Achilles son of Peleus, with those of

Patroclus, Antilochus, and Ajax, who was the finest and handsomest

man of all the Danaans after the son of Peleus himself.

They gathered round the ghost of the son of Peleus, and the ghost

of Agamemnon joined them, sorrowing bitterly. Round him were gathered

also the ghosts of those who had perished with him in the house of

Aeisthus; and the ghost of Achilles spoke first.

“Son of Atreus,” it said, “we used to say that Jove had loved you

better from first to last than any other hero, for you were captain

over many and brave men, when we were all fighting together before

Troy; yet the hand of death, which no mortal can escape, was laid

upon you all too early. Better for you had you fallen at Troy in the

hey-day of your renown, for the Achaeans would have built a mound

over your ashes, and your son would have been heir to your good name,

whereas it has now been your lot to come to a most miserable end.”

“Happy son of Peleus,” answered the ghost of Agamemnon, “for having

died at Troy far from Argos, while the bravest of the Trojans and

the Achaeans fell round you fighting for your body. There you lay

in the whirling clouds of dust, all huge and hugely, heedless now

of your chivalry. We fought the whole of the livelong day, nor should

we ever have left off if Jove had not sent a hurricane to stay us.

Then, when we had borne you to the ships out of the fray, we laid

you on your bed and cleansed your fair skin with warm water and with

ointments. The Danaans tore their hair and wept bitterly round about

you. Your mother, when she heard, came with her immortal nymphs from

out of the sea, and the sound of a great wailing went forth over the

waters so that the Achaeans quaked for fear. They would have fled

panic-stricken to their ships had not wise old Nestor whose counsel

was ever truest checked them saying, ‘Hold, Argives, fly not sons

of the Achaeans, this is his mother coming from the sea with her immortal

nymphs to view the body of her son.’

“Thus he spoke, and the Achaeans feared no more. The daughters of

the old man of the sea stood round you weeping bitterly, and clothed

you in immortal raiment. The nine muses also came and lifted up their

sweet voices in lament- calling and answering one another; there was

not an Argive but wept for pity of the dirge they chaunted. Days and

nights seven and ten we mourned you, mortals and immortals, but on

the eighteenth day we gave you to the flames, and many a fat sheep

with many an ox did we slay in sacrifice around you. You were burnt

in raiment of the gods, with rich resins and with honey, while heroes,

horse and foot, clashed their armour round the pile as you were burning,

with the tramp as of a great multitude. But when the flames of heaven

had done their work, we gathered your white bones at daybreak and

laid them in ointments and in pure wine. Your mother brought us a

golden vase to hold them- gift of Bacchus, and work of Vulcan himself;

in this we mingled your bleached bones with those of Patroclus who

had gone before you, and separate we enclosed also those of Antilochus,

who had been closer to you than any other of your comrades now that

Patroclus was no more.

“Over these the host of the Argives built a noble tomb, on a point

jutting out over the open Hellespont, that it might be seen from far

out upon the sea by those now living and by them that shall be born

hereafter. Your mother begged prizes from the gods, and offered them

to be contended for by the noblest of the Achaeans. You must have

been present at the funeral of many a hero, when the young men gird

themselves and make ready to contend for prizes on the death of some

great chieftain, but you never saw such prizes as silver-footed Thetis

offered in your honour; for the gods loved you well. Thus even in

death your fame, Achilles, has not been lost, and your name lives

evermore among all mankind. But as for me, what solace had I when

the days of my fighting were done? For Jove willed my destruction

on my return, by the hands of Aegisthus and those of my wicked wife.”

Thus did they converse, and presently Mercury came up to them with

the ghosts of the suitors who had been killed by Ulysses. The ghosts

of Agamemnon and Achilles were astonished at seeing them, and went

up to them at once. The ghost of Agamemnon recognized Amphimedon son

of Melaneus, who lived in Ithaca and had been his host, so it began

to talk to him.

“Amphimedon,” it said, “what has happened to all you fine young men-

all of an age too- that you are come down here under the ground? One

could pick no finer body of men from any city. Did Neptune raise his

winds and waves against you when you were at sea, or did your enemies

make an end of you on the mainland when you were cattle-lifting or

sheep-stealing, or while fighting in defence of their wives and city?

Answer my question, for I have been your guest. Do you not remember

how I came to your house with Menelaus, to persuade Ulysses to join

us with his ships against Troy? It was a whole month ere we could

resume our voyage, for we had hard work to persuade Ulysses to come

with us.”

And the ghost of Amphimedon answered, “Agamemnon, son of Atreus, king

of men, I remember everything that you have said, and will tell you

fully and accurately about the way in which our end was brought about.

Ulysses had been long gone, and we were courting his wife, who did

not say point blank that she would not marry, nor yet bring matters

to an end, for she meant to compass our destruction: this, then, was

the trick she played us. She set up a great tambour frame in her room

and began to work on an enormous piece of fine needlework. ‘Sweethearts,’

said she, ‘Ulysses is indeed dead, still, do not press me to marry

again immediately; wait- for I would not have my skill in needlework

perish unrecorded- till I have completed a pall for the hero Laertes,

against the time when death shall take him. He is very rich, and the

women of the place will talk if he is laid out without a pall.’ This

is what she said, and we assented; whereupon we could see her working

upon her great web all day long, but at night she would unpick the

stitches again by torchlight. She fooled us in this way for three

years without our finding it out, but as time wore on and she was

now in her fourth year, in the waning of moons and many days had been

accomplished, one of her maids who knew what she was doing told us,

and we caught her in the act of undoing her work, so she had to finish

it whether she would or no; and when she showed us the robe she had

made, after she had had it washed, its splendour was as that of the

sun or moon.

“Then some malicious god conveyed Ulysses to the upland farm where

his swineherd lives. Thither presently came also his son, returning

from a voyage to Pylos, and the two came to the town when they had

hatched their plot for our destruction. Telemachus came first, and

then after him, accompanied by the swineherd, came Ulysses, clad in

rags and leaning on a staff as though he were some miserable old beggar.

He came so unexpectedly that none of us knew him, not even the older

ones among us, and we reviled him and threw things at him. He endured

both being struck and insulted without a word, though he was in his

own house; but when the will of Aegis-bearing Jove inspired him, he

and Telemachus took the armour and hid it in an inner chamber, bolting

the doors behind them. Then he cunningly made his wife offer his bow

and a quantity of iron to be contended for by us ill-fated suitors;

and this was the beginning of our end, for not one of us could string

the bow- nor nearly do so. When it was about to reach the hands of

Ulysses, we all of us shouted out that it should not be given him,

no matter what he might say, but Telemachus insisted on his having

it. When he had got it in his hands he strung it with ease and sent

his arrow through the iron. Then he stood on the floor of the cloister

and poured his arrows on the ground, glaring fiercely about him. First

he killed Antinous, and then, aiming straight before him, he let fly

his deadly darts and they fell thick on one another. It was plain

that some one of the gods was helping them, for they fell upon us

with might and main throughout the cloisters, and there was a hideous

sound of groaning as our brains were being battered in, and the ground

seethed with our blood. This, Agamemnon, is how we came by our end,

and our bodies are lying still un-cared for in the house of Ulysses,

for our friends at home do not yet know what has happened, so that

they cannot lay us out and wash the black blood from our wounds, making

moan over us according to the offices due to the departed.”

“Happy Ulysses, son of Laertes,” replied the ghost of Agamemnon, “you

are indeed blessed in the possession of a wife endowed with such rare

excellence of understanding, and so faithful to her wedded lord as

Penelope the daughter of Icarius. The fame, therefore, of her virtue

shall never die, and the immortals shall compose a song that shall

be welcome to all mankind in honour of the constancy of Penelope.

How far otherwise was the wickedness of the daughter of Tyndareus

who killed her lawful husband; her song shall be hateful among men,

for she has brought disgrace on all womankind even on the good ones.”

Thus did they converse in the house of Hades deep down within the

bowels of the earth. Meanwhile Ulysses and the others passed out of

the town and soon reached the fair and well-tilled farm of Laertes,

which he had reclaimed with infinite labour. Here was his house, with

a lean-to running all round it, where the slaves who worked for him

slept and sat and ate, while inside the house there was an old Sicel

woman, who looked after him in this his country-farm. When Ulysses

got there, he said to his son and to the other two:

“Go to the house, and kill the best pig that you can find for dinner.

Meanwhile I want to see whether my father will know me, or fail to

recognize me after so long an absence.”

He then took off his armour and gave it to Eumaeus and Philoetius,

who went straight on to the house, while he turned off into the vineyard

to make trial of his father. As he went down into the great orchard,

he did not see Dolius, nor any of his sons nor of the other bondsmen,

for they were all gathering thorns to make a fence for the vineyard,

at the place where the old man had told them; he therefore found his

father alone, hoeing a vine. He had on a dirty old shirt, patched

and very shabby; his legs were bound round with thongs of oxhide to

save him from the brambles, and he also wore sleeves of leather; he

had a goat skin cap on his head, and was looking very woe-begone.

When Ulysses saw him so worn, so old and full of sorrow, he stood

still under a tall pear tree and began to weep. He doubted whether

to embrace him, kiss him, and tell him all about his having come home,

or whether he should first question him and see what he would say.

In the end he deemed it best to be crafty with him, so in this mind

he went up to his father, who was bending down and digging about a


“I see, sir,” said Ulysses, “that you are an excellent gardener- what

pains you take with it, to be sure. There is not a single plant, not

a fig tree, vine, olive, pear, nor flower bed, but bears the trace

of your attention. I trust, however, that you will not be offended

if I say that you take better care of your garden than of yourself.

You are old, unsavoury, and very meanly clad. It cannot be because

you are idle that your master takes such poor care of you, indeed

your face and figure have nothing of the slave about them, and proclaim

you of noble birth. I should have said that you were one of those

who should wash well, eat well, and lie soft at night as old men have

a right to do; but tell me, and tell me true, whose bondman are you,

and in whose garden are you working? Tell me also about another matter.

Is this place that I have come to really Ithaca? I met a man just

now who said so, but he was a dull fellow, and had not the patience

to hear my story out when I was asking him about an old friend of

mine, whether he was still living, or was already dead and in the

house of Hades. Believe me when I tell you that this man came to my

house once when I was in my own country and never yet did any stranger

come to me whom I liked better. He said that his family came from

Ithaca and that his father was Laertes, son of Arceisius. I received

him hospitably, making him welcome to all the abundance of my house,

and when he went away I gave him all customary presents. I gave him

seven talents of fine gold, and a cup of solid silver with flowers

chased upon it. I gave him twelve light cloaks, and as many pieces

of tapestry; I also gave him twelve cloaks of single fold, twelve

rugs, twelve fair mantles, and an equal number of shirts. To all this

I added four good looking women skilled in all useful arts, and I

let him take his choice.”

His father shed tears and answered, “Sir, you have indeed come to

the country that you have named, but it is fallen into the hands of

wicked people. All this wealth of presents has been given to no purpose.

If you could have found your friend here alive in Ithaca, he would

have entertained you hospitably and would have required your presents

amply when you left him- as would have been only right considering

what you have already given him. But tell me, and tell me true, how

many years is it since you entertained this guest- my unhappy son,

as ever was? Alas! He has perished far from his own country; the fishes

of the sea have eaten him, or he has fallen a prey to the birds and

wild beasts of some continent. Neither his mother, nor I his father,

who were his parents, could throw our arms about him and wrap him

in his shroud, nor could his excellent and richly dowered wife Penelope

bewail her husband as was natural upon his death bed, and close his

eyes according to the offices due to the departed. But now, tell me

truly for I want to know. Who and whence are you- tell me of your

town and parents? Where is the ship lying that has brought you and

your men to Ithaca? Or were you a passenger on some other man’s ship,

and those who brought you here have gone on their way and left you?”

“I will tell you everything,” answered Ulysses, “quite truly. I come

from Alybas, where I have a fine house. I am son of king Apheidas,

who is the son of Polypemon. My own name is Eperitus; heaven drove

me off my course as I was leaving Sicania, and I have been carried

here against my will. As for my ship it is lying over yonder, off

the open country outside the town, and this is the fifth year since

Ulysses left my country. Poor fellow, yet the omens were good for

him when he left me. The birds all flew on our right hands, and both

he and I rejoiced to see them as we parted, for we had every hope

that we should have another friendly meeting and exchange presents.”

A dark cloud of sorrow fell upon Laertes as he listened. He filled

both hands with the dust from off the ground and poured it over his

grey head, groaning heavily as he did so. The heart of Ulysses was

touched, and his nostrils quivered as he looked upon his father; then

he sprang towards him, flung his arms about him and kissed him, saying,

“I am he, father, about whom you are asking- I have returned after

having been away for twenty years. But cease your sighing and lamentation-

we have no time to lose, for I should tell you that I have been killing

the suitors in my house, to punish them for their insolence and crimes.”

“If you really are my son Ulysses,” replied Laertes, “and have come

back again, you must give me such manifest proof of your identity

as shall convince me.”

“First observe this scar,” answered Ulysses, “which I got from a boar’s

tusk when I was hunting on Mount Parnassus. You and my mother had

sent me to Autolycus, my mother’s father, to receive the presents

which when he was over here he had promised to give me. Furthermore

I will point out to you the trees in the vineyard which you gave me,

and I asked you all about them as I followed you round the garden.

We went over them all, and you told me their names and what they all

were. You gave me thirteen pear trees, ten apple trees, and forty

fig trees; you also said you would give me fifty rows of vines; there

was corn planted between each row, and they yield grapes of every

kind when the heat of heaven has been laid heavy upon them.”

Laertes’ strength failed him when he heard the convincing proofs which

his son had given him. He threw his arms about him, and Ulysses had

to support him, or he would have gone off into a swoon; but as soon

as he came to, and was beginning to recover his senses, he said, “O

father Jove, then you gods are still in Olympus after all, if the

suitors have really been punished for their insolence and folly. Nevertheless,

I am much afraid that I shall have all the townspeople of Ithaca up

here directly, and they will be sending messengers everywhere throughout

the cities of the Cephallenians.”

Ulysses answered, “Take heart and do not trouble yourself about that,

but let us go into the house hard by your garden. I have already told

Telemachus, Philoetius, and Eumaeus to go on there and get dinner

ready as soon as possible.”

Thus conversing the two made their way towards the house. When they

got there they found Telemachus with the stockman and the swineherd

cutting up meat and mixing wine with water. Then the old Sicel woman

took Laertes inside and washed him and anointed him with oil. She

put him on a good cloak, and Minerva came up to him and gave him a

more imposing presence, making him taller and stouter than before.

When he came back his son was surprised to see him looking so like

an immortal, and said to him, “My dear father, some one of the gods

has been making you much taller and better-looking.”

Laertes answered, “Would, by Father Jove, Minerva, and Apollo, that

I were the man I was when I ruled among the Cephallenians, and took

Nericum, that strong fortress on the foreland. If I were still what

I then was and had been in our house yesterday with my armour on,

I should have been able to stand by you and help you against the suitors.

I should have killed a great many of them, and you would have rejoiced

to see it.”

Thus did they converse; but the others, when they had finished their

work and the feast was ready, left off working, and took each his

proper place on the benches and seats. Then they began eating; by

and by old Dolius and his sons left their work and came up, for their

mother, the Sicel woman who looked after Laertes now that he was growing

old, had been to fetch them. When they saw Ulysses and were certain

it was he, they stood there lost in astonishment; but Ulysses scolded

them good-naturedly and said, “Sit down to your dinner, old man, and

never mind about your surprise; we have been wanting to begin for

some time and have been waiting for you.”

Then Dolius put out both his hands and went up to Ulysses. “Sir,”

said he, seizing his master’s hand and kissing it at the wrist, “we

have long been wishing you home: and now heaven has restored you to

us after we had given up hoping. All hail, therefore, and may the

gods prosper you. But tell me, does Penelope already know of your

return, or shall we send some one to tell her?”

“Old man,” answered Ulysses, “she knows already, so you need not trouble

about that.” On this he took his seat, and the sons of Dolius gathered

round Ulysses to give him greeting and embrace him one after the other;

then they took their seats in due order near Dolius their father.

While they were thus busy getting their dinner ready, Rumour went

round the town, and noised abroad the terrible fate that had befallen

the suitors; as soon, therefore, as the people heard of it they gathered

from every quarter, groaning and hooting before the house of Ulysses.

They took the dead away, buried every man his own, and put the bodies

of those who came from elsewhere on board the fishing vessels, for

the fishermen to take each of them to his own place. They then met

angrily in the place of assembly, and when they were got together

Eupeithes rose to speak. He was overwhelmed with grief for the death

of his son Antinous, who had been the first man killed by Ulysses,

so he said, weeping bitterly, “My friend, this man has done the Achaeans

great wrong. He took many of our best men away with him in his fleet,

and he has lost both ships and men; now, moreover, on his return he

has been killing all the foremost men among the Cephallenians. Let

us be up and doing before he can get away to Pylos or to Elis where

the Epeans rule, or we shall be ashamed of ourselves for ever afterwards.

It will be an everlasting disgrace to us if we do not avenge the murder

of our sons and brothers. For my own part I should have no mote pleasure

in life, but had rather die at once. Let us be up, then, and after

them, before they can cross over to the mainland.”

He wept as he spoke and every one pitied him. But Medon and the bard

Phemius had now woke up, and came to them from the house of Ulysses.

Every one was astonished at seeing them, but they stood in the middle

of the assembly, and Medon said, “Hear me, men of Ithaca. Ulysses

did not do these things against the will of heaven. I myself saw an

immortal god take the form of Mentor and stand beside him. This god

appeared, now in front of him encouraging him, and now going furiously

about the court and attacking the suitors whereon they fell thick

on one another.”

On this pale fear laid hold of them, and old Halitherses, son of Mastor,

rose to speak, for he was the only man among them who knew both past

and future; so he spoke to them plainly and in all honesty, saying,

“Men of Ithaca, it is all your own fault that things have turned out

as they have; you would not listen to me, nor yet to Mentor, when

we bade you check the folly of your sons who were doing much wrong

in the wantonness of their hearts- wasting the substance and dishonouring

the wife of a chieftain who they thought would not return. Now, however,

let it be as I say, and do as I tell you. Do not go out against Ulysses,

or you may find that you have been drawing down evil on your own heads.”

This was what he said, and more than half raised a loud shout, and

at once left the assembly. But the rest stayed where they were, for

the speech of Halitherses displeased them, and they sided with Eupeithes;

they therefore hurried off for their armour, and when they had armed

themselves, they met together in front of the city, and Eupeithes

led them on in their folly. He thought he was going to avenge the

murder of his son, whereas in truth he was never to return, but was

himself to perish in his attempt.

Then Minerva said to Jove, “Father, son of Saturn, king of kings,

answer me this question- What do you propose to do? Will you set them

fighting still further, or will you make peace between them?”

And Jove answered, “My child, why should you ask me? Was it not by

your own arrangement that Ulysses came home and took his revenge upon

the suitors? Do whatever you like, but I will tell you what I think

will be most reasonable arrangement. Now that Ulysses is revenged,

let them swear to a solemn covenant, in virtue of which he shall continue

to rule, while we cause the others to forgive and forget the massacre

of their sons and brothers. Let them then all become friends as heretofore,

and let peace and plenty reign.”

This was what Minerva was already eager to bring about, so down she

darted from off the topmost summits of Olympus.

Now when Laertes and the others had done dinner, Ulysses began by

saying, “Some of you go out and see if they are not getting close

up to us.” So one of Dolius’s sons went as he was bid. Standing on

the threshold he could see them all quite near, and said to Ulysses,

“Here they are, let us put on our armour at once.”

They put on their armour as fast as they could- that is to say Ulysses,

his three men, and the six sons of Dolius. Laertes also and Dolius

did the same- warriors by necessity in spite of their grey hair. When

they had all put on their armour, they opened the gate and sallied

forth, Ulysses leading the way.

Then Jove’s daughter Minerva came up to them, having assumed the form

and voice of Mentor. Ulysses was glad when he saw her, and said to

his son Telemachus, “Telemachus, now that are about to fight in an

engagement, which will show every man’s mettle, be sure not to disgrace

your ancestors, who were eminent for their strength and courage all

the world over.”

“You say truly, my dear father,” answered Telemachus, “and you shall

see, if you will, that I am in no mind to disgrace your family.”

Laertes was delighted when he heard this. “Good heavens, he exclaimed,

“what a day I am enjoying: I do indeed rejoice at it. My son and grandson

are vying with one another in the matter of valour.”

On this Minerva came close up to him and said, “Son of Arceisius-

best friend I have in the world- pray to the blue-eyed damsel, and

to Jove her father; then poise your spear and hurl it.”

As she spoke she infused fresh vigour into him, and when he had prayed

to her he poised his spear and hurled it. He hit Eupeithes’ helmet,

and the spear went right through it, for the helmet stayed it not,

and his armour rang rattling round him as he fell heavily to the ground.

Meantime Ulysses and his son fell the front line of the foe and smote

them with their swords and spears; indeed, they would have killed

every one of them, and prevented them from ever getting home again,

only Minerva raised her voice aloud, and made every one pause. “Men

of Ithaca,” she cried, cease this dreadful war, and settle the matter

at once without further bloodshed.”

On this pale fear seized every one; they were so frightened that their

arms dropped from their hands and fell upon the ground at the sound

of the goddess’s voice, and they fled back to the city for their lives.

But Ulysses gave a great cry, and gathering himself together swooped

down like a soaring eagle. Then the son of Saturn sent a thunderbolt

of fire that fell just in front of Minerva, so she said to Ulysses,

“Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, stop this warful strife, or Jove will

be angry with you.”

Thus spoke Minerva, and Ulysses obeyed her gladly. Then Minerva assumed

the form and voice of Mentor, and presently made a covenant of peace

between the two contending parties.



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Translation of “The Deeds of the Divine Augustus” by Augustus is

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