Of that resourceful man, tell me, O Muse, who wandered full many ways, after he had sacked the sacred citadel of Troy; and he saw the cities of many people and he learnt their ways, and many the sorrows he suffered on the high seas while he fought to save his life and bring his shipmates back home.
Yet even so he could not save those comrades, though he wanted to; for they perished for their own transgression, the fools, after they devoured the cattle of Helios, son of Hyperion; and he took from them the day of their returning. Of all these things tell to us too and start from where you will, O goddess, daughter of Zeus.
Then all the rest, all who escaped the harsh death, were at their homes, having avoided the perils of battle and of the sea and he alone, who longed for his return and for his wife, a revered nymph the splendid goddess, Calypso, was keeping him back, in a hollow cave, desiring him to be her husband.
Finally, when the time arrived as the seasons came and went, in which the gods had ordained that he should return home to Ithaca, not even then did he avoid the toils, even though he finally was among his own people; all the gods pitied him except Poseidon; he continued to rage exceedingly against godlike Odysseus before he finally reached his own land.
But, at that time, he had gone to the distant Ethiopians who dwell sundered in twain far away from other people half of them where the Sun sets, the other half where he rises; he had gone there to participate to a hetacomb of sacrificial bulls and rams. There he was taking his joy sitting at the feast; and the other gods had all gathered together in the palace of Olympian Zeus.
And the father of men and gods started talking to them; for in his heart he remembered of the flawless Aegisthus whom far-famed Orestes Agamemnon's son had slain; Him as he remembered he said to the immortals:
«Look you now, it really is to wonder how ready mortals are to blame the gods; because they say that the misfortunes come from us; however through their own transgressions they suffer hardships that go beyond what is decreed by fate; likewise now Aegisthus, although it was not written in his fate, he took as wife to himself the legitimate wife of the son of Atreus, and then he slew him as soon as he returned, although he knew the harsh death that awaited for him;
since we ourselves had warned him by sending Hermes, the keen-sighted Slayer of Argus, that he should neither slay the man nor to court his wife; for Orestes the son of Atreus would avenge him, once he reached manhood and longed for his own land. So Hermes spoke, but he did not persuade Aegisthus despite all the good intent that he had; and now he has paid the full price of all».
To him then, Athena, the goddess with the gleaming eyes replied: «O Father of us all, son of Cronos, supreme among the kings, verily that man lies low to a well deserved destruction; so also perish anyone else who would do such deeds.
However, for the prudent Odysseus my heart is torn, that ill-fated man, who is suffering woes separated from his own people on an island surrounded by the sea, in the middle of the ocean, a well-wooded island, where a goddess dwells in her mansion, the daughter of malevolent Atlas, who knows the depths of all the seas, and by himself holds up the tall pillars, that keep apart the heaven and the earth.
The daughter of him keeps Odysseus wretched and sorrowing, and she ever beguiles him, with soft and seductive words that he may forget Ithaca; Odysseus however yearns even to die as long as he might sees even the smoke rising from his native land. And you, O Olympian you do not at all alter your heart. Perhaps did Odysseus never win your favor with sacrifices in the broad land of Troy beside the ships of the Argives? Why then now, O Zeus are you so angry with him?».
Answering to her the cloud-gatherer Zeus said to her: «My child, what words have escaped from the barrier of your teeth. How could I ever forget godlike Odysseus who exceeds in wisdom among all mortal men, and many sacrifices has offered to the immortal gods, those who hold the broad heaven.
The Earth-Shaker, Poseidon, however he is always filled with stubborn wrath because of the Cyclops, the godlike Polyphemus, the eye of whose he blinded, and whose might is the greatest among all the Cyclopes; the nymph Thoosa bore him, the daughter of Phorcys, lord of the sea, laying with Poseidon in a hollow cave. And for that reason the Earth-Shaker Poseidon does not indeed slay Odysseus, but keeps him away from his native land.
But come, let us all who are here take thought of his return, how it might happen; and Poseidon will let go his anger; because by opposing alone against all the immortal gods he will achieve nothing».
Athena, the goddess with the gleaming eyes then answered to him: Father of us all, son of Cronos, supreme among the kings, if indeed this is now well pleasing to the blessed gods, that the wise Odysseus should return to his home, then let us send forth Hermes, the messenger, Slayer of Argus, to the isle Ogygia, that with all speed he may declare our unalterable decision to the fair-tressed Nymph, about the returning of the patient Odysseus, that he must come back home.
But, as for me, I will go to Ithaca, that I may the more arouse his son and set courage in his heart, so that after he calls to an assembly the long-haired Achaeans, to speak out his word to all the suitors, who are ever slaying his flocks of sheep and his cattle with twisted horns. Then I will lead him to Sparta and to sandy Pylos to gain news on the return of his father, if he may hear of it somewhere, and to gain a worthy reputation among men».
So saying, she bound her beautiful sandals to her feet immortal, golden ones, that would carry her over the waters of the sea and over the boundless land swift as the blasts of the wind. And she also took her spear with its tip of sharpened bronze, heavy and huge and sturdy, wherewith she vanquishes the ranks of heros, with whom she is wroth, she, the daughter of the mighty sire.
Then she went darting down from the heights of Olympus and took her stand in the land of Ithaca at the outer gate of Odysseus, on the threshold of the court; in her hand she held the spear of bronze and she looked like a stranger, Mentes, leader of the Taphians.
There she found the insolent suitors. They were amusing themselves playing draughts in front of the doors, sitting on the hides of oxen, oxen which they themselves had slain. Heralds and brisk squires among them, some were mixing wine and water for them in bowls, and others again were washing the tables with porous sponges and were setting them forth, while still others were portioning out meats in abundance.
First before anyone else the godlike Telemachus saw her; for he was sitting among the suitors with sadness at his heart, seeing in his imagination his noble father, should he perchance come from somewhere and make a scattering of the suitors from the palace, and that he had regained his honour and that he was ruling again over his own domains.
As he thought of these things, sitting among the suitors, he saw Athena. He immediately ran to the outer gate, and in fact he got vexed that a stranger would stand for so long time at the gates; he drew near he clasped her right hand and after he took from her the spear of bronze he spoke to her with winged words and said:
«Welcome, stranger, with us you will find hospitality; and then after you have tried the dinner you will tell us everything you need».
So saying, he led the way, and Pallas Athena followed. And when they entered within the lofty house he bore the spear and set it against a tall pillar in a well polished spear-rack, where were set many spears besides of the patient Odysseus, and he led her on a chair, a beautiful richly carved chair, and seated her there spreading a linen cloth over it and for her feet to rest upon he dragged a foot stool.
And he drew up a low reclining chair for himself to sit apart from the suitors, lest the stranger becomes annoyed by the tumult and does not enjoy the meal, as he would find himself in the midst of insolent men, and thus to be able to ask about his father who was gone. A handmaid brought water in a fair pitcher of gold and she was pouring for them to wash their hands over a silver basin; and then she set up for them a carved table near their side.
And the venerable pantry keeper brought and set bread before them, and she laid out on the table a wide variety of food, in order to please them; and the meat carver placed plates before them of every sort of meats, and golden cups he brought to them, while a herald constantly walked back and forth pouring their wine.
And the insolent suitors came in. Then they sat down on reclining seats and thrones. And the heralds came and they were pouring water on their hands and maid-servants were carrying the bread in baskets, and the young lads were filling the mixing-bowls with drink up to the brim. And they reached out with their hands to the food prepared and served in front of them.
And when finally the suitors had satisfied their desire for food and drink, also other things started passing from inside their mind, namely, the dancing and the song; for these things are the complementary of the feast. And then a herald put the beautiful lyre into the hands of Phemius, who was singing to the suitors perforce. And by strucking the chords he began his pleasant song, while Telemachus spoke again to Athena with the gleaming eyes, leaning his head over close to her so that the others might not hear:
«Dear stranger, will you be angered at what I will say? For these things only these men care, for lyre and song, for the easy life, because they devour another man’s wealth without punishment, of a man, whose the white bones somewhere rot in the rain as they lie upon the earth, or somewhere the wave rolls them in the sea. If they were to see him coming back to Ithaca, they would all pray to be swifter of foot rather than being richer in gold and in raiment. But now he has perished by his evil fate, and we have no consolation any more if someone says that he will return, because for him it has vanished the day of his returning.
But come, tell me this and declare it truly; who are you and where do you come from? Where is your city and who are your parents? With what vessel have you arrived? And why did the sailors bring you to Ithaca? And who do they brag that they are? Because I don't imagine that you came here on foot. And this also tell me truly, for me to fully understand, is this your first time here or are you an old friend of my father’s, because many other men have come to us here, for he knew too many people».
To him again the goddess Athena with the gleaming eyes, said: «Well I will say these things to you with all the truth. I'm proud to say that I am the son of wise Anchialus, I am Mentes, and that I reign over the seafaring Taphians. I just arrived here with comrades on a ship, sailing across the wine-dark sea heading towards men of strange tongues in order to buy copper from Temese, in exchange with shining iron. My ship is berthed away from the city to the fields, at Reithron's harbour, below Mount Neion's woods.
We are bragging that we are friends since long ago, and if you wish go and ask the old Laertes the hero, about whom they say that he doesn't come to the city anymore, but he endures sorrows far off in the fields with an aged woman for servant, who brings him food and drink, when the weariness has taken hold of his knees when he is dragging himself up on his vineyard’s mountain.
I just arrived; because I have heard people saying that your father has returned; but it seems that the gods are still preventing his way back. Because the divine Odysseus has not yet on earth, but he is still alive only detained somewhere on the wide sea, on some sea-girt island, and cruel men hold him captive, savages, they keep him there without him wanting it.
I will now prophesy to you, as the immortals enlighten me inside my mind and as I believe it will happen although I am neither a soothsayer nor I know with certainty how to explain the omens. He won't be for much longer far from his native land, not even if they keep him with iron bonds; he is constantly thinking how he will return, because he is ingenious.
But come tell me this and speak to me the truth, whether you really are Odysseus's son such a grown up boy. Because you look a lot like him in the handsome head and in the eyes, since we often used to meet before he embarked for Troy, where others also went the bravest of the Argives in their hollow ships; since then neither I have seen Odysseus nor he has seen me».
And prudent Telemachus answered to her: «Well, quite frankly I will speak to you, stranger. The mother of course says that I am from him, but I do not know; because no one has ever recognized his father by himself. I wish I'd been the son of some blest man, whom old age overtook in the midst of his possessions. But now of the most ill-fated who has ever been born among all mortal men, from him they say that I have been born, and I say this because you asked me».
And Athena with the gleaming eyes replied to him and said: «The gods have not decreed your lineage to be anonymous in the future, since Penelope has given birth to you such as you are. But come tell me this with the whole truth; what is this feast and what are these crowds of men? For what purpose are you doing it? Is it some celebration? Or rather is it a wedding? For this doesn't look like a meal where each one brings his own food. They seem to me like insolent abusers those who eat in the house. Any man of good sense who would come among them he would be angered at seeing so many shameful acts».
Then wise Telemachus answered to her: «Stranger, ya que me preguntas y me interrogas de estas cosas también, this house was once destined to being rich and impeccable, so long as Odysseus was still living here at his homeland; but the gods have willed otherwise in their evil devising, and they have caused him to vanish as they have with no other man, for, not even if he had died I would mourn him that much, if among his comrades he had encountered death in Troy, or even if he had died after the war in the arms of his loved ones. Then the whole host of the Achaeans would have put up a tomb for him, and he would have won great fame for his son in return.
But as it is, the Harpies have ingloriously snatched him away; he has gone out of sight, out of hearing, and he has abandoned me in sorrows and weeping; nor do I groan and sigh for him alone, for now the gods have brought upon me other calamities as well. For all the best princes who rule in the islands around, in Dulichium and in Same and in wooded Zacynthus, and all the young princes here over the rocky Ithaca, they are all now wooing my mother. And she neither refuses the hateful marriage nor she is able to put an end to all this; and they are ruining my household by consuming my wealth; and soon they will destroy me too».
And Pallas Athena replied angrily to him: «Wow, how much you need of Odysseus who is gone, since he could even lay his hands upon these shameless suitors! Because, if only he would come now and make a stand at the outer gate of the palace, with helmet and shield and two spears, such a man as he was when I met him for the first time in my father's house drinking and making merry, on his way back from Ephyre from the house of Ilus the son of Mermerus; Odysseus had gone there in his swift ship in search of a deadly poison to smear on his bronze headed arrows and kill his enemies with it; although he did not give him any, for he feared of the immortal gods, yet my father gave it to him; for he loved him tremendously.
If only Odysseus, such as he was, could come and meet with these suitors; then death to all of them would not take long to come, their wedding would result bitter to them. Yet these things verily lie on the knees of the gods, whether he shall return in his own palace and whether he shall pay them back, or not; meanwhile I do urge you to take thought how you may kick out the suitors from the palace.
But come listen now and pay attention to my words; tomorrow, after you summon the Achaean lords to an assembly, speak to them all, and let the gods be your witnesses. Command the suitors to scatter to their houses, and as for your mother, if her desire urges her to marry, let her go back to the house of her father who is a man of great power; they will organize the marriage and they will prepare for her full many marrital gifts, as many as befit their well-loved daughter.
And I will give you a wise advice if you want to hear me; after you prepare a ship, the best ship of all you can find with a crew of twenty rowers, then depart in order to find out about your father who has been gone many years ago, if some mortal man may tell you something, or perhaps you hear some rumour sent by Zeus, rumour which often is the first to bring the news to the people. Go to Pylos first and question the noble Nestor, and from there go to Sparta to the fair-haired Menelaus; for he was the last to reach home of all the bronze-clad Achaeans.
And if you hear that your father lives and he is coming back, then however troubled as you are you will endure for another year; but if you hear that he died and he doesn't exist no more, immediately then come back to your native land and build him a tomb and carry out on it many sacrificial funeral rites, as many as are appropriate, and then give your mother to another man.
And when you've done thus and you have finished all these matters, then think on your own in the depths of your heart how you will kill the suitors in your house by guile or even outright; and it is not proper for you to act like a child by no means, because you are not a child anymore. Or have you not heard what great glory the divine Orestes won among all men, after he killed the patricide, the sly Aegisthus, who had slain his famous father?
And you my friend, because I see you are fine and strong, you should be brave, and the future generations will praise you. But now I must go down to my comrades and to my swift ship, who will be getting quite impatient waiting for me; and you think the matter over for yourself and don't forget what I have said».
And the prudent Telemachus again answered to her: «Stranger, you spoke these words out of the kindness of your heart, as a father to his son, and I will never forget them. But come now, stay here a while, though you are eager to be off, and once you've had a bath and your fond heart in your chest is fully satisfied, then with your spirit full of joy you can go back to your ship, carrying a costly present with you, something really beautiful, which will be my keepsake gift to you, the kind of gift that dear hosts are used to give to their strangers as a indication of friendship».
Then the goddess Athena with the gleaming eyes answered to him: «Don't keep me here any longer, I am in a hurry to return. And as for this gift that your heart is telling you to give me, give it to me when I come back so I can take it home, and choose it to be beautiful; and I will give back to you another of no less value».
So as she said this, Athena with the gleaming eyes departed, and she flew off like a bird, she vanished in the skies; and in his heart she put courage and strength, and she made him recall his father even more so than before. He felt this change in him and his mind was full of wonder; because he imagined that she was a god. And immediately the godlike man headed straightway towards the suitors.
The famous minstrel was singing for them, and they sat listening in silence; he was singing of the bitter return of the Achaeans from Troy as Pallas Athene prescribed it for them.
And the prudent Penelope, the daughter of Icarius, heard from the upper room the marvellous song; she came down the towering staircase from her room, not alone, two female servants followed her.
And once the divine woman reached the suitors, she stayed beside the well-built pillar of the roof, covering her cheeks with her bright veil; and she had on each one of her sides one of her loyal handmaids. And she said to the divine minstrel with tears in her eyes:
«Phemius, so many other deeds you know of men and of gods which charm the mortals, and which the poets have turned into songs; sing one of those as you sit here, and let these men drink their wine in silence; but cease from this woeful song, which ever wounds the heart in my breast, ever since the heavy grief and the unforgettable sorrow has inhabited in me. Because for my husband I yearn and I always remember him, the man whose fame was so great all over Hellas and to the depths of Argos».
And the prudent Telemachus replied to her: «My mother, why are you impeding the faithful singer from giving delight to our hearts in any way his mind may prompt him to? The singers are not responsible, but, it seems to me, it's Zeus the responsible, who gives to men who live by toil, whatever he desires to each one. For this, anger is nor proper for the one who sings of the evil fate of the Danaans; because men praise the most and prefer at that song which by listening to it it seems to them that it's the most recent.
You should harden your heart and your soul to endure listening to it; for Odysseus was not the only man who lost the day of his return at Troy, many more other men died there too. But you mother go back to your rooms and tend to your own tasks, the loom, the spindle, and tell your servants to get back to their duties as well; and let the talking be our concern of all men, and especially mine, since in my own house I'm the one in charge».
She gazed in wonder and she turned back to go to her own chambers; because the words of her son seemed to her prudent in her mind. And when she had climbed up to her rooms with her handmaids, there she wept for Odysseus, her dear husband, till Athena with the gleaming eyes cast sweet sleep upon her eyelids.
The suitors started to create an uproar in the shadowy halls of the palace; all of them burning from desire to sleep with her. And the prudent Telemachus was the first to speak and he started speaking to them:
«You suitors of my mother, full of insolence all of you, let us enjoy the feast for now and cease your shouting, because it is much better to listen to the singer, as fine as this one is and whose voice is like a god's. And in the morning let us all go and take our seats in the assembly, where I can openly tell you all to depart from my palace; elsewhere arrange for your feasts, moving from house to house and eating up your own possessions.
And if this seem to you that it is more beneficial and better for you, without paying anything to destroy one man's livelihood, then go on, destroy; and I ask for help from the immortal gods, and may be that someday Zeus will pay back your works, and all of you here in this palace you shall meet your death».
So he spoke, and all of them biting their lips with the teeth were marvelled at Telemachus, who was speaking out boldly. And then Antinous, son of Eupeithes, said to him: «Eh, Telemachus, the gods, it seems, are teaching you how to speak with boldness and be a man of blusterous tongue. I do hope that the son of Cronos will never make you king in Ithaca that is surrounded by sea, even though by birth it is your heritage».
And the prudent Telemachus replied to him and said: «Antinous, I wonder, will you be angry with me with what I am about to say? That also I would willingly accept, the office of being king, if Zeus gave it to me. Or do you think it is negligible this honour among the people? Because it is not something evil for someone to be king; all at once your palace grows in wealth and you are held in higher honour. But there are many others kings of the Achaeans in Ithaca's sea-girt island, young and old, and anyone of them will might have this honour, since the divine Odysseus is now dead; as for myself I shall be king in my own house and of the slaves, which the divine Odysseus has captured for me».
And then again Eurymachus, son of Polybus, replied to him and said: «Telemachus, these matters surely lie on the knees of the gods, who among the Achaeans shall be king in sea-girt Ithaca; certainly your possessions are all yours and in your house you are the king. And let no man come, and seize your property, by force and against your will, for as long as Ithaca is inhabited by people.
But I want, my friend, to ask you about that stranger, who is that man, and from which country does he claim himself to be? Of what family is he and where is his native land? Did he bring news perhaps that your father is coming, or maybe that he is here pursuing some matter of his own? How did he leave so suddenly and he didn't even wait for us to get to know him? Because he didn't seem a worthless man by his appearance».
And the prudent Telemachus replied to him and said: «Eurymachus, my father's journey back to Ithaca is lost and gone; therefore I no longer believe in messages no matter where they come from nor do I pay attention to the prophecies, if my mother into the palace invites some diviner and ask him. A friend of my father is this stranger, he is Mentes from Taphos, and he claims to be the son of the wise Anchialus, who reigns over the Taphians the seafarers».
Thus said Telemachus, although he had recognized the immortal goddess. And they switched to dancing and to singing lovely songs, they surrendered to the enjoyment and they stayed until it came the dark night; Then each one of them left to go to his own house to sleep.
Also Telemachus went off to his own bedroom, a lofty chamber in a well protected site inside a splendid courtyard, but his mind was swarming in bed by his many thoughts.
And faithful Eurycleia carried flaming torches; she was the daughter of Ops, the son of Peisenor, which Laertes, years ago, had bought when she was young with his own wealth, the value of twenty oxen he gave, and he honoured her in his palace as he was honouring his loyal wife but he never slept with her in bed, because he didn't want to provoke the wrath of his wife; She, then, carried the torches, and more than all the other slaves she loved him and she was caring for him since he was a child.
He opened the doors of the well-constructed room, and he sat on the bed; he pulled off his soft tunic and he placed in the hands of the wise old woman. Straightening then and folding the tunic, she hung it on a peg beside the carved bed, and she left the room, pulling the door by its silver handle, and locked, by sliding the latch with its strap. And Telemachus laying there all night long, wrapped up in a sheep's fleece, was thinking of the journey which Athena had proposed to him.
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