The Odyssey

Part 5 out of 7

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

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

On this Telemachus strode off through the yards, brooding his
revenge upon the suitors. 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 away 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 managed 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 father."

"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 it."

"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, {140}
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. {141} 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." {142}

"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, {143}
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 {144}
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

"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

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 see 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, he 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 recognised
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

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
skilfully 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 singing?
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

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
ships in the river Aegyptus, and bade 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 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, {145} 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

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

"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." {146}

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, {147} 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

"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

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, {148} 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 tomorrow 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, {149} 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

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 vain glory.
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

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 to 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 mind, 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 {150} 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

"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 he 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
{151} to give light, and piled them up with chopped firewood
very old and dry, and they lit torches from them, which the
maids held up turn and turn about. Then Ulysses said:

"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 over, 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 last 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, and 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 him, 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.

Book XIX


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

"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 done 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

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

"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 suitors.

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 generally? 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 boyhood."

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

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
broken-hearted 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

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
ninety 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. {152} 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
raging. 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 sorry for her, but he kept his eyes
as hard as horn 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 shewed 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. {153} 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,
{154} 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

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 you. 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 Phaeacians, 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 the
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 at 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 recognise
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 Mt. 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, "Autolycus, 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 Mt. 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 sleep.

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 he 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 Mt.

As soon as Euryclea had got the scarred limb in her hands and
had well hold of it, she recognised 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

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
recognise me, hold your tongue, and do not say a word about it
to 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 becomes 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,
{155} 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 dream 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 iron."

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.

Book XX


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 {156} 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

"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

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 over-flowing
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 clouds 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 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 to 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 such a
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." {157}

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 go 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

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 to 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 house."

"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

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 bread baskets, 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; {158} 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 heart's 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 {159} 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 {160} 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 here."

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 by 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 sate 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 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 much 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.

Book XXI


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; {161} these flew open with a


Back to Full Books