10284 lines
664 KiB

package main
func readOdyssey(line int) string {
var out string
currentline := 1
for _, char := range odyssey {
if currentline == line {
if char == '\n' {
out += string(char)
} else if char == '\n' {
return out
var odyssey = `Tell me, O Muse, of that ingenious hero who travelled far and wide after
he had sacked the famous town of Troy. Many cities did he visit, and
many were the nations with whose manners and customs he was acquainted;
moreover he suffered much by sea while trying to save his own life and
bring his men safely home; but do what he might he could not save his
men, for they perished through their own sheer folly in eating the
cattle of the Sun-god Hyperion; so the god prevented them from ever
reaching home. Tell me, too, about all these things, oh daughter of
Jove, from whatsoever source you may know them.
So now all who escaped death in battle or by shipwreck had got safely
home except Ulysses, and he, though he was longing to return to his wife
and country, was detained by the goddess Calypso, who had got him into
a large cave and wanted to marry him. But as years went by, there came a
time when the gods settled that he should go back to Ithaca; even then,
however, when he was among his own people, his troubles were not
yet over; nevertheless all the gods had now begun to pity him except
Neptune, who still persecuted him without ceasing and would not let him
get home.
Now Neptune had gone off to the Ethiopians, who are at the world's end,
and lie in two halves, the one looking West and the other East. {1} He
had gone there to accept a hecatomb of sheep and oxen, and was enjoying
himself at his festival; but the other gods met in the house of Olympian
Jove, and the sire of gods and men spoke first. At that moment he was
thinking of Aegisthus, who had been killed by Agamemnon's son Orestes;
so he said to the other gods:
"See now, how men lay blame upon us gods for what is after all nothing
but their own folly. Look at Aegisthus; he must needs make love to
Agamemnon's wife unrighteously and then kill Agamemnon, though he knew
it would be the death of him; for I sent Mercury to warn him not to do
either of these things, inasmuch as Orestes would be sure to take his
revenge when he grew up and wanted to return home. Mercury told him
this in all good will but he would not listen, and now he has paid for
everything in full."
Then Minerva said, "Father, son of Saturn, King of kings, it served
Aegisthus right, and so it would any one else who does as he did; but
Aegisthus is neither here nor there; it is for Ulysses that my heart
bleeds, when I think of his sufferings in that lonely sea-girt island,
far away, poor man, from all his friends. It is an island covered
with forest, in the very middle of the sea, and a goddess lives there,
daughter of the magician Atlas, who looks after the bottom of the ocean,
and carries the great columns that keep heaven and earth asunder. This
daughter of Atlas has got hold of poor unhappy Ulysses, and keeps trying
by every kind of blandishment to make him forget his home, so that he
is tired of life, and thinks of nothing but how he may once more see the
smoke of his own chimneys. You, sir, take no heed of this, and yet when
Ulysses was before Troy did he not propitiate you with many a burnt
sacrifice? Why then should you keep on being so angry with him?"
And Jove said, "My child, what are you talking about? How can I forget
Ulysses than whom there is no more capable man on earth, nor more
liberal in his offerings to the immortal gods that live in heaven? Bear
in mind, however, that Neptune is still furious with Ulysses for having
blinded an eye of Polyphemus king of the Cyclopes. Polyphemus is son to
Neptune by the nymph Thoosa, daughter to the sea-king Phorcys; therefore
though he will not kill Ulysses outright, he torments him by preventing
him from getting home. Still, let us lay our heads together and see how
we can help him to return; Neptune will then be pacified, for if we are
all of a mind he can hardly stand out against us."
And Minerva said, "Father, son of Saturn, King of kings, if, then, the
gods now mean that Ulysses should get home, we should first send Mercury
to the Ogygian island to tell Calypso that we have made up our minds and
that he is to return. In the meantime I will go to Ithaca, to put heart
into Ulysses' son Telemachus; I will embolden him to call the Achaeans
in assembly, and speak out to the suitors of his mother Penelope, who
persist in eating up any number of his sheep and oxen; I will also
conduct him to Sparta and to Pylos, to see if he can hear anything about
the return of his dear father--for this will make people speak well of
So saying she bound on her glittering golden sandals, imperishable,
with which she can fly like the wind over land or sea; she grasped the
redoubtable bronze-shod spear, so stout and sturdy and strong, wherewith
she quells the ranks of heroes who have displeased her, and down she
darted from the topmost summits of Olympus, whereon forthwith she was
in Ithaca, at the gateway of Ulysses' house, disguised as a visitor,
Mentes, chief of the Taphians, and she held a bronze spear in her hand.
There she found the lordly suitors seated on hides of the oxen which
they had killed and eaten, and playing draughts in front of the house.
Men-servants and pages were bustling about to wait upon them, some
mixing wine with water in the mixing-bowls, some cleaning down the
tables with wet sponges and laying them out again, and some cutting up
great quantities of meat.
Telemachus saw her long before any one else did. He was sitting moodily
among the suitors thinking about his brave father, and how he would send
them flying out of the house, if he were to come to his own again and
be honoured as in days gone by. Thus brooding as he sat among them, he
caught sight of Minerva and went straight to the gate, for he was vexed
that a stranger should be kept waiting for admittance. He took her right
hand in his own, and bade her give him her spear. "Welcome," said he,
"to our house, and when you have partaken of food you shall tell us what
you have come for."
He led the way as he spoke, and Minerva followed him. When they were
within he took her spear and set it in the spear-stand against a strong
bearing-post along with the many other spears of his unhappy father, and
he conducted her to a richly decorated seat under which he threw a
cloth of damask. There was a footstool also for her feet,{2} and he set
another seat near her for himself, away from the suitors, that she might
not be annoyed while eating by their noise and insolence, and that he
might ask her more freely about his father.
A maid servant then brought them water in a beautiful golden ewer and
poured it into a silver basin for them to wash their hands, and she
drew a clean table beside them. An upper servant brought them bread, and
offered them many good things of what there was in the house, the carver
fetched them plates of all manner of meats and set cups of gold by their
side, and a manservant brought them wine and poured it out for them.
Then the suitors came in and took their places on the benches and seats.
{3} Forthwith men servants poured water over their hands, maids went
round with the bread-baskets, pages filled the mixing-bowls with wine
and water, and they laid their hands upon the good things that were
before them. As soon as they had had enough to eat and drink they wanted
music and dancing, which are the crowning embellishments of a banquet,
so a servant brought a lyre to Phemius, whom they compelled perforce
to sing to them. As soon as he touched his lyre and began to sing
Telemachus spoke low to Minerva, with his head close to hers that no man
might hear.
"I hope, sir," said he, "that you will not be offended with what I am
going to say. Singing comes cheap to those who do not pay for it, and
all this is done at the cost of one whose bones lie rotting in some
wilderness or grinding to powder in the surf. If these men were to see
my father come back to Ithaca they would pray for longer legs rather
than a longer purse, for money would not serve them; but he, alas, has
fallen on an ill fate, and even when people do sometimes say that he is
coming, we no longer heed them; we shall never see him again. And now,
sir, tell me and tell me true, who you are and where you come from. Tell
me of your town and parents, what manner of ship you came in, how your
crew brought you to Ithaca, and of what nation they declared themselves
to be--for you cannot have come by land. Tell me also truly, for I want
to know, are you a stranger to this house, or have you been here in my
father's time? In the old days we had many visitors for my father went
about much himself."
And Minerva answered, "I will tell you truly and particularly all about
it. I am Mentes, son of Anchialus, and I am King of the Taphians. I have
come here with my ship and crew, on a voyage to men of a foreign tongue
being bound for Temesa {4} with a cargo of iron, and I shall bring back
copper. As for my ship, it lies over yonder off the open country away
from the town, in the harbour Rheithron {5} under the wooded mountain
Neritum. {6} Our fathers were friends before us, as old Laertes will
tell you, if you will go and ask him. They say, however, that he never
comes to town now, and lives by himself in the country, faring hardly,
with an old woman to look after him and get his dinner for him, when
he comes in tired from pottering about his vineyard. They told me your
father was at home again, and that was why I came, but it seems the gods
are still keeping him back, for he is not dead yet not on the mainland.
It is more likely he is on some sea-girt island in mid ocean, or a
prisoner among savages who are detaining him against his will. I am no
prophet, and know very little about omens, but I speak as it is borne
in upon me from heaven, and assure you that he will not be away much
longer; for he is a man of such resource that even though he were in
chains of iron he would find some means of getting home again. But tell
me, and tell me true, can Ulysses really have such a fine looking fellow
for a son? You are indeed wonderfully like him about the head and eyes,
for we were close friends before he set sail for Troy where the flower
of all the Argives went also. Since that time we have never either of us
seen the other."
"My mother," answered Telemachus, "tells me I am son to Ulysses, but it
is a wise child that knows his own father. Would that I were son to one
who had grown old upon his own estates, for, since you ask me, there
is no more ill-starred man under heaven than he who they tell me is my
And Minerva said, "There is no fear of your race dying out yet, while
Penelope has such a fine son as you are. But tell me, and tell me true,
what is the meaning of all this feasting, and who are these people? What
is it all about? Have you some banquet, or is there a wedding in the
family--for no one seems to be bringing any provisions of his own? And
the guests--how atrociously they are behaving; what riot they make over
the whole house; it is enough to disgust any respectable person who
comes near them."
"Sir," said Telemachus, "as regards your question, so long as my father
was here it was well with us and with the house, but the gods in their
displeasure have willed it otherwise, and have hidden him away more
closely than mortal man was ever yet hidden. I could have borne it
better even though he were dead, if he had fallen with his men before
Troy, or had died with friends around him when the days of his fighting
were done; for then the Achaeans would have built a mound over his
ashes, and I should myself have been heir to his renown; but now the
storm-winds have spirited him away we know not whither; he is gone
without leaving so much as a trace behind him, and I inherit nothing
but dismay. Nor does the matter end simply with grief for the loss of
my father; heaven has laid sorrows upon me of yet another kind; for the
chiefs from all our islands, Dulichium, Same, and the woodland island of
Zacynthus, as also all the principal men of Ithaca itself, are eating up
my house under the pretext of paying their court to my mother, who
will neither point blank say that she will not marry, {7} nor yet bring
matters to an end; so they are making havoc of my estate, and before
long will do so also with myself."
"Is that so?" exclaimed Minerva, "then you do indeed want Ulysses home
again. Give him his helmet, shield, and a couple of lances, and if he is
the man he was when I first knew him in our house, drinking and making
merry, he would soon lay his hands about these rascally suitors, were
he to stand once more upon his own threshold. He was then coming from
Ephyra, where he had been to beg poison for his arrows from Ilus, son of
Mermerus. Ilus feared the ever-living gods and would not give him any,
but my father let him have some, for he was very fond of him. If Ulysses
is the man he then was these suitors will have a short shrift and a
sorry wedding.
"But there! It rests with heaven to determine whether he is to return,
and take his revenge in his own house or no; I would, however, urge you
to set about trying to get rid of these suitors at once. Take my advice,
call the Achaean heroes in assembly to-morrow morning--lay your case
before them, and call heaven to bear you witness. Bid the suitors take
themselves off, each to his own place, and if your mother's mind is set
on marrying again, let her go back to her father, who will find her
a husband and provide her with all the marriage gifts that so dear a
daughter may expect. As for yourself, let me prevail upon you to take
the best ship you can get, with a crew of twenty men, and go in quest
of your father who has so long been missing. Some one may tell
you something, or (and people often hear things in this way) some
heaven-sent message may direct you. First go to Pylos and ask Nestor;
thence go on to Sparta and visit Menelaus, for he got home last of all
the Achaeans; if you hear that your father is alive and on his way home,
you can put up with the waste these suitors will make for yet another
twelve months. If on the other hand you hear of his death, come home at
once, celebrate his funeral rites with all due pomp, build a barrow
to his memory, and make your mother marry again. Then, having done all
this, think it well over in your mind how, by fair means or foul, you
may kill these suitors in your own house. You are too old to plead
infancy any longer; have you not heard how people are singing Orestes'
praises for having killed his father's murderer Aegisthus? You are a
fine, smart looking fellow; show your mettle, then, and make yourself a
name in story. Now, however, I must go back to my ship and to my crew,
who will be impatient if I keep them waiting longer; think the matter
over for yourself, and remember what I have said to you."
"Sir," answered Telemachus, "it has been very kind of you to talk to me
in this way, as though I were your own son, and I will do all you tell
me; I know you want to be getting on with your voyage, but stay a little
longer till you have taken a bath and refreshed yourself. I will then
give you a present, and you shall go on your way rejoicing; I will give
you one of great beauty and value--a keepsake such as only dear friends
give to one another."
Minerva answered, "Do not try to keep me, for I would be on my way at
once. As for any present you may be disposed to make me, keep it till
I come again, and I will take it home with me. You shall give me a very
good one, and I will give you one of no less value in return."
With these words she flew away like a bird into the air, but she had
given Telemachus courage, and had made him think more than ever about
his father. He felt the change, wondered at it, and knew that the
stranger had been a god, so he went straight to where the suitors were
Phemius was still singing, and his hearers sat rapt in silence as he
told the sad tale of the return from Troy, and the ills Minerva had laid
upon the Achaeans. Penelope, daughter of Icarius, heard his song from
her room upstairs, and came down by the great staircase, not alone, but
attended by two of her handmaids. When she reached the suitors she stood
by one of the bearing posts that supported the roof of the cloisters {8}
with a staid maiden on either side of her. She held a veil, moreover,
before her face, and was weeping bitterly.
"Phemius," she cried, "you know many another feat of gods and heroes,
such as poets love to celebrate. Sing the suitors some one of these, and
let them drink their wine in silence, but cease this sad tale, for it
breaks my sorrowful heart, and reminds me of my lost husband whom I
mourn ever without ceasing, and whose name was great over all Hellas and
middle Argos." {9}
"Mother," answered Telemachus, "let the bard sing what he has a mind to;
bards do not make the ills they sing of; it is Jove, not they, who makes
them, and who sends weal or woe upon mankind according to his own good
pleasure. This fellow means no harm by singing the ill-fated return of
the Danaans, for people always applaud the latest songs most warmly.
Make up your mind to it and bear it; Ulysses is not the only man who
never came back from Troy, but many another went down as well as he. Go,
then, within the house and busy yourself with your daily duties, your
loom, your distaff, and the ordering of your servants; for speech is
man's matter, and mine above all others {10}--for it is I who am master
She went wondering back into the house, and laid her son's saying in
her heart. Then, going upstairs with her handmaids into her room, she
mourned her dear husband till Minerva shed sweet sleep over her eyes.
But the suitors were clamorous throughout the covered cloisters {11},
and prayed each one that he might be her bed fellow.
Then Telemachus spoke, "Shameless," he cried, "and insolent suitors, let
us feast at our pleasure now, and let there be no brawling, for it is a
rare thing to hear a man with such a divine voice as Phemius has; but in
the morning meet me in full assembly that I may give you formal notice
to depart, and feast at one another's houses, turn and turn about, at
your own cost. If on the other hand you choose to persist in spunging
upon one man, heaven help me, but Jove shall reckon with you in full,
and when you fall in my father's house there shall be no man to avenge
The suitors bit their lips as they heard him, and marvelled at the
boldness of his speech. Then, Antinous, son of Eupeithes, said, "The
gods seem to have given you lessons in bluster and tall talking; may
Jove never grant you to be chief in Ithaca as your father was before
Telemachus answered, "Antinous, do not chide with me, but, god willing,
I will be chief too if I can. Is this the worst fate you can think of
for me? It is no bad thing to be a chief, for it brings both riches
and honour. Still, now that Ulysses is dead there are many great men in
Ithaca both old and young, and some other may take the lead among them;
nevertheless I will be chief in my own house, and will rule those whom
Ulysses has won for me."
Then Eurymachus, son of Polybus, answered, "It rests with heaven to
decide who shall be chief among us, but you shall be master in your
own house and over your own possessions; no one while there is a man
in Ithaca shall do you violence nor rob you. And now, my good fellow,
I want to know about this stranger. What country does he come from?
Of what family is he, and where is his estate? Has he brought you news
about the return of your father, or was he on business of his own? He
seemed a well to do man, but he hurried off so suddenly that he was gone
in a moment before we could get to know him."
"My father is dead and gone," answered Telemachus, "and even if some
rumour reaches me I put no more faith in it now. My mother does indeed
sometimes send for a soothsayer and question him, but I give his
prophecyings no heed. As for the stranger, he was Mentes, son of
Anchialus, chief of the Taphians, an old friend of my father's." But in
his heart he knew that it had been the goddess.
The suitors then returned to their singing and dancing until the
evening; but when night fell upon their pleasuring they went home to
bed each in his own abode. {12} Telemachus's room was high up in a tower
{13} that looked on to the outer court; hither, then, he hied, brooding
and full of thought. A good old woman, Euryclea, daughter of Ops,
the son of Pisenor, went before him with a couple of blazing torches.
Laertes had bought her with his own money when she was quite young; he
gave the worth of twenty oxen for her, and shewed as much respect to her
in his household as he did to his own wedded wife, but he did not take
her to his bed for he feared his wife's resentment. {14} She it was who
now lighted Telemachus to his room, and she loved him better than any of
the other women in the house did, for she had nursed him when he was a
baby. He opened the door of his bed room and sat down upon the bed; as
he took off his shirt {15} he gave it to the good old woman, who folded
it tidily up, and hung it for him over a peg by his bed side, after
which she went out, pulled the door to by a silver catch, and drew the
bolt home by means of the strap. {16} But Telemachus as he lay covered
with a woollen fleece kept thinking all night through of his intended
voyage and of the counsel that Minerva had given him.
Book II
Now when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared Telemachus
rose and dressed himself. He bound his sandals on to his comely feet,
girded his sword about his shoulder, and left his room looking like an
immortal god. He at once sent the criers round to call the people in
assembly, so they called them and the people gathered thereon; then,
when they were got together, he went to the place of assembly spear in
hand--not alone, for his two hounds went with him. Minerva endowed him
with a presence of such divine comeliness that all marvelled at him as
he went by, and when he took his place in his father's seat even the
oldest councillors made way for him.
Aegyptius, a man bent double with age, and of infinite experience, was
the first to speak. His son Antiphus had gone with Ulysses to Ilius,
land of noble steeds, but the savage Cyclops had killed him when they
were all shut up in the cave, and had cooked his last dinner for him.
{17} He had three sons left, of whom two still worked on their father's
land, while the third, Eurynomus, was one of the suitors; nevertheless
their father could not get over the loss of Antiphus, and was still
weeping for him when he began his speech.
"Men of Ithaca," he said, "hear my words. From the day Ulysses left us
there has been no meeting of our councillors until now; who then can it
be, whether old or young, that finds it so necessary to convene us? Has
he got wind of some host approaching, and does he wish to warn us, or
would he speak upon some other matter of public moment? I am sure he is
an excellent person, and I hope Jove will grant him his heart's desire."
Telemachus took this speech as of good omen and rose at once, for he was
bursting with what he had to say. He stood in the middle of the assembly
and the good herald Pisenor brought him his staff. Then, turning to
Aegyptius, "Sir," said he, "it is I, as you will shortly learn, who have
convened you, for it is I who am the most aggrieved. I have not got wind
of any host approaching about which I would warn you, nor is there any
matter of public moment on which I would speak. My grievance is purely
personal, and turns on two great misfortunes which have fallen upon my
house. The first of these is the loss of my excellent father, who was
chief among all you here present, and was like a father to every one
of you; the second is much more serious, and ere long will be the utter
ruin of my estate. The sons of all the chief men among you are pestering
my mother to marry them against her will. They are afraid to go to
her father Icarius, asking him to choose the one he likes best, and
to provide marriage gifts for his daughter, but day by day they keep
hanging about my father's house, sacrificing our oxen, sheep, and fat
goats for their banquets, and never giving so much as a thought to the
quantity of wine they drink. No estate can stand such recklessness; we
have now no Ulysses to ward off harm from our doors, and I cannot hold
my own against them. I shall never all my days be as good a man as he
was, still I would indeed defend myself if I had power to do so, for I
cannot stand such treatment any longer; my house is being disgraced and
ruined. Have respect, therefore, to your own consciences and to public
opinion. Fear, too, the wrath of heaven, lest the gods should be
displeased and turn upon you. I pray you by Jove and Themis, who is the
beginning and the end of councils, [do not] hold back, my friends, and
leave me singlehanded {18}--unless it be that my brave father Ulysses
did some wrong to the Achaeans which you would now avenge on me, by
aiding and abetting these suitors. Moreover, if I am to be eaten out of
house and home at all, I had rather you did the eating yourselves, for
I could then take action against you to some purpose, and serve you with
notices from house to house till I got paid in full, whereas now I have
no remedy." {19}
With this Telemachus dashed his staff to the ground and burst into
tears. Every one was very sorry for him, but they all sat still and no
one ventured to make him an angry answer, save only Antinous, who spoke
"Telemachus, insolent braggart that you are, how dare you try to throw
the blame upon us suitors? It is your mother's fault not ours, for she
is a very artful woman. This three years past, and close on four, she
had been driving us out of our minds, by encouraging each one of us, and
sending him messages without meaning one word of what she says. And then
there was that other trick she played us. She set up a great tambour
frame in her room, and began to work on an enormous piece of fine
needlework. 'Sweet hearts,' said she, 'Ulysses is indeed dead, still
do not press me to marry again immediately, wait--for I would not have
skill in needlework perish unrecorded--till I have completed a pall for
the hero Laertes, to be in readiness against the time when death shall
take him. He is very rich, and the women of the place will talk if he is
laid out without a pall.'
"This was what she said, and we assented; whereon we could see her
working on her great web all day long, but at night she would unpick the
stitches again by torchlight. She fooled us in this way for three years
and we never found her out, but as time wore on and she was now in her
fourth year, one of her maids who knew what she was doing told us, and
we caught her in the act of undoing her work, so she had to finish it
whether she would or no. The suitors, therefore, make you this answer,
that both you and the Achaeans may understand-'Send your mother away,
and bid her marry the man of her own and of her father's choice'; for I
do not know what will happen if she goes on plaguing us much longer with
the airs she gives herself on the score of the accomplishments Minerva
has taught her, and because she is so clever. We never yet heard of such
a woman; we know all about Tyro, Alcmena, Mycene, and the famous women
of old, but they were nothing to your mother any one of them. It was not
fair of her to treat us in that way, and as long as she continues in
the mind with which heaven has now endowed her, so long shall we go on
eating up your estate; and I do not see why she should change, for she
gets all the honour and glory, and it is you who pay for it, not she.
Understand, then, that we will not go back to our lands, neither here
nor elsewhere, till she has made her choice and married some one or
other of us."
Telemachus answered, "Antinous, how can I drive the mother who bore me
from my father's house? My father is abroad and we do not know whether
he is alive or dead. It will be hard on me if I have to pay Icarius the
large sum which I must give him if I insist on sending his daughter back
to him. Not only will he deal rigorously with me, but heaven will also
punish me; for my mother when she leaves the house will call on the
Erinyes to avenge her; besides, it would not be a creditable thing to
do, and I will have nothing to say to it. If you choose to take offence
at this, leave the house and feast elsewhere at one another's houses at
your own cost turn and turn about. If, on the other hand, you elect to
persist in spunging upon one man, heaven help me, but Jove shall reckon
with you in full, and when you fall in my father's house there shall be
no man to avenge you."
As he spoke Jove sent two eagles from the top of the mountain, and they
flew on and on with the wind, sailing side by side in their own lordly
flight. When they were right over the middle of the assembly they
wheeled and circled about, beating the air with their wings and glaring
death into the eyes of them that were below; then, fighting fiercely and
tearing at one another, they flew off towards the right over the town.
The people wondered as they saw them, and asked each other what all this
might be; whereon Halitherses, who was the best prophet and reader of
omens among them, spoke to them plainly and in all honesty, saying:
"Hear me, men of Ithaca, and I speak more particularly to the suitors,
for I see mischief brewing for them. Ulysses is not going to be
away much longer; indeed he is close at hand to deal out death and
destruction, not on them alone, but on many another of us who live in
Ithaca. Let us then be wise in time, and put a stop to this wickedness
before he comes. Let the suitors do so of their own accord; it will
be better for them, for I am not prophesying without due knowledge;
everything has happened to Ulysses as I foretold when the Argives set
out for Troy, and he with them. I said that after going through much
hardship and losing all his men he should come home again in the
twentieth year and that no one would know him; and now all this is
coming true."
Eurymachus son of Polybus then said, "Go home, old man, and prophesy to
your own children, or it may be worse for them. I can read these omens
myself much better than you can; birds are always flying about in the
sunshine somewhere or other, but they seldom mean anything. Ulysses has
died in a far country, and it is a pity you are not dead along with
him, instead of prating here about omens and adding fuel to the anger of
Telemachus which is fierce enough as it is. I suppose you think he will
give you something for your family, but I tell you--and it shall surely
be--when an old man like you, who should know better, talks a young one
over till he becomes troublesome, in the first place his young friend
will only fare so much the worse--he will take nothing by it, for the
suitors will prevent this--and in the next, we will lay a heavier fine,
sir, upon yourself than you will at all like paying, for it will bear
hardly upon you. As for Telemachus, I warn him in the presence of you
all to send his mother back to her father, who will find her a husband
and provide her with all the marriage gifts so dear a daughter may
expect. Till then we shall go on harassing him with our suit; for we
fear no man, and care neither for him, with all his fine speeches, nor
for any fortune-telling of yours. You may preach as much as you please,
but we shall only hate you the more. We shall go back and continue to
eat up Telemachus's estate without paying him, till such time as his
mother leaves off tormenting us by keeping us day after day on the
tiptoe of expectation, each vying with the other in his suit for a prize
of such rare perfection. Besides we cannot go after the other women whom
we should marry in due course, but for the way in which she treats us."
Then Telemachus said, "Eurymachus, and you other suitors, I shall say no
more, and entreat you no further, for the gods and the people of Ithaca
now know my story. Give me, then, a ship and a crew of twenty men to
take me hither and thither, and I will go to Sparta and to Pylos in
quest of my father who has so long been missing. Some one may tell
me something, or (and people often hear things in this way) some
heaven-sent message may direct me. If I can hear of him as alive and on
his way home I will put up with the waste you suitors will make for yet
another twelve months. If on the other hand I hear of his death, I will
return at once, celebrate his funeral rites with all due pomp, build a
barrow to his memory, and make my mother marry again."
With these words he sat down, and Mentor {20} who had been a friend of
Ulysses, and had been left in charge of everything with full authority
over the servants, rose to speak. He, then, plainly and in all honesty
addressed them thus:
"Hear me, men of Ithaca, I hope that you may never have a kind and
well-disposed ruler any more, nor one who will govern you equitably;
I hope that all your chiefs henceforward may be cruel and unjust, for
there is not one of you but has forgotten Ulysses, who ruled you as
though he were your father. I am not half so angry with the suitors, for
if they choose to do violence in the naughtiness of their hearts, and
wager their heads that Ulysses will not return, they can take the high
hand and eat up his estate, but as for you others I am shocked at
the way in which you all sit still without even trying to stop such
scandalous goings on--which you could do if you chose, for you are many
and they are few."
Leiocritus, son of Evenor, answered him saying, "Mentor, what folly is
all this, that you should set the people to stay us? It is a hard thing
for one man to fight with many about his victuals. Even though Ulysses
himself were to set upon us while we are feasting in his house, and do
his best to oust us, his wife, who wants him back so very badly, would
have small cause for rejoicing, and his blood would be upon his own head
if he fought against such great odds. There is no sense in what you have
been saying. Now, therefore, do you people go about your business, and
let his father's old friends, Mentor and Halitherses, speed this boy on
his journey, if he goes at all--which I do not think he will, for he
is more likely to stay where he is till some one comes and tells him
On this he broke up the assembly, and every man went back to his own
abode, while the suitors returned to the house of Ulysses.
Then Telemachus went all alone by the sea side, washed his hands in the
grey waves, and prayed to Minerva.
"Hear me," he cried, "you god who visited me yesterday, and bade me sail
the seas in search of my father who has so long been missing. I would
obey you, but the Achaeans, and more particularly the wicked suitors,
are hindering me that I cannot do so."
As he thus prayed, Minerva came close up to him in the likeness and with
the voice of Mentor. "Telemachus," said she, "if you are made of
the same stuff as your father you will be neither fool nor coward
henceforward, for Ulysses never broke his word nor left his work half
done. If, then, you take after him, your voyage will not be fruitless,
but unless you have the blood of Ulysses and of Penelope in your veins
I see no likelihood of your succeeding. Sons are seldom as good men as
their fathers; they are generally worse, not better; still, as you are
not going to be either fool or coward henceforward, and are not entirely
without some share of your father's wise discernment, I look with hope
upon your undertaking. But mind you never make common cause with any of
those foolish suitors, for they have neither sense nor virtue, and give
no thought to death and to the doom that will shortly fall on one and
all of them, so that they shall perish on the same day. As for your
voyage, it shall not be long delayed; your father was such an old friend
of mine that I will find you a ship, and will come with you myself.
Now, however, return home, and go about among the suitors; begin getting
provisions ready for your voyage; see everything well stowed, the wine
in jars, and the barley meal, which is the staff of life, in leathern
bags, while I go round the town and beat up volunteers at once. There
are many ships in Ithaca both old and new; I will run my eye over them
for you and will choose the best; we will get her ready and will put out
to sea without delay."
Thus spoke Minerva daughter of Jove, and Telemachus lost no time in
doing as the goddess told him. He went moodily home, and found the
suitors flaying goats and singeing pigs in the outer court. Antinous
came up to him at once and laughed as he took his hand in his own,
saying, "Telemachus, my fine fire-eater, bear no more ill blood neither
in word nor deed, but eat and drink with us as you used to do. The
Achaeans will find you in everything--a ship and a picked crew to
boot--so that you can set sail for Pylos at once and get news of your
noble father."
"Antinous," answered Telemachus, "I cannot eat in peace, nor take
pleasure of any kind with such men as you are. Was it not enough that
you should waste so much good property of mine while I was yet a boy?
Now that I am older and know more about it, I am also stronger, and
whether here among this people, or by going to Pylos, I will do you all
the harm I can. I shall go, and my going will not be in vain--though,
thanks to you suitors, I have neither ship nor crew of my own, and must
be passenger not captain."
As he spoke he snatched his hand from that of Antinous. Meanwhile the
others went on getting dinner ready about the buildings, {21} jeering at
him tauntingly as they did so.
"Telemachus," said one youngster, "means to be the death of us; I
suppose he thinks he can bring friends to help him from Pylos, or again
from Sparta, where he seems bent on going. Or will he go to Ephyra as
well, for poison to put in our wine and kill us?"
Another said, "Perhaps if Telemachus goes on board ship, he will be like
his father and perish far from his friends. In this case we should have
plenty to do, for we could then divide up his property amongst us: as
for the house we can let his mother and the man who marries her have
This was how they talked. But Telemachus went down into the lofty and
spacious store-room where his father's treasure of gold and bronze lay
heaped up upon the floor, and where the linen and spare clothes were
kept in open chests. Here, too, there was a store of fragrant olive oil,
while casks of old, well-ripened wine, unblended and fit for a god to
drink, were ranged against the wall in case Ulysses should come home
again after all. The room was closed with well-made doors opening in the
middle; moreover the faithful old house-keeper Euryclea, daughter of
Ops the son of Pisenor, was in charge of everything both night and day.
Telemachus called her to the store-room and said:
"Nurse, draw me off some of the best wine you have, after what you
are keeping for my father's own drinking, in case, poor man, he should
escape death, and find his way home again after all. Let me have twelve
jars, and see that they all have lids; also fill me some well-sewn
leathern bags with barley meal--about twenty measures in all. Get these
things put together at once, and say nothing about it. I will take
everything away this evening as soon as my mother has gone upstairs
for the night. I am going to Sparta and to Pylos to see if I can hear
anything about the return of my dear father."
When Euryclea heard this she began to cry, and spoke fondly to him,
saying, "My dear child, what ever can have put such notion as that into
your head? Where in the world do you want to go to--you, who are the
one hope of the house? Your poor father is dead and gone in some foreign
country nobody knows where, and as soon as your back is turned these
wicked ones here will be scheming to get you put out of the way, and
will share all your possessions among themselves; stay where you are
among your own people, and do not go wandering and worrying your life
out on the barren ocean."
"Fear not, nurse," answered Telemachus, "my scheme is not without
heaven's sanction; but swear that you will say nothing about all this
to my mother, till I have been away some ten or twelve days, unless she
hears of my having gone, and asks you; for I do not want her to spoil
her beauty by crying."
The old woman swore most solemnly that she would not, and when she
had completed her oath, she began drawing off the wine into jars, and
getting the barley meal into the bags, while Telemachus went back to the
Then Minerva bethought her of another matter. She took his shape, and
went round the town to each one of the crew, telling them to meet at the
ship by sundown. She went also to Noemon son of Phronius, and asked him
to let her have a ship--which he was very ready to do. When the sun had
set and darkness was over all the land, she got the ship into the
water, put all the tackle on board her that ships generally carry, and
stationed her at the end of the harbour. Presently the crew came up, and
the goddess spoke encouragingly to each of them.
Furthermore she went to the house of Ulysses, and threw the suitors into
a deep slumber. She caused their drink to fuddle them, and made them
drop their cups from their hands, so that instead of sitting over their
wine, they went back into the town to sleep, with their eyes heavy and
full of drowsiness. Then she took the form and voice of Mentor, and
called Telemachus to come outside.
"Telemachus," said she, "the men are on board and at their oars, waiting
for you to give your orders, so make haste and let us be off."
On this she led the way, while Telemachus followed in her steps. When
they got to the ship they found the crew waiting by the water side, and
Telemachus said, "Now my men, help me to get the stores on board;
they are all put together in the cloister, and my mother does not know
anything about it, nor any of the maid servants except one."
With these words he led the way and the others followed after. When
they had brought the things as he told them, Telemachus went on board,
Minerva going before him and taking her seat in the stern of the vessel,
while Telemachus sat beside her. Then the men loosed the hawsers and
took their places on the benches. Minerva sent them a fair wind from
the West, {22} that whistled over the deep blue waves {23} whereon
Telemachus told them to catch hold of the ropes and hoist sail, and they
did as he told them. They set the mast in its socket in the cross plank,
raised it, and made it fast with the forestays; then they hoisted their
white sails aloft with ropes of twisted ox hide. As the sail bellied out
with the wind, the ship flew through the deep blue water, and the foam
hissed against her bows as she sped onward. Then they made all fast
throughout the ship, filled the mixing bowls to the brim, and made
drink offerings to the immortal gods that are from everlasting, but more
particularly to the grey-eyed daughter of Jove.
Thus, then, the ship sped on her way through the watches of the night
from dark till dawn,
Book III
but as the sun was rising from the fair sea {24} into the firmament of
heaven to shed light on mortals and immortals, they reached Pylos the
city of Neleus. Now the people of Pylos were gathered on the sea shore
to offer sacrifice of black bulls to Neptune lord of the Earthquake.
There were nine guilds with five hundred men in each, and there were
nine bulls to each guild. As they were eating the inward meats {25}
and burning the thigh bones [on the embers] in the name of Neptune,
Telemachus and his crew arrived, furled their sails, brought their ship
to anchor, and went ashore.
Minerva led the way and Telemachus followed her. Presently she said,
"Telemachus, you must not be in the least shy or nervous; you have taken
this voyage to try and find out where your father is buried and how he
came by his end; so go straight up to Nestor that we may see what he has
got to tell us. Beg of him to speak the truth, and he will tell no lies,
for he is an excellent person."
"But how, Mentor," replied Telemachus, "dare I go up to Nestor, and
how am I to address him? I have never yet been used to holding long
conversations with people, and am ashamed to begin questioning one who
is so much older than myself."
"Some things, Telemachus," answered Minerva, "will be suggested to
you by your own instinct, and heaven will prompt you further; for I am
assured that the gods have been with you from the time of your birth
until now."
She then went quickly on, and Telemachus followed in her steps till they
reached the place where the guilds of the Pylian people were assembled.
There they found Nestor sitting with his sons, while his company round
him were busy getting dinner ready, and putting pieces of meat on to the
spits {26} while other pieces were cooking. When they saw the strangers
they crowded round them, took them by the hand and bade them take their
places. Nestor's son Pisistratus at once offered his hand to each of
them, and seated them on some soft sheepskins that were lying on the
sands near his father and his brother Thrasymedes. Then he gave them
their portions of the inward meats and poured wine for them into a
golden cup, handing it to Minerva first, and saluting her at the same
"Offer a prayer, sir," said he, "to King Neptune, for it is his feast
that you are joining; when you have duly prayed and made your drink
offering, pass the cup to your friend that he may do so also. I doubt
not that he too lifts his hands in prayer, for man cannot live without
God in the world. Still he is younger than you are, and is much of an
age with myself, so I will give you the precedence."
As he spoke he handed her the cup. Minerva thought it very right and
proper of him to have given it to herself first; {27} she accordingly
began praying heartily to Neptune. "O thou," she cried, "that encirclest
the earth, vouchsafe to grant the prayers of thy servants that call upon
thee. More especially we pray thee send down thy grace on Nestor and
on his sons; thereafter also make the rest of the Pylian people some
handsome return for the goodly hecatomb they are offering you. Lastly,
grant Telemachus and myself a happy issue, in respect of the matter that
has brought us in our ship to Pylos."
When she had thus made an end of praying, she handed the cup to
Telemachus and he prayed likewise. By and by, when the outer meats were
roasted and had been taken off the spits, the carvers gave every man his
portion and they all made an excellent dinner. As soon as they had had
enough to eat and drink, Nestor, knight of Gerene, began to speak.
"Now," said he, "that our guests have done their dinner, it will be best
to ask them who they are. Who, then, sir strangers, are you, and from
what port have you sailed? Are you traders? or do you sail the seas as
rovers with your hand against every man, and every man's hand against
Telemachus answered boldly, for Minerva had given him courage to ask
about his father and get himself a good name.
"Nestor," said he, "son of Neleus, honour to the Achaean name, you ask
whence we come, and I will tell you. We come from Ithaca under Neritum,
{28} and the matter about which I would speak is of private not public
import. I seek news of my unhappy father Ulysses, who is said to have
sacked the town of Troy in company with yourself. We know what fate
befell each one of the other heroes who fought at Troy, but as regards
Ulysses heaven has hidden from us the knowledge even that he is dead
at all, for no one can certify us in what place he perished, nor say
whether he fell in battle on the mainland, or was lost at sea amid the
waves of Amphitrite. Therefore I am suppliant at your knees, if haply
you may be pleased to tell me of his melancholy end, whether you saw it
with your own eyes, or heard it from some other traveller, for he was
a man born to trouble. Do not soften things out of any pity for me,
but tell me in all plainness exactly what you saw. If my brave father
Ulysses ever did you loyal service, either by word or deed, when you
Achaeans were harassed among the Trojans, bear it in mind now as in my
favour and tell me truly all."
"My friend," answered Nestor, "you recall a time of much sorrow to
my mind, for the brave Achaeans suffered much both at sea, while
privateering under Achilles, and when fighting before the great city
of king Priam. Our best men all of them fell there--Ajax, Achilles,
Patroclus peer of gods in counsel, and my own dear son Antilochus, a man
singularly fleet of foot and in fight valiant. But we suffered much more
than this; what mortal tongue indeed could tell the whole story? Though
you were to stay here and question me for five years, or even six, I
could not tell you all that the Achaeans suffered, and you would turn
homeward weary of my tale before it ended. Nine long years did we try
every kind of stratagem, but the hand of heaven was against us; during
all this time there was no one who could compare with your father in
subtlety--if indeed you are his son--I can hardly believe my eyes--and
you talk just like him too--no one would say that people of such
different ages could speak so much alike. He and I never had any kind
of difference from first to last neither in camp nor council, but in
singleness of heart and purpose we advised the Argives how all might be
ordered for the best.
"When, however, we had sacked the city of Priam, and were setting sail
in our ships as heaven had dispersed us, then Jove saw fit to vex the
Argives on their homeward voyage; for they had not all been either
wise or understanding, and hence many came to a bad end through the
displeasure of Jove's daughter Minerva, who brought about a quarrel
between the two sons of Atreus.
"The sons of Atreus called a meeting which was not as it should be, for
it was sunset and the Achaeans were heavy with wine. When they explained
why they had called the people together, it seemed that Menelaus was
for sailing homeward at once, and this displeased Agamemnon, who thought
that we should wait till we had offered hecatombs to appease the anger
of Minerva. Fool that he was, he might have known that he would not
prevail with her, for when the gods have made up their minds they do not
change them lightly. So the two stood bandying hard words, whereon the
Achaeans sprang to their feet with a cry that rent the air, and were of
two minds as to what they should do.
"That night we rested and nursed our anger, for Jove was hatching
mischief against us. But in the morning some of us drew our ships into
the water and put our goods with our women on board, while the rest,
about half in number, stayed behind with Agamemnon. We--the other
half--embarked and sailed; and the ships went well, for heaven had
smoothed the sea. When we reached Tenedos we offered sacrifices to the
gods, for we were longing to get home; cruel Jove, however, did not yet
mean that we should do so, and raised a second quarrel in the course of
which some among us turned their ships back again, and sailed away under
Ulysses to make their peace with Agamemnon; but I, and all the ships
that were with me pressed forward, for I saw that mischief was brewing.
The son of Tydeus went on also with me, and his crews with him. Later on
Menelaus joined us at Lesbos, and found us making up our minds about our
course--for we did not know whether to go outside Chios by the island
of Psyra, keeping this to our left, or inside Chios, over against the
stormy headland of Mimas. So we asked heaven for a sign, and were shown
one to the effect that we should be soonest out of danger if we headed
our ships across the open sea to Euboea. This we therefore did, and a
fair wind sprang up which gave us a quick passage during the night to
Geraestus, {29} where we offered many sacrifices to Neptune for
having helped us so far on our way. Four days later Diomed and his men
stationed their ships in Argos, but I held on for Pylos, and the wind
never fell light from the day when heaven first made it fair for me.
"Therefore, my dear young friend, I returned without hearing anything
about the others. I know neither who got home safely nor who were lost
but, as in duty bound, I will give you without reserve the reports that
have reached me since I have been here in my own house. They say the
Myrmidons returned home safely under Achilles' son Neoptolemus; so also
did the valiant son of Poias, Philoctetes. Idomeneus, again, lost no men
at sea, and all his followers who escaped death in the field got safe
home with him to Crete. No matter how far out of the world you live, you
will have heard of Agamemnon and the bad end he came to at the hands of
Aegisthus--and a fearful reckoning did Aegisthus presently pay. See what
a good thing it is for a man to leave a son behind him to do as Orestes
did, who killed false Aegisthus the murderer of his noble father. You
too, then--for you are a tall smart-looking fellow--show your mettle and
make yourself a name in story."
"Nestor son of Neleus," answered Telemachus, "honour to the Achaean
name, the Achaeans applaud Orestes and his name will live through all
time for he has avenged his father nobly. Would that heaven might grant
me to do like vengeance on the insolence of the wicked suitors, who
are ill treating me and plotting my ruin; but the gods have no such
happiness in store for me and for my father, so we must bear it as best
we may."
"My friend," said Nestor, "now that you remind me, I remember to have
heard that your mother has many suitors, who are ill disposed towards
you and are making havoc of your estate. Do you submit to this tamely,
or are public feeling and the voice of heaven against you? Who knows but
what Ulysses may come back after all, and pay these scoundrels in full,
either single-handed or with a force of Achaeans behind him? If Minerva
were to take as great a liking to you as she did to Ulysses when we were
fighting before Troy (for I never yet saw the gods so openly fond of any
one as Minerva then was of your father), if she would take as good care
of you as she did of him, these wooers would soon some of them forget
their wooing."
Telemachus answered, "I can expect nothing of the kind; it would be far
too much to hope for. I dare not let myself think of it. Even though the
gods themselves willed it no such good fortune could befall me."
On this Minerva said, "Telemachus, what are you talking about? Heaven
has a long arm if it is minded to save a man; and if it were me, I
should not care how much I suffered before getting home, provided I
could be safe when I was once there. I would rather this, than get home
quickly, and then be killed in my own house as Agamemnon was by the
treachery of Aegisthus and his wife. Still, death is certain, and when
a man's hour is come, not even the gods can save him, no matter how fond
they are of him."
"Mentor," answered Telemachus, "do not let us talk about it any more.
There is no chance of my father's ever coming back; the gods have long
since counselled his destruction. There is something else, however,
about which I should like to ask Nestor, for he knows much more than any
one else does. They say he has reigned for three generations so that it
is like talking to an immortal. Tell me, therefore, Nestor, and tell
me true; how did Agamemnon come to die in that way? What was Menelaus
doing? And how came false Aegisthus to kill so far better a man than
himself? Was Menelaus away from Achaean Argos, voyaging elsewhither
among mankind, that Aegisthus took heart and killed Agamemnon?"
"I will tell you truly," answered Nestor, "and indeed you have yourself
divined how it all happened. If Menelaus when he got back from Troy
had found Aegisthus still alive in his house, there would have been no
barrow heaped up for him, not even when he was dead, but he would have
been thrown outside the city to dogs and vultures, and not a woman would
have mourned him, for he had done a deed of great wickedness; but we
were over there, fighting hard at Troy, and Aegisthus, who was taking
his ease quietly in the heart of Argos, cajoled Agamemnon's wife
Clytemnestra with incessant flattery.
"At first she would have nothing to do with his wicked scheme, for she
was of a good natural disposition; {30} moreover there was a bard with
her, to whom Agamemnon had given strict orders on setting out for Troy,
that he was to keep guard over his wife; but when heaven had counselled
her destruction, Aegisthus carried this bard off to a desert island and
left him there for crows and seagulls to batten upon--after which she
went willingly enough to the house of Aegisthus. Then he offered many
burnt sacrifices to the gods, and decorated many temples with tapestries
and gilding, for he had succeeded far beyond his expectations.
"Meanwhile Menelaus and I were on our way home from Troy, on good terms
with one another. When we got to Sunium, which is the point of Athens,
Apollo with his painless shafts killed Phrontis the steersman of
Menelaus' ship (and never man knew better how to handle a vessel in
rough weather) so that he died then and there with the helm in his hand,
and Menelaus, though very anxious to press forward, had to wait in order
to bury his comrade and give him his due funeral rites. Presently, when
he too could put to sea again, and had sailed on as far as the Malean
heads, Jove counselled evil against him and made it blow hard till the
waves ran mountains high. Here he divided his fleet and took the one
half towards Crete where the Cydonians dwell round about the waters of
the river Iardanus. There is a high headland hereabouts stretching out
into the sea from a place called Gortyn, and all along this part of the
coast as far as Phaestus the sea runs high when there is a south wind
blowing, but after Phaestus the coast is more protected, for a small
headland can make a great shelter. Here this part of the fleet was
driven on to the rocks and wrecked; but the crews just managed to save
themselves. As for the other five ships, they were taken by winds and
seas to Egypt, where Menelaus gathered much gold and substance among
people of an alien speech. Meanwhile Aegisthus here at home plotted his
evil deed. For seven years after he had killed Agamemnon he ruled in
Mycene, and the people were obedient under him, but in the eighth year
Orestes came back from Athens to be his bane, and killed the murderer
of his father. Then he celebrated the funeral rites of his mother and
of false Aegisthus by a banquet to the people of Argos, and on that very
day Menelaus came home, {31} with as much treasure as his ships could
"Take my advice then, and do not go travelling about for long so far
from home, nor leave your property with such dangerous people in your
house; they will eat up everything you have among them, and you will
have been on a fool's errand. Still, I should advise you by all means
to go and visit Menelaus, who has lately come off a voyage among such
distant peoples as no man could ever hope to get back from, when the
winds had once carried him so far out of his reckoning; even birds
cannot fly the distance in a twelve-month, so vast and terrible are the
seas that they must cross. Go to him, therefore, by sea, and take your
own men with you; or if you would rather travel by land you can have a
chariot, you can have horses, and here are my sons who can escort you to
Lacedaemon where Menelaus lives. Beg of him to speak the truth, and he
will tell you no lies, for he is an excellent person."
As he spoke the sun set and it came on dark, whereon Minerva said, "Sir,
all that you have said is well; now, however, order the tongues of the
victims to be cut, and mix wine that we may make drink-offerings to
Neptune, and the other immortals, and then go to bed, for it is bed
time. People should go away early and not keep late hours at a religious
Thus spoke the daughter of Jove, and they obeyed her saying. Men
servants poured water over the hands of the guests, while pages filled
the mixing-bowls with wine and water, and handed it round after giving
every man his drink offering; then they threw the tongues of the victims
into the fire, and stood up to make their drink offerings. When they
had made their offerings and had drunk each as much as he was minded,
Minerva and Telemachus were for going on board their ship, but Nestor
caught them up at once and stayed them.
"Heaven and the immortal gods," he exclaimed, "forbid that you should
leave my house to go on board of a ship. Do you think I am so poor and
short of clothes, or that I have so few cloaks and as to be unable to
find comfortable beds both for myself and for my guests? Let me tell you
I have store both of rugs and cloaks, and shall not permit the son of
my old friend Ulysses to camp down on the deck of a ship--not while I
live--nor yet will my sons after me, but they will keep open house as I
have done."
Then Minerva answered, "Sir, you have spoken well, and it will be much
better that Telemachus should do as you have said; he, therefore, shall
return with you and sleep at your house, but I must go back to give
orders to my crew, and keep them in good heart. I am the only older
person among them; the rest are all young men of Telemachus' own age,
who have taken this voyage out of friendship; so I must return to the
ship and sleep there. Moreover to-morrow I must go to the Cauconians
where I have a large sum of money long owing to me. As for Telemachus,
now that he is your guest, send him to Lacedaemon in a chariot, and let
one of your sons go with him. Be pleased to also provide him with your
best and fleetest horses."
When she had thus spoken, she flew away in the form of an eagle, and all
marvelled as they beheld it. Nestor was astonished, and took Telemachus
by the hand. "My friend," said he, "I see that you are going to be a
great hero some day, since the gods wait upon you thus while you are
still so young. This can have been none other of those who dwell in
heaven than Jove's redoubtable daughter, the Trito-born, who shewed
such favour towards your brave father among the Argives. Holy queen," he
continued, "vouchsafe to send down thy grace upon myself, my good wife,
and my children. In return, I will offer you in sacrifice a broad-browed
heifer of a year old, unbroken, and never yet brought by man under the
yoke. I will gild her horns, and will offer her up to you in sacrifice."
Thus did he pray, and Minerva heard his prayer. He then led the way to
his own house, followed by his sons and sons in law. When they had got
there and had taken their places on the benches and seats, he mixed them
a bowl of sweet wine that was eleven years old when the housekeeper took
the lid off the jar that held it. As he mixed the wine, he prayed much
and made drink offerings to Minerva, daughter of Aegis-bearing Jove.
Then, when they had made their drink offerings and had drunk each as
much as he was minded, the others went home to bed each in his own
abode; but Nestor put Telemachus to sleep in the room that was over the
gateway along with Pisistratus, who was the only unmarried son now left
him. As for himself, he slept in an inner room of the house, with the
queen his wife by his side.
Now when the child of morning rosy-fingered Dawn appeared, Nestor left
his couch and took his seat on the benches of white and polished marble
that stood in front of his house. Here aforetime sat Neleus, peer of
gods in counsel, but he was now dead, and had gone to the house of
Hades; so Nestor sat in his seat sceptre in hand, as guardian of the
public weal. His sons as they left their rooms gathered round him,
Echephron, Stratius, Perseus, Aretus, and Thrasymedes; the sixth son
was Pisistratus, and when Telemachus joined them they made him sit with
them. Nestor then addressed them.
"My sons," said he, "make haste to do as I shall bid you. I wish first
and foremost to propitiate the great goddess Minerva, who manifested
herself visibly to me during yesterday's festivities. Go, then, one or
other of you to the plain, tell the stockman to look me out a heifer,
and come on here with it at once. Another must go to Telemachus' ship,
and invite all the crew, leaving two men only in charge of the vessel.
Some one else will run and fetch Laerceus the goldsmith to gild the
horns of the heifer. The rest, stay all of you where you are; tell the
maids in the house to prepare an excellent dinner, and to fetch seats,
and logs of wood for a burnt offering. Tell them also to bring me some
clear spring water."
On this they hurried off on their several errands. The heifer was
brought in from the plain, and Telemachus's crew came from the ship; the
goldsmith brought the anvil, hammer, and tongs, with which he worked his
gold, and Minerva herself came to accept the sacrifice. Nestor gave out
the gold, and the smith gilded the horns of the heifer that the goddess
might have pleasure in their beauty. Then Stratius and Echephron brought
her in by the horns; Aretus fetched water from the house in a ewer that
had a flower pattern on it, and in his other hand he held a basket of
barley meal; sturdy Thrasymedes stood by with a sharp axe, ready to
strike the heifer, while Perseus held a bucket. Then Nestor began with
washing his hands and sprinkling the barley meal, and he offered many
a prayer to Minerva as he threw a lock from the heifer's head upon the
When they had done praying and sprinkling the barley meal {32}
Thrasymedes dealt his blow, and brought the heifer down with a stroke
that cut through the tendons at the base of her neck, whereon the
daughters and daughters in law of Nestor, and his venerable wife
Eurydice (she was eldest daughter to Clymenus) screamed with delight.
Then they lifted the heifer's head from off the ground, and Pisistratus
cut her throat. When she had done bleeding and was quite dead, they cut
her up. They cut out the thigh bones all in due course, wrapped them
round in two layers of fat, and set some pieces of raw meat on the top
of them; then Nestor laid them upon the wood fire and poured wine over
them, while the young men stood near him with five-pronged spits in
their hands. When the thighs were burned and they had tasted the inward
meats, they cut the rest of the meat up small, put the pieces on the
spits and toasted them over the fire.
Meanwhile lovely Polycaste, Nestor's youngest daughter, washed
Telemachus. When she had washed him and anointed him with oil, she
brought him a fair mantle and shirt, {33} and he looked like a god as
he came from the bath and took his seat by the side of Nestor. When
the outer meats were done they drew them off the spits and sat down to
dinner where they were waited upon by some worthy henchmen, who kept
pouring them out their wine in cups of gold. As soon as they had had
enough to eat and drink Nestor said, "Sons, put Telemachus's horses to
the chariot that he may start at once."
Thus did he speak, and they did even as he had said, and yoked the fleet
horses to the chariot. The housekeeper packed them up a provision
of bread, wine, and sweet meats fit for the sons of princes. Then
Telemachus got into the chariot, while Pisistratus gathered up the reins
and took his seat beside him. He lashed the horses on and they flew
forward nothing loth into the open country, leaving the high citadel of
Pylos behind them. All that day did they travel, swaying the yoke upon
their necks till the sun went down and darkness was over all the land.
Then they reached Pherae where Diocles lived, who was son to Ortilochus
and grandson to Alpheus. Here they passed the night and Diocles
entertained them hospitably. When the child of morning, rosy-fingered
Dawn, appeared, they again yoked their horses and drove out through the
gateway under the echoing gatehouse. {34} Pisistratus lashed the horses
on and they flew forward nothing loth; presently they came to the corn
lands of the open country, and in the course of time completed their
journey, so well did their steeds take them. {35}
Now when the sun had set and darkness was over the land,
Book IV
they reached the low lying city of Lacedaemon, where they drove straight
to the abode of Menelaus {36} [and found him in his own house, feasting
with his many clansmen in honour of the wedding of his son, and also of
his daughter, whom he was marrying to the son of that valiant warrior
Achilles. He had given his consent and promised her to him while he was
still at Troy, and now the gods were bringing the marriage about; so he
was sending her with chariots and horses to the city of the Myrmidons
over whom Achilles' son was reigning. For his only son he had found a
bride from Sparta, {37} the daughter of Alector. This son, Megapenthes,
was born to him of a bondwoman, for heaven vouchsafed Helen no more
children after she had borne Hermione, who was fair as golden Venus
So the neighbours and kinsmen of Menelaus were feasting and making merry
in his house. There was a bard also to sing to them and play his lyre,
while two tumblers went about performing in the midst of them when the
man struck up with his tune.] {38}
Telemachus and the son of Nestor stayed their horses at the gate,
whereon Eteoneus servant to Menelaus came out, and as soon as he saw
them ran hurrying back into the house to tell his Master. He went close
up to him and said, "Menelaus, there are some strangers come here, two
men, who look like sons of Jove. What are we to do? Shall we take their
horses out, or tell them to find friends elsewhere as they best can?"
Menelaus was very angry and said, "Eteoneus, son of Boethous, you never
used to be a fool, but now you talk like a simpleton. Take their horses
out, of course, and show the strangers in that they may have supper;
you and I have staid often enough at other people's houses before we got
back here, where heaven grant that we may rest in peace henceforward."
So Eteoneus bustled back and bade the other servants come with him. They
took their sweating steeds from under the yoke, made them fast to the
mangers, and gave them a feed of oats and barley mixed. Then they leaned
the chariot against the end wall of the courtyard, and led the way into
the house. Telemachus and Pisistratus were astonished when they saw it,
for its splendour was as that of the sun and moon; then, when they had
admired everything to their heart's content, they went into the bath
room and washed themselves.
When the servants had washed them and anointed them with oil, they
brought them woollen cloaks and shirts, and the two took their seats by
the side of Menelaus. A maid-servant brought them water in a beautiful
golden ewer, and poured it into a silver basin for them to wash their
hands; and she drew a clean table beside them. An upper servant brought
them bread, and offered them many good things of what there was in the
house, while the carver fetched them plates of all manner of meats and
set cups of gold by their side.
Menelaus then greeted them saying, "Fall to, and welcome; when you have
done supper I shall ask who you are, for the lineage of such men as
you cannot have been lost. You must be descended from a line of
sceptre-bearing kings, for poor people do not have such sons as you
On this he handed them {39} a piece of fat roast loin, which had been
set near him as being a prime part, and they laid their hands on the
good things that were before them; as soon as they had had enough to eat
and drink, Telemachus said to the son of Nestor, with his head so close
that no one might hear, "Look, Pisistratus, man after my own heart,
see the gleam of bronze and gold--of amber, {40} ivory, and silver.
Everything is so splendid that it is like seeing the palace of Olympian
Jove. I am lost in admiration."
Menelaus overheard him and said, "No one, my sons, can hold his own
with Jove, for his house and everything about him is immortal; but among
mortal men--well, there may be another who has as much wealth as I
have, or there may not; but at all events I have travelled much and have
undergone much hardship, for it was nearly eight years before I could
get home with my fleet. I went to Cyprus, Phoenicia and the Egyptians;
I went also to the Ethiopians, the Sidonians, and the Erembians, and to
Libya where the lambs have horns as soon as they are born, and the sheep
lamb down three times a year. Every one in that country, whether master
or man, has plenty of cheese, meat, and good milk, for the ewes yield
all the year round. But while I was travelling and getting great riches
among these people, my brother was secretly and shockingly murdered
through the perfidy of his wicked wife, so that I have no pleasure in
being lord of all this wealth. Whoever your parents may be they must
have told you about all this, and of my heavy loss in the ruin {41} of a
stately mansion fully and magnificently furnished. Would that I had only
a third of what I now have so that I had stayed at home, and all those
were living who perished on the plain of Troy, far from Argos. I often
grieve, as I sit here in my house, for one and all of them. At times
I cry aloud for sorrow, but presently I leave off again, for crying is
cold comfort and one soon tires of it. Yet grieve for these as I may,
I do so for one man more than for them all. I cannot even think of him
without loathing both food and sleep, so miserable does he make me, for
no one of all the Achaeans worked so hard or risked so much as he did.
He took nothing by it, and has left a legacy of sorrow to myself, for he
has been gone a long time, and we know not whether he is alive or
dead. His old father, his long-suffering wife Penelope, and his son
Telemachus, whom he left behind him an infant in arms, are plunged in
grief on his account."
Thus spoke Menelaus, and the heart of Telemachus yearned as he bethought
him of his father. Tears fell from his eyes as he heard him thus
mentioned, so that he held his cloak before his face with both hands.
When Menelaus saw this he doubted whether to let him choose his own time
for speaking, or to ask him at once and find what it was all about.
While he was thus in two minds Helen came down from her high vaulted and
perfumed room, looking as lovely as Diana herself. Adraste brought her
a seat, Alcippe a soft woollen rug while Phylo fetched her the silver
work-box which Alcandra wife of Polybus had given her. Polybus lived in
Egyptian Thebes, which is the richest city in the whole world; he gave
Menelaus two baths, both of pure silver, two tripods, and ten talents of
gold; besides all this, his wife gave Helen some beautiful presents, to
wit, a golden distaff, and a silver work box that ran on wheels, with a
gold band round the top of it. Phylo now placed this by her side, full
of fine spun yarn, and a distaff charged with violet coloured wool was
laid upon the top of it. Then Helen took her seat, put her feet upon the
footstool, and began to question her husband. {42}
"Do we know, Menelaus," said she, "the names of these strangers who
have come to visit us? Shall I guess right or wrong?--but I cannot help
saying what I think. Never yet have I seen either man or woman so like
somebody else (indeed when I look at him I hardly know what to think)
as this young man is like Telemachus, whom Ulysses left as a baby behind
him, when you Achaeans went to Troy with battle in your hearts, on
account of my most shameless self."
"My dear wife," replied Menelaus, "I see the likeness just as you do.
His hands and feet are just like Ulysses; so is his hair, with the shape
of his head and the expression of his eyes. Moreover, when I was talking
about Ulysses, and saying how much he had suffered on my account, tears
fell from his eyes, and he hid his face in his mantle."
Then Pisistratus said, "Menelaus, son of Atreus, you are right in
thinking that this young man is Telemachus, but he is very modest, and
is ashamed to come here and begin opening up discourse with one whose
conversation is so divinely interesting as your own. My father, Nestor,
sent me to escort him hither, for he wanted to know whether you could
give him any counsel or suggestion. A son has always trouble at home
when his father has gone away leaving him without supporters; and this
is how Telemachus is now placed, for his father is absent, and there is
no one among his own people to stand by him."
"Bless my heart," replied Menelaus, "then I am receiving a visit from
the son of a very dear friend, who suffered much hardship for my sake.
I had always hoped to entertain him with most marked distinction when
heaven had granted us a safe return from beyond the seas. I should have
founded a city for him in Argos, and built him a house. I should have
made him leave Ithaca with his goods, his son, and all his people, and
should have sacked for them some one of the neighbouring cities that
are subject to me. We should thus have seen one another continually,
and nothing but death could have interrupted so close and happy an
intercourse. I suppose, however, that heaven grudged us such great good
fortune, for it has prevented the poor fellow from ever getting home at
Thus did he speak, and his words set them all a weeping. Helen wept,
Telemachus wept, and so did Menelaus, nor could Pisistratus keep his
eyes from filling, when he remembered his dear brother Antilochus whom
the son of bright Dawn had killed. Thereon he said to Menelaus,
"Sir, my father Nestor, when we used to talk about you at home, told me
you were a person of rare and excellent understanding. If, then, it be
possible, do as I would urge you. I am not fond of crying while I am
getting my supper. Morning will come in due course, and in the forenoon
I care not how much I cry for those that are dead and gone. This is all
we can do for the poor things. We can only shave our heads for them and
wring the tears from our cheeks. I had a brother who died at Troy; he
was by no means the worst man there; you are sure to have known him--his
name was Antilochus; I never set eyes upon him myself, but they say that
he was singularly fleet of foot and in fight valiant."
"Your discretion, my friend," answered Menelaus, "is beyond your years.
It is plain you take after your father. One can soon see when a man
is son to one whom heaven has blessed both as regards wife and
offspring--and it has blessed Nestor from first to last all his days,
giving him a green old age in his own house, with sons about him who are
both well disposed and valiant. We will put an end therefore to all this
weeping, and attend to our supper again. Let water be poured over our
hands. Telemachus and I can talk with one another fully in the morning."
On this Asphalion, one of the servants, poured water over their hands
and they laid their hands on the good things that were before them.
Then Jove's daughter Helen bethought her of another matter. She drugged
the wine with an herb that banishes all care, sorrow, and ill humour.
Whoever drinks wine thus drugged cannot shed a single tear all the rest
of the day, not even though his father and mother both of them drop down
dead, or he sees a brother or a son hewn in pieces before his very eyes.
This drug, of such sovereign power and virtue, had been given to Helen
by Polydamna wife of Thon, a woman of Egypt, where there grow all sorts
of herbs, some good to put into the mixing bowl and others poisonous.
Moreover, every one in the whole country is a skilled physician, for
they are of the race of Paeeon. When Helen had put this drug in the
bowl, and had told the servants to serve the wine round, she said:
"Menelaus, son of Atreus, and you my good friends, sons of honourable
men (which is as Jove wills, for he is the giver both of good and evil,
and can do what he chooses), feast here as you will, and listen while I
tell you a tale in season. I cannot indeed name every single one of the
exploits of Ulysses, but I can say what he did when he was before Troy,
and you Achaeans were in all sorts of difficulties. He covered himself
with wounds and bruises, dressed himself all in rags, and entered the
enemy's city looking like a menial or a beggar, and quite different
from what he did when he was among his own people. In this disguise
he entered the city of Troy, and no one said anything to him. I alone
recognised him and began to question him, but he was too cunning for me.
When, however, I had washed and anointed him and had given him clothes,
and after I had sworn a solemn oath not to betray him to the Trojans
till he had got safely back to his own camp and to the ships, he told me
all that the Achaeans meant to do. He killed many Trojans and got much
information before he reached the Argive camp, for all which things the
Trojan women made lamentation, but for my own part I was glad, for my
heart was beginning to yearn after my home, and I was unhappy about
the wrong that Venus had done me in taking me over there, away from
my country, my girl, and my lawful wedded husband, who is indeed by no
means deficient either in person or understanding."
Then Menelaus said, "All that you have been saying, my dear wife, is
true. I have travelled much, and have had much to do with heroes, but
I have never seen such another man as Ulysses. What endurance too,
and what courage he displayed within the wooden horse, wherein all the
bravest of the Argives were lying in wait to bring death and destruction
upon the Trojans. {43} At that moment you came up to us; some god
who wished well to the Trojans must have set you on to it and you had
Deiphobus with you. Three times did you go all round our hiding place
and pat it; you called our chiefs each by his own name, and mimicked
all our wives--Diomed, Ulysses, and I from our seats inside heard what
a noise you made. Diomed and I could not make up our minds whether to
spring out then and there, or to answer you from inside, but Ulysses
held us all in check, so we sat quite still, all except Anticlus, who
was beginning to answer you, when Ulysses clapped his two brawny hands
over his mouth, and kept them there. It was this that saved us all, for
he muzzled Anticlus till Minerva took you away again."
"How sad," exclaimed Telemachus, "that all this was of no avail to save
him, nor yet his own iron courage. But now, sir, be pleased to send us
all to bed, that we may lie down and enjoy the blessed boon of sleep."
On this Helen told the maid servants to set beds in the room that was in
the gatehouse, and to make them with good red rugs, and spread coverlets
on the top of them with woollen cloaks for the guests to wear. So
the maids went out, carrying a torch, and made the beds, to which
a man-servant presently conducted the strangers. Thus, then, did
Telemachus and Pisistratus sleep there in the forecourt, while the son
of Atreus lay in an inner room with lovely Helen by his side.
When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn appeared, Menelaus rose
and dressed himself. He bound his sandals on to his comely feet,
girded his sword about his shoulders, and left his room looking like an
immortal god. Then, taking a seat near Telemachus he said:
"And what, Telemachus, has led you to take this long sea voyage to
Lacedaemon? Are you on public, or private business? Tell me all about
"I have come, sir," replied Telemachus, "to see if you can tell me
anything about my father. I am being eaten out of house and home; my
fair estate is being wasted, and my house is full of miscreants who keep
killing great numbers of my sheep and oxen, on the pretence of paying
their addresses to my mother. Therefore, I am suppliant at your knees if
haply you may tell me about my father's melancholy end, whether you saw
it with your own eyes, or heard it from some other traveller; for he was
a man born to trouble. Do not soften things out of any pity for myself,
but tell me in all plainness exactly what you saw. If my brave father
Ulysses ever did you loyal service either by word or deed, when you
Achaeans were harassed by the Trojans, bear it in mind now as in my
favour and tell me truly all."
Menelaus on hearing this was very much shocked. "So," he exclaimed,
"these cowards would usurp a brave man's bed? A hind might as well lay
her new born young in the lair of a lion, and then go off to feed in the
forest or in some grassy dell: the lion when he comes back to his lair
will make short work with the pair of them--and so will Ulysses with
these suitors. By father Jove, Minerva, and Apollo, if Ulysses is still
the man that he was when he wrestled with Philomeleides in Lesbos, and
threw him so heavily that all the Achaeans cheered him--if he is still
such and were to come near these suitors, they would have a short shrift
and a sorry wedding. As regards your questions, however, I will not
prevaricate nor deceive you, but will tell you without concealment all
that the old man of the sea told me.
"I was trying to come on here, but the gods detained me in Egypt, for
my hecatombs had not given them full satisfaction, and the gods are very
strict about having their dues. Now off Egypt, about as far as a ship
can sail in a day with a good stiff breeze behind her, there is an
island called Pharos--it has a good harbour from which vessels can
get out into open sea when they have taken in water--and here the gods
becalmed me twenty days without so much as a breath of fair wind to help
me forward. We should have run clean out of provisions and my men would
have starved, if a goddess had not taken pity upon me and saved me in
the person of Idothea, daughter to Proteus, the old man of the sea, for
she had taken a great fancy to me.
"She came to me one day when I was by myself, as I often was, for the
men used to go with their barbed hooks, all over the island in the
hope of catching a fish or two to save them from the pangs of hunger.
'Stranger,' said she, 'it seems to me that you like starving in this
way--at any rate it does not greatly trouble you, for you stick here day
after day, without even trying to get away though your men are dying by
"'Let me tell you,' said I, 'whichever of the goddesses you may happen
to be, that I am not staying here of my own accord, but must have
offended the gods that live in heaven. Tell me, therefore, for the gods
know everything, which of the immortals it is that is hindering me in
this way, and tell me also how I may sail the sea so as to reach my
"'Stranger,' replied she, 'I will make it all quite clear to you. There
is an old immortal who lives under the sea hereabouts and whose name
is Proteus. He is an Egyptian, and people say he is my father; he is
Neptune's head man and knows every inch of ground all over the bottom of
the sea. If you can snare him and hold him tight, he will tell you about
your voyage, what courses you are to take, and how you are to sail the
sea so as to reach your home. He will also tell you, if you so will, all
that has been going on at your house both good and bad, while you have
been away on your long and dangerous journey.'
"'Can you show me,' said I, 'some stratagem by means of which I may
catch this old god without his suspecting it and finding me out? For a
god is not easily caught--not by a mortal man.'
"'Stranger,' said she, 'I will make it all quite clear to you. About the
time when the sun shall have reached mid heaven, the old man of the sea
comes up from under the waves, heralded by the West wind that furs the
water over his head. As soon as he has come up he lies down, and goes to
sleep in a great sea cave, where the seals--Halosydne's chickens as they
call them--come up also from the grey sea, and go to sleep in shoals
all round him; and a very strong and fish-like smell do they bring with
them. {44} Early to-morrow morning I will take you to this place and
will lay you in ambush. Pick out, therefore, the three best men you have
in your fleet, and I will tell you all the tricks that the old man will
play you.
"'First he will look over all his seals, and count them; then, when he
has seen them and tallied them on his five fingers, he will go to sleep
among them, as a shepherd among his sheep. The moment you see that he is
asleep seize him; put forth all your strength and hold him fast, for he
will do his very utmost to get away from you. He will turn himself into
every kind of creature that goes upon the earth, and will become also
both fire and water; but you must hold him fast and grip him tighter
and tighter, till he begins to talk to you and comes back to what he was
when you saw him go to sleep; then you may slacken your hold and let him
go; and you can ask him which of the gods it is that is angry with you,
and what you must do to reach your home over the seas.'
"Having so said she dived under the waves, whereon I turned back to
the place where my ships were ranged upon the shore; and my heart was
clouded with care as I went along. When I reached my ship we got supper
ready, for night was falling, and camped down upon the beach.
"When the child of morning rosy-fingered Dawn appeared, I took the three
men on whose prowess of all kinds I could most rely, and went along by
the sea-side, praying heartily to heaven. Meanwhile the goddess fetched
me up four seal skins from the bottom of the sea, all of them just
skinned, for she meant playing a trick upon her father. Then she dug
four pits for us to lie in, and sat down to wait till we should come up.
When we were close to her, she made us lie down in the pits one after
the other, and threw a seal skin over each of us. Our ambuscade would
have been intolerable, for the stench of the fishy seals was most
distressing {45}--who would go to bed with a sea monster if he could
help it?--but here, too, the goddess helped us, and thought of something
that gave us great relief, for she put some ambrosia under each man's
nostrils, which was so fragrant that it killed the smell of the seals.
"We waited the whole morning and made the best of it, watching the seals
come up in hundreds to bask upon the sea shore, till at noon the old man
of the sea came up too, and when he had found his fat seals he went over
them and counted them. We were among the first he counted, and he never
suspected any guile, but laid himself down to sleep as soon as he had
done counting. Then we rushed upon him with a shout and seized him; on
which he began at once with his old tricks, and changed himself first
into a lion with a great mane; then all of a sudden he became a dragon,
a leopard, a wild boar; the next moment he was running water, and then
again directly he was a tree, but we stuck to him and never lost hold,
till at last the cunning old creature became distressed, and said,
'Which of the gods was it, Son of Atreus, that hatched this plot with
you for snaring me and seizing me against my will? What do you want?'
"'You know that yourself, old man,' I answered, 'you will gain nothing
by trying to put me off. It is because I have been kept so long in this
island, and see no sign of my being able to get away. I am losing
all heart; tell me, then, for you gods know everything, which of the
immortals it is that is hindering me, and tell me also how I may sail
the sea so as to reach my home?'
"Then,' he said, 'if you would finish your voyage and get home quickly,
you must offer sacrifices to Jove and to the rest of the gods before
embarking; for it is decreed that you shall not get back to your
friends, and to your own house, till you have returned to the heaven-fed
stream of Egypt, and offered holy hecatombs to the immortal gods that
reign in heaven. When you have done this they will let you finish your
"I was broken hearted when I heard that I must go back all that long and
terrible voyage to Egypt; {47} nevertheless, I answered, 'I will do all,
old man, that you have laid upon me; but now tell me, and tell me true,
whether all the Achaeans whom Nestor and I left behind us when we set
sail from Troy have got home safely, or whether any one of them came
to a bad end either on board his own ship or among his friends when the
days of his fighting were done.'
"'Son of Atreus,' he answered, 'why ask me? You had better not know what
I can tell you, for your eyes will surely fill when you have heard my
story. Many of those about whom you ask are dead and gone, but many
still remain, and only two of the chief men among the Achaeans
perished during their return home. As for what happened on the field of
battle--you were there yourself. A third Achaean leader is still at sea,
alive, but hindered from returning. Ajax was wrecked, for Neptune drove
him on to the great rocks of Gyrae; nevertheless, he let him get safe
out of the water, and in spite of all Minerva's hatred he would have
escaped death, if he had not ruined himself by boasting. He said the
gods could not drown him even though they had tried to do so, and when
Neptune heard this large talk, he seized his trident in his two brawny
hands, and split the rock of Gyrae in two pieces. The base remained
where it was, but the part on which Ajax was sitting fell headlong
into the sea and carried Ajax with it; so he drank salt water and was
"'Your brother and his ships escaped, for Juno protected him, but when
he was just about to reach the high promontory of Malea, he was caught
by a heavy gale which carried him out to sea again sorely against his
will, and drove him to the foreland where Thyestes used to dwell, but
where Aegisthus was then living. By and by, however, it seemed as though
he was to return safely after all, for the gods backed the wind into its
old quarter and they reached home; whereon Agamemnon kissed his native
soil, and shed tears of joy at finding himself in his own country.
"'Now there was a watchman whom Aegisthus kept always on the watch, and
to whom he had promised two talents of gold. This man had been looking
out for a whole year to make sure that Agamemnon did not give him the
slip and prepare war; when, therefore, this man saw Agamemnon go by,
he went and told Aegisthus, who at once began to lay a plot for him. He
picked twenty of his bravest warriors and placed them in ambuscade on
one side the cloister, while on the opposite side he prepared a banquet.
Then he sent his chariots and horsemen to Agamemnon, and invited him to
the feast, but he meant foul play. He got him there, all unsuspicious of
the doom that was awaiting him, and killed him when the banquet was
over as though he were butchering an ox in the shambles; not one of
Agamemnon's followers was left alive, nor yet one of Aegisthus', but
they were all killed there in the cloisters.'
"Thus spoke Proteus, and I was broken hearted as I heard him. I sat down
upon the sands and wept; I felt as though I could no longer bear to live
nor look upon the light of the sun. Presently, when I had had my fill of
weeping and writhing upon the ground, the old man of the sea said, 'Son
of Atreus, do not waste any more time in crying so bitterly; it can
do no manner of good; find your way home as fast as ever you can,
for Aegisthus may be still alive, and even though Orestes has been
beforehand with you in killing him, you may yet come in for his
"On this I took comfort in spite of all my sorrow, and said, 'I know,
then, about these two; tell me, therefore, about the third man of whom
you spoke; is he still alive, but at sea, and unable to get home? or is
he dead? Tell me, no matter how much it may grieve me.'
"'The third man,' he answered, 'is Ulysses who dwells in Ithaca. I
can see him in an island sorrowing bitterly in the house of the nymph
Calypso, who is keeping him prisoner, and he cannot reach his home for
he has no ships nor sailors to take him over the sea. As for your own
end, Menelaus, you shall not die in Argos, but the gods will take you to
the Elysian plain, which is at the ends of the world. There fair-haired
Rhadamanthus reigns, and men lead an easier life than any where else in
the world, for in Elysium there falls not rain, nor hail, nor snow, but
Oceanus breathes ever with a West wind that sings softly from the sea,
and gives fresh life to all men. This will happen to you because you
have married Helen, and are Jove's son-in-law.'
"As he spoke he dived under the waves, whereon I turned back to the
ships with my companions, and my heart was clouded with care as I went
along. When we reached the ships we got supper ready, for night was
falling, and camped down upon the beach. When the child of morning,
rosy-fingered Dawn appeared, we drew our ships into the water, and put
our masts and sails within them; then we went on board ourselves, took
our seats on the benches, and smote the grey sea with our oars. I
again stationed my ships in the heaven-fed stream of Egypt, and offered
hecatombs that were full and sufficient. When I had thus appeased
heaven's anger, I raised a barrow to the memory of Agamemnon that his
name might live for ever, after which I had a quick passage home, for
the gods sent me a fair wind.
"And now for yourself--stay here some ten or twelve days longer, and I
will then speed you on your way. I will make you a noble present of a
chariot and three horses. I will also give you a beautiful chalice
that so long as you live you may think of me whenever you make a
drink-offering to the immortal gods."
"Son of Atreus," replied Telemachus, "do not press me to stay longer; I
should be contented to remain with you for another twelve months; I find
your conversation so delightful that I should never once wish myself at
home with my parents; but my crew whom I have left at Pylos are already
impatient, and you are detaining me from them. As for any present you
may be disposed to make me, I had rather that it should be a piece of
plate. I will take no horses back with me to Ithaca, but will leave them
to adorn your own stables, for you have much flat ground in your kingdom
where lotus thrives, as also meadow-sweet and wheat and barley, and oats
with their white and spreading ears; whereas in Ithaca we have neither
open fields nor racecourses, and the country is more fit for goats than
horses, and I like it the better for that. {48} None of our islands have
much level ground, suitable for horses, and Ithaca least of all."
Menelaus smiled and took Telemachus's hand within his own. "What you
say," said he, "shows that you come of good family. I both can, and
will, make this exchange for you, by giving you the finest and most
precious piece of plate in all my house. It is a mixing bowl by Vulcan's
own hand, of pure silver, except the rim, which is inlaid with gold.
Phaedimus, king of the Sidonians, gave it me in the course of a visit
which I paid him when I returned thither on my homeward journey. I will
make you a present of it."
Thus did they converse [and guests kept coming to the king's house. They
brought sheep and wine, while their wives had put up bread for them to
take with them; so they were busy cooking their dinners in the courts].
Meanwhile the suitors were throwing discs or aiming with spears at
a mark on the levelled ground in front of Ulysses' house, and were
behaving with all their old insolence. Antinous and Eurymachus, who were
their ringleaders and much the foremost among them all, were sitting
together when Noemon son of Phronius came up and said to Antinous,
"Have we any idea, Antinous, on what day Telemachus returns from Pylos?
He has a ship of mine, and I want it, to cross over to Elis: I have
twelve brood mares there with yearling mule foals by their side not yet
broken in, and I want to bring one of them over here and break him."
They were astounded when they heard this, for they had made sure that
Telemachus had not gone to the city of Neleus. They thought he was
only away somewhere on the farms, and was with the sheep, or with the
swineherd; so Antinous said, "When did he go? Tell me truly, and
what young men did he take with him? Were they freemen or his own
bondsmen--for he might manage that too? Tell me also, did you let him
have the ship of your own free will because he asked you, or did he take
it without your leave?"
"I lent it him," answered Noemon, "what else could I do when a man of
his position said he was in a difficulty, and asked me to oblige him? I
could not possibly refuse. As for those who went with him they were the
best young men we have, and I saw Mentor go on board as captain--or some
god who was exactly like him. I cannot understand it, for I saw Mentor
here myself yesterday morning, and yet he was then setting out for
Noemon then went back to his father's house, but Antinous and Eurymachus
were very angry. They told the others to leave off playing, and to come
and sit down along with themselves. When they came, Antinous son of
Eupeithes spoke in anger. His heart was black with rage, and his eyes
flashed fire as he said:
"Good heavens, this voyage of Telemachus is a very serious matter; we
had made sure that it would come to nothing, but the young fellow has
got away in spite of us, and with a picked crew too. He will be giving
us trouble presently; may Jove take him before he is full grown. Find me
a ship, therefore, with a crew of twenty men, and I will lie in wait for
him in the straits between Ithaca and Samos; he will then rue the day
that he set out to try and get news of his father."
Thus did he speak, and the others applauded his saying; they then all of
them went inside the buildings.
It was not long ere Penelope came to know what the suitors were
plotting; for a man servant, Medon, overheard them from outside the
outer court as they were laying their schemes within, and went to tell
his mistress. As he crossed the threshold of her room Penelope said:
"Medon, what have the suitors sent you here for? Is it to tell the maids
to leave their master's business and cook dinner for them? I wish they
may neither woo nor dine henceforward, neither here nor anywhere else,
but let this be the very last time, for the waste you all make of my
son's estate. Did not your fathers tell you when you were children, how
good Ulysses had been to them--never doing anything high-handed, nor
speaking harshly to anybody? Kings may say things sometimes, and they
may take a fancy to one man and dislike another, but Ulysses never did
an unjust thing by anybody--which shows what bad hearts you have, and
that there is no such thing as gratitude left in this world."
Then Medon said, "I wish, Madam, that this were all; but they are
plotting something much more dreadful now--may heaven frustrate their
design. They are going to try and murder Telemachus as he is coming home
from Pylos and Lacedaemon, where he has been to get news of his father."
Then Penelope's heart sank within her, and for a long time she was
speechless; her eyes filled with tears, and she could find no utterance.
At last, however, she said, "Why did my son leave me? What business had
he to go sailing off in ships that make long voyages over the ocean like
sea-horses? Does he want to die without leaving any one behind him to
keep up his name?"
"I do not know," answered Medon, "whether some god set him on to it, or
whether he went on his own impulse to see if he could find out if his
father was dead, or alive and on his way home."
Then he went downstairs again, leaving Penelope in an agony of grief.
There were plenty of seats in the house, but she had no heart for
sitting on any one of them; she could only fling herself on the floor of
her own room and cry; whereon all the maids in the house, both old
and young, gathered round her and began to cry too, till at last in a
transport of sorrow she exclaimed,
"My dears, heaven has been pleased to try me with more affliction
than any other woman of my age and country. First I lost my brave and
lion-hearted husband, who had every good quality under heaven, and whose
name was great over all Hellas and middle Argos, and now my darling son
is at the mercy of the winds and waves, without my having heard one word
about his leaving home. You hussies, there was not one of you would so
much as think of giving me a call out of my bed, though you all of you
very well knew when he was starting. If I had known he meant taking this
voyage, he would have had to give it up, no matter how much he was bent
upon it, or leave me a corpse behind him--one or other. Now, however,
go some of you and call old Dolius, who was given me by my father on my
marriage, and who is my gardener. Bid him go at once and tell everything
to Laertes, who may be able to hit on some plan for enlisting public
sympathy on our side, as against those who are trying to exterminate his
own race and that of Ulysses."
Then the dear old nurse Euryclea said, "You may kill me, Madam, or let
me live on in your house, whichever you please, but I will tell you the
real truth. I knew all about it, and gave him everything he wanted in
the way of bread and wine, but he made me take my solemn oath that I
would not tell you anything for some ten or twelve days, unless you
asked or happened to hear of his having gone, for he did not want you to
spoil your beauty by crying. And now, Madam, wash your face, change
your dress, and go upstairs with your maids to offer prayers to Minerva,
daughter of Aegis-bearing Jove, for she can save him even though he
be in the jaws of death. Do not trouble Laertes: he has trouble enough
already. Besides, I cannot think that the gods hate the race of the son
of Arceisius so much, but there will be a son left to come up after him,
and inherit both the house and the fair fields that lie far all round
With these words she made her mistress leave off crying, and dried the
tears from her eyes. Penelope washed her face, changed her dress, and
went upstairs with her maids. She then put some bruised barley into a
basket and began praying to Minerva.
"Hear me," she cried, "Daughter of Aegis-bearing Jove, unweariable. If
ever Ulysses while he was here burned you fat thigh bones of sheep or
heifer, bear it in mind now as in my favour, and save my darling son
from the villainy of the suitors."
She cried aloud as she spoke, and the goddess heard her prayer;
meanwhile the suitors were clamorous throughout the covered cloister,
and one of them said:
"The queen is preparing for her marriage with one or other of us. Little
does she dream that her son has now been doomed to die."
This was what they said, but they did not know what was going to happen.
Then Antinous said, "Comrades, let there be no loud talking, lest some
of it get carried inside. Let us be up and do that in silence, about
which we are all of a mind."
He then chose twenty men, and they went down to their ship and to the
sea side; they drew the vessel into the water and got her mast and sails
inside her; they bound the oars to the thole-pins with twisted thongs
of leather, all in due course, and spread the white sails aloft, while
their fine servants brought them their armour. Then they made the ship
fast a little way out, came on shore again, got their suppers, and
waited till night should fall.
But Penelope lay in her own room upstairs unable to eat or drink, and
wondering whether her brave son would escape, or be overpowered by the
wicked suitors. Like a lioness caught in the toils with huntsmen hemming
her in on every side she thought and thought till she sank into a
slumber, and lay on her bed bereft of thought and motion.
Then Minerva bethought her of another matter, and made a vision in
the likeness of Penelope's sister Iphthime daughter of Icarius who had
married Eumelus and lived in Pherae. She told the vision to go to the
house of Ulysses, and to make Penelope leave off crying, so it came into
her room by the hole through which the thong went for pulling the door
to, and hovered over her head saying,
"You are asleep, Penelope: the gods who live at ease will not suffer you
to weep and be so sad. Your son has done them no wrong, so he will yet
come back to you."
Penelope, who was sleeping sweetly at the gates of dreamland, answered,
"Sister, why have you come here? You do not come very often, but I
suppose that is because you live such a long way off. Am I, then, to
leave off crying and refrain from all the sad thoughts that torture me?
I, who have lost my brave and lion-hearted husband, who had every good
quality under heaven, and whose name was great over all Hellas and
middle Argos; and now my darling son has gone off on board of a ship--a
foolish fellow who has never been used to roughing it, nor to going
about among gatherings of men. I am even more anxious about him than
about my husband; I am all in a tremble when I think of him, lest
something should happen to him, either from the people among whom he has
gone, or by sea, for he has many enemies who are plotting against him,
and are bent on killing him before he can return home."
Then the vision said, "Take heart, and be not so much dismayed. There is
one gone with him whom many a man would be glad enough to have stand by
his side, I mean Minerva; it is she who has compassion upon you, and who
has sent me to bear you this message."
"Then," said Penelope, "if you are a god or have been sent here by
divine commission, tell me also about that other unhappy one--is he
still alive, or is he already dead and in the house of Hades?"
And the vision said, "I shall not tell you for certain whether he is
alive or dead, and there is no use in idle conversation."
Then it vanished through the thong-hole of the door and was dissipated
into thin air; but Penelope rose from her sleep refreshed and comforted,
so vivid had been her dream.
Meantime the suitors went on board and sailed their ways over the
sea, intent on murdering Telemachus. Now there is a rocky islet called
Asteris, of no great size, in mid channel between Ithaca and Samos, and
there is a harbour on either side of it where a ship can lie. Here then
the Achaeans placed themselves in ambush.
Book V
And now, as Dawn rose from her couch beside Tithonus--harbinger of light
alike to mortals and immortals--the gods met in council and with them,
Jove the lord of thunder, who is their king. Thereon Minerva began to
tell them of the many sufferings of Ulysses, for she pitied him away
there in the house of the nymph Calypso.
"Father Jove," said she, "and all you other gods that live in
everlasting bliss, I hope there may never be such a thing as a kind and
well-disposed ruler any more, nor one who will govern equitably. I hope
they will be all henceforth cruel and unjust, for there is not one of
his subjects but has forgotten Ulysses, who ruled them as though he were
their father. There he is, lying in great pain in an island where dwells
the nymph Calypso, who will not let him go; and he cannot get back to
his own country, for he can find neither ships nor sailors to take him
over the sea. Furthermore, wicked people are now trying to murder his
only son Telemachus, who is coming home from Pylos and Lacedaemon, where
he has been to see if he can get news of his father."
"What, my dear, are you talking about?" replied her father, "did you not
send him there yourself, because you thought it would help Ulysses to
get home and punish the suitors? Besides, you are perfectly able to
protect Telemachus, and to see him safely home again, while the suitors
have to come hurry-skurrying back without having killed him."
When he had thus spoken, he said to his son Mercury, "Mercury, you are
our messenger, go therefore and tell Calypso we have decreed that poor
Ulysses is to return home. He is to be convoyed neither by gods nor men,
but after a perilous voyage of twenty days upon a raft he is to reach
fertile Scheria, {50} the land of the Phaeacians, who are near of kin to
the gods, and will honour him as though he were one of ourselves. They
will send him in a ship to his own country, and will give him more
bronze and gold and raiment than he would have brought back from Troy,
if he had had all his prize money and had got home without disaster.
This is how we have settled that he shall return to his country and his
Thus he spoke, and Mercury, guide and guardian, slayer of Argus, did as
he was told. Forthwith he bound on his glittering golden sandals with
which he could fly like the wind over land and sea. He took the wand
with which he seals men's eyes in sleep or wakes them just as he
pleases, and flew holding it in his hand over Pieria; then he swooped
down through the firmament till he reached the level of the sea, whose
waves he skimmed like a cormorant that flies fishing every hole and
corner of the ocean, and drenching its thick plumage in the spray. He
flew and flew over many a weary wave, but when at last he got to the
island which was his journey's end, he left the sea and went on by land
till he came to the cave where the nymph Calypso lived.
He found her at home. There was a large fire burning on the hearth, and
one could smell from far the fragrant reek of burning cedar and sandal
wood. As for herself, she was busy at her loom, shooting her golden
shuttle through the warp and singing beautifully. Round her cave there
was a thick wood of alder, poplar, and sweet smelling cypress trees,
wherein all kinds of great birds had built their nests--owls, hawks, and
chattering sea-crows that occupy their business in the waters. A vine
loaded with grapes was trained and grew luxuriantly about the mouth of
the cave; there were also four running rills of water in channels cut
pretty close together, and turned hither and thither so as to irrigate
the beds of violets and luscious herbage over which they flowed. {51}
Even a god could not help being charmed with such a lovely spot,
so Mercury stood still and looked at it; but when he had admired it
sufficiently he went inside the cave.
Calypso knew him at once--for the gods all know each other, no matter
how far they live from one another--but Ulysses was not within; he was
on the sea-shore as usual, looking out upon the barren ocean with tears
in his eyes, groaning and breaking his heart for sorrow. Calypso
gave Mercury a seat and said: "Why have you come to see me,
Mercury--honoured, and ever welcome--for you do not visit me often? Say
what you want; I will do it for you at once if I can, and if it can be
done at all; but come inside, and let me set refreshment before you."
As she spoke she drew a table loaded with ambrosia beside him and mixed
him some red nectar, so Mercury ate and drank till he had had enough,
and then said:
"We are speaking god and goddess to one another, and you ask me why I
have come here, and I will tell you truly as you would have me do. Jove
sent me; it was no doing of mine; who could possibly want to come all
this way over the sea where there are no cities full of people to offer
me sacrifices or choice hecatombs? Nevertheless I had to come, for none
of us other gods can cross Jove, nor transgress his orders. He says that
you have here the most ill-starred of all those who fought nine years
before the city of King Priam and sailed home in the tenth year after
having sacked it. On their way home they sinned against Minerva, {52}
who raised both wind and waves against them, so that all his brave
companions perished, and he alone was carried hither by wind and tide.
Jove says that you are to let this man go at once, for it is decreed
that he shall not perish here, far from his own people, but shall return
to his house and country and see his friends again."
Calypso trembled with rage when she heard this, "You gods," she
exclaimed, "ought to be ashamed of yourselves. You are always jealous
and hate seeing a goddess take a fancy to a mortal man, and live with
him in open matrimony. So when rosy-fingered Dawn made love to Orion,
you precious gods were all of you furious till Diana went and killed him
in Ortygia. So again when Ceres fell in love with Iasion, and yielded to
him in a thrice-ploughed fallow field, Jove came to hear of it before so
very long and killed Iasion with his thunderbolts. And now you are angry
with me too because I have a man here. I found the poor creature sitting
all alone astride of a keel, for Jove had struck his ship with lightning
and sunk it in mid ocean, so that all his crew were drowned, while he
himself was driven by wind and waves on to my island. I got fond of him
and cherished him, and had set my heart on making him immortal, so that
he should never grow old all his days; still I cannot cross Jove, nor
bring his counsels to nothing; therefore, if he insists upon it, let the
man go beyond the seas again; but I cannot send him anywhere myself
for I have neither ships nor men who can take him. Nevertheless I will
readily give him such advice, in all good faith, as will be likely to
bring him safely to his own country."
"Then send him away," said Mercury, "or Jove will be angry with you and
punish you".
On this he took his leave, and Calypso went out to look for Ulysses, for
she had heard Jove's message. She found him sitting upon the beach with
his eyes ever filled with tears, and dying of sheer home sickness; for
he had got tired of Calypso, and though he was forced to sleep with her
in the cave by night, it was she, not he, that would have it so. As for
the day time, he spent it on the rocks and on the sea shore, weeping,
crying aloud for his despair, and always looking out upon the sea.
Calypso then went close up to him said:
"My poor fellow, you shall not stay here grieving and fretting your life
out any longer. I am going to send you away of my own free will; so go,
cut some beams of wood, and make yourself a large raft with an upper
deck that it may carry you safely over the sea. I will put bread, wine,
and water on board to save you from starving. I will also give you
clothes, and will send you a fair wind to take you home, if the gods in
heaven so will it--for they know more about these things, and can settle
them better than I can."
Ulysses shuddered as he heard her. "Now goddess," he answered, "there is
something behind all this; you cannot be really meaning to help me home
when you bid me do such a dreadful thing as put to sea on a raft. Not
even a well found ship with a fair wind could venture on such a distant
voyage: nothing that you can say or do shall make me go on board a raft
unless you first solemnly swear that you mean me no mischief."
Calypso smiled at this and caressed him with her hand: "You know a great
deal," said she, "but you are quite wrong here. May heaven above and
earth below be my witnesses, with the waters of the river Styx--and this
is the most solemn oath which a blessed god can take--that I mean you
no sort of harm, and am only advising you to do exactly what I should do
myself in your place. I am dealing with you quite straightforwardly; my
heart is not made of iron, and I am very sorry for you."
When she had thus spoken she led the way rapidly before him, and Ulysses
followed in her steps; so the pair, goddess and man, went on and on till
they came to Calypso's cave, where Ulysses took the seat that Mercury
had just left. Calypso set meat and drink before him of the food that
mortals eat; but her maids brought ambrosia and nectar for herself, and
they laid their hands on the good things that were before them. When
they had satisfied themselves with meat and drink, Calypso spoke,
"Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, so you would start home to your own
land at once? Good luck go with you, but if you could only know how much
suffering is in store for you before you get back to your own country,
you would stay where you are, keep house along with me, and let me
make you immortal, no matter how anxious you may be to see this wife
of yours, of whom you are thinking all the time day after day; yet I
flatter myself that I am no whit less tall or well-looking than she
is, for it is not to be expected that a mortal woman should compare in
beauty with an immortal."
"Goddess," replied Ulysses, "do not be angry with me about this. I
am quite aware that my wife Penelope is nothing like so tall or so
beautiful as yourself. She is only a woman, whereas you are an immortal.
Nevertheless, I want to get home, and can think of nothing else. If some
god wrecks me when I am on the sea, I will bear it and make the best
of it. I have had infinite trouble both by land and sea already, so let
this go with the rest."
Presently the sun set and it became dark, whereon the pair retired into
the inner part of the cave and went to bed.
When the child of morning rosy-fingered Dawn appeared, Ulysses put on
his shirt and cloak, while the goddess wore a dress of a light gossamer
fabric, very fine and graceful, with a beautiful golden girdle about her
waist and a veil to cover her head. She at once set herself to think how
she could speed Ulysses on his way. So she gave him a great bronze
axe that suited his hands; it was sharpened on both sides, and had a
beautiful olive-wood handle fitted firmly on to it. She also gave him a
sharp adze, and then led the way to the far end of the island where the
largest trees grew--alder, poplar and pine, that reached the sky--very
dry and well seasoned, so as to sail light for him in the water. {53}
Then, when she had shown him where the best trees grew, Calypso went
home, leaving him to cut them, which he soon finished doing. He cut down
twenty trees in all and adzed them smooth, squaring them by rule in good
workmanlike fashion. Meanwhile Calypso came back with some augers, so
he bored holes with them and fitted the timbers together with bolts and
rivets. He made the raft as broad as a skilled shipwright makes the beam
of a large vessel, and he fixed a deck on top of the ribs, and ran a
gunwale all round it. He also made a mast with a yard arm, and a rudder
to steer with. He fenced the raft all round with wicker hurdles as a
protection against the waves, and then he threw on a quantity of wood.
By and by Calypso brought him some linen to make the sails, and he made
these too, excellently, making them fast with braces and sheets. Last of
all, with the help of levers, he drew the raft down into the water.
In four days he had completed the whole work, and on the fifth Calypso
sent him from the island after washing him and giving him some clean
clothes. She gave him a goat skin full of black wine, and another larger
one of water; she also gave him a wallet full of provisions, and found
him in much good meat. Moreover, she made the wind fair and warm for
him, and gladly did Ulysses spread his sail before it, while he sat and
guided the raft skilfully by means of the rudder. He never closed his
eyes, but kept them fixed on the Pleiads, on late-setting Bootes, and on
the Bear--which men also call the wain, and which turns round and round
where it is, facing Orion, and alone never dipping into the stream of
Oceanus--for Calypso had told him to keep this to his left. Days seven
and ten did he sail over the sea, and on the eighteenth the dim outlines
of the mountains on the nearest part of the Phaeacian coast appeared,
rising like a shield on the horizon.
But King Neptune, who was returning from the Ethiopians, caught sight of
Ulysses a long way off, from the mountains of the Solymi. He could see
him sailing upon the sea, and it made him very angry, so he wagged his
head and muttered to himself, saying, "Good heavens, so the gods have
been changing their minds about Ulysses while I was away in Ethiopia,
and now he is close to the land of the Phaeacians, where it is decreed
that he shall escape from the calamities that have befallen him. Still,
he shall have plenty of hardship yet before he has done with it."
Thereon he gathered his clouds together, grasped his trident, stirred
it round in the sea, and roused the rage of every wind that blows till
earth, sea, and sky were hidden in cloud, and night sprang forth out of
the heavens. Winds from East, South, North, and West fell upon him all
at the same time, and a tremendous sea got up, so that Ulysses' heart
began to fail him. "Alas," he said to himself in his dismay, "what ever
will become of me? I am afraid Calypso was right when she said I should
have trouble by sea before I got back home. It is all coming true. How
black is Jove making heaven with his clouds, and what a sea the winds
are raising from every quarter at once. I am now safe to perish. Blest
and thrice blest were those Danaans who fell before Troy in the cause
of the sons of Atreus. Would that I had been killed on the day when the
Trojans were pressing me so sorely about the dead body of Achilles, for
then I should have had due burial and the Achaeans would have honoured
my name; but now it seems that I shall come to a most pitiable end."
As he spoke a sea broke over him with such terrific fury that the raft
reeled again, and he was carried overboard a long way off. He let go the
helm, and the force of the hurricane was so great that it broke the mast
half way up, and both sail and yard went over into the sea. For a long
time Ulysses was under water, and it was all he could do to rise to the
surface again, for the clothes Calypso had given him weighed him down;
but at last he got his head above water and spat out the bitter brine
that was running down his face in streams. In spite of all this,
however, he did not lose sight of his raft, but swam as fast as he could
towards it, got hold of it, and climbed on board again so as to escape
drowning. The sea took the raft and tossed it about as Autumn winds
whirl thistledown round and round upon a road. It was as though the
South, North, East, and West winds were all playing battledore and
shuttlecock with it at once.
When he was in this plight, Ino daughter of Cadmus, also called
Leucothea, saw him. She had formerly been a mere mortal, but had been
since raised to the rank of a marine goddess. Seeing in what great
distress Ulysses now was, she had compassion upon him, and, rising like
a sea-gull from the waves, took her seat upon the raft.
"My poor good man," said she, "why is Neptune so furiously angry with
you? He is giving you a great deal of trouble, but for all his bluster
he will not kill you. You seem to be a sensible person, do then as I bid
you; strip, leave your raft to drive before the wind, and swim to the
Phaeacian coast where better luck awaits you. And here, take my veil and
put it round your chest; it is enchanted, and you can come to no harm
so long as you wear it. As soon as you touch land take it off, throw it
back as far as you can into the sea, and then go away again." With these
words she took off her veil and gave it him. Then she dived down again
like a sea-gull and vanished beneath the dark blue waters.
But Ulysses did not know what to think. "Alas," he said to himself in
his dismay, "this is only some one or other of the gods who is luring me
to ruin by advising me to quit my raft. At any rate I will not do so at
present, for the land where she said I should be quit of all troubles
seemed to be still a good way off. I know what I will do--I am sure it
will be best--no matter what happens I will stick to the raft as long
as her timbers hold together, but when the sea breaks her up I will swim
for it; I do not see how I can do any better than this."
While he was thus in two minds, Neptune sent a terrible great wave that
seemed to rear itself above his head till it broke right over the raft,
which then went to pieces as though it were a heap of dry chaff tossed
about by a whirlwind. Ulysses got astride of one plank and rode upon
it as if he were on horseback; he then took off the clothes Calypso
had given him, bound Ino's veil under his arms, and plunged into the
sea--meaning to swim on shore. King Neptune watched him as he did so,
and wagged his head, muttering to himself and saying, "There now, swim
up and down as you best can till you fall in with well-to-do people.
I do not think you will be able to say that I have let you off too
lightly." On this he lashed his horses and drove to Aegae where his
palace is.
But Minerva resolved to help Ulysses, so she bound the ways of all the
winds except one, and made them lie quite still; but she roused a good
stiff breeze from the North that should lay the waters till Ulysses
reached the land of the Phaeacians where he would be safe.
Thereon he floated about for two nights and two days in the water, with
a heavy swell on the sea and death staring him in the face; but when the
third day broke, the wind fell and there was a dead calm without so much
as a breath of air stirring. As he rose on the swell he looked eagerly
ahead, and could see land quite near. Then, as children rejoice when
their dear father begins to get better after having for a long time
borne sore affliction sent him by some angry spirit, but the gods
deliver him from evil, so was Ulysses thankful when he again saw land
and trees, and swam on with all his strength that he might once more set
foot upon dry ground. When, however, he got within earshot, he began to
hear the surf thundering up against the rocks, for the swell still broke
against them with a terrific roar. Everything was enveloped in spray;
there were no harbours where a ship might ride, nor shelter of any kind,
but only headlands, low-lying rocks, and mountain tops.
Ulysses' heart now began to fail him, and he said despairingly to
himself, "Alas, Jove has let me see land after swimming so far that I
had given up all hope, but I can find no landing place, for the coast is
rocky and surf-beaten, the rocks are smooth and rise sheer from the sea,
with deep water close under them so that I cannot climb out for want of
foot hold. I am afraid some great wave will lift me off my legs and dash
me against the rocks as I leave the water--which would give me a
sorry landing. If, on the other hand, I swim further in search of some
shelving beach or harbour, a hurricane may carry me out to sea again
sorely against my will, or heaven may send some great monster of the
deep to attack me; for Amphitrite breeds many such, and I know that
Neptune is very angry with me."
While he was thus in two minds a wave caught him and took him with such
force against the rocks that he would have been smashed and torn to
pieces if Minerva had not shown him what to do. He caught hold of the
rock with both hands and clung to it groaning with pain till the wave
retired, so he was saved that time; but presently the wave came on again
and carried him back with it far into the sea--tearing his hands as the
suckers of a polypus are torn when some one plucks it from its bed, and
the stones come up along with it--even so did the rocks tear the skin
from his strong hands, and then the wave drew him deep down under the
Here poor Ulysses would have certainly perished even in spite of his own
destiny, if Minerva had not helped him to keep his wits about him. He
swam seaward again, beyond reach of the surf that was beating against
the land, and at the same time he kept looking towards the shore to
see if he could find some haven, or a spit that should take the waves
aslant. By and by, as he swam on, he came to the mouth of a river, and
here he thought would be the best place, for there were no rocks, and it
afforded shelter from the wind. He felt that there was a current, so he
prayed inwardly and said:
"Hear me, O King, whoever you may be, and save me from the anger of the
sea-god Neptune, for I approach you prayerfully. Any one who has lost
his way has at all times a claim even upon the gods, wherefore in my
distress I draw near to your stream, and cling to the knees of your
riverhood. Have mercy upon me, O king, for I declare myself your
Then the god staid his stream and stilled the waves, making all calm
before him, and bringing him safely into the mouth of the river. Here
at last Ulysses' knees and strong hands failed him, for the sea had
completely broken him. His body was all swollen, and his mouth and
nostrils ran down like a river with sea-water, so that he could neither
breathe nor speak, and lay swooning from sheer exhaustion; presently,
when he had got his breath and came to himself again, he took off the
scarf that Ino had given him and threw it back into the salt {54} stream
of the river, whereon Ino received it into her hands from the wave that
bore it towards her. Then he left the river, laid himself down among the
rushes, and kissed the bounteous earth.
"Alas," he cried to himself in his dismay, "what ever will become of me,
and how is it all to end? If I stay here upon the river bed through the
long watches of the night, I am so exhausted that the bitter cold and
damp may make an end of me--for towards sunrise there will be a keen
wind blowing from off the river. If, on the other hand, I climb the hill
side, find shelter in the woods, and sleep in some thicket, I may escape
the cold and have a good night's rest, but some savage beast may take
advantage of me and devour me."
In the end he deemed it best to take to the woods, and he found one
upon some high ground not far from the water. There he crept beneath
two shoots of olive that grew from a single stock--the one an ungrafted
sucker, while the other had been grafted. No wind, however squally,
could break through the cover they afforded, nor could the sun's rays
pierce them, nor the rain get through them, so closely did they grow
into one another. Ulysses crept under these and began to make himself
a bed to lie on, for there was a great litter of dead leaves lying
about--enough to make a covering for two or three men even in hard
winter weather. He was glad enough to see this, so he laid himself down
and heaped the leaves all round him. Then, as one who lives alone in the
country, far from any neighbor, hides a brand as fire-seed in the
ashes to save himself from having to get a light elsewhere, even so did
Ulysses cover himself up with leaves; and Minerva shed a sweet sleep
upon his eyes, closed his eyelids, and made him lose all memories of his
Book VI
So here Ulysses slept, overcome by sleep and toil; but Minerva went off
to the country and city of the Phaeacians--a people who used to live in
the fair town of Hypereia, near the lawless Cyclopes. Now the Cyclopes
were stronger than they and plundered them, so their king Nausithous
moved them thence and settled them in Scheria, far from all other
people. He surrounded the city with a wall, built houses and temples,
and divided the lands among his people; but he was dead and gone to
the house of Hades, and King Alcinous, whose counsels were inspired
of heaven, was now reigning. To his house, then, did Minerva hie in
furtherance of the return of Ulysses.
She went straight to the beautifully decorated bedroom in which there
slept a girl who was as lovely as a goddess, Nausicaa, daughter to King
Alcinous. Two maid servants were sleeping near her, both very pretty,
one on either side of the doorway, which was closed with well made
folding doors. Minerva took the form of the famous sea captain Dymas's
daughter, who was a bosom friend of Nausicaa and just her own age; then,
coming up to the girl's bedside like a breath of wind, she hovered over
her head and said:
"Nausicaa, what can your mother have been about, to have such a lazy
daughter? Here are your clothes all lying in disorder, yet you are going
to be married almost immediately, and should not only be well dressed
yourself, but should find good clothes for those who attend you. This is
the way to get yourself a good name, and to make your father and mother
proud of you. Suppose, then, that we make tomorrow a washing day,
and start at daybreak. I will come and help you so that you may have
everything ready as soon as possible, for all the best young men among
your own people are courting you, and you are not going to remain a
maid much longer. Ask your father, therefore, to have a waggon and mules
ready for us at daybreak, to take the rugs, robes, and girdles, and you
can ride, too, which will be much pleasanter for you than walking, for
the washing-cisterns are some way from the town."
When she had said this Minerva went away to Olympus, which they say
is the everlasting home of the gods. Here no wind beats roughly, and
neither rain nor snow can fall; but it abides in everlasting sunshine
and in a great peacefulness of light, wherein the blessed gods are
illumined for ever and ever. This was the place to which the goddess
went when she had given instructions to the girl.
By and by morning came and woke Nausicaa, who began wondering about
her dream; she therefore went to the other end of the house to tell her
father and mother all about it, and found them in their own room. Her
mother was sitting by the fireside spinning her purple yarn with her
maids around her, and she happened to catch her father just as he was
going out to attend a meeting of the town council, which the Phaeacian
aldermen had convened. She stopped him and said:
"Papa dear, could you manage to let me have a good big waggon? I want to
take all our dirty clothes to the river and wash them. You are the chief
man here, so it is only right that you should have a clean shirt when
you attend meetings of the council. Moreover, you have five sons at
home, two of them married, while the other three are good looking
bachelors; you know they always like to have clean linen when they go to
a dance, and I have been thinking about all this."
She did not say a word about her own wedding, for she did not like to,
but her father knew and said, "You shall have the mules, my love, and
whatever else you have a mind for. Be off with you, and the men shall
get you a good strong waggon with a body to it that will hold all your
On this he gave his orders to the servants, who got the waggon out,
harnessed the mules, and put them to, while the girl brought the clothes
down from the linen room and placed them on the waggon. Her mother
prepared her a basket of provisions with all sorts of good things, and a
goat skin full of wine; the girl now got into the waggon, and her mother
gave her also a golden cruse of oil, that she and her women might anoint
themselves. Then she took the whip and reins and lashed the mules on,
whereon they set off, and their hoofs clattered on the road. They pulled
without flagging, and carried not only Nausicaa and her wash of clothes,
but the maids also who were with her.
When they reached the water side they went to the washing cisterns,
through which there ran at all times enough pure water to wash any
quantity of linen, no matter how dirty. Here they unharnessed the mules
and turned them out to feed on the sweet juicy herbage that grew by the
water side. They took the clothes out of the waggon, put them in the
water, and vied with one another in treading them in the pits to get the
dirt out. After they had washed them and got them quite clean, they laid
them out by the sea side, where the waves had raised a high beach of
shingle, and set about washing themselves and anointing themselves with
olive oil. Then they got their dinner by the side of the stream, and
waited for the sun to finish drying the clothes. When they had done
dinner they threw off the veils that covered their heads and began to
play at ball, while Nausicaa sang for them. As the huntress Diana goes
forth upon the mountains of Taygetus or Erymanthus to hunt wild boars or
deer, and the wood nymphs, daughters of Aegis-bearing Jove, take their
sport along with her (then is Leto proud at seeing her daughter stand a
full head taller than the others, and eclipse the loveliest amid a whole
bevy of beauties), even so did the girl outshine her handmaids.
When it was time for them to start home, and they were folding the
clothes and putting them into the waggon, Minerva began to consider how
Ulysses should wake up and see the handsome girl who was to conduct him
to the city of the Phaeacians. The girl, therefore, threw a ball at one
of the maids, which missed her and fell into deep water. On this they
all shouted, and the noise they made woke Ulysses, who sat up in his bed
of leaves and began to wonder what it might all be.
"Alas," said he to himself, "what kind of people have I come amongst?
Are they cruel, savage, and uncivilised, or hospitable and humane? I
seem to hear the voices of young women, and they sound like those of
the nymphs that haunt mountain tops, or springs of rivers and meadows of
green grass. At any rate I am among a race of men and women. Let me try
if I cannot manage to get a look at them."
As he said this he crept from under his bush, and broke off a bough
covered with thick leaves to hide his nakedness. He looked like some
lion of the wilderness that stalks about exulting in his strength and
defying both wind and rain; his eyes glare as he prowls in quest of
oxen, sheep, or deer, for he is famished, and will dare break even
into a well fenced homestead, trying to get at the sheep--even such did
Ulysses seem to the young women, as he drew near to them all naked as he
was, for he was in great want. On seeing one so unkempt and so begrimed
with salt water, the others scampered off along the spits that jutted
out into the sea, but the daughter of Alcinous stood firm, for Minerva
put courage into her heart and took away all fear from her. She stood
right in front of Ulysses, and he doubted whether he should go up to
her, throw himself at her feet, and embrace her knees as a suppliant, or
stay where he was and entreat her to give him some clothes and show him
the way to the town. In the end he deemed it best to entreat her from a
distance in case the girl should take offence at his coming near enough
to clasp her knees, so he addressed her in honeyed and persuasive
"O queen," he said, "I implore your aid--but tell me, are you a goddess
or are you a mortal woman? If you are a goddess and dwell in heaven, I
can only conjecture that you are Jove's daughter Diana, for your face
and figure resemble none but hers; if on the other hand you are a mortal
and live on earth, thrice happy are your father and mother--thrice
happy, too, are your brothers and sisters; how proud and delighted
they must feel when they see so fair a scion as yourself going out to a
dance; most happy, however, of all will he be whose wedding gifts have
been the richest, and who takes you to his own home. I never yet saw any
one so beautiful, neither man nor woman, and am lost in admiration as I
behold you. I can only compare you to a young palm tree which I saw when
I was at Delos growing near the altar of Apollo--for I was there, too,
with much people after me, when I was on that journey which has been the
source of all my troubles. Never yet did such a young plant shoot out
of the ground as that was, and I admired and wondered at it exactly as I
now admire and wonder at yourself. I dare not clasp your knees, but I
am in great distress; yesterday made the twentieth day that I had been
tossing about upon the sea. The winds and waves have taken me all the
way from the Ogygian island, {55} and now fate has flung me upon this
coast that I may endure still further suffering; for I do not think that
I have yet come to the end of it, but rather that heaven has still much
evil in store for me.
"And now, O queen, have pity upon me, for you are the first person I
have met, and I know no one else in this country. Show me the way to
your town, and let me have anything that you may have brought hither to
wrap your clothes in. May heaven grant you in all things your heart's
desire--husband, house, and a happy, peaceful home; for there is nothing
better in this world than that man and wife should be of one mind in a
house. It discomfits their enemies, makes the hearts of their friends
glad, and they themselves know more about it than any one."
To this Nausicaa answered, "Stranger, you appear to be a sensible,
well-disposed person. There is no accounting for luck; Jove gives
prosperity to rich and poor just as he chooses, so you must take what
he has seen fit to send you, and make the best of it. Now, however, that
you have come to this our country, you shall not want for clothes nor
for anything else that a foreigner in distress may reasonably look for.
I will show you the way to the town, and will tell you the name of our
people; we are called Phaeacians, and I am daughter to Alcinous, in whom
the whole power of the state is vested."
Then she called her maids and said, "Stay where you are, you girls. Can
you not see a man without running away from him? Do you take him for a
robber or a murderer? Neither he nor any one else can come here to do
us Phaeacians any harm, for we are dear to the gods, and live apart on a
land's end that juts into the sounding sea, and have nothing to do with
any other people. This is only some poor man who has lost his way, and
we must be kind to him, for strangers and foreigners in distress
are under Jove's protection, and will take what they can get and be
thankful; so, girls, give the poor fellow something to eat and drink,
and wash him in the stream at some place that is sheltered from the
On this the maids left off running away and began calling one another
back. They made Ulysses sit down in the shelter as Nausicaa had told
them, and brought him a shirt and cloak. They also brought him the
little golden cruse of oil, and told him to go and wash in the stream.
But Ulysses said, "Young women, please to stand a little on one side
that I may wash the brine from my shoulders and anoint myself with oil,
for it is long enough since my skin has had a drop of oil upon it. I
cannot wash as long as you all keep standing there. I am ashamed to
strip {56} before a number of good looking young women."
Then they stood on one side and went to tell the girl, while Ulysses
washed himself in the stream and scrubbed the brine from his back and
from his broad shoulders. When he had thoroughly washed himself, and had
got the brine out of his hair, he anointed himself with oil, and put
on the clothes which the girl had given him; Minerva then made him look
taller and stronger than before, she also made the hair grow thick on
the top of his head, and flow down in curls like hyacinth blossoms; she
glorified him about the head and shoulders as a skilful workman who has
studied art of all kinds under Vulcan and Minerva enriches a piece of
silver plate by gilding it--and his work is full of beauty. Then he went
and sat down a little way off upon the beach, looking quite young and
handsome, and the girl gazed on him with admiration; then she said to
her maids:
"Hush, my dears, for I want to say something. I believe the gods who
live in heaven have sent this man to the Phaeacians. When I first saw
him I thought him plain, but now his appearance is like that of the gods
who dwell in heaven. I should like my future husband to be just such
another as he is, if he would only stay here and not want to go away.
However, give him something to eat and drink."
They did as they were told, and set food before Ulysses, who ate and
drank ravenously, for it was long since he had had food of any kind.
Meanwhile, Nausicaa bethought her of another matter. She got the linen
folded and placed in the waggon, she then yoked the mules, and, as she
took her seat, she called Ulysses:
"Stranger," said she, "rise and let us be going back to the town; I will
introduce you at the house of my excellent father, where I can tell you
that you will meet all the best people among the Phaeacians. But be sure
and do as I bid you, for you seem to be a sensible person. As long as
we are going past the fields and farm lands, follow briskly behind the
waggon along with the maids and I will lead the way myself. Presently,
however, we shall come to the town, where you will find a high wall
running all round it, and a good harbour on either side with a narrow
entrance into the city, and the ships will be drawn up by the road side,
for every one has a place where his own ship can lie. You will see the
market place with a temple of Neptune in the middle of it, and paved
with large stones bedded in the earth. Here people deal in ship's gear
of all kinds, such as cables and sails, and here, too, are the places
where oars are made, for the Phaeacians are not a nation of archers;
they know nothing about bows and arrows, but are a sea-faring folk, and
pride themselves on their masts, oars, and ships, with which they travel
far over the sea.
"I am afraid of the gossip and scandal that may be set on foot against
me later on; for the people here are very ill-natured, and some low
fellow, if he met us, might say, 'Who is this fine-looking stranger that
is going about with Nausicaa? Where did she find him? I suppose she is
going to marry him. Perhaps he is a vagabond sailor whom she has taken
from some foreign vessel, for we have no neighbours; or some god has at
last come down from heaven in answer to her prayers, and she is going to
live with him all the rest of her life. It would be a good thing if she
would take herself off and find a husband somewhere else, for she will
not look at one of the many excellent young Phaeacians who are in love
with her.' This is the kind of disparaging remark that would be made
about me, and I could not complain, for I should myself be scandalised
at seeing any other girl do the like, and go about with men in spite
of everybody, while her father and mother were still alive, and without
having been married in the face of all the world.
"If, therefore, you want my father to give you an escort and to help you
home, do as I bid you; you will see a beautiful grove of poplars by the
road side dedicated to Minerva; it has a well in it and a meadow all
round it. Here my father has a field of rich garden ground, about as far
from the town as a man's voice will carry. Sit down there and wait for
a while till the rest of us can get into the town and reach my father's
house. Then, when you think we must have done this, come into the town
and ask the way to the house of my father Alcinous. You will have no
difficulty in finding it; any child will point it out to you, for no one
else in the whole town has anything like such a fine house as he has.
When you have got past the gates and through the outer court, go right
across the inner court till you come to my mother. You will find her
sitting by the fire and spinning her purple wool by firelight. It is a
fine sight to see her as she leans back against one of the bearing-posts
with her maids all ranged behind her. Close to her seat stands that of
my father, on which he sits and topes like an immortal god. Never mind
him, but go up to my mother, and lay your hands upon her knees if you
would get home quickly. If you can gain her over, you may hope to see
your own country again, no matter how distant it may be."
So saying she lashed the mules with her whip and they left the river.
The mules drew well, and their hoofs went up and down upon the road.
She was careful not to go too fast for Ulysses and the maids who were
following on foot along with the waggon, so she plied her whip with
judgement. As the sun was going down they came to the sacred grove of
Minerva, and there Ulysses sat down and prayed to the mighty daughter of
"Hear me," he cried, "daughter of Aegis-bearing Jove, unweariable, hear
me now, for you gave no heed to my prayers when Neptune was wrecking me.
Now, therefore, have pity upon me and grant that I may find friends and
be hospitably received by the Phaeacians."
Thus did he pray, and Minerva heard his prayer, but she would not show
herself to him openly, for she was afraid of her uncle Neptune, who was
still furious in his endeavors to prevent Ulysses from getting home.
Book VII
Thus, then, did Ulysses wait and pray; but the girl drove on to the
town. When she reached her father's house she drew up at the gateway,
and her brothers--comely as the gods--gathered round her, took the mules
out of the waggon, and carried the clothes into the house, while she
went to her own room, where an old servant, Eurymedusa of Apeira, lit
the fire for her. This old woman had been brought by sea from Apeira,
and had been chosen as a prize for Alcinous because he was king over the
Phaeacians, and the people obeyed him as though he were a god. {57}
She had been nurse to Nausicaa, and had now lit the fire for her, and
brought her supper for her into her own room.
Presently Ulysses got up to go towards the town; and Minerva shed a
thick mist all round him to hide him in case any of the proud Phaeacians
who met him should be rude to him, or ask him who he was. Then, as he
was just entering the town, she came towards him in the likeness of a
little girl carrying a pitcher. She stood right in front of him, and
Ulysses said:
"My dear, will you be so kind as to show me the house of king Alcinous?
I am an unfortunate foreigner in distress, and do not know one in your
town and country."
Then Minerva said, "Yes, father stranger, I will show you the house you
want, for Alcinous lives quite close to my own father. I will go before
you and show the way, but say not a word as you go, and do not look
at any man, nor ask him questions; for the people here cannot abide
strangers, and do not like men who come from some other place. They are
a sea-faring folk, and sail the seas by the grace of Neptune in ships
that glide along like thought, or as a bird in the air."
On this she led the way, and Ulysses followed in her steps; but not one
of the Phaeacians could see him as he passed through the city in the
midst of them; for the great goddess Minerva in her good will towards
him had hidden him in a thick cloud of darkness. He admired their
harbours, ships, places of assembly, and the lofty walls of the city,
which, with the palisade on top of them, were very striking, and when
they reached the king's house Minerva said:
"This is the house, father stranger, which you would have me show you.
You will find a number of great people sitting at table, but do not be
afraid; go straight in, for the bolder a man is the more likely he is to
carry his point, even though he is a stranger. First find the queen. Her
name is Arete, and she comes of the same family as her husband Alcinous.
They both descend originally from Neptune, who was father to Nausithous
by Periboea, a woman of great beauty. Periboea was the youngest daughter
of Eurymedon, who at one time reigned over the giants, but he ruined his
ill-fated people and lost his own life to boot.
"Neptune, however, lay with his daughter, and she had a son by him, the
great Nausithous, who reigned over the Phaeacians. Nausithous had two
sons Rhexenor and Alcinous; {58} Apollo killed the first of them while
he was still a bridegroom and without male issue; but he left a daughter
Arete, whom Alcinous married, and honours as no other woman is honoured
of all those that keep house along with their husbands.
"Thus she both was, and still is, respected beyond measure by her
children, by Alcinous himself, and by the whole people, who look upon
her as a goddess, and greet her whenever she goes about the city, for
she is a thoroughly good woman both in head and heart, and when any
women are friends of hers, she will help their husbands also to settle
their disputes. If you can gain her good will, you may have every hope
of seeing your friends again, and getting safely back to your home and
Then Minerva left Scheria and went away over the sea. She went to
Marathon {59} and to the spacious streets of Athens, where she entered
the abode of Erechtheus; but Ulysses went on to the house of Alcinous,
and he pondered much as he paused a while before reaching the threshold
of bronze, for the splendour of the palace was like that of the sun or
moon. The walls on either side were of bronze from end to end, and the
cornice was of blue enamel. The doors were gold, and hung on pillars of
silver that rose from a floor of bronze, while the lintel was silver and
the hook of the door was of gold.
On either side there stood gold and silver mastiffs which Vulcan, with
his consummate skill, had fashioned expressly to keep watch over the
palace of king Alcinous; so they were immortal and could never grow old.
Seats were ranged all along the wall, here and there from one end to the
other, with coverings of fine woven work which the women of the house
had made. Here the chief persons of the Phaeacians used to sit and eat
and drink, for there was abundance at all seasons; and there were golden
figures of young men with lighted torches in their hands, raised on
pedestals, to give light by night to those who were at table. There are
{60} fifty maid servants in the house, some of whom are always grinding
rich yellow grain at the mill, while others work at the loom, or sit and
spin, and their shuttles go backwards and forwards like the fluttering
of aspen leaves, while the linen is so closely woven that it will turn
oil. As the Phaeacians are the best sailors in the world, so their women
excel all others in weaving, for Minerva has taught them all manner of
useful arts, and they are very intelligent.
Outside the gate of the outer court there is a large garden of
about four acres with a wall all round it. It is full of beautiful
trees--pears, pomegranates, and the most delicious apples. There are
luscious figs also, and olives in full growth. The fruits never rot nor
fail all the year round, neither winter nor summer, for the air is so
soft that a new crop ripens before the old has dropped. Pear grows on
pear, apple on apple, and fig on fig, and so also with the grapes, for
there is an excellent vineyard: on the level ground of a part of this,
the grapes are being made into raisins; in another part they are being
gathered; some are being trodden in the wine tubs, others further on
have shed their blossom and are beginning to show fruit, others again
are just changing colour. In the furthest part of the ground there are
beautifully arranged beds of flowers that are in bloom all the year
round. Two streams go through it, the one turned in ducts throughout the
whole garden, while the other is carried under the ground of the outer
court to the house itself, and the town's people draw water from it.
Such, then, were the splendours with which the gods had endowed the
house of king Alcinous.
So here Ulysses stood for a while and looked about him, but when he
had looked long enough he crossed the threshold and went within the
precincts of the house. There he found all the chief people among the
Phaeacians making their drink offerings to Mercury, which they always
did the last thing before going away for the night. {61} He went
straight through the court, still hidden by the cloak of darkness
in which Minerva had enveloped him, till he reached Arete and King
Alcinous; then he laid his hands upon the knees of the queen, and at
that moment the miraculous darkness fell away from him and he became
visible. Every one was speechless with surprise at seeing a man there,
but Ulysses began at once with his petition.
"Queen Arete," he exclaimed, "daughter of great Rhexenor, in my distress
I humbly pray you, as also your husband and these your guests (whom may
heaven prosper with long life and happiness, and may they leave their
possessions to their children, and all the honours conferred upon them
by the state) to help me home to my own country as soon as possible; for
I have been long in trouble and away from my friends."
Then he sat down on the hearth among the ashes and they all held their
peace, till presently the old hero Echeneus, who was an excellent
speaker and an elder among the Phaeacians, plainly and in all honesty
addressed them thus:
"Alcinous," said he, "it is not creditable to you that a stranger should
be seen sitting among the ashes of your hearth; every one is waiting to
hear what you are about to say; tell him, then, to rise and take a seat
on a stool inlaid with silver, and bid your servants mix some wine and
water that we may make a drink offering to Jove the lord of thunder,
who takes all well disposed suppliants under his protection; and let
the housekeeper give him some supper, of whatever there may be in the
When Alcinous heard this he took Ulysses by the hand, raised him from
the hearth, and bade him take the seat of Laodamas, who had been sitting
beside him, and was his favourite son. A maid servant then brought him
water in a beautiful golden ewer and poured it into a silver basin for
him to wash his hands, and she drew a clean table beside him; an upper
servant brought him bread and offered him many good things of what there
was in the house, and Ulysses ate and drank. Then Alcinous said to one
of the servants, "Pontonous, mix a cup of wine and hand it round that
we may make drink-offerings to Jove the lord of thunder, who is the
protector of all well-disposed suppliants."
Pontonous then mixed wine and water, and handed it round after giving
every man his drink-offering. When they had made their offerings, and
had drunk each as much as he was minded, Alcinous said:
"Aldermen and town councillors of the Phaeacians, hear my words. You
have had your supper, so now go home to bed. To-morrow morning I shall
invite a still larger number of aldermen, and will give a sacrificial
banquet in honour of our guest; we can then discuss the question of his
escort, and consider how we may at once send him back rejoicing to his
own country without trouble or inconvenience to himself, no matter how
distant it may be. We must see that he comes to no harm while on his
homeward journey, but when he is once at home he will have to take
the luck he was born with for better or worse like other people. It is
possible, however, that the stranger is one of the immortals who
has come down from heaven to visit us; but in this case the gods
are departing from their usual practice, for hitherto they have made
themselves perfectly clear to us when we have been offering them
hecatombs. They come and sit at our feasts just like one of our selves,
and if any solitary wayfarer happens to stumble upon some one or other
of them, they affect no concealment, for we are as near of kin to the
gods as the Cyclopes and the savage giants are." {62}
Then Ulysses said: "Pray, Alcinous, do not take any such notion into
your head. I have nothing of the immortal about me, neither in body
nor mind, and most resemble those among you who are the most afflicted.
Indeed, were I to tell you all that heaven has seen fit to lay upon me,
you would say that I was still worse off than they are. Nevertheless,
let me sup in spite of sorrow, for an empty stomach is a very
importunate thing, and thrusts itself on a man's notice no matter how
dire is his distress. I am in great trouble, yet it insists that I shall
eat and drink, bids me lay aside all memory of my sorrows and dwell only
on the due replenishing of itself. As for yourselves, do as you propose,
and at break of day set about helping me to get home. I shall be content
to die if I may first once more behold my property, my bondsmen, and all
the greatness of my house." {63}
Thus did he speak. Every one approved his saying, and agreed that he
should have his escort inasmuch as he had spoken reasonably. Then when
they had made their drink offerings, and had drunk each as much as he
was minded they went home to bed every man in his own abode, leaving
Ulysses in the cloister with Arete and Alcinous while the servants were
taking the things away after supper. Arete was the first to speak,
for she recognised the shirt, cloak, and good clothes that Ulysses
was wearing, as the work of herself and of her maids; so she said,
"Stranger, before we go any further, there is a question I should like
to ask you. Who, and whence are you, and who gave you those clothes? Did
you not say you had come here from beyond the sea?"
And Ulysses answered, "It would be a long story Madam, were I to relate
in full the tale of my misfortunes, for the hand of heaven has been laid
heavy upon me; but as regards your question, there is an island far away
in the sea which is called 'the Ogygian.' Here dwells the cunning and
powerful goddess Calypso, daughter of Atlas. She lives by herself far
from all neighbours human or divine. Fortune, however, brought me to
her hearth all desolate and alone, for Jove struck my ship with his
thunderbolts, and broke it up in mid-ocean. My brave comrades were
drowned every man of them, but I stuck to the keel and was carried
hither and thither for the space of nine days, till at last during the
darkness of the tenth night the gods brought me to the Ogygian island
where the great goddess Calypso lives. She took me in and treated me
with the utmost kindness; indeed she wanted to make me immortal that I
might never grow old, but she could not persuade me to let her do so.
"I stayed with Calypso seven years straight on end, and watered the good
clothes she gave me with my tears during the whole time; but at last
when the eighth year came round she bade me depart of her own free will,
either because Jove had told her she must, or because she had changed
her mind. She sent me from her island on a raft, which she provisioned
with abundance of bread and wine. Moreover she gave me good stout
clothing, and sent me a wind that blew both warm and fair. Days seven
and ten did I sail over the sea, and on the eighteenth I caught sight of
the first outlines of the mountains upon your coast--and glad indeed was
I to set eyes upon them. Nevertheless there was still much trouble in
store for me, for at this point Neptune would let me go no further, and
raised a great storm against me; the sea was so terribly high that I
could no longer keep to my raft, which went to pieces under the fury of
the gale, and I had to swim for it, till wind and current brought me to
your shores.
"There I tried to land, but could not, for it was a bad place and the
waves dashed me against the rocks, so I again took to the sea and swam
on till I came to a river that seemed the most likely landing place, for
there were no rocks and it was sheltered from the wind. Here, then, I
got out of the water and gathered my senses together again. Night was
coming on, so I left the river, and went into a thicket, where I covered
myself all over with leaves, and presently heaven sent me off into a
very deep sleep. Sick and sorry as I was I slept among the leaves all
night, and through the next day till afternoon, when I woke as the sun
was westering, and saw your daughter's maid servants playing upon the
beach, and your daughter among them looking like a goddess. I besought
her aid, and she proved to be of an excellent disposition, much more so
than could be expected from so young a person--for young people are apt
to be thoughtless. She gave me plenty of bread and wine, and when she
had had me washed in the river she also gave me the clothes in which you
see me. Now, therefore, though it has pained me to do so, I have told
you the whole truth."
Then Alcinous said, "Stranger, it was very wrong of my daughter not to
bring you on at once to my house along with the maids, seeing that she
was the first person whose aid you asked."
"Pray do not scold her," replied Ulysses; "she is not to blame. She did
tell me to follow along with the maids, but I was ashamed and afraid,
for I thought you might perhaps be displeased if you saw me. Every human
being is sometimes a little suspicious and irritable."
"Stranger," replied Alcinous, "I am not the kind of man to get angry
about nothing; it is always better to be reasonable; but by Father Jove,
Minerva, and Apollo, now that I see what kind of person you are, and how
much you think as I do, I wish you would stay here, marry my daughter,
and become my son-in-law. If you will stay I will give you a house and
an estate, but no one (heaven forbid) shall keep you here against your
own wish, and that you may be sure of this I will attend tomorrow to the
matter of your escort. You can sleep {64} during the whole voyage if you
like, and the men shall sail you over smooth waters either to your own
home, or wherever you please, even though it be a long way further
off than Euboea, which those of my people who saw it when they took
yellow-haired Rhadamanthus to see Tityus the son of Gaia, tell me is the
furthest of any place--and yet they did the whole voyage in a single day
without distressing themselves, and came back again afterwards. You
will thus see how much my ships excel all others, and what magnificent
oarsmen my sailors are."
Then was Ulysses glad and prayed aloud saying, "Father Jove, grant that
Alcinous may do all as he has said, for so he will win an imperishable
name among mankind, and at the same time I shall return to my country."
Thus did they converse. Then Arete told her maids to set a bed in the
room that was in the gatehouse, and make it with good red rugs, and to
spread coverlets on the top of them with woollen cloaks for Ulysses to
wear. The maids thereon went out with torches in their hands, and when
they had made the bed they came up to Ulysses and said, "Rise, sir
stranger, and come with us for your bed is ready," and glad indeed was
he to go to his rest.
So Ulysses slept in a bed placed in a room over the echoing gateway; but
Alcinous lay in the inner part of the house, with the queen his wife by
his side.
Now when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, Alcinous
and Ulysses both rose, and Alcinous led the way to the Phaeacian place
of assembly, which was near the ships. When they got there they sat down
side by side on a seat of polished stone, while Minerva took the form
of one of Alcinous' servants, and went round the town in order to help
Ulysses to get home. She went up to the citizens, man by man, and said,
"Aldermen and town councillors of the Phaeacians, come to the assembly
all of you and listen to the stranger who has just come off a long
voyage to the house of King Alcinous; he looks like an immortal god."
With these words she made them all want to come, and they flocked to the
assembly till seats and standing room were alike crowded. Every one was
struck with the appearance of Ulysses, for Minerva had beautified him
about the head and shoulders, making him look taller and stouter than he
really was, that he might impress the Phaeacians favourably as being a
very remarkable man, and might come off well in the many trials of skill
to which they would challenge him. Then, when they were got together,
Alcinous spoke:
"Hear me," said he, "aldermen and town councillors of the Phaeacians,
that I may speak even as I am minded. This stranger, whoever he may be,
has found his way to my house from somewhere or other either East or
West. He wants an escort and wishes to have the matter settled. Let
us then get one ready for him, as we have done for others before him;
indeed, no one who ever yet came to my house has been able to complain
of me for not speeding on his way soon enough. Let us draw a ship into
the sea--one that has never yet made a voyage--and man her with two and
fifty of our smartest young sailors. Then when you have made fast
your oars each by his own seat, leave the ship and come to my house to
prepare a feast. {65} I will find you in everything. I am giving these
instructions to the young men who will form the crew, for as regards
you aldermen and town councillors, you will join me in entertaining
our guest in the cloisters. I can take no excuses, and we will have
Demodocus to sing to us; for there is no bard like him whatever he may
choose to sing about."
Alcinous then led the way, and the others followed after, while a
servant went to fetch Demodocus. The fifty-two picked oarsmen went to
the sea shore as they had been told, and when they got there they drew
the ship into the water, got her mast and sails inside her, bound
the oars to the thole-pins with twisted thongs of leather, all in due
course, and spread the white sails aloft. They moored the vessel a
little way out from land, and then came on shore and went to the house
of King Alcinous. The out houses, {66} yards, and all the precincts were
filled with crowds of men in great multitudes both old and young; and
Alcinous killed them a dozen sheep, eight full grown pigs, and two oxen.
These they skinned and dressed so as to provide a magnificent banquet.
A servant presently led in the famous bard Demodocus, whom the muse had
dearly loved, but to whom she had given both good and evil, for though
she had endowed him with a divine gift of song, she had robbed him of
his eyesight. Pontonous set a seat for him among the guests, leaning it
up against a bearing-post. He hung the lyre for him on a peg over his
head, and showed him where he was to feel for it with his hands. He also
set a fair table with a basket of victuals by his side, and a cup of
wine from which he might drink whenever he was so disposed.
The company then laid their hands upon the good things that were before
them, but as soon as they had had enough to eat and drink, the muse
inspired Demodocus to sing the feats of heroes, and more especially
a matter that was then in the mouths of all men, to wit, the quarrel
between Ulysses and Achilles, and the fierce words that they heaped on
one another as they sat together at a banquet. But Agamemnon was glad
when he heard his chieftains quarrelling with one another, for Apollo
had foretold him this at Pytho when he crossed the stone floor to
consult the oracle. Here was the beginning of the evil that by the will
of Jove fell both upon Danaans and Trojans.
Thus sang the bard, but Ulysses drew his purple mantle over his head and
covered his face, for he was ashamed to let the Phaeacians see that he
was weeping. When the bard left off singing he wiped the tears from his
eyes, uncovered his face, and, taking his cup, made a drink-offering to
the gods; but when the Phaeacians pressed Demodocus to sing further, for
they delighted in his lays, then Ulysses again drew his mantle over his
head and wept bitterly. No one noticed his distress except Alcinous, who
was sitting near him, and heard the heavy sighs that he was heaving. So
he at once said, "Aldermen and town councillors of the Phaeacians, we
have had enough now, both of the feast, and of the minstrelsy that is
its due accompaniment; let us proceed therefore to the athletic sports,
so that our guest on his return home may be able to tell his friends
how much we surpass all other nations as boxers, wrestlers, jumpers, and
With these words he led the way, and the others followed after. A
servant hung Demodocus's lyre on its peg for him, led him out of the
cloister, and set him on the same way as that along which all the chief
men of the Phaeacians were going to see the sports; a crowd of several
thousands of people followed them, and there were many excellent
competitors for all the prizes. Acroneos, Ocyalus, Elatreus, Nauteus,
Prymneus, Anchialus, Eretmeus, Ponteus, Proreus, Thoon, Anabesineus, and
Amphialus son of Polyneus son of Tecton. There was also Euryalus son of
Naubolus, who was like Mars himself, and was the best looking man
among the Phaeacians except Laodamas. Three sons of Alcinous, Laodamas,
Halios, and Clytoneus, competed also.
The foot races came first. The course was set out for them from the
starting post, and they raised a dust upon the plain as they all flew
forward at the same moment. Clytoneus came in first by a long way; he
left every one else behind him by the length of the furrow that a couple
of mules can plough in a fallow field. {67} They then turned to the
painful art of wrestling, and here Euryalus proved to be the best man.
Amphialus excelled all the others in jumping, while at throwing the disc
there was no one who could approach Elatreus. Alcinous's son Laodamas
was the best boxer, and he it was who presently said, when they had all
been diverted with the games, "Let us ask the stranger whether he excels
in any of these sports; he seems very powerfully built; his thighs,
calves, hands, and neck are of prodigious strength, nor is he at all
old, but he has suffered much lately, and there is nothing like the sea
for making havoc with a man, no matter how strong he is."
"You are quite right, Laodamas," replied Euryalus, "go up to your guest
and speak to him about it yourself."
When Laodamas heard this he made his way into the middle of the crowd
and said to Ulysses, "I hope, Sir, that you will enter yourself for some
one or other of our competitions if you are skilled in any of them--and
you must have gone in for many a one before now. There is nothing that
does any one so much credit all his life long as the showing himself a
proper man with his hands and feet. Have a try therefore at something,
and banish all sorrow from your mind. Your return home will not be long
delayed, for the ship is already drawn into the water, and the crew is
Ulysses answered, "Laodamas, why do you taunt me in this way? my mind is
set rather on cares than contests; I have been through infinite trouble,
and am come among you now as a suppliant, praying your king and people
to further me on my return home."
Then Euryalus reviled him outright and said, "I gather, then, that you
are unskilled in any of the many sports that men generally delight in. I
suppose you are one of those grasping traders that go about in ships
as captains or merchants, and who think of nothing but of their outward
freights and homeward cargoes. There does not seem to be much of the
athlete about you."
"For shame, Sir," answered Ulysses, fiercely, "you are an insolent
fellow--so true is it that the gods do not grace all men alike in
speech, person, and understanding. One man may be of weak presence, but
heaven has adorned this with such a good conversation that he charms
every one who sees him; his honeyed moderation carries his hearers with
him so that he is leader in all assemblies of his fellows, and wherever
he goes he is looked up to. Another may be as handsome as a god, but his
good looks are not crowned with discretion. This is your case. No god
could make a finer looking fellow than you are, but you are a fool. Your
ill-judged remarks have made me exceedingly angry, and you are quite
mistaken, for I excel in a great many athletic exercises; indeed, so
long as I had youth and strength, I was among the first athletes of the
age. Now, however, I am worn out by labour and sorrow, for I have gone
through much both on the field of battle and by the waves of the weary
sea; still, in spite of all this I will compete, for your taunts have
stung me to the quick."
So he hurried up without even taking his cloak off, and seized a disc,
larger, more massive and much heavier than those used by the Phaeacians
when disc-throwing among themselves. {68} Then, swinging it back, he
threw it from his brawny hand, and it made a humming sound in the air as
he did so. The Phaeacians quailed beneath the rushing of its flight as
it sped gracefully from his hand, and flew beyond any mark that had been
made yet. Minerva, in the form of a man, came and marked the place where
it had fallen. "A blind man, Sir," said she, "could easily tell your
mark by groping for it--it is so far ahead of any other. You may make
your mind easy about this contest, for no Phaeacian can come near to
such a throw as yours."
Ulysses was glad when he found he had a friend among the lookers-on,
so he began to speak more pleasantly. "Young men," said he, "come up to
that throw if you can, and I will throw another disc as heavy or even
heavier. If anyone wants to have a bout with me let him come on, for I
am exceedingly angry; I will box, wrestle, or run, I do not care what it
is, with any man of you all except Laodamas, but not with him because I
am his guest, and one cannot compete with one's own personal friend.
At least I do not think it a prudent or a sensible thing for a guest
to challenge his host's family at any game, especially when he is in a
foreign country. He will cut the ground from under his own feet if he
does; but I make no exception as regards any one else, for I want to
have the matter out and know which is the best man. I am a good hand
at every kind of athletic sport known among mankind. I am an excellent
archer. In battle I am always the first to bring a man down with my
arrow, no matter how many more are taking aim at him alongside of me.
Philoctetes was the only man who could shoot better than I could when we
Achaeans were before Troy and in practice. I far excel every one else
in the whole world, of those who still eat bread upon the face of the
earth, but I should not like to shoot against the mighty dead, such as
Hercules, or Eurytus the Oechalian--men who could shoot against the gods
themselves. This in fact was how Eurytus came prematurely by his end,
for Apollo was angry with him and killed him because he challenged him
as an archer. I can throw a dart farther than any one else can shoot an
arrow. Running is the only point in respect of which I am afraid some of
the Phaeacians might beat me, for I have been brought down very low at
sea; my provisions ran short, and therefore I am still weak."
They all held their peace except King Alcinous, who began, "Sir, we have
had much pleasure in hearing all that you have told us, from which I
understand that you are willing to show your prowess, as having been
displeased with some insolent remarks that have been made to you by one
of our athletes, and which could never have been uttered by any one who
knows how to talk with propriety. I hope you will apprehend my meaning,
and will explain to any one of your chief men who may be dining with
yourself and your family when you get home, that we have an hereditary
aptitude for accomplishments of all kinds. We are not particularly
remarkable for our boxing, nor yet as wrestlers, but we are singularly
fleet of foot and are excellent sailors. We are extremely fond of good
dinners, music, and dancing; we also like frequent changes of linen,
warm baths, and good beds, so now, please, some of you who are the best
dancers set about dancing, that our guest on his return home may be able
to tell his friends how much we surpass all other nations as sailors,
runners, dancers, and minstrels. Demodocus has left his lyre at my
house, so run some one or other of you and fetch it for him."
On this a servant hurried off to bring the lyre from the king's house,
and the nine men who had been chosen as stewards stood forward. It was
their business to manage everything connected with the sports, so
they made the ground smooth and marked a wide space for the dancers.
Presently the servant came back with Demodocus's lyre, and he took his
place in the midst of them, whereon the best young dancers in the town
began to foot and trip it so nimbly that Ulysses was delighted with the
merry twinkling of their feet.
Meanwhile the bard began to sing the loves of Mars and Venus, and how
they first began their intrigue in the house of Vulcan. Mars made Venus
many presents, and defiled King Vulcan's marriage bed, so the sun, who
saw what they were about, told Vulcan. Vulcan was very angry when he
heard such dreadful news, so he went to his smithy brooding mischief,
got his great anvil into its place, and began to forge some chains which
none could either unloose or break, so that they might stay there in
that place. {69} When he had finished his snare he went into his bedroom
and festooned the bed-posts all over with chains like cobwebs; he also
let many hang down from the great beam of the ceiling. Not even a god
could see them so fine and subtle were they. As soon as he had spread
the chains all over the bed, he made as though he were setting out for
the fair state of Lemnos, which of all places in the world was the one
he was most fond of. But Mars kept no blind look out, and as soon as he
saw him start, hurried off to his house, burning with love for Venus.
Now Venus was just come in from a visit to her father Jove, and was
about sitting down when Mars came inside the house, and said as he took
her hand in his own, "Let us go to the couch of Vulcan: he is not at
home, but is gone off to Lemnos among the Sintians, whose speech is
She was nothing loth, so they went to the couch to take their rest,
whereon they were caught in the toils which cunning Vulcan had spread
for them, and could neither get up nor stir hand or foot, but found too
late that they were in a trap. Then Vulcan came up to them, for he had
turned back before reaching Lemnos, when his scout the sun told him what
was going on. He was in a furious passion, and stood in the vestibule
making a dreadful noise as he shouted to all the gods.
"Father Jove," he cried, "and all you other blessed gods who live for
ever, come here and see the ridiculous and disgraceful sight that I will
show you. Jove's daughter Venus is always dishonouring me because I am
lame. She is in love with Mars, who is handsome and clean built, whereas
I am a cripple--but my parents are to blame for that, not I; they ought
never to have begotten me. Come and see the pair together asleep on
my bed. It makes me furious to look at them. They are very fond of one
another, but I do not think they will lie there longer than they can
help, nor do I think that they will sleep much; there, however, they
shall stay till her father has repaid me the sum I gave him for his
baggage of a daughter, who is fair but not honest."
On this the gods gathered to the house of Vulcan. Earth-encircling
Neptune came, and Mercury the bringer of luck, and King Apollo, but the
goddesses staid at home all of them for shame. Then the givers of all
good things stood in the doorway, and the blessed gods roared with
inextinguishable laughter, as they saw how cunning Vulcan had been,
whereon one would turn towards his neighbour saying:
"Ill deeds do not prosper, and the weak confound the strong. See how
limping Vulcan, lame as he is, has caught Mars who is the fleetest god
in heaven; and now Mars will be cast in heavy damages."
Thus did they converse, but King Apollo said to Mercury, "Messenger
Mercury, giver of good things, you would not care how strong the chains
were, would you, if you could sleep with Venus?"
"King Apollo," answered Mercury, "I only wish I might get the chance,
though there were three times as many chains--and you might look on, all
of you, gods and goddesses, but I would sleep with her if I could."
The immortal gods burst out laughing as they heard him, but Neptune took
it all seriously, and kept on imploring Vulcan to set Mars free again.
"Let him go," he cried, "and I will undertake, as you require, that
he shall pay you all the damages that are held reasonable among the
immortal gods."
"Do not," replied Vulcan, "ask me to do this; a bad man's bond is bad
security; what remedy could I enforce against you if Mars should go away
and leave his debts behind him along with his chains?"
"Vulcan," said Neptune, "if Mars goes away without paying his damages,
I will pay you myself." So Vulcan answered, "In this case I cannot and
must not refuse you."
Thereon he loosed the bonds that bound them, and as soon as they were
free they scampered off, Mars to Thrace and laughter-loving Venus to
Cyprus and to Paphos, where is her grove and her altar fragrant with
burnt offerings. Here the Graces bathed her, and anointed her with oil
of ambrosia such as the immortal gods make use of, and they clothed her
in raiment of the most enchanting beauty.
Thus sang the bard, and both Ulysses and the seafaring Phaeacians were
charmed as they heard him.
Then Alcinous told Laodamas and Halius to dance alone, for there was no
one to compete with them. So they took a red ball which Polybus had made
for them, and one of them bent himself backwards and threw it up towards
the clouds, while the other jumped from off the ground and caught it
with ease before it came down again. When they had done throwing the
ball straight up into the air they began to dance, and at the same time
kept on throwing it backwards and forwards to one another, while all
the young men in the ring applauded and made a great stamping with their
feet. Then Ulysses said:
"King Alcinous, you said your people were the nimblest dancers in the
world, and indeed they have proved themselves to be so. I was astonished
as I saw them."
The king was delighted at this, and exclaimed to the Phaeacians,
"Aldermen and town councillors, our guest seems to be a person of
singular judgement; let us give him such proof of our hospitality as
he may reasonably expect. There are twelve chief men among you, and
counting myself there are thirteen; contribute, each of you, a clean
cloak, a shirt, and a talent of fine gold; let us give him all this in
a lump down at once, so that when he gets his supper he may do so with a
light heart. As for Euryalus he will have to make a formal apology and a
present too, for he has been rude."
Thus did he speak. The others all of them applauded his saying, and
sent their servants to fetch the presents. Then Euryalus said, "King
Alcinous, I will give the stranger all the satisfaction you require. He
shall have my sword, which is of bronze, all but the hilt, which is of
silver. I will also give him the scabbard of newly sawn ivory into which
it fits. It will be worth a great deal to him."
As he spoke he placed the sword in the hands of Ulysses and said, "Good
luck to you, father stranger; if anything has been said amiss may the
winds blow it away with them, and may heaven grant you a safe return,
for I understand you have been long away from home, and have gone
through much hardship."
To which Ulysses answered, "Good luck to you too my friend, and may the
gods grant you every happiness. I hope you will not miss the sword you
have given me along with your apology."
With these words he girded the sword about his shoulders and towards
sundown the presents began to make their appearance, as the servants of
the donors kept bringing them to the house of King Alcinous; here his
sons received them, and placed them under their mother's charge. Then
Alcinous led the way to the house and bade his guests take their seats.
"Wife," said he, turning to Queen Arete, "Go, fetch the best chest we
have, and put a clean cloak and shirt in it. Also, set a copper on the
fire and heat some water; our guest will take a warm bath; see also to
the careful packing of the presents that the noble Phaeacians have made
him; he will thus better enjoy both his supper and the singing that
will follow. I shall myself give him this golden goblet--which is of
exquisite workmanship--that he may be reminded of me for the rest of his
life whenever he makes a drink offering to Jove, or to any of the gods."
Then Arete told her maids to set a large tripod upon the fire as fast as
they could, whereon they set a tripod full of bath water on to a clear
fire; they threw on sticks to make it blaze, and the water became hot
as the flame played about the belly of the tripod. {71} Meanwhile Arete
brought a magnificent chest from her own room, and inside it she packed
all the beautiful presents of gold and raiment which the Phaeacians had
brought. Lastly she added a cloak and a good shirt from Alcinous, and
said to Ulysses:
"See to the lid yourself, and have the whole bound round at once, for
fear any one should rob you by the way when you are asleep in your
ship." {72}
When Ulysses heard this he put the lid on the chest and made it fast
with a bond that Circe had taught him. He had done so before an upper
servant told him to come to the bath and wash himself. He was very glad
of a warm bath, for he had had no one to wait upon him ever since he
left the house of Calypso, who as long as he remained with her had taken
as good care of him as though he had been a god. When the servants had
done washing and anointing him with oil, and had given him a clean cloak
and shirt, he left the bath room and joined the guests who were sitting
over their wine. Lovely Nausicaa stood by one of the bearing-posts
supporting the roof of the cloister, and admired him as she saw him
pass. "Farewell stranger," said she, "do not forget me when you are safe
at home again, for it is to me first that you owe a ransom for having
saved your life."
And Ulysses said, "Nausicaa, daughter of great Alcinous, may Jove the
mighty husband of Juno, grant that I may reach my home; so shall I bless
you as my guardian angel all my days, for it was you who saved me."
When he had said this, he seated himself beside Alcinous. Supper was
then served, and the wine was mixed for drinking. A servant led in the
favourite bard Demodocus, and set him in the midst of the company, near
one of the bearing-posts supporting the cloister, that he might lean
against it. Then Ulysses cut off a piece of roast pork with plenty of
fat (for there was abundance left on the joint) and said to a servant,
"Take this piece of pork over to Demodocus and tell him to eat it; for
all the pain his lays may cause me I will salute him none the less;
bards are honoured and respected throughout the world, for the muse
teaches them their songs and loves them."
The servant carried the pork in his fingers over to Demodocus, who took
it and was very much pleased. They then laid their hands on the good
things that were before them, and as soon as they had had to eat and
drink, Ulysses said to Demodocus, "Demodocus, there is no one in the
world whom I admire more than I do you. You must have studied under the
Muse, Jove's daughter, and under Apollo, so accurately do you sing the
return of the Achaeans with all their sufferings and adventures. If you
were not there yourself, you must have heard it all from some one who
was. Now, however, change your song and tell us of the wooden horse
which Epeus made with the assistance of Minerva, and which Ulysses got
by stratagem into the fort of Troy after freighting it with the men who
afterwards sacked the city. If you will sing this tale aright I will
tell all the world how magnificently heaven has endowed you."
The bard inspired of heaven took up the story at the point where some of
the Argives set fire to their tents and sailed away while others, hidden
within the horse, {73} were waiting with Ulysses in the Trojan place
of assembly. For the Trojans themselves had drawn the horse into their
fortress, and it stood there while they sat in council round it, and
were in three minds as to what they should do. Some were for breaking it
up then and there; others would have it dragged to the top of the rock
on which the fortress stood, and then thrown down the precipice; while
yet others were for letting it remain as an offering and propitiation
for the gods. And this was how they settled it in the end, for the city
was doomed when it took in that horse, within which were all the bravest
of the Argives waiting to bring death and destruction on the Trojans.
Anon he sang how the sons of the Achaeans issued from the horse, and
sacked the town, breaking out from their ambuscade. He sang how they
overran the city hither and thither and ravaged it, and how Ulysses went
raging like Mars along with Menelaus to the house of Deiphobus. It was
there that the fight raged most furiously, nevertheless by Minerva's
help he was victorious.
All this he told, but Ulysses was overcome as he heard him, and his
cheeks were wet with tears. He wept as a woman weeps when she throws
herself on the body of her husband who has fallen before his own city
and people, fighting bravely in defence of his home and children. She
screams aloud and flings her arms about him as he lies gasping for
breath and dying, but her enemies beat her from behind about the back
and shoulders, and carry her off into slavery, to a life of labour and
sorrow, and the beauty fades from her cheeks--even so piteously did
Ulysses weep, but none of those present perceived his tears except
Alcinous, who was sitting near him, and could hear the sobs and sighs
that he was heaving. The king, therefore, at once rose and said:
"Aldermen and town councillors of the Phaeacians, let Demodocus cease
his song, for there are those present who do not seem to like it. From
the moment that we had done supper and Demodocus began to sing, our
guest has been all the time groaning and lamenting. He is evidently
in great trouble, so let the bard leave off, that we may all enjoy
ourselves, hosts and guest alike. This will be much more as it should
be, for all these festivities, with the escort and the presents that we
are making with so much good will are wholly in his honour, and any
one with even a moderate amount of right feeling knows that he ought to
treat a guest and a suppliant as though he were his own brother.
"Therefore, Sir, do you on your part affect no more concealment nor
reserve in the matter about which I shall ask you; it will be more
polite in you to give me a plain answer; tell me the name by which your
father and mother over yonder used to call you, and by which you were
known among your neighbours and fellow-citizens. There is no one,
neither rich nor poor, who is absolutely without any name whatever, for
people's fathers and mothers give them names as soon as they are born.
Tell me also your country, nation, and city, that our ships may shape
their purpose accordingly and take you there. For the Phaeacians have
no pilots; their vessels have no rudders as those of other nations have,
but the ships themselves understand what it is that we are thinking
about and want; they know all the cities and countries in the whole
world, and can traverse the sea just as well even when it is covered
with mist and cloud, so that there is no danger of being wrecked or
coming to any harm. Still I do remember hearing my father say that
Neptune was angry with us for being too easy-going in the matter of
giving people escorts. He said that one of these days he should wreck a
ship of ours as it was returning from having escorted some one, {74} and
bury our city under a high mountain. This is what my father used to say,
but whether the god will carry out his threat or no is a matter which he
will decide for himself.
"And now, tell me and tell me true. Where have you been wandering, and
in what countries have you travelled? Tell us of the peoples themselves,
and of their cities--who were hostile, savage and uncivilised, and who,
on the other hand, hospitable and humane. Tell us also why you are made
so unhappy on hearing about the return of the Argive Danaans from Troy.
The gods arranged all this, and sent them their misfortunes in order
that future generations might have something to sing about. Did you
lose some brave kinsman of your wife's when you were before Troy? a
son-in-law or father-in-law--which are the nearest relations a man has
outside his own flesh and blood? or was it some brave and kindly-natured
comrade--for a good friend is as dear to a man as his own brother?"
Book IX
And Ulysses answered, "King Alcinous, it is a good thing to hear a bard
with such a divine voice as this man has. There is nothing better or
more delightful than when a whole people make merry together, with the
guests sitting orderly to listen, while the table is loaded with bread
and meats, and the cup-bearer draws wine and fills his cup for every
man. This is indeed as fair a sight as a man can see. Now, however,
since you are inclined to ask the story of my sorrows, and rekindle my
own sad memories in respect of them, I do not know how to begin, nor yet
how to continue and conclude my tale, for the hand of heaven has been
laid heavily upon me.
"Firstly, then, I will tell you my name that you too may know it, and
one day, if I outlive this time of sorrow, may become my guests though I
live so far away from all of you. I am Ulysses son of Laertes, renowned
among mankind for all manner of subtlety, so that my fame ascends to
heaven. I live in Ithaca, where there is a high mountain called Neritum,
covered with forests; and not far from it there is a group of islands
very near to one another--Dulichium, Same, and the wooded island of
Zacynthus. It lies squat on the horizon, all highest up in the sea
towards the sunset, while the others lie away from it towards dawn. {75}
It is a rugged island, but it breeds brave men, and my eyes know none
that they better love to look upon. The goddess Calypso kept me with her
in her cave, and wanted me to marry her, as did also the cunning Aeaean
goddess Circe; but they could neither of them persuade me, for there
is nothing dearer to a man than his own country and his parents, and
however splendid a home he may have in a foreign country, if it be far
from father or mother, he does not care about it. Now, however, I will
tell you of the many hazardous adventures which by Jove's will I met
with on my return from Troy.
"When I had set sail thence the wind took me first to Ismarus, which is
the city of the Cicons. There I sacked the town and put the people to
the sword. We took their wives and also much booty, which we divided
equitably amongst us, so that none might have reason to complain. I
then said that we had better make off at once, but my men very foolishly
would not obey me, so they staid there drinking much wine and killing
great numbers of sheep and oxen on the sea shore. Meanwhile the Cicons
cried out for help to other Cicons who lived inland. These were more in
number, and stronger, and they were more skilled in the art of war,
for they could fight, either from chariots or on foot as the occasion
served; in the morning, therefore, they came as thick as leaves and
bloom in summer, and the hand of heaven was against us, so that we were
hard pressed. They set the battle in array near the ships, and the hosts
aimed their bronze-shod spears at one another. {76} So long as the day
waxed and it was still morning, we held our own against them, though
they were more in number than we; but as the sun went down, towards the
time when men loose their oxen, the Cicons got the better of us, and we
lost half a dozen men from every ship we had; so we got away with those
that were left.
"Thence we sailed onward with sorrow in our hearts, but glad to have
escaped death though we had lost our comrades, nor did we leave till we
had thrice invoked each one of the poor fellows who had perished by the
hands of the Cicons. Then Jove raised the North wind against us till it
blew a hurricane, so that land and sky were hidden in thick clouds, and
night sprang forth out of the heavens. We let the ships run before the
gale, but the force of the wind tore our sails to tatters, so we took
them down for fear of shipwreck, and rowed our hardest towards the land.
There we lay two days and two nights suffering much alike from toil and
distress of mind, but on the morning of the third day we again raised
our masts, set sail, and took our places, letting the wind and steersmen
direct our ship. I should have got home at that time unharmed had not
the North wind and the currents been against me as I was doubling Cape
Malea, and set me off my course hard by the island of Cythera.
"I was driven thence by foul winds for a space of nine days upon the
sea, but on the tenth day we reached the land of the Lotus-eaters, who
live on a food that comes from a kind of flower. Here we landed to take
in fresh water, and our crews got their mid-day meal on the shore near
the ships. When they had eaten and drunk I sent two of my company to
see what manner of men the people of the place might be, and they had
a third man under them. They started at once, and went about among the
Lotus-eaters, who did them no hurt, but gave them to eat of the lotus,
which was so delicious that those who ate of it left off caring about
home, and did not even want to go back and say what had happened to
them, but were for staying and munching lotus {77} with the Lotus-eaters
without thinking further of their return; nevertheless, though they wept
bitterly I forced them back to the ships and made them fast under the
benches. Then I told the rest to go on board at once, lest any of them
should taste of the lotus and leave off wanting to get home, so they
took their places and smote the grey sea with their oars.
"We sailed hence, always in much distress, till we came to the land of
the lawless and inhuman Cyclopes. Now the Cyclopes neither plant nor
plough, but trust in providence, and live on such wheat, barley, and
grapes as grow wild without any kind of tillage, and their wild grapes
yield them wine as the sun and the rain may grow them. They have no
laws nor assemblies of the people, but live in caves on the tops of
high mountains; each is lord and master in his family, and they take no
account of their neighbours.
"Now off their harbour there lies a wooded and fertile island not quite
close to the land of the Cyclopes, but still not far. It is over-run
with wild goats, that breed there in great numbers and are never
disturbed by foot of man; for sportsmen--who as a rule will suffer so
much hardship in forest or among mountain precipices--do not go there,
nor yet again is it ever ploughed or fed down, but it lies a wilderness
untilled and unsown from year to year, and has no living thing upon it
but only goats. For the Cyclopes have no ships, nor yet shipwrights who
could make ships for them; they cannot therefore go from city to city,
or sail over the sea to one another's country as people who have ships
can do; if they had had these they would have colonised the island, {78}
for it is a very good one, and would yield everything in due season.
There are meadows that in some places come right down to the sea
shore, well watered and full of luscious grass; grapes would do there
excellently; there is level land for ploughing, and it would always
yield heavily at harvest time, for the soil is deep. There is a good
harbour where no cables are wanted, nor yet anchors, nor need a ship be
moored, but all one has to do is to beach one's vessel and stay there
till the wind becomes fair for putting out to sea again. At the head of
the harbour there is a spring of clear water coming out of a cave, and
there are poplars growing all round it.
"Here we entered, but so dark was the night that some god must have
brought us in, for there was nothing whatever to be seen. A thick mist
hung all round our ships; {79} the moon was hidden behind a mass of
clouds so that no one could have seen the island if he had looked for
it, nor were there any breakers to tell us we were close in shore before
we found ourselves upon the land itself; when, however, we had beached
the ships, we took down the sails, went ashore and camped upon the beach
till daybreak.
"When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn appeared, we admired
the island and wandered all over it, while the nymphs Jove's daughters
roused the wild goats that we might get some meat for our dinner. On
this we fetched our spears and bows and arrows from the ships, and
dividing ourselves into three bands began to shoot the goats. Heaven
sent us excellent sport; I had twelve ships with me, and each ship got
nine goats, while my own ship had ten; thus through the livelong day to
the going down of the sun we ate and drank our fill, and we had plenty
of wine left, for each one of us had taken many jars full when we sacked
the city of the Cicons, and this had not yet run out. While we were
feasting we kept turning our eyes towards the land of the Cyclopes,
which was hard by, and saw the smoke of their stubble fires. We could
almost fancy we heard their voices and the bleating of their sheep and
goats, but when the sun went down and it came on dark, we camped down
upon the beach, and next morning I called a council.
"'Stay here, my brave fellows,' said I, 'all the rest of you, while I go
with my ship and exploit these people myself: I want to see if they are
uncivilised savages, or a hospitable and humane race.'
"I went on board, bidding my men to do so also and loose the hawsers; so
they took their places and smote the grey sea with their oars. When we
got to the land, which was not far, there, on the face of a cliff near
the sea, we saw a great cave overhung with laurels. It was a station for
a great many sheep and goats, and outside there was a large yard, with
a high wall round it made of stones built into the ground and of trees
both pine and oak. This was the abode of a huge monster who was then
away from home shepherding his flocks. He would have nothing to do with
other people, but led the life of an outlaw. He was a horrid creature,
not like a human being at all, but resembling rather some crag that
stands out boldly against the sky on the top of a high mountain.
"I told my men to draw the ship ashore, and stay where they were, all
but the twelve best among them, who were to go along with myself. I also
took a goatskin of sweet black wine which had been given me by Maron,
son of Euanthes, who was priest of Apollo the patron god of Ismarus, and
lived within the wooded precincts of the temple. When we were sacking
the city we respected him, and spared his life, as also his wife and
child; so he made me some presents of great value--seven talents of fine
gold, and a bowl of silver, with twelve jars of sweet wine, unblended,
and of the most exquisite flavour. Not a man nor maid in the house knew
about it, but only himself, his wife, and one housekeeper: when he drank
it he mixed twenty parts of water to one of wine, and yet the fragrance
from the mixing-bowl was so exquisite that it was impossible to refrain
from drinking. I filled a large skin with this wine, and took a wallet
full of provisions with me, for my mind misgave me that I might have to
deal with some savage who would be of great strength, and would respect
neither right nor law.
"We soon reached his cave, but he was out shepherding, so we went inside
and took stock of all that we could see. His cheese-racks were loaded
with cheeses, and he had more lambs and kids than his pens could hold.
They were kept in separate flocks; first there were the hoggets, then
the oldest of the younger lambs and lastly the very young ones {80} all
kept apart from one another; as for his dairy, all the vessels, bowls,
and milk pails into which he milked, were swimming with whey. When they
saw all this, my men begged me to let them first steal some cheeses, and
make off with them to the ship; they would then return, drive down the
lambs and kids, put them on board and sail away with them. It would have
been indeed better if we had done so but I would not listen to them, for
I wanted to see the owner himself, in the hope that he might give me
a present. When, however, we saw him my poor men found him ill to deal
"We lit a fire, offered some of the cheeses in sacrifice, ate others
of them, and then sat waiting till the Cyclops should come in with his
sheep. When he came, he brought in with him a huge load of dry firewood
to light the fire for his supper, and this he flung with such a noise on
to the floor of his cave that we hid ourselves for fear at the far end
of the cavern. Meanwhile he drove all the ewes inside, as well as the
she-goats that he was going to milk, leaving the males, both rams and
he-goats, outside in the yards. Then he rolled a huge stone to the mouth
of the cave--so huge that two and twenty strong four-wheeled waggons
would not be enough to draw it from its place against the doorway. When
he had so done he sat down and milked his ewes and goats, all in due
course, and then let each of them have her own young. He curdled half
the milk and set it aside in wicker strainers, but the other half he
poured into bowls that he might drink it for his supper. When he had got
through with all his work, he lit the fire, and then caught sight of us,
whereon he said:
"'Strangers, who are you? Where do sail from? Are you traders, or do
you sail the sea as rovers, with your hands against every man, and every
man's hand against you?'
"We were frightened out of our senses by his loud voice and monstrous
form, but I managed to say, 'We are Achaeans on our way home from Troy,
but by the will of Jove, and stress of weather, we have been driven far
out of our course. We are the people of Agamemnon, son of Atreus, who
has won infinite renown throughout the whole world, by sacking so great
a city and killing so many people. We therefore humbly pray you to show
us some hospitality, and otherwise make us such presents as visitors may
reasonably expect. May your excellency fear the wrath of heaven, for we
are your suppliants, and Jove takes all respectable travellers under his
protection, for he is the avenger of all suppliants and foreigners in
"To this he gave me but a pitiless answer, 'Stranger,' said he, 'you are
a fool, or else you know nothing of this country. Talk to me, indeed,
about fearing the gods or shunning their anger? We Cyclopes do not care
about Jove or any of your blessed gods, for we are ever so much stronger
than they. I shall not spare either yourself or your companions out of
any regard for Jove, unless I am in the humour for doing so. And now
tell me where you made your ship fast when you came on shore. Was it
round the point, or is she lying straight off the land?'
"He said this to draw me out, but I was too cunning to be caught in that
way, so I answered with a lie; 'Neptune,' said I, 'sent my ship on to
the rocks at the far end of your country, and wrecked it. We were driven
on to them from the open sea, but I and those who are with me escaped
the jaws of death.'
"The cruel wretch vouchsafed me not one word of answer, but with a
sudden clutch he gripped up two of my men at once and dashed them down
upon the ground as though they had been puppies. Their brains were shed
upon the ground, and the earth was wet with their blood. Then he tore
them limb from limb and supped upon them. He gobbled them up like a lion
in the wilderness, flesh, bones, marrow, and entrails, without leaving
anything uneaten. As for us, we wept and lifted up our hands to heaven
on seeing such a horrid sight, for we did not know what else to do; but
when the Cyclops had filled his huge paunch, and had washed down his