The Odyssey [Abridged]
Athena Visits Ithaca
Muse, speak to
me now of that resourceful man
far and wide after ravaging
citadel of Troy. He came to see
cities, where he learned their customs,
while on the
sea his spirit suffered many torments,
as he fought to
save his life and lead his comrades home.
But though he
wanted to, he could not rescue them—
they all died
from their own stupidity, the fools.
They feasted on
the cattle of Hyperion,
god of the
sun—that’s why he snatched away their chance
of getting home
someday. So now, daughter of Zeus,
tell us his
story, starting anywhere you wish.1
warriors, all those who had escaped
destroyed, were now back safely home,
facing no more
dangers from battle or the sea.
who longed to get back to his wife
and reach his
home, was being held in a hollow cave
by that mighty
nymph Calypso, noble goddess,
who wished to
make Odysseus her husband.
But as the
seasons came and went, the year arrived
according to what gods had once ordained,
he was to get
back to Ithaca, his home—
not that he
would be free from troubles even there,
family. The gods pitied Odysseus,
Poseidon, who kept up his anger
Odysseus and did not relent
reached his native land.
But at that moment,
among the Ethiopians,
a long way off.
But other gods had gathered
in the great
hall of Olympian Zeus. Among them all,
the father of
gods and men was first to speak.
In his heart he
was remembering royal Aegisthus,
Agamemnon’s famous son,
With him in mind, Zeus addressed the gods:
disgraceful how these humans blame the gods.
their tribulations come from us,
themselves, through their own foolishness,
hardships which are not decreed by fate.
Aegisthus, who took for himself
the wife of
Agamemnon, Atreus’ son,
murdered him, once the man came home.
that was set by Fate. Aegisthus knew
would bring about his total ruin.
So he has
paid for everything in full.”2
with the gleaming eyes, answered Zeus:
Cronos and father to us all,
rule on high, yes indeed, Aegisthus
dead, something he well deserved.
other man who does what he did
destroyed! But my heart is torn
skillful Odysseus, ill-fated man,
who has had
to suffer such misfortune
for so many
years, a long way from friends.
He’s on an
island, surrounded by the sea,
that forms the ocean’s navel stone.
forests of that island lives a goddess,
the sad, unlucky man from leaving.
Odysseus yearns to see even the smoke
his native land and longs
And yet, Olympian Zeus, your heart
respond to him. Did not Odysseus
far-reaching plain beside the ships?
Zeus, are you so angry with him?”
Zeus then answered her and said:
How could I
forget godlike Odysseus,
among all mortal men
intelligence and offerings
immortal gods, who hold wide heaven?
Earthshaker Poseidon is a stubborn god,
enraged about the Cyclops,
whose eye Odysseus destroyed,
Polyphemus, the mightiest
of all the
Cyclopes. Thoosa bore him,
a daughter of that Phorcys
commands the restless seas. Poseidon,
those hollow caves, had sex with her.
reason Earthshaker Poseidon
Odysseus wander from his country.
has no plans to kill him. But come,
of us consider his return,
so he can
journey back to Ithaca.
anger will relent. He can’t
immortal gods all by himself,
all of us opposing him.”3
with the gleaming eyes replied to Zeus:
Cronos and father to us all,
above, let’s send Hermes,
Argus, as our messenger,
over to the
island of Ogygia,
so he can
quickly tell that fair-haired nymph
decision—that brave Odysseus
leave and complete his voyage home.4
I’ll go to
Ithaca and urge his son
to be more
active, put courage in his heart,
so he will
call those long-haired Achaeans
assembly, and there address the suitors,
who keep on
slaughtering his flocks of sheep
shambling bent-horned cattle.5
I’ll send him
on a trip
to Sparta and sandy Pylos,
about his father’s voyage home—
he may hear
of it somewhere—and to gain
reputation among men.”
Then she tied those lovely sandals
on her feet,
the immortal, golden sandals
which carry her
as fast as stormy blasts of wind
ocean seas and endless tracts of land.
She raced down
from the peak of Mount Olympus,
sped across to
Ithaca, and then just stood there,
outer gate before the palace,
threshold, gripping the bronze spear in her fist.
She looked like
Mentes, a foreigner, the chief
who ruled the
Taphians. There she met the suitors,
men, who were enjoying themselves
checkers right outside the door, sitting down
on hides of
first, well before the others.
He moved up
near Athena, then spoke to her—
his words had
enjoy our hospitality.
you have had some food to eat,
tell us what you need.”
Pallas Athena into his home.
Athena in and sat her in a chair,
crafted work. Under it
he rolled out a
linen mat and then arranged
a foot stool
for her feet. Beside her he drew up
decorated chair for him to sit in.
servant carried in a fine gold jug
water out into a silver basin,
so they could
wash their hands. Beside them she set down
table. Then the worthy housekeeper
brought in the
bread and set it down before them.
Next, she laid
out a wide variety of food,
on supplies she had in store.
A carver sliced
up many different cuts of meat
them. He set out goblets made of gold,
as a herald
went back and forth pouring their wine.
Then, one after
another, the proud suitors came.
They sat down
on reclining seats and high-backed chairs.
water out for them to wash their hands,
servants piled some baskets full of bread,
lads filled their bowls up to the brim with drink.
reached out with their hands to grab
the tasty food
prepared and placed in front of them.
When each and
every man had satisfied his need
for food and
drink, their hearts craved something more—
song—the finest joys of dinner feasts.
A herald gave a
splendid lyre to Phemius,
so he was
forced to sing in front of all the suitors.
On the strings
he plucked the prelude to a lovely song.
Telemachus, leaning his head over
Athena, so no one else could listen,
stranger, my guest,
here, they spend all their time like this,
and music—it’s so easy for them,
they gorge themselves on what belongs
else, and with impunity,
a man whose
white bones now may well be lying
mainland somewhere, rotting in the rain,
or in the
sea, being tossed around by waves.
If they saw
him return to Ithaca,
be praying they had swifter feet
more wealth in gold or clothes.
But by now
some evil fate has killed him,
and for us
there is no consolation,
not even if
some earth-bound mortal man
that he will come. But tell me,
candidly—Who are your people?
do you come from?”
the gleaming eyes, answered Telemachus:
“To you I
will indeed speak openly.
I can tell
you that my name is Mentes,
son of the
wise Anchialus, and king
oar-loving Taphians. My ship
some distance from the city.
speak openly and tell me this—
this feast? Who are these crowds of men?
Why do you
need this? Is it a wedding?
drinking party? It seems clear enough
this is no
meal where each man brings his share.
me that these men are acting here
insulting, overbearing way,
dining in your home.”
then said to
Athena in reply:
you’ve questioned me about the matter,
you. Our house was once well on its way
rich and famous—at that time
was alive among his people.
But now the
gods with their malicious plans
changed all that completely. They make sure
stays where nobody can see him—
done this to anyone before.
not him alone who makes me sad
and cry out
in distress. For now the gods
brought me other grievous troubles.
best young men who rule the islands,
and wooded Zacynthus,
as well as those who lord it here
Ithaca—they are all now
mother and ravaging my house.
turn down a marriage she detests
bring herself to make the final choice.
these men are feasting on my home
will be the death of me as well.”
Pallas Athena angry—she said to him:
Odysseus has wandered off
need him here so much! He could lay
upon these shameless suitors.
to what I’m going to tell you.
you must call Achaea’s warriors
assembly and address them all,
to the gods as witnesses.
suitors to return to their own homes.
As for your
mother, if her heart is set
married, then let her return
her father lives, for he’s a man
with great capabilities.
organize the marriage and arrange
gifts, as many as befit
well-loved daughter. Now, as for yourself,
listen, I have some wise advice.
Set off in
search of news about your father,
gone so long. Some living mortal
you something, or you may hear
from Zeus, which often brings men news.
to Pylos—speak to noble Nestor.
you’ve been there, proceed to Sparta
fair-haired Menelaus, the last one
bronze-clad Achaeans to get home.
not keep on acting like a child—
has come when you’re too old for that.”
Telemachus then answered her:
you’ve been speaking as a friend,
a father would for his own son—
you’ve said I never will forget.
now, though you’re eager to be off,
stay here a
while. Once you’ve had a bath
fond heart is fully satisfied,
back to your ship with your spirit
joy, carrying a costly present,
really beautiful, which will be
my gift to
you, an heirloom of the sort
guest-friends give to those who are their friends.”
with the gleaming eyes then said to him:
eager to depart, don’t keep me here
longer. And whatever gift
suggests you give me as a friend,
to me when I come back here,
and pick me
something truly beautiful.
earn you something worthy in return.”
Athena with the gleaming eyes departed,
flying off like
some wild sea bird. In his heart she put
strength. She made him recall his father,
even more so
than before. In his mind, Telemachus
and his heart was full of wonder.
He thought she
was a god. So he moved away.
And then the
noble youth rejoined the suitors.
Phemius was performing for them,
as they sat in
silence, listening. He was singing
of the return
of the Achaeans, that bitter trip
them take when they sailed home from Troy.
In her upper
room, the daughter of Icarius,
heard the man’s inspired song.
She came down
the towering staircase from her room,
alone—two female servants followed her.
Penelope reached the suitors,
beside the door post in the well-built room,
with a small
bright veil across her face. On either side
attendants stood. With tears streaming down,
addressed the famous singer:
all sorts of other ways to charm
audience, actions of the gods and men
singers celebrate. As you sit here,
sing one of
those, while these men drink their wine
Don’t keep up that painful song,
always breaks the heart here in my chest,
than anyone, I am weighed down
ceaseless grief which I cannot forget.
remember with such yearning
husband’s face, a man whose fame has spread
wide through Greece and central Argos.”
Telemachus answered her and said:
why begrudge the faithful singer
us in any way his mind
him to? One can’t blame the singers.
It seems to
me it’s Zeus’ fault. He hands out
men, each and every one of them,
desires. There’s nothing wrong
man’s singing of the evil fate
Danaans, for men praise the most
which they have heard most recently.
and spirit should endure his song.
Go up to
your rooms and keep busy there
own work, the spindle and the loom.
servants to perform their duties.
a man’s concern, every man’s,
especially mine, since in this house
I’m the one
Astonished at his words,
back to her own chambers,
setting in her
heart the prudent words her son had said.
attendant women she climbed the stairs
up to her rooms
and there wept for Odysseus,
husband, until bright-eyed Athena
sleep on her eyelids.
In the shadowy halls
started to create an uproar,
shouting out his hope to lie beside her.
Telemachus began his speech to them:
suitors of my mother, who all have
insolent arrogance, let us for now
banquet, but no more shouting,
grand to listen to a singer
as fine as
this one—his voice is like a god’s.
But in the
morning let us all assemble,
for a meeting, so I can speak
you firmly to depart my home.
yourself some different meals which eat up
possessions, moving house to house.
But if you
think it’s preferable and better
man’s livelihood to be consumed
paying anything, I’ll call upon
immortal gods to see if Zeus
about an act of retribution.
And if you
are destroyed inside my home,
not be avenged.”
They all bit
their lips, astonished that he’d spoken out
Then, Antinous, son of Eupeithes,
“Telemachus, the gods themselves,
are teaching you to be a braggart
rash speeches. I do hope that Zeus,
Cronos, does not make you king
of this sea
island Ithaca, even though
it is your
father’s legacy to you.”
At that point, the suitors
dancing and to singing lovely songs.
themselves until dark evening came.
Then each man
went to his own house to sleep.
moved up to where his room was built
high in the
splendid courtyard, with a spacious view,
his mind much
preoccupied on his way to bed.
him, quick-minded Eurycleia
flaming torches. She was Ops’s daughter.
Of all the
female household slaves she was the one
who loved him
most, for she had nursed him as a child.
He opened the
doors of the well-constructed room,
sat on the bed,
and pulled off his soft tunic,
handed it to
the wise old woman, who smoothed it out,
and folded it,
then hung the tunic on a peg
corded bedstead. Then she left the room,
door shut by its silver handle.
there all night long, wrapped up
wool, his mind thinking of the journey
which Athena had earlier
proposed to him.