The Odyssey, Book XV

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Telemachus arrives home

Athena went to Sparta to tell Telemachus it was time for him to return to Ithaca. She warned him that his mother’s father and brothers were urging her to marry Eurymachus, one of the suitors, and she might use some of the palace’s possessions as her dowry. She also warned Telemachus about the suitors’ ambush to kill him at sea, between Ithaca and Samos; he should avoid this stretch of water and, when he landed in Ithaca, he should spend the night in Eumaeus’ hut and send him to tell his mother of his safe return.

On the next morning, with Nestor’s son, Peisistratus, who had accompanied him, Telemachus took his leave of Menelaus who gave him expensive presents: a two handled silver mixing bowl with a gold rim, a silver bowl and a dress given to him by Helen for his future bride. As they were driving off in their chariot they saw an omen of an eagle carrying in its talons a large white goose. Helen interpreted this as meaning that Odysseus (the eagle) will return home and pounce on his enemies (the white goose).

File:Jean-Jacques Lagrenée - Helen Recognising Telemachus, Son of Odysseus - WGA12378.jpg
Helen and Telemachus, painting by Jean-Jacques Lagrenee, 1795.

They reached Pylos on the next day and Telemachus said goodbye to Peisistratus at his ship without seeing Nestor as he wanted no further delay. He took on board a stranger, Theoclymenus, a prophet, descended from Malampus who originally had lived in Pylos but had been forced to flee after his lands were seized and he had been imprisoned but escaped. Theoclymenus claimed that he was being pursued by the family of a man he had killed and he asked for sanctuary with Telemachus, which he received.

Odysseus meanwhile told Eumaeus he was intending to go to the palace the next day to speak with Penelope, see the suitors, beg a meal and offer to work as a servant. Eumaeus opposed this idea saying the suitors would kill him; he should wait for Telemachus to return who would look after him. Odysseus agreed to wait. Odysseus then asked Eumaeus whether his parents were dead or alive. Eumaeus told him his mother was dead, pining for Odysseus; his father, Laertes, was still alive but prayed for death mourning Odysseus, whom he believed to be dead, and his wife.

Eumaeus said he missed Anticlea enormously as she had brought him up with her daughter, Ctimene, until the latter married. Since then he had worked on the farm looking after the pigs. He had not seen Penelope since the arrival of the suitors. Odysseus then asked Eumaeus how he came to be in Ithaca and Eumaeus told his story: his father was king of two cities on the island of Syrie but he was betrayed by a Phoenician slave woman when some of her countrymen arrived, seduced her and offered to take her home. When she left she kidnapped the king’s son, Eumaeus. During the sea voyage the woman was killed by Artemis and thrown overboard. Eumaeus was sold to Laertes when they landed in Ithaca.

Meanwhile, avoiding the ambush, Telemachus arrived at Ithaca. He told his men to sail to the city and, as he placed Theoclymenus under the protection of his loyal friend, Peiraeus, a hawk, the bird of Apollo, flew on his right, holding a dove in its talons from which it plucked out feathers which fell between Telemachus and his ship. Theoclymenus interpreted this as meaning Telemachus and his family would rule there forever. Telemachus went on foot to find Eumaeus.

Book XIV Book XVI