The Odyssey, Book XXII

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The Slaughter of the Suitors

Odysseus threw off his rags and began his slaughter of the suitors, first shooting Antinous in the neck. The other suitors initially thought Antinous’ death was an accident and searched for the weapons which had, until recently, hung on the walls,  but once Odysseus revealed who he was and that he would take revenge for their behaviour, Eurymachus pleaded that Antinous had been the instigator and, since he was now dead, begged that the rest of them be spared and they would repay all they had taken. When Odysseus refused, Eurymachus urged the suitors to attack Odysseus but, as Eurymachus drew his sword, Odysseus shot him with an arrow in the chest. After Telemachus killed Amphinomus with his spear, he went to fetch more armour and rejoined his father with Eumaeus and Philoetius.

File:Odysseus-Čikoš Sesija.jpg
Odysseus kills the Suitors, painting by Slobodna Dalmacija.

After Odysseus had used all his arrows killing the suitors he took a helmet and shield and two spears and told Eumaeus to guard a side door.

Melanthius meanwhile had managed to escape to the store room and bring weapons to the surviving suitors. Eumaeus discovered what he was doing and, on Odysseus’ order, he and Philoetius overpowered Melanthius, tied him up and suspended him from the rafters of the store room.

Realising that Odysseus might need more help Athena appeared in the guise of Mentor, his old and trusted friend. When Mentor was threatened by Agelaus, Athena urged Odysseus to summon up his former courage and, as a swallow, flew up to the rafters. Thinking Odysseus had been deserted by Mentor the suitors rallied and six of them threw their spears but, with Athena’s help, they all missed. Soon Odysseus and his three helpers had the upper hand as more and more of the suitors were killed. Not even their priest, Leodes, was spared although, at Telemachus’ intervention, their minstrel and herald were.

Slaughter of the suitors by Odysseus and Telemachus. Campanian red-figure bell-krater, c. 330 BC. Louvre.

When all the suitors were dead, Odysseus sent for Eurycleia, asked her which maid servants had been disloyal and asked her to fetch them. He ordered these, together with Telemachus, Eumaeus and Philoetius to carry out the dead and clean all traces of slaughter from the hall. Telemachus then executed by hanging the disloyal women in the courtyard. Melanthius was brought from the store room and mutilated in punishment.

The hall was purified with a lit fire and sulphur and Eurycleia summoned the other women who welcomed Odysseus.