The Odyssey, Book XXIII

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Odysseus and Penelope’s Reunion

Eurycleia rushed to wake Penelope and tell her that Odysseus had returned in the guise of the beggar they had welcomed and, along with Telemachus, who was privy to the plot for revenge, had killed all the suitors.

File:Odysseus und Penelope - Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein.jpg -  Wikimedia Commons
Penelope and Odysseus, painting by Johann Heinrich Tischbein.

At first Penelope did not believe the old nurse and initially thought she had gone mad or that a god must have killed them. When she went downstairs Penelope sat apart from Odysseus, trying to decide whether there was anything she recognised in him and she was criticised by Telemachus for not immediately welcoming her husband. At Odysseus’ instruction he told the household to put on their finery and they danced to the music of the minstrel to delay news of the suitors’ death and persuade outsiders that Penelope had finally married one of the suitors.

Odysseus himself bathed and dressed in fine clothes and his good looks were enhanced by Athena. She was finally persuaded by Odysseus describing how he had built their bed around a huge olive tree and she rushed to embrace her husband, begging his forgiveness for not immediately recognising and welcoming him. Athena delayed the dawn so that they could enjoy each other’s company for longer. Penelope told Odysseus about the suitors’ behaviour in his absence and he told her about his adventures since leaving Troy.

Odysseus and Penelope, painting by Francesco Primaticcio, 1563.

The next morning Odysseus told Penelope to stay in her room while he went to see his father, Laertes, with Telemachus, Eumaeus and Philoteus. Athena hid them on their journey under cover of darkness.