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The Authoress of the Odyssey, by Samuel Butler, [1922], at

The Story of the Odyssey

Book I


Tell me, O Muse, of that ingenious hero who met with many adventures while trying to bring his men home after the Sack of Troy. He failed in this, for the men perished through their own sheer folly in eating the cattle of the Sun, and he himself, though he was longing to get back to his wife, was now languishing in a lonely island, the abode of the nymph Calypso. Calypso wanted him to marry her, and kept him with her for many years, till at last all the gods took pity upon him except Neptune, whose son Polyphemus he had blinded.

21 Now it so fell out that Neptune had gone to pay a visit to the Ethiopians, who lie in two halves, one half looking on to the Atlantic and the other on to the Indian Ocean. The other gods, therefore, held a council, and Jove made them a speech 35 about the folly of Ægisthus in wooing Clytemnestra and

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murdering Agamemnon; finally, yielding to Minerva, he consented that Ulysses should return to Ithaca.

"In that case," said Minerva, "we should send Mercury to 80 Calypso to tell her what we have settled. I will also go to Ithaca and embolden Ulysses’ son Telemachus to dismiss the suitors of his mother Penelope, who are ruining him by their extravagance. Furthermore, I will send him to Sparta and Pylos to seek news of his father, for this will get him a good name."

The goddess then winged her way to the gates of Ulysses’ 96 house, disguised as an old family friend, and found the suitors playing draughts in front of the house and lording it in great style. Telemachus, seeing her standing at the gate, went up to her, led her within, placed her spear in the spear-stand against a strong bearing-post, brought her a seat, and set refreshments before her.

Meanwhile the suitors came trooping into the sheltered 144 cloisters that ran round the inner court; here, according to their wont, they feasted; and when they had done eating they compelled Phemius, a famous bard, to sing to them. On this Telemachus began talking quietly to Minerva; he told her how his father's return seemed now quite hopeless, and concluded by asking her name and country.

Minerva said she was Mentes, chief of the Taphians, and 178 was on her way to Temesa * with a cargo of iron, which she should exchange for copper. She told Telemachus that her ship was lying outside the town, under Mt. Neritum,  in the 186 harbour that was called Rheithron.  "Go," she added, "and ask old Laertes, who I hear is now living but poorly in the 189 country and never comes into the town; he will tell you that I am an old friend of your father's."

She then said, "But who are all these people whom I see 224

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behaving so atrociously about your house? What is it all about? Their conduct is enough to disgust any right-minded person."

230 "They are my mother's suitors," answered Telemachus, "and come from the neighbouring islands of Dulichium, Same, and Zacynthus, as well as from Ithaca itself. My mother does not say she will not marry again and cannot bring her courtship to an end. So they are ruining me."

252 Minerva was very indignant, and advised him to fit out a ship and go to Pylos and Sparta, seeking news of his father. "If," she said, "you hear of his being alive, you can put up with all this extravagance for yet another twelve months. If on the other hand you hear of his death, return at once, send your 296 mother to her father's, and by fair means or foul kill the suitors."

306 Telemachus thanked her for her advice, promised to take it, and pressed her to prolong her visit. She explained that she could not possibly do so, and then flew off into the air, like an eagle.

325 Phemius was still singing: he had chosen for his subject the disastrous return of the Achæans from Troy. Penelope could hear him from her room upstairs, and came down into the presence of the suitors holding a veil before her face, and waited upon by two of her handmaids, one of whom stood on either side of her. She stood by one of the bearing-posts that supported the roof of the cloisters, and bade Phemius change his theme, which she found too painful as reminding her of her lost husband.

345 Telemachus reasoned with her, and ended by desiring her to go upstairs again. "Go back," he said, "within the house and see to your daily duties, your loom, your distaff, and the ordering of your servants; for speech is man's matter, and mine above all others, for it is I who am master here."

360 On this Penelope went back, with her women, wondering into the house, and as soon as she was gone Telemachus challenged the suitors to meet him next day in full assembly, that he might formally and publicly warn them to leave his house.

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Antinous and Eurymachus, their two leaders, both rejoined; 383 but presently night fell, and the whole body of suitors left the house for their own several abodes. When they were gone his old nurse Euryclea conducted Telemachus by torch light to his bedroom, in a lofty tower, which overlooked the outer courtyard and could be seen from far and near.

Euryclea had been bought by Laertes when she was quite 430 young; he had given the worth of twenty oxen for her, and she was made as much of in the house as his own wife was, but he did not take her to his bed, for he respected his wife's displeasure. The good old woman showed Telemachus to his room, and waited while he undressed. She took his shirt from him, folded it carefully up, and hung it on a peg by his bed side. This done, she left him to dream all night of his intended voyage.


19:* Temesa was on the West side of the toe of Italy and was once famous for its copper mines, which, however, were worked out in Strabo's time. See Smith's Dictionary of Ancient Geography.

19:† Reading Νηρίτῳ instead of Νηίῳ, cf. Book xiii, 96, &c., and 351, where the same harbour is obviously intended.

19:‡ i.e. "flowing," or with a current in it.

Next: Book II. Assembly of the People of Ithaca