Book XX

Pallas and Odysseus consult of the killing of the wooers.

But the goodly Odysseus laid him down to sleep in the
vestibule of the house. He spread an undressed bull's hide
on the ground and above it many fleeces of sheep, that the
Achaeans were wont to slay in sacrifice, and Eurynome threw
a mantle over him where he lay. There Odysseus lay wakeful,
with evil thoughts against the wooers in his heart. And the
women came forth from their chamber, that aforetime were
wont to lie with the wooers, making laughter and mirth
among themselves. Then the heart of Odysseus was stirred
within his breast, and much he communed with his mind and
soul, whether he should leap forth upon them and deal death
to each, or suffer them to lie with the proud wooers, now
for the last and latest time. And his heart growled
sullenly within him. And even as a bitch stands over her
tender whelps growling, when she spies a man she knows not,
and she is eager to assail him, so growled his heart within
him in his wrath at their evil deeds. Then he smote upon
his breast and rebuked his own heart, saying:

'Endure, my heart; yea, a baser thing thou once didst bear,
on that day when the Cyclops, unrestrained in fury,
devoured the mighty men of my company; but still thou didst
endure till thy craft found a way for thee forth from out
the cave, where thou thoughtest to die.'

So spake he, chiding his own spirit within him, and his
heart verily abode steadfast in obedience to his word. But
Odysseus himself lay tossing this way and that. And as when
a man by a great fire burning takes a paunch full of fat
and blood, and turns it this way and that and longs to have
it roasted most speedily, so Odysseus tossed from side to
side, musing how he might stretch forth his hands upon the
shameless wooers, being but one man against so many. Then
down from heaven came Athene and drew nigh him, fashioned
in the likeness of a woman. And she stood over his head and
spake to him, saying:

'Lo now again, wherefore art thou watching, most luckless
of all men living? Is not this thy house and is not thy
wife there within and thy child, such a son as men wish to
have for their own?'

Then Odysseus of many counsels answered her saying: 'Yea,
goddess, all this thou hast spoken as is meet. But my heart
within me muses in some measure upon this, how I may
stretch forth my hands upon the shameless wooers, being but
one man, while they abide ever in their companies within.
Moreover this other and harder matter I ponder in my heart:
even if I were to slay them by thy will and the will of
Zeus, whither should I flee from the avengers? Look well to
this, I pray thee.'

Then answered the goddess, grey-eyed Athene: 'O hard of
belief! yea, many there be that trust even in a weaker
friend than I am, in one that is a mortal and knows not
such craft as mine; but I am a god, that preserve thee to
the end, in all manner of toils. And now I will tell thee
plainly; even should fifty companies of mortal men compass
us about eager to slay us in battle, even their kine
shouldst thou drive off and their brave flocks. But let
sleep in turn come over thee; to wake and to watch all
night, this too is vexation of spirit; and soon shalt thou
rise from out of thy troubles.'

So she spake and poured slumber upon his eyelids, but for
her part the fair goddess went back to Olympus.

While sleep laid hold of him loosening the cares of his
soul, sleep that loosens the limbs of men, his good wife
awoke and wept as she sat on her soft bed. But when she had
taken her fill of weeping, to Artemis first the fair lady
made her prayer:

'Artemis, lady and goddess, daughter of Zeus, would that
even now thou wouldst plant thy shaft within my breast and
take my life away, even in this hour! Or else, would that
the stormwind might snatch me up, and bear me hence down
the dusky ways, and cast me forth where the back-flowing
Oceanus mingles with the sea. It should be even as when the
stormwinds bare away the daughters of Pandareus. Their
father and their mother the gods had slain, and the maidens
were left orphans in the halls, and fair Aphrodite
cherished them with curds and sweet honey and delicious
wine. And Here gave them beauty and wisdom beyond the lot
of women, and holy Artemis dowered them with stature, and
Athene taught them skill in all famous handiwork. Now while
fair Aphrodite was wending to high Olympus, to pray that a
glad marriage might be accomplished for the maidens,--and
to Zeus she went whose joy is in the thunder, for he knows
all things well, what the fates give and deny to mortal
men--in the meanwhile the spirits of the storm snatched
away these maidens, and gave them to be handmaids to the
hateful Erinyes. Would that in such wise they that hold the
mansions of Olympus would take me from the sight of men, or
that fair-stressed Artemis would strike me, that so with a
vision of Odysseus before mine eyes I might even pass
beneath the dreadful earth, nor ever make a baser man's
delight! But herein is an evil that may well be borne,
namely, when a man weeps all the day long in great sorrow
of heart, but sleep takes him in the night, for sleep makes
him forgetful of all things, of good and evil, when once it
has overshadowed his eyelids. But as for me, even the
dreams that the gods send upon me are evil. For
furthermore, this very night one seemed to lie by my side,
in the likeness of my lord, as he was when he went with the
host, and then was my heart glad, since methought it was no
vain dream but a clear vision at the last.'

So she spake, and anon came the golden throned Dawn. Now
goodly Odysseus caught the voice of her weeping, and then
he fell a musing, and it seemed to him that even now she
knew him and was standing by his head. So he took up the
mantle and the fleeces whereon he was lying, and set them
on a high seat in the hall, and bare out the bull's hide
out of doors and laid it there, and lifting up his hands he
prayed to Zeus:

'Father Zeus, if ye gods of your good will have led me over
wet and dry, to mine own country, after ye had plagued me
sore, let some one I pray of the folk that are waking show
me a word of good omen within, and without let some sign
also be revealed to me from Zeus.'

So he spake in prayer, and Zeus, the counsellor, heard him.
Straightway he thundered from shining Olympus, from on high
from the place of clouds; and goodly Odysseus was glad.
Moreover a woman, a grinder at the mill, uttered a voice of
omen from within the house hard by, where stood the mills
of the shepherd of the people. At these handmills twelve
women in all plied their task, making meal of barley and of
wheat, the marrow of men. Now all the others were asleep,
for they had ground out their task of grain, but one alone
rested not yet, being the weakest of all. She now stayed
her quern and spake a word, a sign to her lord:

'Father Zeus, who rulest over gods and men, loudly hast
thou thundered from the starry sky, yet nowhere is there a
cloud to be seen: this surely is a portent thou art showing
to some mortal. Fulfil now, I pray thee, even to miserable
me, the word that I shall speak. May the wooers, on this
day, for the last and latest time make their sweet feasting
in the halls of Odysseus! They that have loosened my knees
with cruel toil to grind their barley meal, may they now
sup their last!'

Thus she spake, and goodly Odysseus was glad in the omen of
the voice and in the thunder of Zeus; for he thought that
he had gotten his vengeance on the guilty.

Now the other maidens in the fair halls of Odysseus had
gathered, and were kindling on the hearth the never-resting
fire. And Telemachus rose from his bed, a godlike man, and
put on his raiment, and slung a sharp sword about his
shoulders, and beneath his shining feet he bound his goodly
sandals. And he caught up his mighty spear shod with sharp
bronze, and went and stood by the threshold, and spake to

'Dear nurse, have ye honoured our guest in the house with
food and couch, or does he lie uncared for, as he may? For
this is my mother's way, wise as she is: blindly she
honours one of mortal men, even the worse, but the better
she sends without honour away.'

Then the prudent Eurycleia answered: 'Nay, my child, thou
shouldst not now blame her where no blame is. For the
stranger sat and drank wine, so long as he would, and of
food he said he was no longer fain, for thy mother asked
him. Moreover, against the hour when he should bethink him
of rest and sleep, she bade the maidens strew for him a
bed. But he, as one utterly wretched and ill-fated, refused
to lie on a couch and under blankets, but on an undressed
hide and on the fleeces of sheep he slept in the vestibule,
and we cast a mantle over him.'

So she spake, and Telemachus passed out through the hall
with his lance in his hand, and two fleet dogs bare him
company. He went on his way to the assembly-place to join
the goodly-greaved Achaeans. But the good lady Eurycleia,
daughter of Ops son of Peisenor, called aloud to her

'Come hither, let some of you go busily and sweep the hall,
and sprinkle it, and on the fair-fashioned seats throw
purple coverlets, and others with sponges wipe all the
tables clean, and cleanse the mixing bowls and well-wrought
double beakers, and others again go for water to the well,
and return with it right speedily. For the wooers will not
long be out of the hall but will return very early, for it
is a feast day, yea for all the people.'

So she spake, and they all gave ready ear and hearkened.
Twenty of them went to the well of dark water, and the
others there in the halls were busy with skilful hands.

Then in came the serving-men of the Achaeans. Thereon they
cleft the faggots well and cunningly, while, behold, the
women came back from the well. Then the swineherd joined
them leading three fatted boars, the best in all the flock.
These he left to feed at large in the fair courts, but as
for him he spake to Odysseus gently, saying:

'Tell me, stranger, do the Achaeans at all look on thee
with more regard, or do they dishonour thee in the halls,
as heretofore?'

Then Odysseus of many counsels answered him saying:

'Oh, that the gods, Eumaeus, may avenge the scorn wherewith
these men deal insolently, and devise infatuate deeds in
another's house, and have no place for shame!'

On such wise they spake one to another. And Melanthius drew
near them, the goatherd, leading the goats that were most
excellent in all the herds to be a dinner for the wooers,
and two shepherds bare him company. So he tethered the
goats beneath the echoing gallery, and himself spake to
Odysseus and taunted him, saying:

'Stranger, wilt thou still be a plague to us here in the
hall, with thy begging of men, and wilt not get thee gone?
In no wise do I think we twain will be sundered, till we
taste each the other's fists, for thy begging is out of all
order. Also there are elsewhere other feasts of the

So he spake, but Odysseus of many counsels answered him not
a word, but in silence he shook his head, brooding evil in
the deep of his heart.

Moreover a third man came up, Philoetius, a master of men,
leading a barren heifer for the wooers and fatted goats.
Now ferrymen had brought them over from the mainland,
boatmen who send even other folks on their way, whosoever
comes to them. The cattle he tethered carefully beneath the
echoing gallery, and himself drew close to the swineherd,
and began to question him:

'Swineherd, who is this stranger but newly come to our
house? From what men does he claim his birth? Where are his
kin and his native fields? Hapless is he, yet in fashion he
is like a royal lord; but the gods mar the goodliness of
wandering men, when even for kings they have woven the web
of trouble.'

So he spake, and came close to him offering his right hand
in welcome, and uttering his voice spake to him winged

'Father and stranger, hail! may happiness be thine in the
time to come; but as now, thou art fast holden in many
sorrows! Father Zeus, none other god is more baneful than
thou; thou hast no compassion on men, that are of thine own
begetting, but makest them to have fellowship with evil and
with bitter pains. The sweat brake out on me when I beheld
him, and mine eyes stand full of tears for memory of
Odysseus, for he too, methinks, is clad in such vile
raiment as this, and is wandering among men, if haply he
yet lives and sees the sunlight. But if he be dead already
and in the house of Hades, then woe is me for the noble
Odysseus, who set me over his cattle while I was but a lad
in the land of the Cephallenians. And now these wax
numberless; in no better wise could the breed of
broad-browed cattle of any mortal increase, even as the
ears of corn. But strangers command me to be ever driving
these for themselves to devour, and they care nothing for
the heir in the house, nor tremble at the vengeance of the
gods, for they are eager even now to divide among
themselves the possessions of our lord who is long afar.
Now my heart within my breast often revolves this thing.
Truly it were an evil deed, while a son of the master is
yet alive, to get me away to the land of strangers, and go
off, with cattle and all, to alien men. But this is more
grievous still, to abide here in affliction watching over
the herds of other men. Yea, long ago I would have fled and
gone forth to some other of the proud kings, for things are
now past sufferance; but still my thought is of that
hapless one, if he might come I know not whence, and make a
scattering of the wooers in the halls.'

Then Odysseus of many counsels answered him saying:

'Neatherd, seeing thou art not like to an evil man or a
foolish, and of myself I mark how that thou hast gotten
understanding of heart, therefore I will tell thee
somewhat, and swear a great oath to confirm it. Be Zeus now
my witness before any god, and the hospitable board and the
hearth of noble Odysseus, whereunto I am come, that while
thou art still in this place Odysseus shall come home, and
thou shalt see with thine eyes, if thou wilt, the slaying
of the wooers who lord it here.'

Then the neatherd made answer, saying:

'Ah, would, stranger, that Cronion may accomplish this
word! So shouldst thou know what my might is, and how my
hands follow to obey.'

In like manner Eumaeus prayed to all the gods, that wise
Odysseus might return to his own home.

On such wise they spake one to the other, but the wooers at
that time were framing death and doom for Telemachus. Even
so there came by them a bird on their left, an eagle of
lofty flight, with a cowering dove in his clutch. Then
Amphinomus made harangue and spake among them:

'Friends, this counsel of ours will not go well, namely,
the slaying of Telemachus; rather let us bethink us of the

So spake Amphinomus, and his saying pleased them well. They
passed into the halls of godlike Odysseus and laid by their
mantles on the chairs and high seats, and sacrificed great
sheep and stout goats and the fatlings of the boars and the
heifer of the herd; then they roasted the entrails and
served them round and mixed wine in the bowl, and the
swineherd set a cup by each man. And Philoetius, a master
of men, handed them wheaten bread in beautiful baskets, and
Melanthius poured out the wine. So they put forth their
hands on the good cheer set before them.

Now Telemachus, in his crafty purpose, made Odysseus to sit
down within the stablished hall by the threshold of stone,
and placed for him a mean settle and a little table. He set
by him his mess of the entrails, and poured wine into a
golden cup and spake to him, saying:

'There, sit thee down, drinking thy wine among the lords,
and the taunts and buffets of all the wooers I myself will
ward off from thee, for this is no house of public resort,
but the very house of Odysseus, and for me he won it. But,
ye wooers, refrain your minds from rebukes and your hands
from buffets, that no strife and feud may arise.'

So he said, and they all bit their lips and marvelled at
Telemachus, in that he spake boldly. Then Antinous, son of
Eupeithes, spake among them, saying:

'Hard though the word be, let us accept it, Achaeans, even
the word of Telemachus, though mightily he threatens us in
his speech. For Zeus Cronion hath hindered us of our
purpose, else would we have silenced him in our halls,
shrill orator as he is.'

So spake Antinous, but Telemachus took no heed of his
words. Now the henchmen were leading through the town the
holy hecatomb of the gods, and lo, the long-haired Achaeans
were gathered beneath the shady grove of Apollo, the prince
of archery.

Now when they had roasted the outer flesh and drawn it off
the spits, they divided the messes and shared the glorious
feast. And beside Odysseus they that waited set an equal
share, the same as that which fell to themselves, for so
Telemachus commanded, the dear son of divine Odysseus.

Now Athene would in nowise suffer the lordly wooers to
abstain from biting scorn, that the pain might sink yet the
deeper into the heart of Odysseus, son of Laertes. There
was among the wooers a man of a lawless heart, Ctesippus
was his name, and in Same was his home, who trusting,
forsooth, to his vast possessions, was wooing the wife of
Odysseus the lord long afar. And now he spake among the
proud wooers:

'Hear me, ye lordly wooers, and I will say somewhat. The
stranger verily has long had his due portion, as is meet,
an equal share; for it is not fair nor just to rob the
guests of Telemachus of their right, whosoever they may be
that come to this house. Go to then, I also will bestow on
him a stranger's gift, that he in turn may give a present
either to the bath-woman, or to any other of the thralls
within the house of godlike Odysseus.'

Therewith he caught up an ox's foot from the dish, where it
lay, and hurled it with strong hand. But Odysseus lightly
avoided it with a turn of his head, and smiled right grimly
in his heart, and the ox's foot smote the well-builded
wall. Then Telemachus rebuked Ctesippus, saying:

'Verily, Ctesippus, it has turned out happier for thy
heart's pleasure as it is! Thou didst not smite the
stranger, for he himself avoided that which was cast at
him, else surely would I have struck thee through the midst
with the sharp spear, and in place of wedding banquet thy
father would have had to busy him about a funeral feast in
this place. Wherefore let no man make show of unseemly
deeds in this my house, for now I have understanding to
discern both good and evil, but in time past I was yet a
child. But as needs we must, we still endure to see these
deeds, while sheep are slaughtered and wine drunken and
bread devoured, for hard it is for one man to restrain
many. But come, no longer work me harm out of an evil
heart; but if ye be set on slaying me, even me, with the
sword, even that would I rather endure, and far better
would it be to die than to witness for ever these unseemly
deeds--strangers shamefully entreated, and men haling the
handmaidens in foul wise through the fair house.'

So he spake, and they were all hushed in silence. And late
and at last spake among them Agelaus, son of Damastor:

'Friends, when a righteous word has been spoken, none
surely would rebuke another with hard speech and be angry.
Misuse ye not this stranger, nor any of the thralls that
are in the house of godlike Odysseus. But to Telemachus
himself I would speak a soft word and to his mother, if
perchance it may find favour with the mind of those twain.
So long as your hearts within you had hope of the wise
Odysseus returning to his own house, so long none could be
wroth that ye waited and held back the wooers in the halls,
for so had it been better, if Odysseus had returned and
come back to his own home. But now the event is plain, that
he will return no more. Go then, sit by thy mother and tell
her all, namely, that she must wed the best man that wooes
her, and whose gives most gifts; so shalt thou with
gladness live on the heritage of thy father, eating and
drinking, while she cares for another's house.'

Then wise Telemachus answered, and said: 'Nay by Zeus,
Agelaus, and by the griefs of my father, who far away
methinks from Ithaca has perished or goes wandering, in
nowise do I delay my mother's marriage; nay, I bid her be
married to what man she will, and withal I offer gifts
without number. But I do indeed feel shame to drive her
forth from the hall, despite her will, by a word of
compulsion; God forbid that ever this should be.'

So spake Telemachus, but among the wooers Pallas Athene
roused laughter unquenchable, and drave their wits
wandering. And now they were laughing with alien lips, and
blood-bedabbled was the flesh they ate, and their eyes were
filled with tears and their soul was fain of lamentation.
Then the godlike Theoclymenus spake among them:

'Ah, wretched men, what woe is this ye suffer? Shrouded in
night are your heads and your faces and your knees, and
kindled is the voice of wailing, and all cheeks are wet
with tears, and the walls and the fair main-beams of the
roof are sprinkled with blood. And the porch is full, and
full is the court, of ghosts that hasten hellwards beneath
the gloom, and the sun has perished out of heaven, and an
evil mist has overspread the world.'

So spake he, and they all laughed sweetly at him. Then
Eurymachus, son of Polybus, began to speak to them, saying:

'The guest that is newly come from a strange land is beside
himself. Quick, ye young men, and convey him forth out of
doors, that he may go to the place of the gathering, since
here he finds it dark as night.'

Then godlike Theoclymenus answered him: 'Eurymachus, in
nowise do I seek guides of thee to send me on my way. Eyes
have I, and ears, and both my feet, and a stable mind in my
breast of no mean fashioning. With these I will go forth,
for I see evil coming on you, which not one man of the
wooers may avoid or shun, of all you who in the house of
divine Odysseus deal insolently with men and devise
infatuate deeds.'

Therewith he went forth from out the fair-lying halls, and
came to Peiraeus who received him gladly. Then all the
wooers, looking one at the other, provoked Telemachus to
anger, laughing at his guests. And thus some one of the
haughty youths would speak:

'Telemachus, no man is more luckless than thou in his
guests, seeing thou keepest such a filthy wanderer,
whosoever he be, always longing for bread and wine, and
skilled in no peaceful work nor any deed of war, but a mere
burden of the earth. And this other fellow again must stand
up to play the seer! Nay, but if thou wouldest listen to
me, much better it were. Let us cast these strangers on
board a benched ship, and send them to the Sicilians,
whence they would fetch thee their price.' {*}

{* Reading [Greek], which is a correction. Or keeping the
MSS. [Greek] 'and this should bring thee in a goodly
price,' the subject to [Greek] being, probably, THE SALE,
which is suggested by the context.}

So spake the wooers, but he heeded not their words, in
silence he looked towards his father, expecting evermore
the hour when he should stretch forth his hands upon the
shameless wooers.

Now the daughter of Icarius, wise Penelope, had set her
fair chair over against them, and heard the words of each
one of the men in the halls. For in the midst of laughter
they had got ready the midday meal, a sweet meal and
abundant, for they had sacrificed many cattle. But never
could there be a banquet less gracious than that supper,
such an one as the goddess and the brave man were soon to
spread for them; for that they had begun the devices of