The Ancient World (HUM 124 - UNC Asheville)/Texts/Odyssey/Book 15

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Summary[edit | edit source]

Athena goes to Sparta to ensure the safe return of Telemachus. She found Telemachus resting with Pisistratus although Telemachus was not sleeping. He worried for his father. Athena warned that Telemachus should no longer travel far away leaving his wealth with others because they are greedy and he may not have any wealth left to come back to. She tells him to seek help from Menalaus. She also warns him that there is a gang of suitors waiting to ambush him and kill him on his journey home. She tells him to sail day and night and a god will grant him fair winds. As soon as he is home he is to go to Eumaeus to tell Penelope he has safely returned home. After sharing this advice, Athena went back up to mount Olympus.

They set off and end up in Pherae and spend the night with King Diocles. They saddle up the next day and embark again. While riding, Telemachus asks Pisistratus to leave him before they make it to the ship so that Odysseus doesn't see Pisistratus and make him stay home. Pisistratus obeys and leaves. While praying to Athena, Telemachus is approached by Theoclymenus a prophet who had killed a man in Argos. Theoclymenus asks Telemachus about himself and Telemachus tells him who he is. The stranger shares his story as well and Telemachus invites him to join his crew.

Telemachus kicked Pisistratus to wake him and told him to ready the horses for their immediate departure. Pisistratus pleaded to wait until morning for Menalaus' help. As soon as Pisistratus finished his pleading the sun rose and Menalaus woke and walked up to them. Telemachus asks the king to send him home as his heart yearns for home. The king says he does not plan on keeping Telemachus from home. He says Telemachus must stay long enough for Menaluas to load up the carriage with gifts for their journey. The king even offers to take Telemachus on a trip to Greece to be given even more gifts. Telemachus says he does not have time for such extravagant travel as there is no one back home protecting his wealth. The king understands and has his wife and female slaves prepare essentials for Telemachus' journey. One of Menaluas' guards in Sparta was tasked with roasting meat and starting a fire.

Menelaus, Helen and Megapenthes enter a fragrant tent filled with treasures. Each of them takes a treasure along with them. They go through the palace with their treasures to meet Telemachus. They gave a goblet, a bowl of solid silver to symbolize deep respect, and a robe that Helen had made herself. The robe is meant to be worn by Telemachus' bride. The king then leads them inside where they enjoy washing their hands and eating an array of food and wine. The boys saddle up and the King wishes them farewell. Right as this happens an eagle soars by with a goose in its claws. Helen says it is a sign that Odysseus will get his revenge.

Odysseus is in the hut of a swine-herder named Eumaeus. Odysseus asks Eumaeus about his past and he gladly shares a story with Odysseus. The story is about a woman from Phoenicia. She has been sold to a rich man and wants to go home. She has a secret lover who is a sailor and they plan a way for her to escape. It takes about a year before their plan is ready. When the time comes, she steals gold cups and sets sail with the sailors. Eumaeus is led by the woman to go with her so he can be sold. They made it aboard and traveled for a week. Then the woman fell ill and died and she was thrown overboard. Eumaeus was alone and then sold to Laertes. Odysseus thanks him for the story and tells him that he is blessed in his new life.

Telemachus makes it to land and tells his crew to tie up his ship on land just as Athena had suggested. Theoclymenus asks where he should stay and Telemachus tells him to stay with Eurymachus, the most dominant of the suitors. As soon as he said this, a hawk flew over with a pigeon in its talons. Theoclymenus says it is a sign that no family in Ithaca has greater power. Telemachus then tells his faithful companion Piraeus to house Theoclymenus and Piraues says he will do this for as long as Telemachus is away.

Characters[edit | edit source]

Athena (ath-eé-na): is the goddess associated with the technical and strategic skill, warfare, weaving and other kinds of expertise. She is the daughter of Zeus by Metis, a Titan representing cleverness. In this book she directly manipulates Telemachus to go home to see Odysseus. She gives advice and forewarning to Telemachus about a plan by the suitors to kill him.

Telemachus (te-lé-ma-kus): the only son of Odysseus and Penelope. He is one of the two main characters of this book. Begins his journey in this book in Sparta and heads home.

Pisistratus (pai-sis'-tra-tus): youngest son of Nestor and companion of Telemachus.

Penelope (pe-né-loh-pee): daughter of the Arcadian king Icarius. Wife of Odysseus. Mother of Telemachus.

Menelaus (me-ne-lay'-us): king of Sparta; husband of Helen; brother of Agamemnon.

Eteoneus (e-tee-o'-nee-us): Menelaus' guard in Sparta.

Helen: daughter of Zeus and Leda; wife of Menelaus. Her abduction by Paris prompted the Trojan War.

Megapenthes (me-ga-pen'-theez): son of Menelaus by a slave woman.

Diocles (dai'-o-kleez): king of Pherae.

Theoclymenus (thee-yo-cli'-men-us): a seer from Argos, whom Telemachus brings back to Ithaca.

Odysseus (o-dis'-ee-yus): king of Ithaca; son of Laertes and Anticleia; father of Telemachus.

Eumaeus (you-may'-us): loyal slave of Odysseus; he takes care of his pigs and helps Odysseus kill his wife's suitors. He shows the great length of his hospitality by inviting a simple beggar (a disguise worn by Odysseus) to stay longer with him in his home after the beggar suggested he leave quickly.

Laertes (lay-air'-teez): father of Odysseus; son of Arcesius.

Piraeus (pai-ray'-yus): one of Telemachus' companions.

Ancient Worldview[edit | edit source]

Hospitality and Customs: We see the ever present ancient worldview of hospitality and customs in book 15 as well. Odysseus is welcomed wholeheartedly by Eumaeus as Odysseus is his guest. It is custom to welcome any guest in Greek culture. However, Odysseus takes it one step further by suggesting that he will leave hastily the next day as a way to test if Eumaeus will extend his hospitality even further. It shows the extent of the custom of hospitality but also the extent of Eumaeus' hospitality to give it so freely to a beggar he doesn't even know. While Greek customs may require you to welcome any guest I am not sure it applies indefinitely; guests can presumably outstay their welcome too. Omens and the Gods: We see two examples of omens being used to predict the fate forthcoming to our adventurers. We see it first with the eagle soaring overhead with the goose symbolizing revenge. We see it again near the end with the hawk flying overhead with a pigeon in its talons symbolizing that Telemachus' family will prevail. To speak as to the Gods playing a role in this book, we see Athena directly orchestrate the meeting of Telemachus and Odysseus by setting the first pawn (Telemachus) into play. Given the good omen of the hawk it seems the Gods are literally 'playing' god and perhaps even having fun while playing with the humans while they set the pieces of their game into play.

Fate and Justice: We see examples of characters fates taking an unexpected turn just by chance and in turn we see what we might see as just being thwarted. Eumaeus provides this example with the story of his upbringing. He was born into royalty and just by chance he was stolen and became a poor swineherd. Justice would have been him serving his rightful place in his royal familial line but we see that the Gods and the times were not always just and fate and chance played just as much a role in the outcomes of humans lives. the Gods were very fickle. Perhaps you do everything 'correct' and still don't appease them. Or perhaps you get abducted as a child and sold into poverty; fickle indeed.