Odysseus Reveals Himself to Telemachus
[Telemachus arrives at Eumaeus' farm; Eumaeus is overjoyed to see Telemachus back from his voyage; Telemachus, Eumaeus, and Odysseus (in disguise) talk together; Telemachus sends Eumaeus off to tell Penelope of his safe return; Athena tells Odysseus to reveal himself to his son and transforms his appearance; Telemachus and Odysseus are reunited; Telemachus and Odysseus discuss strategies for dealing with the suitors; Odysseus gives Telemachus instructions about hiding weapons and behaving in front of the suitors; a herald from Telemachus' crew announces to Penelope and others the news of his return from Pylos; the suitors are upset and discuss what to do; Penelope appears before the suitors and upbraids Antinous for his behaviour; Antinous replies; Eumaeus returns to Odysseus and Telemachus in the hut; Athena transforms Odysseus into an old beggar once again; Odysseus, Eumaeus, and Telemachus eat a meal and go to sleep]
Meanwhile at dawn Odysseus and the loyal swineherd,
once they'd sent the herdsmen out with droves of pigs,
made a fire in the hut and prepared their breakfast.
As Telemachus came closer, the yelping dogs
stopped barking and fawned around him. Lord Odysseus
noticed what the dogs were doing and heard his footsteps.
At once he spoke out to Eumaeushis words had wings:
"Eumaeus, some comrade of yours is coming,
or someone else you know. The dogs aren't barking
and are acting friendly. I hear footsteps." 10
He'd hardly finished speaking when his own dear son
stood in the doorway. The swineherd, amazed, jumped up
the bowls he was using to mix the gleaming wine
fell from his hands. He went up to greet his master,
kissed his head, both his handsome eyes, his two hands,
then burst into tears. Just as a loving father
welcomes his dear son after a nine-year absence,
when he comes from a foreign land, an only son,
his favourite, for whom he's undergone much sorrow,
that's how the loyal swineherd hugged Telemachus 20 
and kissed him often, as if he'd escaped his death.
And through his tears he spoke winged words to him:
"You've come, Telemachus, you sweet light.
I thought I'd never see you any more,
once you went off in that ship to Pylos.
Come in now, dear boy, so that my heart
can rejoice to see you here in my home,
now you've just returned from distant places.
You don't often visit farm and herdsmen
your life is in the city. Your heart, I think, 30
must like to watch that hateful bunch of suitors."
Shrewd Telemachus then answered him and said: 
"If you say so, old friend. I've come here now
on your account, to see you face to face
and to hear you talk about my mother.
Is she still living in the palace halls,
or has some other man now married her?
Is no one sleeping in Odysseus' bed?
Is it all covered in disgusting cobwebs?"
The swineherd, that outstanding man, then answered him: 40
"Yes indeed, she still lives in your palace,
with a faithful heart, but always grieving,
wasting days and nights away with weeping."
Once he'd said this, he took Telemachus' bronze spear, 
and let him enter. He crossed the stone threshold.
As he approached, Odysseus, his father, got up
to offer him his seat, but from across the room
Telemachus stopped him and said:
"Stay put, stranger.
We'll find a chair in the hut somewhere else.
Here's a man who'll get one for us." 50
He spoke. Odysseus went back and sat down again.
Eumaeus piled up green brushwood on the floor
and spread a fleece on top. Odysseus' dear son
sat down there. The swineherd then set out before them
platters of roast meat, left over from the meal 
they'd had the day before, and quickly heaped up
baskets full of bread. In a wooden bowl he mixed
wine sweet as honey, and then sat down himself,
opposite godlike Odysseus. Their hands reached out
to the fine meal prepared and spread before them. 60
When they'd had food and drink to their heart's content,
Telemachus then said to the splendid swineherd:
"Old friend, where does this stranger come from?
How did sailors bring him to Ithaca?
Who do they claim to be? For I don't think
there's any way he could get here on foot."
Then, swineherd Eumaeus, you answered him and said: 
"My child, I'll tell you nothing but the truth.
He claims that he was born in spacious Crete
and says he has been roaming all around, 70
wandering through many human cities.
That how some god has spun a fate for him.
He's just fled from a ship of Thesprotians
and come here to my farm. I give him to you.
Do as you wish. He's a suppliant, he says."
Shrewd Telemachus then answered him and said:
"Eumaeus, I'm really distressed at heart
by what you've said. How can I welcome 
this guest into my home? I myself am young
I don't believe my hands are strong enough 80
to fight a man who acts with violence
against me first. As for my mother,
in her chest the heart is quite divided,
whether to stay with me and tend the house,
out of respect for what the people say
and for her husband's bed, or to go now
with the finest man of those Achaeans
who've been courting her within the halls,
the one who offers the most marriage gifts.
But anyway, now this stranger's come here, 90
to your home, I'll dress him in fine clothing,
cloak and tunic, and give a two-edged sword 
and sandals for his feet. I'll send him off
wherever his heart and spirit prompt him.
If you wish, you can keep him at this farm
and care for him. I'll send some clothing here
and all the food he'll eat, so he won't ruin
you and your companions. But I won't permit
him to go there and mingle with the suitors
they are far too full of arrogant pride 100
and might make fun of him, which would bring me
deadly sorrow. It's difficult for one man,
even if he's powerful, to do much
with so many more. They are far stronger."
Then lord Odysseus, who had endured so much, 
said to Telemachus:
"Friend, surely it's all right
for me to answer, and my heart is torn
as I hear you talkthese suitors think up
such presumptuous actions in your palace hall
and flout your will, though you're a decent man. 110
Tell me, do you agree with this oppression?
Do the people of the country hate you,
and follow what some god is telling them?
Or do you think the blame rests with your kinsmen,
whom a man relies on when there's fighting,
even if a major quarrel should arise?
With my heart the way it is, how I wish
I were either as young as you, the son 
of brave Odysseus, or the man himself
returning from his travelsthere's still room 120
for us to hope for thatthen, if I came
to the halls of Laertes' son, Odysseus,
and didn't bring destruction on them all,
let a stranger slice this head off my neck.
If I, acting all alone, was overwhelmed
by their greater numbers, I'd rather die,
killed in my own home, than continue watching
such disgraceful actsguests treated badly,
women servants shamelessly being dragged
through the fine palace, wine drawn and wasted, 130 
and all the time food eaten needlessly,
acts which go on and on, without an end."
Shrewd Telemachus then answered him and said:
"Well, stranger, I'll speak candidly to you.
The people are not all angry with me,
nor do they bear a grudge. And I don't blame
my kinsmen, the ones a man relies on
in a fight, even if a great quarrel comes.
The son of Cronos has made our family
follow a single line. It goes like this 140
Arcisius fathered a single son,
Laertes, and he, too, was the father
of only a single son, Odysseus,
and Odysseus fathered me, his only son,
then left me by myself in his own hall. 
He got no joy of me. And that's why now
countless hostile men are in our home.
All those lords with power in the islands
Dulicium, Same, wooded Zycanthus
and those who rule in rocky Ithaca, 150
all of them are trying to court my mother
and destroy my home.* She does not turn down
the hateful marriage, but cannot decide
to bring these matters to an end. And so,
with their feasting they consume my household,
and they'll soon be the ruin of me, too.
But all this lies in the lap of the gods.
Old friend, you must go quickly and report 
to wise Penelope that I've returned,
I'm safely home from Pylos. I'll stay here, 160
until you've given the news to her alone
and come back here. No other Achaean
must learn about it, for many of them
are planning nasty things against me."
Then, swineherd Eumaeus, you answered him and said:
"I know what you're sayingI understand.
You're speaking to a man who thinks things through.
But come, tell me this, and be frank with me.
On this trip should I go to Laertes
with the news? The poor man's in misery. 170
For a while, though suffering great distress
about Odysseus, he'd supervise the fields 
and in his home eat and drink with servants,
as the heart inside his chest would urge him.
But now, since the time you left for Pylos,
people say he no longer eats and drinks
the way he used to or inspects the fields,
but sits there groaning and wailing, in tears,
with his flesh shriveling around his bones."
Shrewd Telemachus then answered him and said: 180
"That's more distressing, but nevertheless,
though it makes us sad, we'll leave him alone.
If mortal men could somehow get all things
simply by wishing, we would first of all
select the day my father gets back home.
But after you've delivered your message, 
then come back here. Don't go wandering
around the fields looking for Laertes.
Instead, tell my mother to send her maid,
the housekeeper, quickly and in secret. 190
She can report the news to the old man."
His words spurred on the swineherd. He took his sandals,
tied them on his feet, and set off for the city.
Now, it did not escape the notice of Athena
that swineherd Eumaeus was going from the farm.
She approached the hut, appearing like woman,
beautiful, tall, and skilled in making lovely things.
She stood just outside the entrance to the farm
and was visible to no one but Odysseus.
Telemachus did not see her face to face 200 
or notice she was there. For when gods appear,
there's no way their form is perceptible to all.
But Odysseus saw her. So did the dogs, as well.
But they didn't bark. Instead, they crept away,
whimpering in fear, to the far side of the hut.
She signaled with her eye brows. Lord Odysseus
noticed and went out of the hut, past the large wall
around the yard, and stood in front of her.
Then Athena spoke to him:
"Son of Laertes,
resourceful Odysseus, sprung from Zeus, 210
Now is the time to speak to your own son
make yourself known and don't conceal the facts,
so you two can plan the suitors' lethal fate,
then go together to the famous city. 
I won't be absent from you very long
I'm eager for the battle."
As she said this, Athena
touched Odysseus with her golden wand. To start with,
she placed a well-washed cloak around his body,
then made him taller and restored his youthful looks.
His skin grew dark once more, his countenance filled out, 220
and the beard around his chin turned black again.
Once she'd done this, Athena left. But Odysseus
returned into the hut. His dear son was amazed.
He turned his eyes away, afraid it was a god,
and spoke to himhis words had wings: 
you look different to me than you did before
you're wearing different clothes, your skin has changed.
You're one of the gods who hold wide heaven.
If so, be gracious, so we can give you
pleasing offerings and well-crafted gifts of gold. 230
But spare us."
Long-suffering lord Odysseus
then answered him and said:
"I'm not one of the gods.
Why do you compare me to immortals?
But I am your father, on whose account
you grieve and suffer so much trouble,
having to endure men's acts of violence."
He said this, then kissed his son. A tear ran down his cheek 
onto the groundtill then he'd held himself in check.
But Telemachus, who could not yet believe
it was his father, spoke to him again, saying: 240
"You cannot be Odysseus, my father.
No. Some spirit has cast a spell on me,
to make me lament and grieve even more.
There's no way a mortal man could plan this
with his own wits, unless some god himself
came by, who could, if he so desired,
make him young or old quite easily.
Not long ago you wore filthy clothing
and were an old man. But now you're like
the gods who hold wide heaven." 250 
Then resourceful Odysseus answered him and said:
"Telemachus, it's not appropriate for you
to be overly surprised your father
is back home or to be too astonished.
You can rest assuredno other Odysseus
will ever be arriving. I am here.
I've endured a lot in many wanderings,
and now, in the twentieth year, I've come back
to my native land. This present business,
you should know, is forager Athena's work. 260
She's made me look like thisit's what she wants,
and she has powerin one moment,
like a beggar, and in another one,
a young man with fine clothes around his body. 
It's easy for the gods who hold wide heaven
to glorify or else debase a man."
Once he'd said this, he sat down, and Telemachus
embraced his noble father, cried out, and shed tears.
A desire to lament arose in both of them
they wailed aloud, as insistently as birds, 270
like sea eagles or hawks with curving talons
whose young have been carried off by country folk
before they're fully fledged. That's how both men then
let tears of pity fall from underneath their eyelids.
And now light from the sun would've gone down on them, 
as they wept, if Telemachus had not spoken.
He suddenly addressed his father:
"In what kind of ship,
dear father, did sailors bring you here,
to Ithaca? Who did they say they were?
For I don't think you made it here on foot." 280
Noble long-suffering Odysseus answered him:
"All right, my child, I'll tell you the truth.
Phaeacians, those famous sailors, brought me.
They escort other men, as well, all those
who visit them. And I remained asleep
as they transported me across the sea
in their swift ship and set me on Ithaca.
They gave me splendid gifts of bronze and gold 
and woven clothing. Now, thanks to the gods,
these things are stored away in caves. I've come here 290
at Athena's bidding, so we may plan
destruction for our enemies. But come now,
tell me about the number of the suitors,
so I know how many men there are
and what they're like. Then, once my noble heart
has thought it over, I'll make up my mind,
whether we two are powerful enough
to take them on alone, without assistance,
or whether we should seek out other men."
Shrewd Telemachus then answered him and said: 300 
"Father, I've always heard about your great renown,
a mighty warrioryour hands are very strong,
your plans intelligent. But what you say
is far too big a task. I'm astonished.
Two men cannot fight against so many
and they are powerful. In an exact count,
there are not just ten suitors or twice ten,
but many more. Here, you can soon add up
their numbersfrom Dulichium there are
fifty-two hand picked young men, six servants 310
in their retinue, from Same twenty-four,
from Zacynthus twenty young Achaeans, 
and from Ithaca itself twelve young men,
all nobility. Medon, the herald,
is with them, as is the godlike minstrel,
and two attendants skilled in carving meat.
If we move against all these men inside,
I fear revenge may bring a bitter fate,
now you've come home. So you should consider
whether you can think of anyone who'll help, 320
someone prepared to stand by both of us
and fight with all his heart."
Then lord Odysseus,
who had endured so much, answered him and said:
"All right, I'll tell you. Pay attention now,
and listen. Do you believe Athena, 
along with father Zeus, will be enough
for the two of us, or should I think about
someone else to help us?"
then said in reply:
"Those two allies you mention
are excellent. They sit high in the clouds, 330
ruling others, men and immortal gods."
Long-suffering lord Odysseus answered him and said:
"The two of them won't stand apart for long
from the great fightwe can be sure of that
when Ares' war-like spirit in my halls
is put to the test between these suitors
and ourselves. But for now, when Dawn arrives, 
go to the house, join those arrogant suitors.
The swineherd will bring me to the city
later on. I'll be looking like a beggar, 340
old and wretched. If they're abusive to me,
let that dear heart in your chest endure it,
while I'm being badly treated, even if
they drag me by my feet throughout the house
and out the door or throw things and hit me.
Keep looking on, and hold yourself in check.
You can tell them to stop their foolishness,
but seek to win them over with nice words,
even though you'll surely not convince them,
because the day they meet their fate has come. 350 
I'll tell you something elsekeep it in mind.
When wise Athena puts it in my mind,
I'll nod my head to you. When you see that,
take all the weapons of war lying there,
in the hall, and put them in a secret place,
all of them, in the lofty storage room.
When the suitors notice they've gone missing
and ask about them, you must deceive them
with reassuring words:
'I've placed them
well beyond the smoke, since they're no longer 360
like the weapons Odysseus left behind
when he went off to Troy. They're all tarnished
the fire has breathed on them too many times. 
Beyond that, the son of Cronos has put
a greater worry in my heart that you,
after too much wine, may start up a fight
amongst yourselves and then hurt each other,
dishonouring your courtship and the feast.
For iron attracts a man all on its own.'
"But leave behind a pair of swords, two spears, 370
and two ox-hide shields, for the two of us
to grab up when we make a rush at them,
while Pallas Athena and counsellor Zeus
will keep the suitors' minds preoccupied.
I'll tell you something elsekeep it in mind.
If you are my son and truly of our blood, 
let no one hear Odysseus is back home.
Don't let Laertes know or the swineherd,
or any servants, or Penelope herself.
You and I alone will investigate 380
how the women feel, and we'll check out
some of the serving men, to discover
if any of them fears and honours us
in his heartand the ones with no respect,
who discredit you for being the man you are."
Then his splendid son answered him and said:
I think you'll later come to recognize
my spirit, for no timidity of mind 
possesses me. But still, I do not think
your plan will benefit the two of us. 390
I'd ask you to consider thisyou'll spend
a long time simply testing every man,
as you visit the farms, while those others,
in their proud way, relax inside your halls
and consume your goods without restraint.
But I'd suggest you learn about the women,
those disgracing you and the guiltless ones.
As for men on the estates, I'd prefer
we didn't test them. We can deal with that
at a later time, if you truly recognize 400
some sign from Zeus, who bears the aegis." 
So the two men talked about these things together.
Meanwhile, the well-built ship which brought Telemachus
from Pylos with all his comrades had reached Ithaca.
Once they'd come inside the deep water harbour,
they hauled the black ship up on shore. Eager servants
carried off their weapons and without delay
took the splendid gifts to Clytius' home.
They also sent a herald to Odysseus' house,
to report to wise Penelope, telling her 410
Telemachus had gone to visit the estates 
and had told the ship to sail off for the city,
in case the noble queen might get sick at heart
and shed some tears. This herald and the swineherd met
because they'd both been sent off with the same report
to tell the queen. When they reached the royal palace,
the herald spoke out before female servants:
"My queen, your dear son has just returned."
But the swineherd came up close to Penelope
and gave her all the details her dear son 420
had ordered him to say. Once he'd told her 
every detail he'd been asked to mention to her,
he went off, leaving the courtyard and the hall,
back to his pigs. The suitors were unhappy,
their hearts dismayed, and they departed from the hall,
past the large courtyard wall. There, before the gates,
they sat down. The first one of them to say something
was Eurymachus, son of Polybus:
"O my friends,
to tell the truth, in his great arrogance
Telemachus has carried out his trip, 430
a great achievement. We never thought
he would complete it. So come on now,
let's launch a black ship, the best one we have,
collect some sailors, a crew of rowers,
so they can quickly carry a report
to those other men to go home at once."* 
No sooner had he said all this, than Amphinomus,
turning in his place, saw a ship in the deep harbour.
Men were bringing down the sail, others holding oars.
With a hearty laugh, he then addressed his comrades: 440
"Don't bother with a message any more.
Here they are back home. Either some god
gave them news, or they saw his ship themselves,
as it sailed past, but couldn't catch it."
He spoke. They all got up and went to the sea shore,
then quickly dragged the black ship up onto dry ground,
while eager attendants carried off their weapons. 
They themselves went to the meeting place together.
No one else was allowed to sit there with them,
no old or younger men. Then Antinous addressed them, 450
son of Eupeithes:
"Well, this is bad news
the gods have delivered the man from harm.
Our lookouts sat each day on windy heights,
always in successive shifts. At sunset,
we never spent the night on shore, but sailed
over the sea in our swift ships, waiting
for sacred Dawn, as we set our ambush
for Telemachus, so we could capture
and then kill him. Meanwhile, some god 
has brought him home. But let's think about 460
a sad end for Telemachus right here
and ensure he doesn't get away from us.
For as long as he's alive, I don't think
we'll be successful in what we're doing.
He himself is clever, shrewd in counsel,
and now people don't regard us well at all.
So come now, before he calls Achaeans
to assembly. I don't think he will give up.
He'll get angry and stand up to proclaim
to everyone how we planned to kill him, 470
and how we didn't get him. The people
will resent us, once they learn about 
our nasty acts. Take care they do not harm us
and force us out, away from our own land,
until we reach a foreign country. And so,
let's move firstcapture him out in the fields,
far from the city, or else on the road.
We ourselves will keep the property he owns,
his wealth, too, and share it appropriately
among us. As for possession of the house, 480
that's something we should give his mother
and the man who marries her. However,
if what I've been saying displeases you,
and you'd prefer he should remain alive,
retaining all the riches of his fathers,
then let's not keep on gathering in this place,
consuming his supply of pleasant things.
Instead, let each man carry on his courtship 
from his own home, seeking to prevail with gifts.
Then she can marry the one who offers most 490
and comes to her as her destined husband."
He finished. They all sat quiet, not saying a thing.
Then Amphinomus spoke out and addressed them,
splendid son of lord Nisus, son of Areteias
leader of the suitors from Dulichium,
land rich in grass and wheat. Penelope found him
especially pleasant because of how he talked,
for he understood things well. With good intentions,
he spoke to them and said:
"My friends, 
I wouldn't want to slay Telemachus. 500
It's reprehensible to kill someone
of royal blood. But first let's ask the gods
for their advice. If great Zeus' oracles
approve the act, I myself will kill him
and tell all other men to do so, too.
But if the gods decline, I say we stop."
Amphinomus finished. They agreed with what he'd said.
So they immediately got up and went away
to Odysseus' house. Once they reached the palace,
they sat down on the polished chairs. By that point, 510
wise Penelope had thought of something else
to put in an appearance before the suitors, 
despite their arrogance, because she'd heard about
the destruction of her son there in the hall.
The herald Medon, who'd heard their plans, told her.
So she set off on her way toward the hall,
accompanied by her attendant women.
Once the noble lady reached the suitors,
she stood beside the door post of the well-built room
and, holding a bright veil across her countenance, 520
addressed Antinous, reprimanding him:
"Antinous, though you're an arrogant man
and come up with devious schemes, people say
you are the best among those men your age
at offering advice and making speeches.
But you don't seem to be a man like that. 
You madman, why devise a fatal plan
to kill Telemachus and disregard
the things involved with being a suppliant,
who has Zeus as witness? It's impiety 530
to plan evil things for one another.
Do you not know your father came here
a fugitive, afraid of his own people?
They were extremely angry with him,
because he'd joined with Taphian pirates
to cause trouble for the Thesprotians,
who were allied with us. Those men wished
to kill him, rip out his heart, and devour
his huge and pleasant livelihood. But then,
Odysseus restrained them, held them back, 540 
for all their eagerness. Now, you eat up
that man's home without paying anything,
court his wife, attempt to kill his son,
and cause me much distress. So stop all this,
I tell you, and order other suitors
to do the same."
son of Polybus, answered her:
daughter of Icarius, cheer up. Don't let
these things concern your heart. No man now alive,
and no man born, no one yet to be, 550
will lay hands on your son Telemachus,
not while I'm alive, gazing on the earth.
I tell you thisand it will truly happen 
that man's black blood will quickly saturate
my spear, for Odysseus, sacker of cities,
also set me on his knees many times
and put roast meat into my hands and held
red wine up for me. Thus, Telemachus
is far the dearest of all men to me.
I say to himdon't be afraid of death, 560
not from the suitors, but there's no way out
when death comes from the gods."
He said these words to ease her mood, while he himself
was planning her son's death. But Penelope
went to her bright room upstairs and wept there 
for Odysseus, her dear husband, until sweet sleep,
cast by bright-eyed Athena, spread across her eyelids.
At evening the fine swineherd came to Odysseus
and to his son, busy getting dinner ready.
They'd killed a boar, one year old. Then Athena 570
approached Odysseus, Laertes' son, and touched him
with her wand to make him an old man once again.
She put shabby clothes around his body, just in case
the swineherd, by looking up, would recognize him
and then go off to tell faithful Penelope,
and thus fail to keep the secret in his heart.
Telemachus addressed the swineherd first and said: 
"Good Eumaeus, you've come. What news is there
in the city? Are those arrogant suitors
back in the house already from their ambush, 580
or are they still out there watching for me
as I travel on my journey homeward?"
Then, swineherd Eumaeus, you answered him and said:
"I didn't bother to make enquiries
or ask about such things on my journey
through the town. Once I'd given my report,
my heart told me to get myself back here
as fast as possible. A swift messenger,
who came from your companions, met me,
a herald. Your mother first got the report 590
from him. But I found out something else, 
which I saw with my own eyes. As I walked
above the city, by the hill of Hermes,
I saw a fast ship coming in our harbour,
with lots of men aboard and loaded down
with shields and two-edged spears. I thought
it could be them, but I'm not certain."
Eumaeus finished. Telemachus with a smile,
full of confidence and strength, allowed his eyes
to glance over to his father, avoiding contact 600
with the swineherd. Then, once they'd finished working
and dinner was prepared, they dined. Their hearts
did not lack a thingthey shared the meal as equals.
When they'd had food and drink to their heart's content, 
they thought of rest, and so they took the gift of sleep.
Notes to Book Sixteen
* . . . and destroy my home: As a number of commentators have observed, the exact political status of the suitors is ambiguous and in places confusing. Sometimes, as here, they are called the chief leaders or rulers of the islands or those with ruling power in Ithaca. They all appear to live in Ithaca and visit the palace during the day. However, the islands listed here are sometimes described as under Odysseus' control. What does seem clear is that the suitors have political importance as noblemen, as the most important leaders, whatever the precise arrangements between them and the royal family of Odysseus in Ithaca. [Back to Text]
* . . . to go home at once: The "other men" are the ones waiting in the islands to ambush Telemachus on his voyage home. They may still unaware that he has slipped past them. [Back to Text]