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Book 15

The Odyssey – Book 15 Telemachus Returns


·        Athene makes her way to Sparta, where Telemachus is in bed but not yet asleep. She urges him to leave immediately for Ithaca because Eurymachus is going to marry Penelope. (Not true.)

·        He should go to Eumaeus the swineherd as soon as he reaches Ithaca, and have Eumaeus tell Penelope he's back.

·        (Remember, the Suitors are all ready to kill Telemachus if he shows his face, so some discretion is required.)

·        All worked up by Athene's lie, Telemachus tells Peisistratus that they need to get going.

·        At dawn, Menelaus rushes to get Telemachus gifts and transportation ready. Menelaus, Helen, and Peisistratus each choose a gift for him. Helen' is sweet—a beautiful gown woven by her own hands for Telemachus’ future bride.

·        Just then, Zeus sends a sign—an eagle flying with a dead farmyard goose in its talons.

·        Helen interprets this to mean that the god-favoured Odysseus has returned to Ithaca and will remove the household pests—the Suitors—from his home.

·        Telemachus and Peisistratus drive the whole day.

·        The following morning, Telemachus requests that Peisistratus take him straight to his ships and send word for his men to join him. He wants to avoid meeting Nestor and waiting for more gifts, which as we've seen takes forever in ancient Greece.

·        Just as Telemachus is about to set sail, a stranger approaches him, a descendent of Melampus and a man gifted with prophetic abilities.

·        Time for some back story. Okay, so Melampus was a rich, happy Lord until King Neleus exiled him and took over his house. We don't know exactly why, other than the vague mention that it had something to do with Neleus's beautiful daughter.

·        (The fact that this story is thrown in without a lot of details probably means Homer's audience was already pretty familiar with it.)

·        Melampus was held captive in his exile by yet another man, Phylacus. Somehow he escaped, took back his lands, carried off Neleus's daughter and gave her in marriage to his brother, and then, because it was his destiny, went to Argos to be ruler. Done and done.

·        Several generations later, Theoclymenus was born; he is the prophetic man who's asking Telemachus for a ride home. His reasons for hitchhiking are: (1) he killed his cousin in Argos, and (2) he is being hunted for the murder.

·        Telemachus says sure, come on board.

·        Back in Ithaca, Odysseus tests Eumaeus’ hospitality, until Eumaeus takes offense at the beggar's insinuations of being a burden and welcomes him to stay until Telemachus returns.

·        Then beggar Odysseus asks for information about the Queen and Odysseus's father, Laertes.

·        Laertes is alive, but wishes he were dead because he grieves so much for his son.

·        We learn that Eumaeus grew up as Laertes's ward in the household and was a playmate to the Princess Ctimene, Laertes daughter (who therefore was Odysseus's sister).

·        When Ctimene married and left Ithaca, Eumaeus was sent to the forest to work as a swineherd. (As far as we can tell, this wasn't intended as a punishment of any sort, though it does seem like this guy got the short end of the stick.)

·        Eumaeus was the son of a Syrian lord. Where he lived, there was a Sidonian slave woman who was tempted into exchanging sex for passage back to her homeland. (Well, you work with what you've got.)

·        Little Eumaeus came with her on the ship. When she died barely a week into the voyage, the sailors sold Eumaeus to Laertes.

·        Odysseus feels sorry for the guy so the two men talk night the night away and trade stories.

·        Aboard Telemachus’ ship, the fugitive guy Theoclymenus asks the prince where he could stay in Ithaca.

·        Telemachus says he would offer his own house, but unfortunately it's currently occupied by swarms of Suitors. He tells Theoclymenus briefly about his lost father.

·        Zeus sends a sign, a hawk flying by with a dove in its talons.

·        Theoclymenus interprets this to mean Odysseus's family will rule Ithaca forever.

·        Telemachus asks one of his crewmen, Peiraeus, if Theoclymenus can stay with him. Peiraeus sportingly agrees.

·        When they land in Ithaca, Telemachus makes his way to the swineherd's hut.