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Book 3

The Odyssey – Book 3: Telemachus with Nestor


At the end of Book 2, Telemachus had set off for Pylos by sea, at nightfall, accompanied by Athene (disguised as Odysseus’ steward, Mentor). The following morning he arrives in Pylos, where Nestor is sacrificing bulls to Poseidon.

As someone who has never travelled, Telemachus is unsure how to approach Nestor, but Athene encourages him, reminding him that the reason for his visit is to discover his father’s fate. Peisistratus, Nestor’s son, invites the guests to join their sacrifice. Athene, as Mentor, makes a prayer to Poseidon that their mission will be successful. Once the guests are comfortable, Nestor asks them why they have come. Telemachus explains who he is, and that he is seeking news of his father who has not yet returned from Troy after a twenty-year absence.

Nestor explains why the Greek gleet got split up when leaving troy. Menelaus and his brother Agamemnon quarrelled at an assembly of the troops – Menelaus wanted to go straight home, whereas Agamemnon Felt that they should first make offerings to Athene to placate her (Athene was angry because Aja the Lesser had raped the prophetess Cassandra in Athene’ temple). Nestor, Diomedes and Odysseus all left with Menelaus, but Nestor reports that he saw Odysseus turn his squadron back towards Troy again, to join Agamemnon (an example of Odysseus’ indecisive leadership?) Nestor reports that he, Diomedes, Neoptolemos (Achilles’ son) and Philoctetes all arrived home safely within a few days, Idomeneus of Crete also arrived home quickly, as did Agamemnon, only to find himself “wretched victim to Aegisthus’ plot”.

Telemachus asks Nestor how Agamemnon died, and why Menelaus had not avenged his murder. Nestor reports that he was with Menelaus until they reached Cape Sounion, where Menelaus’ helmsman died. Menelaus was then blown off course at Cape Malea. Menelaus and Helen were blown towards Egypt where they spent nearly eight years (becoming extremely rich in the process); Menelaus returned to Greece just after Orestes had avenged his father’s death by murdering Clytaemnestra and Aegisthus. Nestor recommends that Telemachus should visits Menelaus, as Menelaus has only recently arrived home and might have more up-to-date-news of Odysseus.

Telemachus accepts Nestor’s offer of a bed for the night, but Athene (alias Mentor) makes an excuse to go back to the ship. She then flies off in the form of a vulture. Nestor realises that Telemachus has been accompanied by Athene; he promises Athene the sacrifice of a heifer with gilded horns.

The following day, Nestor organises the sacrifice (good example of a stock scene) and then arranges for his son Peisistratus to escort Telemachus to Sparta by chariot. Book 3 ends with the two young men arriving at Sparta at nightfall (after spending the night at Pherae).