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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

D. Snider
A Commentary on the Odyssey of Homer - Part II

From, Homer's Odyssey: A commentary
[Please note that the Table of Contents here published, is created by Elpenor and is not to be found in the print version]

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Page 47

The next part of the plan is that Ulysses in disguise shall go to the palace and see for himself the wrongs done to his House, and experience some of these wrongs in his own person. Then too he can make preparations on the spot and select the time for striking. Also he wishes to test a little further the wife Penelope. Another period of disguise is necessary in order to get rid of the necessity of disguise and vindicate the right. Zeus is with him, he is the bearer of universal justice, which he is to establish anew; but Pallas must also be with him in the act, for it requires all his skill and cunning and forethought.

Thus the father and son are united in spirit; the last obstacle, which was the disguise, is removed, and they behold each other as they are in truth. The recognition is not merely an external one of face and form, or even of the tie of kinship and affection; it is in both a recognition of the Divine Order of the World, which they are now called upon to maintain in their own persons, and to re-stablish in their country.

II. The scene passes from the hut of the swineherd to the palace, where the Suitors soon hear of the safe return of Telemachus. Antinous also comes back, foiled and evidently angered; he proposes to the Suitors that they should slay Telemachus "in the fields or on the highway" wherever found, or renounce the suit for Penelope in the palace: "Let each one woo her from his own house with gifts."

It is clear that such a violent measure as the assassination of the royal heir in his own territory finds small response even among the Suitors. Antinous says that the people are no longer friendly; he thinks, when they hear of the recent ambush, that they may rise and drive out the aggressors. Still they do not rise, and probably Antinous tried to frighten the Suitors into his drastic method. But he did not succeed, Amphinomus clearly voices their sentiment, and the council dissolves.

Soon it is seen that Antinous has lost his cause. Penelope appears and gives him a thorough tongue-lashing, in which she also tells his antecedents. "Thy father came to us, a fugitive from the people," who were angry at him on account of his piratical misdeeds; "they wanted to kill him, and tear out his heart, and pillage his large wealth" evidently gotten unlawfully. "But Ulysses restrained them," and now this is your gratitude: "you waste his property, woo his wife, slay his son, and worry me to death." Antinous is true to his ancestry, he is still a pirate. Strong words are these, which call forth a hypocritical reply from another Suitor, Eurymachus, which she probably saw through, for she goes into her upper chamber, where "she weeps for her dear spouse Ulysses, till blue-eyed Pallas cast upon her eyelids sweet sleep."

The internal weakness of the Suitors is exposed; it is manifest that they are divided among themselves. In fact, how can they have any unity? Each wishes to win the fair prize, which can belong only to one; hence every other man is his rival, whom he tries to thwart. Hence come jealousy and suspicion. The single bond they have in common is their wrong-doing, which they feel cannot much longer continue, with Telemachus so active.

III. On the other hand, we pass to the hut of the swineherd, where the father and son show a complete unity of spirit and purpose. Eumaeus returns from his errand; he brings no news specially except that the Suitors who formed the ambush have come back to the town. But he is not yet to be admitted into the grand secret; so Pallas stood again near Ulysses, "striking him with her staff she made him an old man in wretched rags." He resumes his disguise "lest the swineherd might recognize him and hasten to announce the fact to Penelope, instead of keeping the secret looked in his bosom." So the kind-hearted, sincere Eumaeus cannot yet be entrusted with the important secret.

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Cf. Pharr, Homer and the study of Greek * Odyssey Complete Text
Iliad Complete Text * Homer Bilingual Anthology and Resources * Livingstone, On the Ancient Greek Literature
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