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The Odyssey: Book 11 Analysis

Author: poem of Homer Type: poem Views: 5

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  Then, when we had got down to the sea shore we drew our ship into

the water and got her mast and sails into her; we also put the sheep

on board and took our places, weeping and in great distress of mind.

Circe, that great and cunning goddess, sent us a fair wind that blew

dead aft and stayed steadily with us keeping our sails all the time

well filled; so we did whatever wanted doing to the ship's gear and

let her go as the wind and helmsman headed her. All day long her sails

were full as she held her course over the sea, but when the sun went

down and darkness was over all the earth, we got into the deep

waters of the river Oceanus, where lie the land and city of the

Cimmerians who live enshrouded in mist and darkness which the rays

of the sun never pierce neither at his rising nor as he goes down

again out of the heavens, but the poor wretches live in one long

melancholy night. When we got there we beached the ship, took the

sheep out of her, and went along by the waters of Oceanus till we came

to the place of which Circe had told us.

  "Here Perimedes and Eurylochus held the victims, while I drew my

sword and dug the trench a cubit each way. I made a drink-offering

to all the dead, first with honey and milk, then with wine, and

thirdly with water, and I sprinkled white barley meal over the

whole, praying earnestly to the poor feckless ghosts, and promising

them that when I got back to Ithaca I would sacrifice a barren

heifer for them, the best I had, and would load the pyre with good

things. I also particularly promised that Teiresias should have a

black sheep to himself, the best in all my flocks. When I had prayed

sufficiently to the dead, I cut the throats of the two sheep and let

the blood run into the trench, whereon the ghosts came trooping up

from Erebus- brides, young bachelors, old men worn out with toil,

maids who had been crossed in love, and brave men who had been

killed in battle, with their armour still smirched with blood; they

came from every quarter and flitted round the trench with a strange

kind of screaming sound that made me turn pale with fear. When I saw

them coming I told the men to be quick and flay the carcasses of the

two dead sheep and make burnt offerings of them, and at the same

time to repeat prayers to Hades and to Proserpine; but I sat where I

was with my sword drawn and would not let the poor feckless ghosts

come near the blood till Teiresias should have answered my questions.

  "The first ghost 'that came was that of my comrade Elpenor, for he

had not yet been laid beneath the earth. We had left his body

unwaked and unburied in Circe's house, for we had had too much else to

do. I was very sorry for him, and cried when I saw him: 'Elpenor,'

said I, 'how did you come down here into this gloom and darkness?

You have here on foot quicker than I have with my ship.'

  "'Sir,' he answered with a groan, 'it was all bad luck, and my own

unspeakable drunkenness. I was lying asleep on the top of Circe's

house, and never thought of coming down again by the great staircase

but fell right off the roof and broke my neck, so my soul down to

the house of Hades. And now I beseech you by all those whom you have

left behind you, though they are not here, by your wife, by the father

who brought you up when you were a child, and by Telemachus who is the

one hope of your house, do what I shall now ask you. I know that

when you leave this limbo you will again hold your ship for the Aeaean

island. Do not go thence leaving me unwaked and unburied behind you,

or I may bring heaven's anger upon you; but burn me with whatever

armour I have, build a barrow for me on the sea shore, that may tell

people in days to come what a poor unlucky fellow I was, and plant

over my grave the oar I used to row with when I was yet alive and with

my messmates.' And I said, 'My poor fellow, I will do all that you

have asked of me.'

  "Thus, then, did we sit and hold sad talk with one another, I on the

one side of the trench with my sword held over the blood, and the

ghost of my comrade saying all this to me from the other side. Then

came the ghost of my dead mother Anticlea, daughter to Autolycus. I

had left her alive when I set out for Troy and was moved to tears when

I saw her, but even so, for all my sorrow I would not let her come

near the blood till I had asked my questions of Teiresias.

  "Then came also the ghost of Theban Teiresias, with his golden

sceptre in his hand. He knew me and said, 'Ulysses, noble son of

Laertes, why, poor man, have you left the light of day and come down

to visit the dead in this sad place? Stand back from the trench and

withdraw your sword that I may drink of the blood and answer your

questions truly.'

  "So I drew back, and sheathed my sword, whereon when he had drank of

the blood he began with his prophecy.

  "You want to know,' said he, 'about your return home, but heaven

will make this hard for you. I do not think that you will escape the

eye of Neptune, who still nurses his bitter grudge against you for

having blinded his son. Still, after much suffering you may get home

if you can restrain yourself and your companions when your ship

reaches the Thrinacian island, where you will find the sheep and

cattle belonging to the sun, who sees and gives ear to everything.

If you leave these flocks unharmed and think of nothing but of getting

home, you may yet after much hardship reach Ithaca; but if you harm

them, then I forewarn you of the destruction both of your ship and

of your men. Even though you may yourself escape, you will return in

bad plight after losing all your men, [in another man's ship, and

you will find trouble in your house, which will be overrun by

high-handed people, who are devouring your substance under the pretext

of paying court and making presents to your wife.

  "'When you get home you will take your revenge on these suitors; and

after you have killed them by force or fraud in your own house, you

must take a well-made oar and carry it on and on, till you come to a

country where the people have never heard of the sea and do not even

mix salt with their food, nor do they know anything about ships, and

oars that are as the wings of a ship. I will give you this certain

token which cannot escape your notice. A wayfarer will meet you and

will say it must be a winnowing shovel that you have got upon your

shoulder; on this you must fix the oar in the ground and sacrifice a

ram, a bull, and a boar to Neptune. Then go home and offer hecatombs

to an the gods in heaven one after the other. As for yourself, death

shall come to you from the sea, and your life shall ebb away very

gently when you are full of years and peace of mind, and your people

shall bless you. All that I have said will come true].'

  "'This,' I answered, 'must be as it may please heaven, but tell me

and tell me and tell me true, I see my poor mother's ghost close by

us; she is sitting by the blood without saying a word, and though I am

her own son she does not remember me and speak to me; tell me, Sir,

how I can make her know me.'

  "'That,' said he, 'I can soon do Any ghost that you let taste of the

blood will talk with you like a reasonable being, but if you do not

let them have any blood they will go away again.'

  "On this the ghost of Teiresias went back to the house of Hades, for

his prophecyings had now been spoken, but I sat still where I was

until my mother came up and tasted the blood. Then she knew me at once

and spoke fondly to me, saying, 'My son, how did you come down to this

abode of darkness while you are still alive? It is a hard thing for

the living to see these places, for between us and them there are

great and terrible waters, and there is Oceanus, which no man can

cross on foot, but he must have a good ship to take him. Are you all

this time trying to find your way home from Troy, and have you never

yet got back to Ithaca nor seen your wife in your own house?'

  "'Mother,' said I, 'I was forced to come here to consult the ghost

of the Theban prophet Teiresias. I have never yet been near the

Achaean land nor set foot on my native country, and I have had nothing

but one long series of misfortunes from the very first day that I

set out with Agamemnon for Ilius, the land of noble steeds, to fight

the Trojans. But tell me, and tell me true, in what way did you die?

Did you have a long illness, or did heaven vouchsafe you a gentle easy

passage to eternity? Tell me also about my father, and the son whom

I left behind me; is my property still in their hands, or has some one

else got hold of it, who thinks that I shall not return to claim it?

Tell me again what my wife intends doing, and in what mind she is;

does she live with my son and guard my estate securely, or has she

made the best match she could and married again?'

  "My mother answered, 'Your wife still remains in your house, but she

is in great distress of mind and spends her whole time in tears both

night and day. No one as yet has got possession of your fine property,

and Telemachus still holds your lands undisturbed. He has to entertain

largely, as of course he must, considering his position as a

magistrate, and how every one invites him; your father remains at

his old place in the country and never goes near the town. He has no

comfortable bed nor bedding; in the winter he sleeps on the floor in

front of the fire with the men and goes about all in rags, but in

summer, when the warm weather comes on again, he lies out in the

vineyard on a bed of vine leaves thrown anyhow upon the ground. He

grieves continually about your never having come home, and suffers

more and more as he grows older. As for my own end it was in this

wise: heaven did not take me swiftly and painlessly in my own house,

nor was I attacked by any illness such as those that generally wear

people out and kill them, but my longing to know what you were doing

and the force of my affection for you- this it was that was the

death of me.'

  "Then I tried to find some way of embracing my mother's ghost.

Thrice I sprang towards her and tried to clasp her in my arms, but

each time she flitted from my embrace as it were a dream or phantom,

and being touched to the quick I said to her, 'Mother, why do you

not stay still when I would embrace you? If we could throw our arms

around one another we might find sad comfort in the sharing of our

sorrows even in the house of Hades; does Proserpine want to lay a

still further load of grief upon me by mocking me with a phantom


  "'My son,' she answered, 'most ill-fated of all mankind, it is not

Proserpine that is beguiling you, but all people are like this when

they are dead. The sinews no longer hold the flesh and bones together;

these perish in the fierceness of consuming fire as soon as life has

left the body, and the soul flits away as though it were a dream. Now,

however, go back to the light of day as soon as you can, and note

all these things that you may tell them to your wife hereafter.'

  "Thus did we converse, and anon Proserpine sent up the ghosts of the

wives and daughters of all the most famous men. They gathered in

crowds about the blood, and I considered how I might question them

severally. In the end I deemed that it would be best to draw the

keen blade that hung by my sturdy thigh, and keep them from all

drinking the blood at once. So they came up one after the other, and

each one as I questioned her told me her race and lineage.

  "The first I saw was Tyro. She was daughter of Salmoneus and wife of

Cretheus the son of Aeolus. She fell in love with the river Enipeus

who is much the most beautiful river in the whole world. Once when she

was taking a walk by his side as usual, Neptune, disguised as her

lover, lay with her at the mouth of the river, and a huge blue wave

arched itself like a mountain over them to hide both woman and god,

whereon he loosed her virgin girdle and laid her in a deep slumber.

When the god had accomplished the deed of love, he took her hand in

his own and said, 'Tyro, rejoice in all good will; the embraces of the

gods are not fruitless, and you will have fine twins about this time

twelve months. Take great care of them. I am Neptune, so now go

home, but hold your tongue and do not tell any one.'

  "Then he dived under the sea, and she in due course bore Pelias

and Neleus, who both of them served Jove with all their might.

Pelias was a great breeder of sheep and lived in Iolcus, but the other

lived in Pylos. The rest of her children were by Cretheus, namely,

Aeson, Pheres, and Amythaon, who was a mighty warrior and charioteer.

  "Next to her I saw Antiope, daughter to Asopus, who could boast of

having slept in the arms of even Jove himself, and who bore him two

sons Amphion and Zethus. These founded Thebes with its seven gates,

and built a wall all round it; for strong though they were they

could not hold Thebes till they had walled it.

  "Then I saw Alcmena, the wife of Amphitryon, who also bore to Jove

indomitable Hercules; and Megara who was daughter to great King Creon,

and married the redoubtable son of Amphitryon.

  "I also saw fair Epicaste mother of king OEdipodes whose awful lot

it was to marry her own son without suspecting it. He married her

after having killed his father, but the gods proclaimed the whole

story to the world; whereon he remained king of Thebes, in great grief

for the spite the gods had borne him; but Epicaste went to the house

of the mighty jailor Hades, having hanged herself for grief, and the

avenging spirits haunted him as for an outraged mother- to his ruing

bitterly thereafter.

  "Then I saw Chloris, whom Neleus married for her beauty, having

given priceless presents for her. She was youngest daughter to Amphion

son of Iasus and king of Minyan Orchomenus, and was Queen in Pylos.

She bore Nestor, Chromius, and Periclymenus, and she also bore that

marvellously lovely woman Pero, who was wooed by all the country

round; but Neleus would only give her to him who should raid the

cattle of Iphicles from the grazing grounds of Phylace, and this was a

hard task. The only man who would undertake to raid them was a certain

excellent seer, but the will of heaven was against him, for the

rangers of the cattle caught him and put him in prison; nevertheless

when a full year had passed and the same season came round again,

Iphicles set him at liberty, after he had expounded all the oracles of

heaven. Thus, then, was the will of Jove accomplished.

  "And I saw Leda the wife of Tyndarus, who bore him two famous

sons, Castor breaker of horses, and Pollux the mighty boxer. Both

these heroes are lying under the earth, though they are still alive,

for by a special dispensation of Jove, they die and come to life

again, each one of them every other day throughout all time, and

they have the rank of gods.

  "After her I saw Iphimedeia wife of Aloeus who boasted the embrace

of Neptune. She bore two sons Otus and Ephialtes, but both were

short lived. They were the finest children that were ever born in this

world, and the best looking, Orion only excepted; for at nine years

old they were nine fathoms high, and measured nine cubits round the

chest. They threatened to make war with the gods in Olympus, and tried

to set Mount Ossa on the top of Mount Olympus, and Mount Pelion on the

top of Ossa, that they might scale heaven itself, and they would

have done it too if they had been grown up, but Apollo, son of Leto,

killed both of them, before they had got so much as a sign of hair

upon their cheeks or chin.

  "Then I saw Phaedra, and Procris, and fair Ariadne daughter of the

magician Minos, whom Theseus was carrying off from Crete to Athens,

but he did not enjoy her, for before he could do so Diana killed her

in the island of Dia on account of what Bacchus had said against her.

  "I also saw Maera and Clymene and hateful Eriphyle, who sold her own

husband for gold. But it would take me all night if I were to name

every single one of the wives and daughters of heroes whom I saw,

and it is time for me to go to bed, either on board ship with my crew,

or here. As for my escort, heaven and yourselves will see to it."

  Here he ended, and the guests sat all of them enthralled and

speechless throughout the covered cloister. Then Arete said to them:

  "What do you think of this man, O Phaecians? Is he not tall and good

looking, and is he not Clever? True, he is my own guest, but all of

you share in the distinction. Do not he a hurry to send him away,

nor niggardly in the presents you make to one who is in such great

need, for heaven has blessed all of you with great abundance."

  Then spoke the aged hero Echeneus who was one of the oldest men

among them, "My friends," said he, "what our august queen has just

said to us is both reasonable and to the purpose, therefore be

persuaded by it; but the decision whether in word or deed rests

ultimately with King Alcinous."

  "The thing shall be done," exclaimed Alcinous, "as surely as I still

live and reign over the Phaeacians. Our guest is indeed very anxious

to get home, still we must persuade him to remain with us until

to-morrow, by which time I shall be able to get together the whole sum

that I mean to give him. As regards- his escort it will be a matter

for you all, and mine above all others as the chief person among you."

  And Ulysses answered, "King Alcinous, if you were to bid me to

stay here for a whole twelve months, and then speed me on my way,

loaded with your noble gifts, I should obey you gladly and it would

redound greatly to my advantage, for I should return fuller-handed

to my own people, and should thus be more respected and beloved by all

who see me when I get back to Ithaca."

  "Ulysses," replied Alcinous, "not one of us who sees you has any

idea that you are a charlatan or a swindler. I know there are many

people going about who tell such plausible stories that it is very

hard to see through them, but there is a style about your language

which assures me of your good disposition. Moreover you have told

the story of your own misfortunes, and those of the Argives, as though

you were a practised bard; but tell me, and tell me true, whether

you saw any of the mighty heroes who went to Troy at the same time

with yourself, and perished there. The evenings are still at their

longest, and it is not yet bed time- go on, therefore, with your

divine story, for I could stay here listening till to-morrow

morning, so long as you will continue to tell us of your adventures."

  "Alcinous," answered Ulysses, "there is a time for making

speeches, and a time for going to bed; nevertheless, since you so

desire, I will not refrain from telling you the still sadder tale of

those of my comrades who did not fall fighting with the Trojans, but

perished on their return, through the treachery of a wicked woman.

  "When Proserpine had dismissed the female ghosts in all

directions, the ghost of Agamemnon son of Atreus came sadly up tome,

surrounded by those who had perished with him in the house of

Aegisthus. As soon as he had tasted the blood he knew me, and

weeping bitterly stretched out his arms towards me to embrace me;

but he had no strength nor substance any more, and I too wept and

pitied him as I beheld him. 'How did you come by your death,' said

I, 'King Agamemnon? Did Neptune raise his winds and waves against

you when you were at sea, or did your enemies make an end of you on

the mainland when you were cattle-lifting or sheep-stealing, or

while they were fighting in defence of their wives and city?'

  "'Ulysses,' he answered, 'noble son of Laertes, was not lost at

sea in any storm of Neptune's raising, nor did my foes despatch me

upon the mainland, but Aegisthus and my wicked wife were the death

of me between them. He asked me to his house, feasted me, and then

butchered me most miserably as though I were a fat beast in a

slaughter house, while all around me my comrades were slain like sheep

or pigs for the wedding breakfast, or picnic, or gorgeous banquet of

some great nobleman. You must have seen numbers of men killed either

in a general engagement, or in single combat, but you never saw

anything so truly pitiable as the way in which we fell in that

cloister, with the mixing-bowl and the loaded tables lying all

about, and the ground reeking with our-blood. I heard Priam's daughter

Cassandra scream as Clytemnestra killed her close beside me. I lay

dying upon the earth with the sword in my body, and raised my hands to

kill the slut of a murderess, but she slipped away from me; she

would not even close my lips nor my eyes when I was dying, for there

is nothing in this world so cruel and so shameless as a woman when she

has fallen into such guilt as hers was. Fancy murdering her own

husband! I thought I was going to be welcomed home by my children

and my servants, but her abominable crime has brought disgrace on

herself and all women who shall come after- even on the good ones.'

  "And I said, 'In truth Jove has hated the house of Atreus from first

to last in the matter of their women's counsels. See how many of us

fell for Helen's sake, and now it seems that Clytemnestra hatched

mischief against too during your absence.'

  "'Be sure, therefore,' continued Agamemnon, 'and not be too friendly

even with your own wife. Do not tell her all that you know perfectly

well yourself. Tell her a part only, and keep your own counsel about

the rest. Not that your wife, Ulysses, is likely to murder you, for

Penelope is a very admirable woman, and has an excellent nature. We

left her a young bride with an infant at her breast when we set out

for Troy. This child no doubt is now grown up happily to man's estate,

and he and his father will have a joyful meeting and embrace one

another as it is right they should do, whereas my wicked wife did

not even allow me the happiness of looking upon my son, but killed

me ere I could do so. Furthermore I say- and lay my saying to your

heart- do not tell people when you are bringing your ship to Ithaca,

but steal a march upon them, for after all this there is no trusting

women. But now tell me, and tell me true, can you give me any news

of my son Orestes? Is he in Orchomenus, or at Pylos, or is he at

Sparta with Menelaus- for I presume that he is still living.'

  "And I said, 'Agamemnon, why do you ask me? I do not know whether

your son is alive or dead, and it is not right to talk when one does

not know.'

  "As we two sat weeping and talking thus sadly with one another the

ghost of Achilles came up to us with Patroclus, Antilochus, and Ajax

who was the finest and goodliest man of all the Danaans after the

son of Peleus. The fleet descendant of Aeacus knew me and spoke

piteously, saying, 'Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, what deed of daring

will you undertake next, that you venture down to the house of Hades

among us silly dead, who are but the ghosts of them that can labour no


  "And I said, 'Achilles, son of Peleus, foremost champion of the

Achaeans, I came to consult Teiresias, and see if he could advise me

about my return home to Ithaca, for I have never yet been able to

get near the Achaean land, nor to set foot in my own country, but have

been in trouble all the time. As for you, Achilles, no one was ever

yet so fortunate as you have been, nor ever will be, for you were

adored by all us Argives as long as you were alive, and now that you

are here you are a great prince among the dead. Do not, therefore,

take it so much to heart even if you are dead.'

  "'Say not a word,' he answered, 'in death's favour; I would rather

be a paid servant in a poor man's house and be above ground than

king of kings among the dead. But give me news about son; is he gone

to the wars and will he be a great soldier, or is this not so? Tell me

also if you have heard anything about my father Peleus- does he

still rule among the Myrmidons, or do they show him no respect

throughout Hellas and Phthia now that he is old and his limbs fail

him? Could I but stand by his side, in the light of day, with the same

strength that I had when I killed the bravest of our foes upon the

plain of Troy- could I but be as I then was and go even for a short

time to my father's house, any one who tried to do him violence or

supersede him would soon me it.'

  "'I have heard nothing,' I answered, 'of Peleus, but I can tell

you all about your son Neoptolemus, for I took him in my own ship from

Scyros with the Achaeans. In our councils of war before Troy he was

always first to speak, and his judgement was unerring. Nestor and I

were the only two who could surpass him; and when it came to

fighting on the plain of Troy, he would never remain with the body

of his men, but would dash on far in front, foremost of them all in

valour. Many a man did he kill in battle- I cannot name every single

one of those whom he slew while fighting on the side of the Argives,

but will only say how he killed that valiant hero Eurypylus son of

Telephus, who was the handsomest man I ever saw except Memnon; many

others also of the Ceteians fell around him by reason of a woman's

bribes. Moreover, when all the bravest of the Argives went inside

the horse that Epeus had made, and it was left to me to settle when we

should either open the door of our ambuscade, or close it, though

all the other leaders and chief men among the Danaans were drying

their eyes and quaking in every limb, I never once saw him turn pale

nor wipe a tear from his cheek; he was all the time urging me to break

out from the horse- grasping the handle of his sword and his

bronze-shod spear, and breathing fury against the foe. Yet when we had

sacked the city of Priam he got his handsome share of the prize

money and went on board (such is the fortune of war) without a wound

upon him, neither from a thrown spear nor in close combat, for the

rage of Mars is a matter of great chance.'

  "When I had told him this, the ghost of Achilles strode off across a

meadow full of asphodel, exulting over what I had said concerning

the prowess of his son.

  "The ghosts of other dead men stood near me and told me each his own

melancholy tale; but that of Ajax son of Telamon alone held aloof-

still angry with me for having won the cause in our dispute about

the armour of Achilles. Thetis had offered it as a prize, but the

Trojan prisoners and Minerva were the judges. Would that I had never

gained the day in such a contest, for it cost the life of Ajax, who

was foremost of all the Danaans after the son of Peleus, alike in

stature and prowess.

  "When I saw him I tried to pacify him and said, 'Ajax, will you

not forget and forgive even in death, but must the judgement about

that hateful armour still rankle with you? It cost us Argives dear

enough to lose such a tower of strength as you were to us. We

mourned you as much as we mourned Achilles son of Peleus himself,

nor can the blame be laid on anything but on the spite which Jove bore

against the Danaans, for it was this that made him counsel your

destruction- come hither, therefore, bring your proud spirit into

subjection, and hear what I can tell you.'

  "He would not answer, but turned away to Erebus and to the other

ghosts; nevertheless, I should have made him talk to me in spite of

his being so angry, or I should have gone talking to him, only that

there were still others among the dead whom I desired to see.

  "Then I saw Minos son of Jove with his golden sceptre in his hand

sitting in judgement on the dead, and the ghosts were gathered sitting

and standing round him in the spacious house of Hades, to learn his

sentences upon them.

  "After him I saw huge Orion in a meadow full of asphodel driving the

ghosts of the wild beasts that he had killed upon the mountains, and

he had a great bronze club in his hand, unbreakable for ever and ever.

  "And I saw Tityus son of Gaia stretched upon the plain and

covering some nine acres of ground. Two vultures on either side of him

were digging their beaks into his liver, and he kept on trying to beat

them off with his hands, but could not; for he had violated Jove's

mistress Leto as she was going through Panopeus on her way to Pytho.

  "I saw also the dreadful fate of Tantalus, who stood in a lake

that reached his chin; he was dying to quench his thirst, but could

never reach the water, for whenever the poor creature stooped to

drink, it dried up and vanished, so that there was nothing but dry

ground- parched by the spite of heaven. There were tall trees,

moreover, that shed their fruit over his head- pears, pomegranates,

apples, sweet figs and juicy olives, but whenever the poor creature

stretched out his hand to take some, the wind tossed the branches back

again to the clouds.

  "And I saw Sisyphus at his endless task raising his prodigious stone

with both his hands. With hands and feet he' tried to roll it up to

the top of the hill, but always, just before he could roll it over

on to the other side, its weight would be too much for him, and the

pitiless stone would come thundering down again on to the plain.

Then he would begin trying to push it up hill again, and the sweat ran

off him and the steam rose after him.

  "After him I saw mighty Hercules, but it was his phantom only, for

he is feasting ever with the immortal gods, and has lovely Hebe to

wife, who is daughter of Jove and Juno. The ghosts were screaming

round him like scared birds flying all whithers. He looked black as

night with his bare bow in his hands and his arrow on the string,

glaring around as though ever on the point of taking aim. About his

breast there was a wondrous golden belt adorned in the most marvellous

fashion with bears, wild boars, and lions with gleaming eyes; there

was also war, battle, and death. The man who made that belt, do what

he might, would never be able to make another like it. Hercules knew

me at once when he saw me, and spoke piteously, saying, my poor

Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, are you too leading the same sorry kind

of life that I did when I was above ground? I was son of Jove, but I

went through an infinity of suffering, for I became bondsman to one

who was far beneath me- a low fellow who set me all manner of labours.

He once sent me here to fetch the hell-hound- for he did not think

he could find anything harder for me than this, but I got the hound

out of Hades and brought him to him, for Mercury and Minerva helped


  "On this Hercules went down again into the house of Hades, but I

stayed where I was in case some other of the mighty dead should come

to me. And I should have seen still other of them that are gone

before, whom I would fain have seen- Theseus and Pirithous glorious

children of the gods, but so many thousands of ghosts came round me

and uttered such appalling cries, that I was panic stricken lest

Proserpine should send up from the house of Hades the head of that

awful monster Gorgon. On this I hastened back to my ship and ordered

my men to go on board at once and loose the hawsers; so they

embarked and took their places, whereon the ship went down the

stream of the river Oceanus. We had to row at first, but presently a

fair wind sprang up.

Translated by Samuel Butler


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