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The Odyssey: Book 22 Analysis

Author: poem of Homer Type: poem Views: 2

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  Then Ulysses tore off his rags, and sprang on to the broad

pavement with his bow and his quiver full of arrows. He shed the

arrows on to the ground at his feet and said, "The mighty contest is

at an end. I will now see whether Apollo will vouchsafe it to me to

hit another mark which no man has yet hit."

  On this he aimed a deadly arrow at Antinous, who was about to take

up a two-handled gold cup to drink his wine and already had it in

his hands. He had no thought of death- who amongst all the revellers

would think that one man, however brave, would stand alone among so

many and kill him? The arrow struck Antinous in the throat, and the

point went clean through his neck, so that he fell over and the cup

dropped from his hand, while a thick stream of blood gushed from his

nostrils. He kicked the table from him and upset the things on it,

so that the bread and roasted meats were all soiled as they fell

over on to the ground. The suitors were in an uproar when they saw

that a man had been hit; they sprang in dismay one and all of them

from their seats and looked everywhere towards the walls, but there

was neither shield nor spear, and they rebuked Ulysses very angrily.

"Stranger," said they, "you shall pay for shooting people in this way:

om yi you shall see no other contest; you are a doomed man; he whom

you have slain was the foremost youth in Ithaca, and the vultures

shall devour you for having killed him."

  Thus they spoke, for they thought that he had killed Antinous by

mistake, and did not perceive that death was hanging over the head

of every one of them. But Ulysses glared at them and said:

  "Dogs, did you think that I should not come back from Troy? You have

wasted my substance, have forced my women servants to lie with you,

and have wooed my wife while I was still living. You have feared

neither Cod nor man, and now you shall die."

  They turned pale with fear as he spoke, and every man looked round

about to see whither he might fly for safety, but Eurymachus alone


  "If you are Ulysses," said he, "then what you have said is just.

We have done much wrong on your lands and in your house. But

Antinous who was the head and front of the offending lies low already.

It was all his doing. It was not that he wanted to marry Penelope;

he did not so much care about that; what he wanted was something quite

different, and Jove has not vouchsafed it to him; he wanted to kill

your son and to be chief man in Ithaca. Now, therefore, that he has

met the death which was his due, spare the lives of your people. We

will make everything good among ourselves, and pay you in full for all

that we have eaten and drunk. Each one of us shall pay you a fine

worth twenty oxen, and we will keep on giving you gold and bronze till

your heart is softened. Until we have done this no one can complain of

your being enraged against us."

  Ulysses again glared at him and said, "Though you should give me all

that you have in the world both now and all that you ever shall

have, I will not stay my hand till I have paid all of you in full. You

must fight, or fly for your lives; and fly, not a man of you shall."

  Their hearts sank as they heard him, but Eurymachus again spoke


  "My friends, this man will give us no quarter. He will stand where

he is and shoot us down till he has killed every man among us. Let

us then show fight; draw your swords, and hold up the tables to shield

you from his arrows. Let us have at him with a rush, to drive him from

the pavement and doorway: we can then get through into the town, and

raise such an alarm as shall soon stay his shooting."

  As he spoke he drew his keen blade of bronze, sharpened on both

sides, and with a loud cry sprang towards Ulysses, but Ulysses

instantly shot an arrow into his breast that caught him by the

nipple and fixed itself in his liver. He dropped his sword and fell

doubled up over his table. The cup and all the meats went over on to

the ground as he smote the earth with his forehead in the agonies of

death, and he kicked the stool with his feet until his eyes were

closed in darkness.

  Then Amphinomus drew his sword and made straight at Ulysses to try

and get him away from the door; but Telemachus was too quick for

him, and struck him from behind; the spear caught him between the

shoulders and went right through his chest, so that he fell heavily to

the ground and struck the earth with his forehead. Then Telemachus

sprang away from him, leaving his spear still in the body, for he

feared that if he stayed to draw it out, some one of the Achaeans

might come up and hack at him with his sword, or knock him down, so he

set off at a run, and immediately was at his father's side. Then he


  "Father, let me bring you a shield, two spears, and a brass helmet

for your temples. I will arm myself as well, and will bring other

armour for the swineherd and the stockman, for we had better be


  "Run and fetch them," answered Ulysses, "while my arrows hold out,

or when I am alone they may get me away from the door."

  Telemachus did as his father said, and went off to the store room

where the armour was kept. He chose four shields, eight spears, and

four brass helmets with horse-hair plumes. He brought them with all

speed to his father, and armed himself first, while the stockman and

the swineherd also put on their armour, and took their places near

Ulysses. Meanwhile Ulysses, as long as his arrows lasted, had been

shooting the suitors one by one, and they fell thick on one another:

when his arrows gave out, he set the bow to stand against the end wall

of the house by the door post, and hung a shield four hides thick

about his shoulders; on his comely head he set his helmet, well

wrought with a crest of horse-hair that nodded menacingly above it,

and he grasped two redoubtable bronze-shod spears.

  Now there was a trap door on the wall, while at one end of the

pavement there was an exit leading to a narrow passage, and this

exit was closed by a well-made door. Ulysses told Philoetius to

stand by this door and guard it, for only one person could attack it

at a time. But Agelaus shouted out, "Cannot some one go up to the trap

door and tell the people what is going on? Help would come at once,

and we should soon make an end of this man and his shooting."

  "This may not be, Agelaus," answered Melanthius, "the mouth of the

narrow passage is dangerously near the entrance to the outer court.

One brave man could prevent any number from getting in. But I know

what I will do, I will bring you arms from the store room, for I am

sure it is there that Ulysses and his son have put them."

  On this the goatherd Melanthius went by back passages to the store

room of Ulysses, house. There he chose twelve shields, with as many

helmets and spears, and brought them back as fast as he could to

give them to the suitors. Ulysses' heart began to fail him when he saw

the suitors putting on their armour and brandishing their spears. He

saw the greatness of the danger, and said to Telemachus, "Some one

of the women inside is helping the suitors against us, or it may be


  Telemachus answered, "The fault, father, is mine, and mine only; I

left the store room door open, and they have kept a sharper look out

than I have. Go, Eumaeus, put the door to, and see whether it is one

of the women who is doing this, or whether, as I suspect, it is

Melanthius the son of Dolius."

  Thus did they converse. Meanwhile Melanthius was again going to

the store room to fetch more armour, but the swineherd saw him and

said to Ulysses who was beside him, "Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, it

is that scoundrel Melanthius, just as we suspected, who is going to

the store room. Say, shall I kill him, if I can get the better of him,

or shall I bring him here that you may take your own revenge for all

the many wrongs that he has done in your house?"

  Ulysses answered, "Telemachus and I will hold these suitors in

check, no matter what they do; go back both of you and bind

Melanthius' hands and feet behind him. Throw him into the store room

and make the door fast behind you; then fasten a noose about his body,

and string him close up to the rafters from a high bearing-post,

that he may linger on in an agony."

  Thus did he speak, and they did even as he had said; they went to

the store room, which they entered before Melanthius saw them, for

he was busy searching for arms in the innermost part of the room, so

the two took their stand on either side of the door and waited. By and

by Melanthius came out with a helmet in one hand, and an old

dry-rotted shield in the other, which had been borne by Laertes when

he was young, but which had been long since thrown aside, and the

straps had become unsewn; on this the two seized him, dragged him back

by the hair, and threw him struggling to the ground. They bent his

hands and feet well behind his back, and bound them tight with a

painful bond as Ulysses had told them; then they fastened a noose

about his body and strung him up from a high pillar till he was

close up to the rafters, and over him did you then vaunt, O

swineherd Eumaeus, saying, "Melanthius, you will pass the night on a

soft bed as you deserve. You will know very well when morning comes

from the streams of Oceanus, and it is time for you to be driving in

your goats for the suitors to feast on."

  There, then, they left him in very cruel bondage, and having put

on their armour they closed the door behind them and went back to take

their places by the side of Ulysses; whereon the four men stood in the

cloister, fierce and full of fury; nevertheless, those who were in the

body of the court were still both brave and many. Then Jove's daughter

Minerva came up to them, having assumed the voice and form of

Mentor. Ulysses was glad when he saw her and said, "Mentor, lend me

your help, and forget not your old comrade, nor the many good turns he

has done you. Besides, you are my age-mate."

  But all the time he felt sure it was Minerva, and the suitors from

the other side raised an uproar when they saw her. Agelaus was the

first to reproach her. "Mentor," he cried, "do not let Ulysses beguile

you into siding with him and fighting the suitors. This is what we

will do: when we have killed these people, father and son, we will

kill you too. You shall pay for it with your head, and when we have

killed you, we will take all you have, in doors or out, and bring it

into hotch-pot with Ulysses' property; we will not let your sons

live in your house, nor your daughters, nor shall your widow

continue to live in the city of Ithaca."

  This made Minerva still more furious, so she scolded Ulysses very

angrily. "Ulysses," said she, "your strength and prowess are no longer

what they were when you fought for nine long years among the Trojans

about the noble lady Helen. You killed many a man in those days, and

it was through your stratagem that Priam's city was taken. How comes

it that you are so lamentably less valiant now that you are on your

own ground, face to face with the suitors in your own house? Come

on, my good fellow, stand by my side and see how Mentor, son of

Alcinous shall fight your foes and requite your kindnesses conferred

upon him."

  But she would not give him full victory as yet, for she wished still

further to prove his own prowess and that of his brave son, so she

flew up to one of the rafters in the roof of the cloister and sat upon

it in the form of a swallow.

  Meanwhile Agelaus son of Damastor, Eurynomus, Amphimedon,

Demoptolemus, Pisander, and Polybus son of Polyctor bore the brunt

of the fight upon the suitors' side; of all those who were still

fighting for their lives they were by far the most valiant, for the

others had already fallen under the arrows of Ulysses. Agelaus shouted

to them and said, "My friends, he will soon have to leave off, for

Mentor has gone away after having done nothing for him but brag.

They are standing at the doors unsupported. Do not aim at him all at

once, but six of you throw your spears first, and see if you cannot

cover yourselves with glory by killing him. When he has fallen we need

not be uneasy about the others."

  They threw their spears as he bade them, but Minerva made them all

of no effect. One hit the door post; another went against the door;

the pointed shaft of another struck the wall; and as soon as they

had avoided all the spears of the suitors Ulysses said to his own men,

"My friends, I should say we too had better let drive into the

middle of them, or they will crown all the harm they have done us by

us outright."

  They therefore aimed straight in front of them and threw their

spears. Ulysses killed Demoptolemus, Telemachus Euryades, Eumaeus

Elatus, while the stockman killed Pisander. These all bit the dust,

and as the others drew back into a corner Ulysses and his men rushed

forward and regained their spears by drawing them from the bodies of

the dead.

  The suitors now aimed a second time, but again Minerva made their

weapons for the most part without effect. One hit a bearing-post of

the cloister; another went against the door; while the pointed shaft

of another struck the wall. Still, Amphimedon just took a piece of the

top skin from off Telemachus's wrist, and Ctesippus managed to graze

Eumaeus's shoulder above his shield; but the spear went on and fell to

the ground. Then Ulysses and his men let drive into the crowd of

suitors. Ulysses hit Eurydamas, Telemachus Amphimedon, and Eumaeus

Polybus. After this the stockman hit Ctesippus in the breast, and

taunted him saying, "Foul-mouthed son of Polytherses, do not be so

foolish as to talk wickedly another time, but let heaven direct your

speech, for the gods are far stronger than men. I make you a present

of this advice to repay you for the foot which you gave Ulysses when

he was begging about in his own house."

  Thus spoke the stockman, and Ulysses struck the son of Damastor with

a spear in close fight, while Telemachus hit Leocritus son of Evenor

in the belly, and the dart went clean through him, so that he fell

forward full on his face upon the ground. Then Minerva from her seat

on the rafter held up her deadly aegis, and the hearts of the

suitors quailed. They fled to the other end of the court like a herd

of cattle maddened by the gadfly in early summer when the days are

at their longest. As eagle-beaked, crook-taloned vultures from the

mountains swoop down on the smaller birds that cower in flocks upon

the ground, and kill them, for they cannot either fight or fly, and

lookers on enjoy the sport- even so did Ulysses and his men fall

upon the suitors and smite them on every side. They made a horrible

groaning as their brains were being battered in, and the ground

seethed with their blood.

  Leiodes then caught the knees of Ulysses and said, "Ulysses I

beseech you have mercy upon me and spare me. I never wronged any of

the women in your house either in word or deed, and I tried to stop

the others. I saw them, but they would not listen, and now they are

paying for their folly. I was their sacrificing priest; if you kill

me, I shall die without having done anything to deserve it, and

shall have got no thanks for all the good that I did."

  Ulysses looked sternly at him and answered, "If you were their

sacrificing priest, you must have prayed many a time that it might

be long before I got home again, and that you might marry my wife

and have children by her. Therefore you shall die."

  With these words he picked up the sword that Agelaus had dropped

when he was being killed, and which was lying upon the ground. Then he

struck Leiodes on the back of his neck, so that his head fell

rolling in the dust while he was yet speaking.

  The minstrel Phemius son of Terpes- he who had been forced by the

suitors to sing to them- now tried to save his life. He was standing

near towards the trap door, and held his lyre in his hand. He did

not know whether to fly out of the cloister and sit down by the

altar of Jove that was in the outer court, and on which both Laertes

and Ulysses had offered up the thigh bones of many an ox, or whether

to go straight up to Ulysses and embrace his knees, but in the end

he deemed it best to embrace Ulysses' knees. So he laid his lyre on

the ground the ground between the mixing-bowl and the silver-studded

seat; then going up to Ulysses he caught hold of his knees and said,

"Ulysses, I beseech you have mercy on me and spare me. You will be

sorry for it afterwards if you kill a bard who can sing both for

gods and men as I can. I make all my lays myself, and heaven visits me

with every kind of inspiration. I would sing to you as though you were

a god, do not therefore be in such a hurry to cut my head off. Your

own son Telemachus will tell you that I did not want to frequent

your house and sing to the suitors after their meals, but they were

too many and too strong for me, so they made me."

  Telemachus heard him, and at once went up to his father. "Hold!"

he cried, "the man is guiltless, do him no hurt; and we will Medon

too, who was always good to me when I was a boy, unless Philoetius

or Eumaeus has already killed him, or he has fallen in your way when

you were raging about the court."

  Medon caught these words of Telemachus, for he was crouching under a

seat beneath which he had hidden by covering himself up with a freshly

flayed heifer's hide, so he threw off the hide, went up to Telemachus,

and laid hold of his knees.

  "Here I am, my dear sir," said he, "stay your hand therefore, and

tell your father, or he will kill me in his rage against the suitors

for having wasted his substance and been so foolishly disrespectful to


  Ulysses smiled at him and answered, "Fear not; Telemachus has

saved your life, that you may know in future, and tell other people,

how greatly better good deeds prosper than evil ones. Go, therefore,

outside the cloisters into the outer court, and be out of the way of

the slaughter- you and the bard- while I finish my work here inside."

  The pair went into the outer court as fast as they could, and sat

down by Jove's great altar, looking fearfully round, and still

expecting that they would be killed. Then Ulysses searched the whole

court carefully over, to see if anyone had managed to hide himself and

was still living, but he found them all lying in the dust and

weltering in their blood. They were like fishes which fishermen have

netted out of the sea, and thrown upon the beach to lie gasping for

water till the heat of the sun makes an end of them. Even so were

the suitors lying all huddled up one against the other.

  Then Ulysses said to Telemachus, "Call nurse Euryclea; I have

something to say to her."

  Telemachus went and knocked at the door of the women's room. "Make

haste," said he, "you old woman who have been set over all the other

women in the house. Come outside; my father wishes to speak to you."

  When Euryclea heard this she unfastened the door of the women's room

and came out, following Telemachus. She found Ulysses among the

corpses bespattered with blood and filth like a lion that has just

been devouring an ox, and his breast and both his cheeks are all

bloody, so that he is a fearful sight; even so was Ulysses

besmirched from head to foot with gore. When she saw all the corpses

and such a quantity of blood, she was beginning to cry out for joy,

for she saw that a great deed had been done; but Ulysses checked

her, "Old woman," said he, "rejoice in silence; restrain yourself, and

do not make any noise about it; it is an unholy thing to vaunt over

dead men. Heaven's doom and their own evil deeds have brought these

men to destruction, for they respected no man in the whole world,

neither rich nor poor, who came near them, and they have come to a bad

end as a punishment for their wickedness and folly. Now, however, tell

me which of the women in the house have misconducted themselves, and

who are innocent."

  "I will tell you the truth, my son," answered Euryclea. "There are

fifty women in the house whom we teach to do things, such as carding

wool, and all kinds of household work. Of these, twelve in all have

misbehaved, and have been wanting in respect to me, and also to

Penelope. They showed no disrespect to Telemachus, for he has only

lately grown and his mother never permitted him to give orders to

the female servants; but let me go upstairs and tell your wife all

that has happened, for some god has been sending her to sleep."

  "Do not wake her yet," answered Ulysses, "but tell the women who

have misconducted themselves to come to me."

  Euryclea left the cloister to tell the women, and make them come

to Ulysses; in the meantime he called Telemachus, the stockman, and

the swineherd. "Begin," said he, "to remove the dead, and make the

women help you. Then, get sponges and clean water to swill down the

tables and seats. When you have thoroughly cleansed the whole

cloisters, take the women into the space between the domed room and

the wall of the outer court, and run them through with your swords

till they are quite dead, and have forgotten all about love and the

way in which they used to lie in secret with the suitors."

  On this the women came down in a body, weeping and wailing bitterly.

First they carried the dead bodies out, and propped them up against

one another in the gatehouse. Ulysses ordered them about and made them

do their work quickly, so they had to carry the bodies out. When

they had done this, they cleaned all the tables and seats with sponges

and water, while Telemachus and the two others shovelled up the

blood and dirt from the ground, and the women carried it all away

and put it out of doors. Then when they had made the whole place quite

clean and orderly, they took the women out and hemmed them in the

narrow space between the wall of the domed room and that of the

yard, so that they could not get away: and Telemachus said to the

other two, "I shall not let these women die a clean death, for they

were insolent to me and my mother, and used to sleep with the


  So saying he made a ship's cable fast to one of the bearing-posts

that supported the roof of the domed room, and secured it all around

the building, at a good height, lest any of the women's feet should

touch the ground; and as thrushes or doves beat against a net that has

been set for them in a thicket just as they were getting to their

nest, and a terrible fate awaits them, even so did the women have to

put their heads in nooses one after the other and die most

miserably. Their feet moved convulsively for a while, but not for very


  As for Melanthius, they took him through the cloister into the inner

court. There they cut off his nose and his ears; they drew out his

vitals and gave them to the dogs raw, and then in their fury they

cut off his hands and his feet.

  When they had done this they washed their hands and feet and went

back into the house, for all was now over; and Ulysses said to the

dear old nurse Euryclea, "Bring me sulphur, which cleanses all

pollution, and fetch fire also that I may burn it, and purify the

cloisters. Go, moreover, and tell Penelope to come here with her

attendants, and also all the maid servants that are in the house."

  "All that you have said is true," answered Euryclea, "but let me

bring you some clean clothes- a shirt and cloak. Do not keep these

rags on your back any longer. It is not right."

  "First light me a fire," replied Ulysses.

  She brought the fire and sulphur, as he had bidden her, and

Ulysses thoroughly purified the cloisters and both the inner and outer

courts. Then she went inside to call the women and tell them what

had happened; whereon they came from their apartment with torches in

their hands, and pressed round Ulysses to embrace him, kissing his

head and shoulders and taking hold of his hands. It made him feel as

if he should like to weep, for he remembered every one of them.

Translated by Samuel Butler


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