Odyssey

Homer

Homer, creator; Butler, Samuel, 1835-1902, translator

The swineherd now took up the bow and was for taking it to Odysseus, but the suitors clamored at him from all parts of the cloisters, and one of them said, "You idiot, where are you taking the bow to? Are you out of your wits? If Apollo and the other gods will answer our prayer, your own boarhounds shall get you into some quiet little place, and worry you to death."

Eumaios was frightened at the outcry they all raised, so he put the bow down then and there, but Telemakhos shouted out at him from the other side of the cloisters, and threatened him saying, "Father Eumaios, bring the bow on in spite of them, or young as I am I will pelt you with stones back to the country, for I am the stronger [biê] man of the two. I wish I was as much stronger than all the other suitors in the house as I am than you, I would soon send some of them off sick and sorry, for they mean mischief."

Thus did he speak, and they all of them laughed heartily, which put them in a better humor with Telemakhos; so Eumaios brought the bow on and placed it in the hands of Odysseus. When he had done this, he called Eurykleia apart and said to her, "Eurykleia, Telemakhos says you are to close the doors of the women's apartments. If they hear any groaning or uproar as of men fighting about the house, they are not to come out, but are to keep quiet and stay where they are at their work."

Eurykleia did as she was told and closed the doors of the women's apartments.

Meanwhile Philoitios slipped quietly out and made fast the gates of the outer court. There was a ship's cable of papyrus fiber lying in the gatehouse, so he made the gates fast with it and then came in again, resuming the seat that he had left, and keeping an eye on Odysseus, who had now got the bow in his hands, and was turning it every way about, and proving it all over to see whether the worms had been eating into its two horns during his absence. Then would one turn towards his neighbor saying, "This is some tricky old bow-fancier; either he has got one like it at home, or he wants to make one, in such workmanlike style does the old vagabond handle it."

Another said, "I hope he may be no more successful in other things than he is likely to be in stringing this bow."

But Odysseus, when he had taken it up and examined it all over, strung it as easily as a skilled bard strings a new peg of his lyre and makes the twisted gut fast at both ends. Then he took it in his right hand to prove the string, and it sang sweetly under his touch like the twittering of a swallow. The suitors were dismayed [akhos], and turned color as they heard it; at that moment, moreover, Zeus thundered loudly as a sign [sêma], and the heart of Odysseus rejoiced as he heard the omen that the son of scheming Kronos had sent him.

He took an arrow that was lying upon the table - for those which the Achaeans were so shortly about to taste were all inside the quiver - he laid it on the center-piece of the bow, and drew the notch of the arrow and the string toward him, still seated on his seat. When he had taken aim he let fly, and his arrow pierced every one of the handle-holes of the axes from the first onwards till it had gone right through them, and into the outer courtyard. Then he said to Telemakhos:

"Your guest has not disgraced you, Telemakhos. I did not miss what I aimed at, and I was not long in stringing my bow. I am still strong, and not as the suitors mock me for being. Now, however, it is time [hôra] for the Achaeans to prepare supper while there is still daylight, and then otherwise to disport themselves with song and dance which are the crowning ornaments of a banquet."

As he spoke he made a sign with his eyebrows, and Telemakhos girded on his sword, grasped his spear, and stood armed beside his father's seat.

Then Odysseus 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 [athlos] is at an end. I will now see whether Apollo will grant it to me to hit another mark which no man has yet hit."

On this he aimed a deadly arrow at Antinoos, 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 revelers would think that one man, however brave, would stand alone among so many and kill him? The arrow struck Antinoos 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 Odysseus very angrily. "Stranger," said they, "you shall pay for shooting people in this way: you shall see no other contest [athlos]; 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 Antinoos by mistake, and did not perceive that death was hanging over the head of every one of them. But Odysseus glared at them and said:

"Dogs, did you think that I should not come back from the dêmos of the Trojans? 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 the gods nor that there would be future nemesis from men, and now you shall die."

They turned pale with fear as he spoke, and every man looked round about to see whither he might flee for safety, but Eurymakhos alone spoke.

"If you are Odysseus," said he, "then what you have said is just. We have done much wrong on your lands and in your house. But Antinoos, who was the head and front of the offending [aitios], 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 Zeus has not granted 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 in this district [dêmos], 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."

Odysseus 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 flee for your lives; and flee, not a man of you shall."

Their hearts sank as they heard him, but Eurymakhos again spoke saying:

"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 Odysseus, but Odysseus 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 Amphinomos drew his sword and made straight at Odysseus to try and get him away from the door; but Telemakhos 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 Telemakhos 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 said:

"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 armor for the swineherd and the stockman, for we had better be armed."

"Run and fetch them," answered Odysseus, "while my arrows hold out, or when I am alone they may get me away from the door."

Telemakhos did as his father said, and went off to the store room where the armor 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 armor, and took their places near Odysseus. Meanwhile Odysseus, 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. Odysseus told Philoitios to stand by this door and guard it, for only one person could attack it at a time. But Agelaos 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, Agelaos," answered Melanthios, "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 Odysseus and his son have put them."

On this the goatherd Melanthios went by back passages to the store room of Odysseus, 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. Odysseus’ heart began to fail him when he saw the suitors putting on their armor and brandishing their spears. He saw the greatness of the danger, and said to Telemakhos, "Some one of the women inside is helping the suitors against us, or it may be Melanthios."

Telemakhos answered, "The fault [aitios], 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, Eumaios, put the door to, and see whether it is one of the women who is doing this, or whether, as I suspect, it is Melanthios the son of Dolios."

Thus did they converse. Meanwhile Melanthios was again going to the store room to fetch more armor, but the swineherd saw him and said to Odysseus who was beside him, "Odysseus, noble son of Laertes, it is that scoundrel Melanthios, 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?"

Odysseus answered, "Telemakhos and I will hold these suitors in check, no matter what they do; go back both of you and bind Melanthios’ 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."