Homer, creator; Butler, Samuel, 1835-1902, translator
Thus did he speak, and they did even as he had said; they went to the store room, which they entered before Melanthios 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 Melanthios 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 Odysseus 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 Eumaios, saying, "Melanthios, you will pass the night on a soft bed as you deserve. You will know very well when morning comes from the streams of Okeanos, 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 armor they closed the door behind them and went back to take their places by the side of Odysseus; whereon the four men stood in the room, fierce and full of fury; nevertheless, those who were in the body of the court were still both brave and many. Then Zeus’ daughter Athena came up to them, having assumed the voice and form of Mentor. Odysseus 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 Athena, and the suitors from the other side raised an uproar when they saw her. Agelaos was the first to reproach her. "Mentor," he cried, "do not let Odysseus beguile you into siding with him and fighting the suitors. This is what will be our plan [noos]: 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 merge it with Odysseus’ 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 Athena still more furious, so she scolded Odysseus very angrily. "Odysseus," 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 Alkinoos 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 room and sat upon it in the form of a swallow.
Meanwhile Agelaos son of Damastor, Eurynomos, Amphimedon, Demoptolemos, Peisandros, and Polybos son of Polyktor bore the brunt of the fight upon the suitors’ side; of all those who were still fighting for their lives [psukhai], they were by far the most excellent in aretê, for the others had already fallen under the arrows of Odysseus. Agelaos 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 Athena 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 Odysseus 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 killing us outright."
They therefore aimed straight in front of them and threw their spears. Odysseus killed Demoptolemos, Telemakhos Euryades, Eumaios Elatus, while the stockman killed Peisandros. These all bit the dust, and as the others drew back into a corner Odysseus 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 Athena made their weapons for the most part without effect. One hit a bearing-post of the room; 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 Telemakhos’ wrist, and Ktesippos managed to graze Eumaios’ shoulder above his shield; but the spear went on and fell to the ground. Then Odysseus and his men let drive into the crowd of suitors. Odysseus hit Eurydamas, Telemakhos Amphimedon, and Eumaios Polybos. After this the stockman hit Ktesippos 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 Odysseus when he was begging about in his own house."
Thus spoke the stockman, and Odysseus struck the son of Damastor with a spear in close fight, while Telemakhos hit Leiokritos son of Euenor in the belly, and the dart went clean through him, so that he fell forward full on his face upon the ground. Then Athena 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 [hôra] 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 flee, and lookers on enjoy the sport - even so did Odysseus 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 Odysseus and said, "Odysseus 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 [kharis] for all the good that I did."
Odysseus 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 [nostos], 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 Agelaos 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 Phemios 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 flee out of the room and sit down by the altar of Zeus that was in the outer court, and on which both Laertes and Odysseus had offered up the thigh bones of many an ox, or whether to go straight up to Odysseus and embrace his knees, but in the end he deemed it best to embrace Odysseus’ knees. So he laid his lyre on the ground the ground between the mixing-bowl and the silver-studded seat; then going up to Odysseus he caught hold of his knees and said, "Odysseus, I beseech you have mercy on me and spare me. You will be sorry [akhos] 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 Telemakhos 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."
Telemakhos heard him, and at once went up to his father. "Hold!" he cried, "the man is guiltless, do him no hurt; and we will spare Medon too, who was always good to me when I was a boy, unless Philoitios or Eumaios has already killed him, or he has fallen in your way when you were raging about the court."
Medon caught these words of Telemakhos, 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 Telemakhos, 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 yourself."
Odysseus smiled at him and answered, "Fear not; Telemakhos 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 Zeus’ great altar, looking fearfully round, and still expecting that they would be killed. Then Odysseus 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 Odysseus said to Telemakhos, "Call nurse Eurykleia; I have something to say to her."
Telemakhos 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 Eurykleia heard this she unfastened the door of the women's room and came out, following Telemakhos. She found Odysseus 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 Odysseus 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 Odysseus 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 [alêtheia], my son," answered Eurykleia. "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 Telemakhos, 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 Odysseus, "but tell the women who have misconducted themselves to come to me."
Eurykleia left the room to tell the women, and make them come to Odysseus; in the meantime he called Telemakhos, 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. Odysseus 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 Telemakhos and the two others shoveled 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 Telemakhos 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 suitors."
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 long.
As for Melanthios, they took him through the room 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 Odysseus said to the dear old nurse Eurykleia, "Bring me sulfur, 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 Eurykleia, "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 Odysseus.
She brought the fire and sulfur, as he had bidden her, and Odysseus 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 Odysseus 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.