Now when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, Alkinoos and Odysseus both rose, and Alkinoos led the way to the Phaeacian place of assembly, which was near the ships. When they got there they sat down side by side on a seat of polished stone, while Athena took the form of one of Alkinoos’ servants, and went round the town in order to contrive nostos for great-hearted Odysseus. She went up to the citizens, man by man, and said, "Aldermen and town councilors of the Phaeacians, come to the assembly all of you and listen to the stranger who has just come off a long voyage to the house of King Alkinoos; he looks like an immortal god."
With these words she made them all want to come, and they flocked to the assembly till seats and standing room were alike crowded. Every one was struck with the appearance of Odysseus, for Athena had beautified [kharis] him about the head and shoulders, making him look taller and stouter than he really was, that he might impress the Phaeacians favorably as being a very remarkable man, and might come off well in the many trials [athlos] of skill to which they would challenge him. Then, when they were got together, Alkinoos spoke:
"Hear me," said he, "aldermen and town councilors of the Phaeacians, that I may speak even as I am minded. This stranger, whoever he may be, has found his way to my house from somewhere or other either East or West. He wants an escort and wishes to have the matter settled. Let us then get one ready for him, as we have done for others before him; indeed, no one who ever yet came to my house has been able to complain of me for not speeding on his way soon enough. Let us draw a ship into the sea - one that has never yet made a voyage - and man her with two and fifty of our choicest [krînô] young sailors in the dêmos. Then when you have made fast your oars each by his own seat, leave the ship and come to my house to prepare a feast. I will provide you with everything. I am giving these instructions to the young men who will form the crew, for as regards you aldermen and town councilors, you will join me in entertaining our guest in the cloisters. I can take no excuses, and we will have Demodokos to sing to us; for there is no bard like him whatever he may choose to sing about."
Alkinoos then led the way, and the others followed after, while a servant went to fetch Demodokos. The fifty-two picked [krînô] oarsmen went to the sea shore as they had been told, and when they got there they drew the ship into the water, got her mast and sails inside her, bound the oars to the thole-pins with twisted thongs of leather, all in due course, and spread the white sails aloft. They moored the vessel a little way out from land, and then came on shore and went to the house of King Alkinoos. The outhouses, yards, and all the precincts were filled with crowds of men in great multitudes both old and young; and Alkinoos killed them a dozen sheep, eight full grown pigs, and two oxen. These they skinned and dressed so as to provide a magnificent banquet.
A servant presently led in the famous bard Demodokos, whom the muse had dearly loved, but to whom she had given both good and evil, for though she had endowed him with a divine gift of song, she had robbed him of his eyesight. Pontonoos set a seat for him among the guests, leaning it up against a bearing-post. He hung the lyre for him on a peg over his head, and showed him where he was to feel for it with his hands. He also set a fair table with a basket of victuals by his side, and a cup of wine from which he might drink whenever he was so disposed.
The company then laid their hands upon the good things that were before them, but as soon as they had had enough to eat and drink, the muse inspired Demodokos to sing the feats [kleos] of heroes, and most especially a matter whose kleos at that time reached wide heaven, to wit, the quarrel [neikos] between Odysseus and Achilles, and the fierce words that they heaped on one another as they sat together at a banquet. But Agamemnon was glad in his noos when he heard his chieftains quarreling with one another, for Apollo had foretold him this at Pytho when he crossed the stone floor to consult the oracle. Here the beginning of the evil started rolling down, by the will of Zeus, toward both Danaans and Trojans.
Thus sang the bard, but Odysseus drew his purple mantle over his head and covered his face, for he was ashamed to let the Phaeacians see that he was weeping. When the bard left off singing he wiped the tears from his eyes, uncovered his face, and, taking his cup, made a drink-offering to the gods; but when the Phaeacians pressed Demodokos to sing further, for they delighted in his lays, then Odysseus again drew his mantle over his head and wept bitterly. No one noticed his distress except Alkinoos, who was sitting near him, and heard the heavy sighs that he was heaving. So he at once said, "Aldermen and town councilors of the Phaeacians, we have had enough now, both of the feast, and of the minstrelsy that is its due accompaniment; let us proceed therefore to the athletic sports [athlos], so that our guest on his return home may be able to tell his friends how much we surpass all other nations as boxers, wrestlers, jumpers, and runners."
With these words he led the way, and the others followed after. A servant hung Demodokos’ lyre on its peg for him, led him out of the room, and set him on the same way as that along which all the chief men of the Phaeacians were going to see the sports; a crowd of several thousand people followed them, and there were many excellent competitors for all the prizes. Akroneos, Okyalos, Elatreus, Nauteus, Prymneus, Anchialos, Eretmeus, Ponteus, Proreus, Thoon, Anabesineos, and Amphialos son of Polyneos son of Tekton. There was also Euryalos son of Naubolos, who was like Ares himself, and was the best looking man among the Phaeacians except Laodamas. Three sons of Alkinoos, Laodamas, Halios, and Clytoneus, competed also.
The foot races came first. The course was set out for them from the starting post, and they raised a dust upon the plain as they all flew forward at the same moment. Clytoneus came in first by a long way; he left every one else behind him by the length of the furrow that a couple of mules can plough in a fallow field. They then turned to the painful art of wrestling, and here Euryalos proved to be the best man. Amphialos excelled all the others in jumping, while at throwing the disc there was no one who could approach Elatreus. Alkinoos’ son Laodamas was the best boxer, and he it was who presently said, when they had all been diverted with the games [athlos], "Let us ask the stranger whether he excels in any of these sports [athlos]; he seems very powerfully built; his thighs, calves, hands, and neck are of prodigious strength, nor is he at all old, but he has suffered much lately, and there is nothing like the sea for making havoc with a man, no matter how strong he is."
"You are quite right, Laodamas," replied Euryalos, "go up to your guest and speak to him about it yourself."
When Laodamas heard this he made his way into the middle of the crowd and said to Odysseus, "I hope, sir, that you will enter yourself in some one or other of our competitions [athloi] if you are skilled in any of them - for you seem to know of athloi . There is no greater kleos for a man all his life long as the showing himself good with his hands and feet. Have a try therefore at something, and banish all sorrow from your mind. Your return home will not be long delayed, for the ship is already drawn into the water, and the crew is found."
Odysseus answered, "Laodamas, why do you taunt me in this way? My mind is set rather on cares than contests athloi; I have been through infinite trouble, and am come among you now as a suppliant, praying your king and dêmos to further me on my return home [nostos]."
Then Euryalos reviled him outright and said, "I gather, then, that you are unskilled in any of the many sports athloi that men generally delight in. I suppose you are one of those grasping traders that go about in ships as captains or merchants, and who think of nothing but of their outward freights and homeward cargoes. There does not seem to be much of the athlete [athlêtês] about you."
"For shame, sir," answered Odysseus, fiercely, "you are an insolent man - so true is it that the gods do not grace all men alike in speech, person, and understanding. One man may be of weak presence, but heaven has adorned this with such a good conversation that he charms every one who sees him; his honeyed moderation [aidôs] carries his hearers with him so that he is leader in all assemblies of his fellows, and wherever he goes he is looked up to. Another may be as handsome as a god, but his good looks are not crowned with verbal grace [kharis]. This is your case. No god could make a finer looking man than you are, but you are empty with respect to noos. Your ill-judged remarks [contrary to kosmos] have made me exceedingly angry, for I excel in a great many athletic exercises [athlos]; indeed, so long as I had youth and strength, I was among the first athletes of the age. Now, however, I am worn out by labor and sorrow, for I have gone through much both on the field of battle and by the waves of the weary sea; still, in spite of all this I will compete [athlos], for your taunts have stung me to the quick."
So he hurried up without even taking his cloak off, and seized a disc, larger, more massive and much heavier than those used by the Phaeacians when disc-throwing among themselves. Then, swinging it back, he threw it from his brawny hand, and it made a humming sound in the air as he did so. The Phaeacians quailed beneath the rushing of its flight as it sped gracefully from his hand, and flew beyond any mark [sêma] that had been made yet. Athena, in the form of a man, came and marked the place where it had fallen. "A blind man, sir," said she, "could easily tell your mark [sêma] by groping for it - it is so far ahead of any other. You may make your mind easy about this contest [athlos], for no Phaeacian can come near to such a throw as yours."
Odysseus was glad when he found he had a friend among the lookers-on, so he began to speak more pleasantly. "Young men," said he, "come up to that throw if you can, and I will throw another disc as heavy or even heavier. If anyone wants to have a bout with me let him come on, for I am exceedingly angry; I will box, wrestle, or run, I do not care what it is, with any man of you all except Laodamas, but not with him because I am his guest, and one cannot compete with one's own personal friend. At least I do not think it a prudent or a sensible thing for a guest to challenge his host's family at any game [athlos], especially when he is in a foreign dêmos. He will cut the ground from under his own feet if he does; but I make no exception as regards any one else, for I want to have the matter out and know which is the best man. I am a good hand at every kind of athletic sport [athlos] known among humankind. I am an excellent archer. In battle I am always the first to bring a man down with my arrow, no matter how many more are taking aim at him alongside of me. Philoctetes was the only man who could shoot better than I could when we Achaeans were before the dêmos of the Trojans. I far excel every one else in the whole world, of those who still eat bread upon the face of the earth, but I should not like to shoot against the mighty dead, such as Herakles, or Eurytos the Cechalian- men who could shoot against the gods themselves. This in fact was how Eurytos came prematurely by his end, for Apollo was angry with him and killed him because he challenged him as an archer. I can throw a dart farther than any one else can shoot an arrow. Running is the only point in respect of which I am afraid some of the Phaeacians might beat me, for I have been brought down very low at sea; my provisions ran short, and therefore I am still weak."
They all held their peace except King Alkinoos, who began, "Sir, we have had much pleasure in hearing all that you have told us, from which I understand that you are willing to show your prowess [aretê], as having been displeased with some insolent remarks that have been made to you by one of our athletes, and which could never have been uttered by any one who knows how to talk with propriety. I hope you will apprehend my meaning, and will explain to any one of your chief men who may be dining with yourself and your family when you get home, that we have an hereditary aptitude [aretê] for accomplishments of all kinds. We are not particularly remarkable for our boxing, nor yet as wrestlers, but we are singularly fleet of foot and are excellent sailors. We are extremely fond of good dinners, music, and dancing [khoros]; we also like frequent changes of linen, warm baths, and good beds; so now, please, some of you who are the best dancers set about dancing, that our guest on his return home may be able to tell his friends how much we surpass all other nations as sailors, runners, dancers, minstrels. Demodokos has left his lyre at my house, so run some one or other of you and fetch it for him."
On this a servant hurried off to bring the lyre from the king's house, and the nine men who had been chosen as stewards stood forward. It was their business to manage everything connected with the sports, so they made the ground smooth and marked a wide space for the dancers [khoros]. Presently the servant came back with Demodokos’ lyre, and he took his place in the midst of them, whereon the best young dancers [khoros] in the town began to foot and trip it so nimbly that Odysseus was delighted with the merry twinkling of their feet.
Meanwhile the bard began to sing the loves of Ares and Aphrodite, and how they first began their intrigue in the house of Hephaistos. Ares made Aphrodite many presents, and defiled lord Hephaistos’ marriage bed, so the sun, who saw what they were about, told Hephaistos. Hephaistos was very angry when he heard such dreadful news, so he went to his smithy brooding mischief, got his great anvil into its place, and began to forge some chains which none could either unloose or break, so that they might stay there in that place. When he had finished his snare he went into his bedroom and festooned the bed-posts all over with chains like cobwebs; he also let many hang down from the great beam of the ceiling. Not even a god could see them, so fine and subtle were they. As soon as he had spread the chains all over the bed, he made as though he were setting out for the fair state of Lemnos, which of all places in the world was the one he was most fond of. But Ares kept no blind look out, and as soon as he saw him start, hurried off to his house, burning with love for Aphrodite.
Now Aphrodite was just come in from a visit to her father Zeus, and was about sitting down when Ares came inside the house, and said as he took her hand in his own, "Let us go to the couch of Hephaistos: he is not at home, but is gone off to Lemnos among the Sintians, whose speech is barbarous."
She was not unwilling, so they went to the couch to take their rest, whereon they were caught in the toils which cunning Hephaistos had spread for them, and could neither get up nor stir hand or foot, but found too late that they were in a trap. Then Hephaistos came up to them, for he had turned back before reaching Lemnos, when his scout the sun told him what was going on. He was in a furious passion, and stood in the vestibule making a dreadful noise as he shouted to all the gods.
"Father Zeus," he cried, "and all you other blessed gods who live for ever, come here and see the ridiculous and disgraceful sight that I will show you. Zeus’ daughter Aphrodite is always dishonoring me because I am lame. She is in love with Ares, who is handsome and clean built, whereas I am a cripple - but my parents are responsible [aitioi] for that, not I; they ought never to have begotten me. Come and see the pair together asleep on my bed. It makes me furious to look at them. They are very fond of one another, but I do not think they will lie there longer than they can help, nor do I think that they will sleep much; there, however, they shall stay till her father has repaid me the sum I gave him for his baggage of a daughter, who is fair but not honest."
On this the gods gathered to the house of Hephaistos. Earth-encircling Poseidon came, and Hermes the bringer of luck, and lord Apollo, but the goddesses stayed at home all of them for shame. Then the givers of all good things stood in the doorway, and the blessed gods roared with inextinguishable laughter, as they saw how cunning Hephaistos had been, whereon one would turn towards his neighbor saying:
"Ill deeds do not bring aretê, and the weak confound the strong. See how limping Hephaistos, lame as he is, has caught Ares who is the fleetest god in heaven; and now Ares will be cast in heavy damages."
Thus did they converse, but lord Apollo said to Hermes, "Messenger Hermes, giver of good things, you would not care how strong the chains were, would you, if you could sleep with Aphrodite?"
"King Apollo," answered Hermes, "I only wish I might get the chance, though there were three times as many chains - and you might look on, all of you, gods and goddesses, but I would sleep with her if I could."
The immortal gods burst out laughing as they heard him, but Poseidon took it all seriously, and kept on imploring Hephaistos to set Ares free again. "Let him go," he cried, "and I will undertake, as you require, that he shall pay you all the damages that are held reasonable among the immortal gods."
"Do not," replied Hephaistos, "ask me to do this; a bad man's bond is bad security; what remedy could I enforce against you if Ares should go away and leave his debts behind him along with his chains?"
"Hephaistos," said Poseidon, "if Ares goes away without paying his damages, I will pay you myself." So Hephaistos answered, "In this case I cannot and must not refuse you."
Thereon he loosed the bonds that bound them, and as soon as they were free they scampered off, Ares to Thrace and laughter-loving Aphrodite to Cyprus and to Paphos, where is her grove and her altar fragrant with burnt offerings. Here the Graces bathed her, and anointed her with oil of ambrosia such as the immortal gods make use of, and they clothed her in raiment of the most enchanting beauty.
Thus sang the bard, and both Odysseus and the seafaring Phaeacians were charmed as they heard him.
Then Alkinoos told Laodamas and Halios to dance alone, for there was no one to compete with them. So they took a red ball which Polybos had made for them, and one of them bent himself backwards and threw it up towards the clouds, while the other jumped from off the ground and caught it with ease before it came down again. When they had done throwing the ball straight up into the air they began to dance, and at the same time kept on throwing it backwards and forwards to one another, while all the young men in the ring applauded and made a great stamping with their feet. Then Odysseus said:
"King Alkinoos, you said your people were the nimblest dancers in the world, and indeed they have proved themselves to be so. I was astonished as I saw them."
The king was delighted at this, and exclaimed to the Phaeacians "Aldermen and town councilors, our guest seems to be a person of singular judgment; let us give him such proof of our hospitality as he may reasonably expect. There are twelve chief men throughout the dêmos, and counting myself there are thirteen; contribute, each of you, a clean cloak, a shirt, and a talent of fine gold; let us give him all this in a lump down at once, so that when he gets his supper he may do so with a light heart. As for Euryalos, he will have to make a formal apology and a present too, for he has been rude."
Thus did he speak. The others all of them applauded his saying, and sent their servants to fetch the presents. Then Euryalos said, "King Alkinoos, I will give the stranger all the satisfaction you require. He shall have sword, which is of bronze, all but the hilt, which is of silver. I will also give him the scabbard of newly sawn ivory into which it fits. It will be worth a great deal to him."
As he spoke he placed the sword in the hands of Odysseus and said, "Good luck to you, father stranger; if anything has been said amiss may the winds blow it away with them, and may heaven grant you a safe return, for I understand you have been long away from home, and have gone through much hardship."
To which Odysseus answered, "Good luck to you too my friend, and may the gods grant you every happiness [olbos]. I hope you will not miss the sword you have given me along with your apology."
With these words he girded the sword about his shoulders and towards sundown the presents began to make their appearance, as the servants of the donors kept bringing them to the house of King Alkinoos; here his sons received them, and placed them under their mother's charge. Then Alkinoos led the way to the house and bade his guests take their seats.
"Wife," said he, turning to Queen Arete, "Go, fetch the best chest we have, and put a clean cloak and shirt in it. Also, set a copper on the fire and heat some water; our guest will take a warm bath; see also to the careful packing of the presents that the noble Phaeacians have made him; he will thus better enjoy both his supper and the singing that will follow. I shall myself give him this golden goblet - which is of exquisite workmanship - that he may be reminded of me for the rest of his life whenever he makes a drink-offering to Zeus, or to any of the gods."
Then Arete told her maids to set a large tripod upon the fire as fast as they could, whereon they set a tripod full of bath water on to a clear fire; they threw on sticks to make it blaze, and the water became hot as the flame played about the belly of the tripod. Meanwhile Arete brought a magnificent chest her own room, and inside it she packed all the beautiful presents of gold and raiment which the Phaeacians had brought. Lastly she added a cloak and a good shirt from Alkinoos, and said to Odysseus:
"See to the lid yourself, and have the whole bound round at once, for fear any one should rob you by the way when you are asleep in your ship."
When Odysseus heard this he put the lid on the chest and made it fast with a bond that Circe had taught him. He had done so before an upper servant told him to come to the bath and wash himself. He was very glad of a warm bath, for he had had no one to wait upon him ever since he left the house of Calypso, who as long as he remained with her had taken as good care of him as though he had been a god. When the servants had done washing and anointing him with oil, and had given him a clean cloak and shirt, he left the bath room and joined the guests who were sitting over their wine. Lovely Nausicaa stood by one of the bearing-posts supporting the roof of the room, and admired him as she saw him pass. "Farewell stranger," said she, "do not forget me when you are safe at home again, for it is to me first that you owe a ransom for having saved your life."
And Odysseus said, "Nausicaa, daughter of great Alkinoos, may Zeus the mighty husband of Hera, grant that I may reach my home and see my day of nostos; so shall I bless you as a goddess all my days, for it was you who saved me."
When he had said this, he seated himself beside Alkinoos. Supper was then served, and the wine was mixed for drinking. A servant led in the favorite bard Demodokos, and set him in the midst of the company, near one of the bearing-posts supporting the room, that he might lean against it. Then Odysseus cut off a piece of roast pork with plenty of fat (for there was abundance left on the joint) and said to a servant, "Take this piece of pork over to Demodokos and tell him to eat it; for all the pain his lays may cause me I will salute him none the less; bards get honor and respect [aidôs] throughout the world, for the Muse teaches them their songs and loves them."
The servant carried the pork in his fingers over to Demodokos, who took it and was very much pleased. They then laid their hands on the good things that were before them, and as soon as they had had enough to eat and drink, Odysseus said to Demodokos, "Demodokos, there is no one in the world whom I praise with admiration more than I do you. You must have studied under the Muse, Zeus’ daughter, and under Apollo, - with such a sense of order [kosmos] do you sing the return of the Achaeans with all their sufferings and adventures. If you were not there yourself, you must have heard it all from some one who was. Now, however, change your song and tell us of the construction [kosmos] of the wooden horse which Epeios made with the assistance of Athena, and which Odysseus got by stratagem into the fort of Troy after freighting it with the men who afterwards sacked the city. If you will sing this tale aright I will tell all the world how magnificently heaven has endowed you."
The bard, inspired by a god, lit up the picture of his story, starting at the point where some of the Argives set fire to their tents and sailed away while others, hidden within the horse, were waiting with Odysseus in the Trojan place of assembly. For the Trojans themselves had drawn the horse into their fortress, and it stood there while they sat in council round it, and were in three minds as to what they should do. Some were for breaking it up then and there; others would have it dragged to the top of the rock on which the fortress stood, and then thrown down the precipice; while yet others were for letting it remain as an offering and propitiation for the gods. And this was how they settled it in the end, for the city was doomed when it took in that horse, within which were all the bravest of the Argives waiting to bring death and destruction on the Trojans. Anon he sang how the sons of the Achaeans issued from the horse, and sacked the town, breaking out from their ambuscade. He sang how they overran the city here and there and ravaged it, and how Odysseus went raging like Ares along with Menelaos to the house of Deiphobos. It was there that the fight raged most furiously, nevertheless by Athena's help he was victorious.
All this he told, but Odysseus was overcome as he heard him, and his cheeks were wet with tears. He wept as a woman weeps when she throws herself on the body of her husband who has fallen before his own city and people, fighting bravely in defense of his home and children. She screams aloud and flings her arms about him as he lies gasping for breath and dying, but her enemies beat her from behind about the back and shoulders, and carry her off into slavery, to a life of labor [ponos] and sorrow, and the beauty fades from her cheeks - even so piteously did Odysseus weep, but none of those present perceived his tears except Alkinoos, who was sitting near him, and could hear the sobs and sighs that he was heaving. The king, therefore, at once rose and said:
"Aldermen and town councilors of the Phaeacians, let Demodokos cease his song, for there are those present who do not seem to like it. From the moment that we had done supper and Demodokos began to sing, our guest has been all the time groaning and lamenting. He is evidently in great distress [akhos], so let the bard leave off, that we may all enjoy ourselves, hosts and guest alike. This will be much more as it should be, for all these festivities, with the escort and the presents that we are making with so much good will, are wholly in his honor, and any one with even a moderate amount of right feeling knows that he ought to treat a guest and a suppliant as though he were his own brother.
"Therefore, sir, do you on your part affect no more concealment nor reserve in the matter about which I shall ask you; it will be more polite in you to give me a plain answer; tell me the name by which your father and mother over yonder used to call you, and by which you were known among your neighbors and fellow-citizens. There is no one, neither rich nor poor, who is absolutely without any name whatever, for people's fathers and mothers give them names as soon as they are born. Tell me also your country, nation dêmos, and city, that our ships may shape their purpose accordingly and take you there. For the Phaeacians have no pilots; their vessels have no rudders as those of other nations have, but the ships themselves understand what it is that we are thinking about and want; they know all the cities and countries in the whole world, and can traverse the sea just as well even when it is covered with mist and cloud, so that there is no danger of being wrecked or coming to any harm. Still I do remember hearing my father say that Poseidon was angry with us for being too easy-going in the matter of giving people escorts. He said that one of these days he should wreck a ship of ours as it was returning from having escorted some one, and envelop our city with a high mountain. This is what the old man used to say, but whether the god will carry out his threat or no is a matter which he will decide for himself.
And now, tell me and tell me true. Where have you been wandering, and in what countries have you traveled? Tell us of the peoples themselves, and of their cities - who were hostile, savage and uncivilized [not dikaios], and who, on the other hand, hospitable and endowed with a god-fearing noos. Tell us also why you are made unhappy on hearing about the return of the Argive Danaans from Troy. The gods arranged all this, and sent them their misfortunes in order that future generations might have something to sing about. Did you lose some brave kinsman of your wife's when you were before Troy? A son-in-law or father-in-law - which are the nearest relations a man has outside his own flesh and blood? Or was it some brave and kindly-natured comrade - for a good friend is as dear to a man as his own brother?"