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The Wine Red Sea:  Journeys of Odysseus
© Copyright 2014 - 2018 by Peter J Ponzio

The land of the Phaeacians, Book VII

Odysseus, covered in mist by Athena, makes his way to the palace.  The goddess, disguising herself as a girl, leads Odysseus to the palace.  Along the way, she warns Odysseus: The men here never suffer strangers gladly, have no love for hosting a man from foreign lands. All they really trust are their fast, flying ships that cross the mighty ocean. Gifts of Poseidon, ah what ships they are- quick as a bird, quick as a darting thought! (VII, 36-40) Why does Athena give Odysseus this advice? Nausicaa already told him that men of the island treat strangers admirably.  Later events will prove the validity of Nausicaa's statements.  Perhaps Athena wishes to warn the man of sorrow that the people of Phaeacia are protected by the god Poseidon, who is Odysseus' nemesis. Then, when the goddess, still disguised as a girl, and Odysseus reaches the palace, the goddess declares: “be bold, nothing to fear,/in every venture the bold man comes off best,/even the wanderer, bound from distant shores” (VII, 58-60).  As Odysseus enters the halls of the king, he is struck by the riches displayed in the palace, noting, in particular the tapestries made by the serving women: “so the women excel at all the arts of weaving./That is Athena's gift to them beyond all others-/a genius for lovely work, and a fine mind too”  (VII, 126-128). Weaving is the gift of Athena, and is possessed not only by the Phaeacian women, but Penelope and Athena herself.  Throughout the Odyssey, weaving is a symbol for plotting, planning, and strategy.  Recall Penelope's strategy of weaving a death shroud for Laertes, only to unmake it each night in order to forestall her marriage to one of the suitors.  Similarly, Athena weaves plots throughout the poem, and Odysseus himself is said to weave plots and stratagems. Concealed by the mist, Odysseus makes his way to the throne, when the mist dissolves, and he “flung his arms around Arete's knees” (VII, 168).  He pleads with Arete to grant him safe passage to his homeland, and wishes the gods to endow the Phaeacians with good fortune throughout their lives.  He then makes his way to the ashes at the hearth of the blazing fire, and sinks in them.
Odysseus pleads with Queen Arete