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

Menelaus and Helen, Book IV

Later, Helen gave Menelaus and his guests wine, mixed with a drug ad told them a tale about to Odysseus. I will tell something perfect for the occasion. Surely I can't describe or even list them all, the exploits crowding fearless Odysseus' record, but what a feat that hero dared and carried off in the land of Troy where you Achaeans suffered! Scarring his own body with mortifying strokes, throwing filthy rags on his back like any slave he slipped into the enemy's city, roamed its streets- all disguised, a totally different man, a beggar. (IV 269-277) Helen's tale, while illustrative of the tact and guile of Odysseus, is important for another reason: this is exactly how he will surprise the suitors when he returns to Ithaca. Then, Helen backtracks somewhat, saying that she recognized Odysseus, but did not turn him in to the Trojans.  Her reasons are simple:  she missed her homeland. I yearned to sail back home again!  I grieved too late for the madness Aphrodite sent me, luring me there, far away from my dear land, forsaking my own child, my bridal bed, my husband too, a man who lacked for neither brains nor beauty. (IV, 292-6) Here for the first time, the reader hears of the madness that can be caused by love.  Later, the poem relates the tale of Aphrodite and Mars, which unites the two great passions of the human heart:  love and war.  It is these two passions that provide the motivation and impetus for the Trojan War. Helen ends her tale with Odysseus and the Trojan Horse: . . . what a heart that fearless Odysseus had inside him! What a piece of work the hero dared and carried off in the wooden horse where all our best encamped, or champions armed with bloody death for Troy. . . (IV 303-6)
Greek wine cup