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

Menelaus and Helen, Book IV

Telemachus and Nestor’s son Psistratus, arrive in Sparta, at the court of King Menelaus.  The date of their arrival is marked by a double wedding; one for his son and one for his daughter.  Observing the duties owed to guests, Menelaus invited Telemachus and Psistratus to share in his feasting, observing: “Just think of all the hospitality we enjoyed/at the hands of other men before we made it home,/and god save us from such hard treks in years to come” (IV, 38-40).  The young men, being seated in the hall of Menelaus, marveled at the sight of so much wealth.  By legend, the house of Atreus was famous for its riches, and Homer alludes to the myth in describing Menelaus' palace.  Once the young men bathed and ate, Menelaus began speaking of his journey home from Troy.  He related the death of his brother Agamemnon, which deprived him of some of the joy he might have expected to have on his arrival home. In addition to the fate of his brother, Menelaus relates that he is aggrieved by the loss of his comrades, but one man in particular:  . . . for none of those comrades, pained as I am,  do I grieve as much for one. . . that man who makes sleep hateful, even food, as I pore over his memory. No one, no Achaean labored hard as Odysseus labored or achieved so much. And how did his struggles end? In suffering for that man; for me, in relentless, heartbreaking grief for him, lost and gone so long now-dead or alive, who knows? How they must mourn him too, Laertes, the old man, and self-possessed Penelope.  Telemachus as well, the boy he left a babe in arms at home (IV, 116-125) Hearing these words from Menelaus, the young prince grieved for his father; but the King said nothing, even though he recognized the son of his friend. Before either Menelaus or Telemachus could speak further, Helen entered the room, “striking as Artemis with her golden shafts,” a woman still capable of silencing the room with her beauty.  Although she is often portrayed as a beautiful woman, devoid of sense, it is well to remember that she is the daughter of Zeus, and was possessed of intelligence as well as beauty, as her question to Menelaus illustrates: Do we know, my lord Menelaus, who our visitors claim to be, our welcome new arrivals? Right or wrong, what can I say?  My heart tells me to come right out and say I've never seen such a likeness, neither in man or woman-I’m amazed at the sight. To the life he's like the son of great Odysseus, surely he's Telemachus!  The boy that hero left a babe in arms at home when all you Achaeans fought at Troy, launching your headlong battles just for my sake, shameless whore that I was. (IV, 153-162)
Menelaus
Helen of Troy