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

Peace Restored, Book XXIV

Laertes looked at the man who claimed to be his son, and asked:  “You-you’re truly my son, Odysseus, home at last?/ Give me a sign, some proof-I must be sure” (XXIV 366-367).  Then Odysseus showed the scar to his father, the scar he received when he hunted the boar on Mount Parnassus, near his grandfather’s house.  He then told his father about the trees that he tended in the orchard as a boy:  thirteen pear, ten apple and forty fig trees, all given to him by Laertes.  At last, Laertes knew his son was home; home after twenty years.  But Laertes, wise in the ways of the world, knew that there would be a call for vengeance on the part of the suitors’ families.  Odysseus calmed his father, and together they made their way to the lodge, where Telemachus and his companions waited for them.  Before taking their meal, Laertes went to bathe, and Athena made him strong again, not bowed down with care and old age.  Appearing before his son and grandson, Laertes looked for all the world like a new man, causing Odysseus to comment that some god must have visited him while he bathed.  They then sat down to feast upon the good things set before them, and were joined by servants who just finished their chores in the field, Dolius and his sons. As the men ate their meal, word of the killing of the suitors spread through town, on the swift wings of rumor.  Each family made its way to the palace to claim the bodies of their kinsmen, and to bury them as custom dictated.  After the burial rites were accomplished, the townspeople gathered in the meeting place, and led by Eupithes, father of Antinous, called for revenge against Odysseus.  The crowd listened to the words of Eupithes, growing more restive by the minute, until Medon and the bard, Phemius approached the crowd.  Then Medon spoke to them all, saying: Not without the hand of the deathless gods did Odysseus do these things! Myself, I saw an immortal fighting at his side- like Mentor to the life, I saw the same god, now in front of Odysseus, spurring him on, now stampeding the suitors through the hall, crazed with dear, and down they went in droves! (XXIV 490-496) The crowd stood frozen in terror, and Halitherses, the old warrior addressed the: Hear me, men of Ithaca.  Hear what I have to say. Thanks to your own craven hearts these things were done! You never listened to me or the good commander Mentor, you never put a stop to your sons’ senseless folly. What fine work they did, so blind, so reckless, carving away the wealth, affronting the wife of a great and famous man, telling themselves that he’d return no more!  So let things rest now. Listen to me for once-I say don’t attack! Else some will draw the lightning on their necks. (XXIV 501-510) But a crowd, lathered up into a frenzy, is difficult to stop.  Eupithes gathered together those men who would fight and marched in force to confront Odysseus and his men.  Just then, Athena appealed to father Zeus, asking if he would prolong the pain that racked Ithaca these many years.  And Zeus, father of the gods, spoke at last: My child. . . why do you pry and probe me so intently? Come now, wasn’t the plan you own?  You conceived it yourself: Odysseus should return and pay the traitors back. Do as you heart desires- but let me tell you how it should be done, Now that the royal Odysseus has taken his revenge, let both sides seal their pacts that he shall reign for life, and let us purge their memories of the bloody slaughter of their brothers and their sons.  Let them be friends, devoted as in the old days.  Let peace and wealth come cresting through the land.  (XXIV 527-538) Zeus, the father of the gods, had spoken.