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

Preparing for the Test - Book XVIII

Odysseus thanked Amphinomus, saying that he’d heard stories praising his famous father.  Odysseus then offered advice to the young man, saying that fortune smiles on a man one day, then turns her eyes from him on the next: . . . I see you suitors plotting your reckless work, carving away at the wealth, affronting the loyal wife of a man who won’t be gone from kin and country long. I say he’s right at hand-and may some power save you, spirit you home before you meet him face-to-face the moment he returns to native ground! Once under his own roof, he and your friends, believe you me, won;’t part till blood has flowed. (XVIII 164-171) Amphinomus, shaken by the Odysseus’ words moved back among the suitors with a sense of foreboding.  Well might he worry, for Athena was busily weaving her plots, plots that would avenge the hero and his family:  “. . .but not even so could he escape his fate./Even then Athena had bound him fast to death/at the hands of Prince Telemachus and his spear” (XVIII 178-180). Athena’s plots were not finished, however.  Just then, she inspired Penelope to appear before the suitors to incite them on, and to encourage Odysseus and Telemachus.  As Penelope made her plans to talk to the suitors, she sent Eurynome, Odysseus’ old nurse, to make ready.  As the nurse left, Athena placed Penelope in a deep sleep.  While Penelope slept, Athena made her appearance more beautiful, taller, more pleasing to the eye.  Waking up from sleep refreshed, Penelope went down into the common room of the palace to address the suitors.  The effect of her beauty was not lost on the suitors, and each man resolved to win her hand in marriage. Penelope’s first words were addressed to Telemachus, mildly reproving him for allowing the suitors to disturb their guest.  Telemachus acknowledged that the stranger had been abused by the suitors, but reminded Penelope that he’d bested Arnaeus, upsetting the plans contrived by the suitors.  Eurymachus, one of the suitors, then praised Penelope for her beauty and wisdom.  She, aware of his intent, deflected his praise and countered by saying that her beauty departed the day that Odysseus left for the war with Troy. Penelope related Odysseus’ parting advice to her, which seemed strange as he departed twenty years before, but which seemed now to come true: But once you see the beard on the boy’s cheek, you wed the man you like, and leave your home behind. So my husband advised me then.  Now it all comes true. . . a night will come when a hateful marriage falls my lot- this cursed life of mine!  Zeus has torn away my joy. But there’s something else that mortifies me now. Your way is a far cry from the time-honored way of suitors locked in rivalry, striving to win some noble woman, a wealthy man’s daughter, They bring in their own calves and lambs to feast the friends of the bride-to-be, yes, and shower her with gleaming gifts as well. They don’t devour the woman’s goods scot-free. (XVIII 302-315) And so Penelope made explicit what had been hidden so long:  the suitors were violating the laws of guest/host hospitality, and were also violating the customs of courtship that were expected of all suitors.