K ing Nestor
The Wine Red Sea: Journeys of Odysseus
© Copyright 2014 -2020 by Peter J Ponzio

The Coming Storm, Book XX

Odysseus, rising as the first rays of rosy-fingered Dawn made their way into the palace, asked Zeus to provide a sign that the suitors would be defeated. Zeus, hearing the prayer of his devoted follower, unleashed a clap of thunder. At the same time, one of Penelope’s handmaidens, exclaimed on hearing the thunderclap: Zeus, Father! King of gods an men. now there was a crack of thunder out of the starry sky- and not a cloud in sight! Sure it’s a sign you’re showing someone now. So, poor as I am, grant me my prayer as well: let this day be the last, the last these suitors bolt their groaning feasts in King Odysseus’ home! (XX 125-131) And so Odysseus knew that his plan to take revenge on the suitors would be divinely sanctioned. As the household began to awaken, the women cleaned the hall, while the men split wood for the fire, and Eumaeus, the loyal swineherd, made his way to the palace with three of his best hogs. Eumaeus greeted the stranger cordially, while Melanthius, the goat-herder, greeted Odysseus with contempt. Philoetius, cow-herder, arrived at the palace, and seeing the stranger, asked Eumaeus who the man was, and then greeted the stranger warmly. For some reason which he could not explain, the cow-herder thought of Odysseus when he looked at the stranger, saying: “. . . I still dream of my old master,/ unlucky man-if only he’d drop in from the blue/ and drive these suitors all in a rout throughout the halls!” (XX 249- 251). Odysseus replied to the cow-herder as follows: I swear by Zeus, the first of all the gods- by the table of hospitality waiting for us, by Odysseus’ hearth where I have come for help, Odysseus will come home while you’re still here. You’ll see with your own eyes, if you have the heart, these suitors who lord it here cut down in blood. (XX 256-261) As Odysseus, Eumaeus and Philoetius were talking, the suitors were busy discussing plans to do away with Telemachus, an eagle flew past carrying a trembling dove. Amphinomus, looking at the portent of the eagle, warned the suitors to give up talk of killing the prince, and warned that they turn their attention to feasting. The suitors, well pleased with Amphinomus’ words, slaughtered the goats, sheep and cows that were brought in for their use, roasted the meat and dr5ank the wine offered by Odysseus’ household. Odysseus, still disguised as a beggar, sat down inside the hall,and Telemachus gave him a portion of the roasted meat, and wine to drink, saying: Now sit right there. Drink your wine with the crowd. I’ll defend you from all their taunts and blows, these young bucks. This is no public place, this is Odysseus’ house- my father won it for me, so it’s mine. You suitors, control yourselves. No insults now, no brawling, no, or it’s war between us all. (XX 290-296) The suitors were amazed at the words of the prince, and were silent; all but Antinous, who, gating at the thought of the prince commanding others in his own house, mocked Telemachus and feigned to be frightened by the Prince’s harsh words.