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

The King Returns, Book XXII

Amphinomus charged Odysseus, sword drawn, but Telemachus, seeing him, stabbed Amphinomus from behind with his spear, causing the suitor to fall to the ground in a heap.  Telemachus then went to stand beside his father, who was standing in the doorway with his bow and arrow, shooting arrows at the suitors.  Telemachus went to retrieve a shield and helmet for his father, and to provide arms to Eumaeus and the cowherd. Telemachus returned with the arms and gave them to each of the men, while Odysseus continued to shoot arrows into the crowd of suitors.  Finally, when his arrows ran out, he donned his armor and prepared to fight using his lances tipped with bronze.  The suitors, realizing that they must fight back or escape in order to survive, searched for a door or additional arms.  Unable to find an escape route, Melanthius, the goat-herder, volunteered to go to the storeroom to retrieve some arms for the suitors.  The goatherd was successful in retrieving the arms, and Odysseus knew that a battle was at hand.   Telemachus instructed Eumaeus to go to the storeroom and find out who was supplying the suitors with arms.  Eumaeus confirmed that Melanthius was the culprit and asked whether he should kill the man or bind him up for judgment after the battle.  Odysseus gave instructions to Eumaeus and Philoetius to bind up the goatherd until after the battle was over.  True to the commands of their leader, the two men captured Melanthius, tied him up, and hoisted him up a column and left him suspended in the air. The four comrades arrayed themselves in battle against the larger force of the suitors, when Athena, disguised as Mentor, appeared to help Odysseus’ men.   Odysseus, glad of help, called to Mentor, although eh knew it was Athena:  “Rescue us, Mentor, now it’s life or death!/ Remember you old comrade-all the service/I offered you!  We were boys together!” (XXII 217-219).   The suitors railed against Mentor, with Agelaus leading the way: Mentor, never let Odysseus trick you into siding with him to fight against the suitors. Here’s our plan of action, and we will see it through! Once we’ve killed them both, the father and the son, we’ll kill you too, for all you’re bent on doing here in the halls-you’ll pay with your own head! And once our swords have stopped your violence cold- all your property, all your house, your fields, we’ll lump it all with Odysseus’ rich estate and never let your sons live on in your halls or free your wife and daughters to walk through town!  (XXII 223-233) The suitors, led by Agelaus, fought back against Odysseus and his three comrades, since Mentor left them.  Then, Agelaus, ordered the suitors to throw their spears directly at Odysseus.  Six spears flew at the man of tactics, but were sheared off course by Athena.  Odysseus, for his part, urged his men to hurl their spears at one time; all four hit the mark.  The rest of the suitors retreated to the far wall after their comrades were driven down to death.  Once more, the suitors hurled their spears, but again, Athena caused them to fall wide of the mark.  Once again, Odysseus and his men answered with spear-throws of their own:  each hit its mark, and the cowherd stabbed Ctesippus with his sword. Then, Odysseus speared Agelaus and Telemachus Leocritus, while Athena brandished her shield of thunder, causing the suitors to run terrified down the length of the hall.  Odysseus and his three comrades pursued them “like eagles, crook-clawed, hook beaked,/swooping down from a mountain ridge to harry smaller birds” (XXII 316- 317).  One suitor, Leodes, clasped Odysseus’ knees, begging for mercy, saying:  “Never, I swear, did I harass any woman in your house-/never a word, a gesture-nothing, no, I tried/ to restrain the suitors, whoever did such things” (XXII 328-330).  Odysseus, not convinced by the false words of Leodes, responded, saying:  “How hard you must have prayed in my own house/that the heady day of my return would never dawn-/my dear wife would be yours, would bear your children!” (XXII 338-340).  And with that, Odysseus snatched a sword that once belonged to Agelaus, and cut off the head of Leodes. Only one man was left alive - Phemius, the bard who performed among the suitors; forced to sing for his supper.  He debated whether to try to escape, or to beg for mercy from Odysseus.  Clutching at Odysseus’ knees, he begged for his life:  “I hug your knees, Odysseus - mercy! spare my life!/ What a grief it will be to you for all the years to come/if you kill the singer now, who sings for gods and men”  (XXII 362-364).  Telemachus, hearing the bard plead, interceded for him with Odysseus, and verified that he and Medon, the herald, did nothing wrong.