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

The Prince Departs, Book II

Telemachus calls an assembly of the men of Ithaca, the first such assembly since the heroes left for the War.  Telemachus begins the assembly by deprecating those “who infest our palace”  and warns that the gods will act in wrath against those who violate the custom of the host/guest relationship. Antinous, one of the suitors, rose up to speak in defense of the actions of the suitors, claiming: It's not the suitors here who deserve the blame, It's your own dear mother, the matchless queen of cunning. . . . This was her latest masterpiece of guile: she set up a great loom in the royal halls and she began to weave, and the weaving finespun, the yarns endless, and she would lead us on: 'Young men, my suitors, now that King Odysseus is no more, go slowly, keen as you are to marry me, until I can finish off this web . . . so my weaving won't all fray and come to nothing. (II, 94-95, 101-108) Not only was the hand of Penelope in marriage at stake, but so was the household of Odysseus, who was the most prosperous man on the island of Ithaca. The prospect for Telemachus, should one of the suitors claim the hand of Penelope, was likely death or banishment. Telemachus answers Antinous by saying that he will not drive his mother out of her house, lest he face the wrath of the furies, which is reminiscent of the death by slaying his mother, Clytemnestra and her lover, Aegisthus.  Telemachus then prays to Zeus to avenge the treatment he has received at the hands of the suitors, and Zeus send an unmistakable sign-two eagles fly down from the right and proceed to tear at each other, and then proceed away to the right.  The seer Halitherses, read the portents to the gathered crowd: “Clearly Odysseus won't be far from loved ones any longer-/now, right now, he's somewhere near, I tell you,/breeding bloody death for all these suitors here” (II, 183-185). The suitors are unconvinced, and Eurymachus, one of the ringleaders, tells the seer to go home; his portents are false. As for Telemachus, he advises the boy to resume his habitual position of deference to the suitors: “Who's there to fear? I ask you./Surely not Telemachus, with all his tiresome threats”(II, 221-222). Telemachus rejects the threats of Eurymachus and the other suitors, and asks for a boat and twenty strong men to search for his father: Now, if I hear my father's alive and heading home, hard-pressed as i am, I'll brave out one more year. If I hear he's dead, no longer among the living, then back I';ll come to the native land I love, raise his grave-mound, build his honors high with the full funeral rites that he deserves- and give my mother to another husband. (II, 243-240)