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

The Prince Returns - Book XV

Menelaus prepared a feast for the princes before they departed and prepared gifts for the visitors.  A silver two-handed cup, fashioned by the god Hephaestus himself, was the gift of Menelaus.  Megapenthes, son of Menelaus, gave the prince a silver mixing bowl, while Helen presented the young man with a purple robe, which she made herself, for the future wife of the prince.  At parting, Menelaus asked the young men to remember him to Nestor, saying:  “Farewell my princes!  Give my warm greetings/to Nestor, the great commander,/always kind to me as a father, long ago/when we young men of Achaea fought at Troy” (XV 167-170). Just as Menelaus uttered his last words, an eagle flew by on the right-hand side, clutching a white goose in his talons.  As everyone watched the omen, Psistratus asked Menelaus to interpret the portent.  Before Menelaus could reply, Helen spoke as follows: Listen to me and I will be your prophet, sure as the gods have flashed it in my mind and it will come to pass, I know it will. Just as the eagle swooped down from the crags where it was born and bred, just as it snatched that goose fattened up for the kill inside the house, Zeus with eagle just so, after many trials and roving long and hard, Odysseus will descend on his house and take revenge- unless he’s home already, sowing seeds of ruin for that whole crowd of suitors! (XV 191-200) Telemachus answer was reminiscent of Odysseus’ reply to Nausicaa:  “’Oh if only’. . . ‘Zeus the thundering lord of Hera makes it so-/even at home I’ll pray to you as a deathless goddess’” (XV 200, 202-203).  Of course, Telemachus reply is slightly ironic, since Helen is destined to be a goddess, living in the Elysian Fields with Menelaus.   The other ironic comment made by Telemachus is made when he calls Zeus the “thundering lord of Hera.”  Hera, as was well known, was not lord over by anyone, including Zeus.  She was however the goddess of marriage and this line might be meant to tie together Helen, Hera and Helen’s wedding gift to Telemachus. The two princes departed and made their way to Pylos the next day.  But rather than approach the palace, Psistratus advised Telemachus to board his ship, lest Nestor insist that the prince stay longer.  And so the two friends parted:  Psistratus to his father’s palace, Telemachus to his ship headed for Ithaca.  Just as Telemachus and his crew were ready to launch their ship, a stranger approached, a man from Argos who was a seer named Theoclymenus.  The seer asked to travel with Telemachus, after asking the formulaic questions of strangers.  Telemachus replied according to the tradition, telling where he hailed from and who his family was.  But his reply contained a strange answer about his father:  “Odysseus is my father-/there was a man, or was he all a dream?”  (XV 297-298).  The question of Odysseus’ reality will come up several times more in the remaining books, by both Telemachus and Penelope.  It also fits in well with the notion that Odysseus may have been dreaming about his exploits (note the inopportune times when he fell asleep; at such times disaster struck). Theoclymenus informed the prince that he too was fleeing trouble in his homeland, and Telemachus welcomed him aboard.  The prince and crew then made their way toward Ithaca, making sure to avoid the trap that had been set for them by the suitors.