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

The Prince Returns - Book XV

Back on Ithaca, Odysseus lodged with his swineherd and planned one more test of the man’s loyalty.  The man of twists and turns proposed to go into town and beg for his keep, perhaps stopping at the palace to give news of Odysseus to Penelope.  Eumaeus answered the strangers proposal as follows: ‘God’s sake, my friend!’. . . ‘What’s got into your head, what crazy plan? You must be heel-bent on destruction, on the spot, if you’re keen to mingle with that mob of suitors- their pride and violence hit the iron skies!’ (XV 361, 363-366) Odysseus, wily man that he was, did not commit to any course of action, but asked Eumaeus to tell him about Odysseus’ affairs, including news of Laertes, Anticlea and Penelope.  Eumaeus told him that Laertes was still alive, but living as a hermit on his estate, pining for his son.  Anticlea, unhappily died of longing for Odysseus and now lives with the insubstantial shades in Hades.  As for Penelope, Eumaeus says:  But from Queen Penelope I never get a thing,/never a winning word, no friendly gesture,/not since this, this plague has hit the house-” (XV 419-421). Odysseus then asked the swineherd to tell his tale, how he came to Ithaca.  And you, Eumaeus, began your tale saying that perhaps they could “take some joy in each other’s heartbreaking sorrows,/sharing each other’s memories” (XV 448-449).  Eumaeus relates that he was born on the island Syrie, near Ortygia, where people dwell contentedly.  One day a band of Phoenician traders came to the island to trade.  Eumaeus’ father had a Phoenician a lovely servant who fell in with the traders and plotted to depart with them and return to Phoenicia.  As their plans developed, she promised that she would present them with a surprise on the day of their departure.  The prize was Eumaeus, and he was whisked away aboard the Phoenician vessel.  Once at sea, the boat was besieged by rain and fierce winds for six days.  On the seventh day, Artemis came and shot the Phoenician woman.  The crew proceeded on their journey and came to Ithaca, where he was purchased by Laertes. Odysseus commiserated with Eumaeus, but noted that he was now safe in the house of a good master; if only the master would return.  Just as Eumaeus and Odysseus were concluding their discussion, Telemachus and his men landed on Ithaca.  After dispersing his men, Theoclymenus asked where he could find a place to stay.  Telemachus replied that in better time, he would invite the seer to his house; but times were bad, and the suitors might mistreat him.  Just as Telemachus finished speaking, a hawk flew by and snatched a dove out of the air.  Theoclymenus, seeing the omen, declared to Telemachus: Look Telemachus, the will of the god just winged that bird on your right! Why, the moment I saw it, here before my eyes, I knew it was a sign.  No line more kingly than yours in all of Ithaca-your will reign forever! (XV 594-598) And so, for the second time in the past few days, Telemachus received a sign from Zeus that his father would return and his inheritance be restored.  Telemachus asked his comrade, Piraeus, to take the seer to his house, while Telemachus made his way to the home of the swineherd, Eumaeus.