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The Odyssey Book 1 Quotes

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Quote 4

[Athene] caught up a powerful spear, edged with sharp bronze, heavy, huge, thick, wherewith she beats down the battalions of fighting men, against whom she of the mighty father is angered, and descended in a flash of speed from the peaks of Olympos, and lighted in the land of Ithaka, at the doors of Odysseus at the threshold of the court, and in her hand was the bronze spear. She was disguised as a friend, leader of the Taphians, Mentes. (1.99-105)

We get why Odysseus needs to disguise himself, but Athene is a goddess—and a powerful one. Why does she have to show up at court in disguise, when she could easily kick out all the suitors single-handedly?

(Telemachos:) ‘Eurymachos, there is no more hope of my father’s homecoming. I believe no messages any more, even should there be one, nor pay attention to any prophecy, those times my mother calls some diviner into the house and asks him questions.’ (1.413-416)

Athene has just told Telemachos that his father is still alive, but the Prince chooses to deceive the suitors to keep him and his mother safe; it seems he fears a riot or coup if the men all knew the truth.


Quote 6

[Telemachos] saw Athene and went straight to the forecourt, the heart within him scandalized that a guest should still be standing at the doors. He stood beside her and took her by the right hand, and relieved her of the bronze spear, and spoke to her and addressed her in winged words: ‘Welcome, stranger. You shall be entertained as a guest among us. Afterward, when you have tasted dinner, you shall tell us what your need is.’ […] [A]nd he led her and seated her in a chair, with a cloth to sit on, the chair splendid and elaborate. For her feet there was a footstool. For himself, he drew a painted bench next her, apart from the others, the suitors, for fear the guest, made uneasy by the uproar, might lose his appetite there among overbearing people […]. (1.118-124, 130-134)

Telemachos shows his hospitality by inviting the guest in as soon as he sees him (well, technically “her,” but Telemachos doesn’t know that), refraining from asking his name and business, and immediately taking him inside, stowing away his effects, and feeding him at a fine table. He is thoughtful enough to consider the effect of the suitors’ uncouth noise on his guest’s appetite and locate him accordingly. In the following lines, we will see Telemachos’s generosity illustrated by the amount of good food he serves to his guest. Of course, his actions are not totally altruistic. He wants news of his father from the guest, but we think this sounds like a pretty fair trade.

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