Study Guide

The Odyssey Book 15

By Homer

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Book 15

  • Athene makes her way to Sparta, where Telemachos is in bed but not yet asleep. She urges him to leave immediately for Ithaka because Eurymachos is going to marry Penelope. (Not true.)
  • He should go to Eumaios the swineherd as soon as he reaches Ithaka, and have Eumaios tell Penelope he's back.
  • (Remember, the suitors are all ready to kill Telemachos if he shows his face, so some discretion is required.)
  • All worked up by Athene's lie, Telemachos tells Peisistratos that they need to get going.
  • At dawn, Menelaos rushes to get Telemachos gifts and transportation ready. Menelaos, Helen, and Peisistratos each choose a gift for him. Helen' is sweet—a beautiful gown woven by her own hands for Telemachos' future bride. Aw.
  • Just then, Zeus sends a sign—an eagle flying with a dead farmyard goose in its talons.
  • Helen interprets this to mean that the god-favored Odysseus has returned to Ithaka and will remove the household pests—the suitors—from his home.
  • Um, sure.
  • Telemachos and Peisistratos drive the whole day and sleep that night at Pherai.
  • The following morning, Telemachos requests that Peisistratos take him straight to his ships and send word for his men to join him. He wants to avoid meeting Nestor and waiting for more gifts, which as we've seen takes forever in ancient Greece.
  • Sounds good.
  • Just as Telemachos is about to set sail, a stranger approaches him, a descendent of Melampous and a man gifted with prophetic abilities.
  • Time for some back story. Okay, so Melampous was a rich, happy Lord until King Neleus exiled him and took over his house. We don't know exactly why, other than the vague mention that it had something to do with Neleus' beautiful daughter.
  • (The fact that this story is thrown in without a lot of details probably means Homer's audience was already pretty familiar with it.)
  • Melampous was held captive in his exile by yet another man, Phylakos. Somehow he escaped, took back his lands, carried off Neleus' daughter and gave her in marriage to his brother, and then, because it was his destiny, went to Argos to be ruler. Done and done.
  • Several generations later, Theoklymenos was born; he is the prophetic man who's asking Telemachos for a ride home. His reasons for hitchhiking are: (1) he killed his cousin in Argos, and (2) he is being hunted for the murder.
  • Telemachos says sure, come on board.
  • Back in Ithaka, Odysseus tests Eumaios' hospitality, until Eumaios takes offense at the beggar's insinuations of being a burden and welcomes him to stay until Telemachos returns.
  • Then beggar Odysseus asks for information about the Queen and Odysseus' father, Laertes.
  • Laertes is alive, but wishes he were dead because he grieves so much for his son.
  • We learn that Eumaios grew up as Laertes' ward in the household and was a playmate to the Princess Ktimene, Laertes daughter (who therefore was Odysseus' sister).
  • When Ktimene married and left Ithaka, Eumaios was sent to the forest to work as a swineherd. (As far as we can tell, this wasn't intended as a punishment of any sort, though it does seem like this guy got the short end of the stick.)
  • Want some more backstory?
  • Eumaios was the son of a Syrian lord. Where he lived, there was a Sidonian slave woman who was tempted into exchanging sex for passage back to her homeland. (Well, you work with what you've got.)
  • Little Eumaios came with her on the ship. When she died barely a week into the voyage, the sailors sold Eumaios to Laertes.
  • Odysseus feels sorry for the guy so the two men talk night the night away and trade stories.
  • Aboard Telemachos' ship, the fugitive guy Theoklymenos asks the prince where he could stay in Ithaka.
  • Telemachos says he would offer his own house, but unfortunately it's currently occupied by swarms of suitors. He tells Theoklymenos briefly about his lost father.
  • Zeus sends a sign, a hawk flying by with a dove in its talons.
  • Theoklymenos interprets this to mean Odysseus' family will rule Ithaka forever.
  • Telemachos asks one of his crewmen, Peiraios, if Theoklymenos can stay with him. Peiraios sportingly agrees.
  • When they land in Ithaka, Telemachos makes his way to the swineherd's hut.

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