Study Guide

The Odyssey Book 18

By Homer

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Book 18

  • A real beggar by the name of Iros, who regularly begs at Odysseus' hall, sees the newcomer and basically says that the town isn't big enough for the both of them.
  • This launches us into another back-and-forth round of insults.
  • Antinoös, seeing these two going at each other, spurs them on, since everyone loves a good fight. He promises a prize of fat blood pudding to the winner.
  • Telemachos assures beggar Odysseus that the crowd will watch his back (meaning they won't let some jerk hit him with a footstool).
  • The crowd cheers, proving that if there's one thing Greeks can agree on, it's that old beggars shouldn't be hit unawares from behind.
  • Iros is all, "You're going down!" and Odysseus is all, "Oh really? Well look at…THIS!" and then he rips off his shirt and everyone goes "Ooooh!"
  • Iros kind of wants to back out, but Antinoös really ups the stakes by threatening to have him beaten and castrated if the new beggar wins against him.
  • Odysseus decides to be merciful and strike Iros only once, which he does, in the jaw. Unfortunately for Iros, this one punch is enough to break his jaw and send blood spewing everywhere.
  • Everyone is massively entertained by the fight (hey, what else were they supposed to do before YouTube?) and they all cheer the beggar Odysseus on.
  • Amphinomos, who we've already seen is a not-so-bad suitor, gets some advice from the beggar, who urges the suitor to go home before Odysseus returns and punishes everyone by exacting some revenge.
  • Unfortunately for Amphinomos, Athene wants all the suitors to die.
  • And then Athene puts Penelope to sleep for a few minutes during which she showers her in ambrosia and makes her even lovelier than she already is.
  • She also inspires Penelope to show herself to the suitors and get them all hot and bothered over her.
  • Penelope is oblivious to her influence on the men and scolds Telemachos for allowing such abuse (she's referring to the beggar) in her household.
  • Wait, says Telemachus—it's not what it seems—
  • But Eurymachos interrupts and compliments Penelope on her beauty. Though she plays modest at first, Penelope finally ends up flirting a bit with the suitors; she complains that they haven't courted her correctly, as not one of them has presented her with any gifts.
  • Unfortunately, not one of the suitors responds with, "I've got a gift for you. Come here and I'll show it to you."
  • Instead, they comically search each of their troves to find a suitable gift for the Queen. Odysseus thinks this is hilarious.
  • When Penelope leaves, her servants carrying the shining gifts she has just received, Odysseus decides to test the loyalty of her maids.
  • At night, the maids are assigned to keep the torches burning in the hallway so that the suitors—getting drunk in the hall—can see what they're smacking into before they smack into it.
  • (Really? Who ordered that?)
  • Beggar Odysseus tells the servants he'll take care of the torches tonight and sends them up to go care for Penelope.
  • The women giggle at him, until beggar Odysseus threatens snitch on their rude behavior and they scatter in fear.
  • The suitors lay into the beggar again, but this time Odysseus answers back: he could defeat any of them in battle.
  • This infuriates Eurymachos, and he lobs a footstool at the beggar. (Very original.) It misses, however, and hits a wine steward, spilling all the wine. Now look what you've done!
  • Amphinomos restores the peace by turning their attention to the banquet and away from the fighting. This wine isn't going to drink itself.

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