Study Guide

The Odyssey Book 2

By Homer

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Book 2

  • Telemachos calls a meeting of all the Ithakan men, which includes the suitors.
  • Lord Aigyptios (not to be confused with Aigisthos, the man whose murder the gods were earlier discussing), want to know why. After all, there haven't been any meetings since Odysseus left.
  • Considering it's been almost twenty years, we're thinking these Ithakans aren't exactly bureaucratic go-getters.
  • Telemachos grouses for a bit about the suitors who have invaded his house, eaten his food, drunk his wine, and tried to get with his mom.
  • Nobody dares challenge his righteous anger except Antinoös, the would-be-king we met earlier. He blames Penelope herself for deceiving the suitors.
  • How so? Let us (him) explain:
  • When Odysseus didn't come, Penelope devised a plan to delay having to marry one of these suitors.
  • (Note: Because she was a queen, Penelope would have been expected to marry after her husband died. Part of her duty is making sure that her people have a king.)
  • To stall, she said she wouldn't marry until she'd finished weaving a funeral shroud for Laertes, Odysseus' father. Now, weaving is slow, but it's not that slow.
  • Luckily, Penelope had a trick up her sleeve: she wove all day, and then unraveled all her work at night.
  • No one could figure out why the shroud never grew, until a maid blabbed on her. (Off with her head, right?)
  • Oh, BTW—Laertes isn't even dead. Penelope is just a real go-getter.
  • Finished with his Penelope story, Antinoös issues an ultimatum: Telemachos either need to get rid of Penelope (we're not exactly sure how that would work) or make her choose a suitor for a husband.
  • Again, we're not exactly sure how that would work.
  • Telemachos refuses to oust his mother from the house and is likely on the verge of refusing the second option when Zeus intervenes by sending two eagles to attack the people of the city.
  • Halitherses, an augur whose job it is to read portentous signs, reads the portentous sign: conveniently, it's an omen that Odysseus will return home.
  • (Don't ask us how he knew that.)
  • Another suitor Eurymachos just laughs and declares that Odysseus is dead. He tells Telemachos that the suitors aren't afraid of him or his stupid signs.
  • Bad move, man.
  • But Telemachos is done arguing; he's sailing for Pylos to hear news of his father.
  • Mentor, an old friend of Odysseus', speaks up. (If you look up "mentor" in the dictionary, you'll see this guy's picture. Seriously. We only have the word "mentor" in English because it's this guy's name)
  • Anyway, Mentor announces how sickening it is that the community at large has not risen to speak against the suitors. Hoorah! Surely all will be incited to action!
  • Sadly, no. Another townsman quickly hushes Mentor, so the crowd does nothing.
  • The meeting is over.
  • Telemachos prays to the god who visited him last night, whoever it was.
  • Athene, nearby, hears his prayer and descends in the guise of Mentor. He/she tells Telemachos to prepare provisions for the journey and promises to find a ship.
  • When Telemachos goes home, the suitors mock him.
  • But Telemachos confidently tells Eurykleia to prepare provisions and to keep this whole trip on the down-low—especially from Penelope.
  • Athene, to mix things up a bit, disguises herself as Telemachos while roaming about town and gathering up some good-hearted men to come along as crew for the ship, which she procures from the luxury shipyard run by Noëmon.
  • Disguised as Mentor, she tells Telemachos that his ride is ready.
  • Telemachos leaves immediately, taking with him a group of trusted men and of course Athene/Mentor as well, who is a very convenient travel companion. (S/he brings the best snacks and always pays for gas.)

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