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pg 84BOOK SEVEN

  • 1So much-enduring glorious Odysseus prayed in that place,
  • 2while the powerful mules carried the girl on to the city.
  • 3When she reached her father's splendid palace she reined in
  • 4the mules at the outer porch, and her brothers, men like
  • 5the immortals, gathered round her and unyoked them
  • 6from the wagon and carried the clothes indoors.
  • 7She herself went to her room, and an old woman of
  • 8Apeira, the chamber-servant Eurymedusa, lit a fire for her.
  • 9Well-balanced ships had long ago brought her from Apeira,*
  • 10and the people had chosen her as a gift for Alcinous, since
  • 11he ruled over all the Phaeacians, who obeyed him like a god.
  • 12This woman had been Nausicaa's nurse in his halls, and it
  • 13was she who now lit a fire and prepared a meal in her room.
  • 14     Now Odysseus started out towards the city; and Athena,
  • 15showing goodwill to him, poured a thick mist around him,
  • 16in case one of the great-spirited Phaeacians should meet and
  • 17challenge him with jeering words and ask him who he was.
  • 18But when he was on the point of entering the beautiful city,
  • 19there the goddess grey-eyed Athena came to meet him,
  • 20likening herself to a young unwed girl, carrying a pitcher.
  • 21She stood before him, and glorious Odysseus questioned her:
  • 22'Child, could you show me the way to the house of a man
  • 23called Alcinous, who rules over the people in this place?
  • 24You see, I have come here from far away, a stranger from a
  • 25distant land, a sorely tried man, and I do not know anyone
  • 26among the people who live in this city and the land around it.'
  • 27     Then in turn the goddess grey-eyed Athena addressed him:
  • 28'Father stranger, I can certainly show you the house that you
  • 29ask me about, since it lies near that of my excellent father.
  • 30But you must walk in silence, and I shall lead the way,
  • 31and you must not look straight at any man, or question him;
  • 32people here do not take at all kindly to strangers, and do not
  • 33readily entertain any man who comes from other lands.
  • 34They put their trust in the speed of their fast ships, in which
  • 35they cross the sea's great expanse; this is the earthshaker's gift
  • pg 8536to them, and their ships are as swift as a bird, or as thought.'
  • 37     So Pallas Athena spoke, and without more ado led the way,
  • 38and Odysseus followed in the footsteps of the goddess; but the
  • 39Phaeacians, famed for their seamanship, did not see him as he
  • 40passed through their city, because Athena of the lovely hair,
  • 41the terrible goddess, prevented it, shedding an astonishing mist
  • 42around him, since her heart was kindly disposed towards him.
  • 43Odysseus marvelled at the sight of the harbours and trim ships,
  • 44at the meeting-places of the heroes themselves, and the high,
  • 45soaring walls, topped with stakes—a wonder to behold.
  • 46When at last they reached the king's magnificent palace,
  • 47the goddess grey-eyed Athena was the first to speak:
  • 48'Here it is, father stranger, the house that you asked me to
  • 49show you. You will find princes nurtured by Zeus there,
  • 50enjoying their feast. Go in, and have no fear in your heart;
  • 51in every kind of action the dauntless man always proves
  • 52the better, even if he hails from some distant country.
  • 53The first person you will find in these halls is the mistress;
  • 54she is called Arete, and she is descended from the same
  • 55forebears as those who in fact founded King Alcinous' line.
  • 56Nausithous was the first, son of Poseidon, shaker of the
  • 57earth, and of Periboea, the most beautiful of women;
  • 58she was the youngest daughter of great-hearted Eurymedon,
  • 59who long ago was king of the over-proud Giants;
  • 60but he ruined that reckless people, and ruined himself.
  • 61Poseidon then lay with Periboea, and she bore him a son,
  • 62great-spirited Nausithous, who ruled over the Phaeacians.
  • 63Now Nausithous was the father of Rhexenor and Alcinous;
  • 64Rhexenor had just married, and had no sons, when Apollo
  • 65of the silver bow shot him down in his halls; he left only
  • 66one daughter, Arete, and Alcinous made her his wife,* and
  • 67honoured her as no other woman on earth is honoured, of all
  • 68those today who keep a household under their husbands' charge.
  • 69In this heartfelt way has Arete been honoured, and still is so,
  • 70both by her dear children and by Alcinous himself; and by
  • 71the people, who look on her as if she were a goddess, and
  • 72greet her with respectful words when she walks about the city.
  • 73She too is by no means lacking in good judgement, and she
  • 74solves disputes for those she favours, even when they are men.
  • pg 8675If Arete herself is well disposed towards you in her heart
  • 76there is hope that you will in time see your loved ones,
  • 77and reach your high-roofed house and your native land.'
  • 78     So grey-eyed Athena spoke and departed, leaving lovely
  • 79Scheria behind, and crossed the restless open sea, and
  • 80came to Marathon and Athens of the wide streets, and
  • 81entered the strongly built house of Erechtheus.* Meanwhile
  • 82Odysseus went on to Alcinous' famed palace, stopping and
  • 83pondering much in his heart before reaching its bronze threshold.
  • 84A brilliance like that of the sun or moon shone over the
  • 85high-roofed palace of great-hearted Alcinous. Brazen walls
  • 86ran in both directions, from the threshold to the inner
  • 87part, and round them was a frieze of dark blue enamel; and
  • 88golden were the doors that secured the strongly built house;
  • 89silver doorposts were embedded in a brazen threshold, and
  • 90silver was the lintel above, and the handle was made of gold.
  • 91On either side of the doors stood golden and silver dogs,
  • 92which Hephaestus in his cunning craftsmanship had forged
  • 93to be the guardians of the house of great-hearted Alcinous;
  • 94they were immortal, and ageless for all time. Inside, chairs
  • 95were set firmly on both sides round the wall, right through
  • 96from the threshold to the innermost part, and over them
  • 97were thrown fine-woven delicate cloths, the work of women.
  • 98There it was the custom of the chief Phaeacian men to sit,
  • 99eating and drinking, for they had a never-failing supply.
  • 100Golden statues of young men stood on solid plinths,
  • 101holding in their hands blazing torches, which gave light
  • 102all night long for the men feasting throughout the house.
  • 103Alcinous had fifty women to serve in his palace:
  • 104some of them grind apple-yellow grain at the mills,
  • 105while others weave at their looms, or sit spinning yarn,
  • 106their hands fluttering like the leaves of a tall poplar-tree;
  • 107and from close-woven fabrics there drips soft olive oil.
  • 108Just as the Phaeacians are skilled beyond all other men
  • 109in steering swift ships over the open sea, so their women
  • 110are equally proficient at the loom, for Athena has given them
  • 111supreme skill in beautiful works, and fine understanding.
  • 112Beyond the yard and next to the entrance there is a large
  • 113orchard of four acres, and all the way around it runs a wall.
  • pg 87114In it there are tall trees growing, laden with produce:
  • 115pear and pomegranate and apple trees with glossy fruit,
  • 116sweet fig trees and olives in abundance; they never fail
  • 117to bear, nor do they ever give less than their usual yield
  • 118in winter or summer, year after year, but the West Wind
  • 119blows unceasingly, nourishing some and ripening others.
  • 120Pear upon pear mellows into ripeness, apple upon apple,
  • 121grape-cluster upon grape-cluster, and fig upon fig.
  • 122There too Alcinous has a vineyard planted, rich with fruit:
  • 123in one part, on level ground, there is a sun-warmed patch
  • 124where grapes dry, and in another they are gathered, and
  • 125others are trodden. In front are unripe grapes shedding
  • 126their blossom, and others starting to show a purple tinge.
  • 127There too, along the last row, all kinds of vegetables grow
  • 128in neat order, in full ripeness all the year round. In this
  • 129garden there are two springs: one is channelled to every part,
  • 130while the other flows opposite under the yard entrance to
  • 131the lofty house, and from this the citizens draw their water.
  • 132Such were the gods' magnificent gifts in Alcinous' palace.
  • 133     Standing there, much-enduring glorious Odysseus was amazed.
  • 134When he had admired everything to his heart's content, he
  • 135stepped quickly over the threshold and entered the house,
  • 136and found there the chief men and leaders of the Phaeacians
  • 137pouring offerings from their cups to the keen-sighted Argus-slayer,
  • 138their custom being to pour last to him, when their minds turned to bed.
  • 139Much-enduring glorious Odysseus passed through the house,
  • 140enveloped in the dense mist that Athena had poured round him,
  • 141until he came to Arete and Alcinous the king. Odysseus
  • 142threw his arms around the knees of Arete, and immediately
  • 143the mist that the goddess had sent rolled back from him.
  • 144When all those in the house saw the man they fell silent, and
  • 145wondered as they gazed; and Odysseus began to make his prayer:
  • 146'Arete, daughter of Rhexenor who was equal to the gods, I come
  • 147after many hardships to your knees as a suppliant, to your husband,
  • 148and to these feasters here—may the gods grant them prosperity in
  • 149their lives, and may each one hand on to his sons the possessions
  • 150in his halls, and such privileges as the people have granted him.
  • 151But my plea is for you to arrange an escort to my ancestral land,
  • 152and quickly; my troubles have kept me too long from my friends.'
  • pg 88153     So he spoke, and sat down by the hearth, in the ashes
  • 154and next to the fire; and they all remained silent and still.
  • 155Then at last the aged hero Echeneus spoke among them,
  • 156he who was an elder among the men of Phaeacia, skilled in
  • 157speaking, and deeply wise in the wisdom of the past.
  • 158With generous intent he spoke out and addressed them:
  • 159'Alcinous, it is not a good thing for you, nor is it seemly,
  • 160that a stranger should sit on the ground, in ashes at the hearth.
  • 161Those here are holding themselves back, waiting for your word;
  • 162so come, raise the stranger up and give him a seat on a chair
  • 163studded with silver, and order the heralds to mix wine for us,
  • 164so that we may pour a libation to thunder-delighting Zeus;
  • 165he is the protector of suppliants who deserve men's respect.
  • 166And let a housekeeper bring him a meal from her inner store.'
  • 167     When Alcinous, a man of divine vigour, heard this, he took
  • 168Odysseus the shrewd, cunning counsellor by the hand and
  • 169raised him up from the hearth and seated him on a shining
  • 170chair, having moved his son, courteous Laomedon, from it;
  • 171he was sitting next to Alcinous, and was the one he loved most.
  • 172A maidservant brought water in a beautiful golden pitcher and
  • 173poured it out over a silver bowl for Odysseus to wash his
  • 174hands, and drew up a polished table to stand beside him.
  • 175A respected housekeeper brought bread and set it before him,
  • 176and added a heap of delicacies, giving freely from her store.
  • 177Much-enduring glorious Odysseus began to eat and drink,
  • 178and now the powerful Alcinous addressed his herald:
  • 179'Pontonous, mix a bowl of wine and hand it round to all in
  • 180the hall, so that we may pour a libation to Zeus who delights
  • 181in thunder, protector of suppliants who deserve men's respect.'
  • 182     So he spoke, and Pontonous mixed mind-cheering wine, and
  • 183distributed it to all, after pouring the first drops into their
  • 184cups. When they had made offerings and drunk to their hearts'
  • 185content, then Alcinous spoke out and addressed them all:
  • 186'Listen to me, chief men and leaders of the Phaeacians,
  • 187and I shall tell you what the spirit in my breast urges me.
  • 188For the moment, now you have feasted, go home to sleep,
  • 189and in the morning we shall summon more of the elders
  • 190and offer the stranger hospitality in my halls, and make fine
  • 191offerings to the gods. After that we shall give thought to an
  • pg 89192escort, so that this stranger may without trouble and distress
  • 193come to his native land under our protection, in comfort
  • 194and speedily, even if his country lies a great distance away.
  • 195He must not suffer any calamity or hardship on his way,
  • 196until he sets foot on his own land; after that he will have to
  • 197endure whatever his destiny and the grim Fates span for him
  • 198with their thread at his birth, on the day his mother bore him.
  • 199But if he is one of the immortals, come down from the high sky,
  • 200then this must be some deceit that the gods are contriving;
  • 201for in time past the gods have appeared quite clearly to us
  • 202whenever we offered them magnificent hecatombs; and
  • 203they feast at our side, taking their seats wherever we are.
  • 204Even if one of them meets us on the road as a solitary traveller,
  • 205they do not conceal themselves, since we are close to them,
  • 206just as the Cyclopes are, and the savage tribes of the Giants.'
  • 207     Then in answer Odysseus, man of many wiles, addressed him:
  • 208'Alcinous, you need not trouble your mind on that account;
  • 209I am nothing like the immortals who dwell in the broad
  • 210high sky, either in form or in stature, but only like mortal men.
  • 211If you can think of any among men who have borne
  • 212the worst of miseries, I could match them in my troubles;
  • 213indeed, I could tell you of even worse afflictions, were I to
  • 214describe all that I have suffered through the will of the gods.
  • 215But leave me now to eat my supper, distressed though I am;
  • 216there is nothing more shameless than a man's wretched belly,
  • 217which lays him under necessity to be mindful of it even
  • 218when he is sorely troubled and nursing grief in his heart.
  • 219This is now my case: I am nursing grief in my heart, and
  • 220yet it is forever urging me to eat and drink, making me
  • 221forget all that I have suffered, always telling me to eat my fill.
  • 222But as for you—as soon as dawn breaks stir yourselves to help
  • 223this unlucky man to set foot on his own land, after so much
  • 224suffering. Once I have seen my estates again, my servants,
  • 225and my great high-roofed house, I shall be happy to die.'
  • 226     So he spoke, and they all approved and said that the stranger
  • 227should have an escort, since what he said was right and proper.
  • 228When they had poured offerings and drunk to their hearts'
  • 229content they went each to his own house to sleep, and
  • 230glorious Odysseus was left behind in the hall; beside him
  • pg 90231were seated Arete and Alcinous who looked like a god,
  • 232while the maidservants began to clear away the dinner-things.
  • 233Among them white-armed Arete was the first to speak,
  • 234for when she saw the fine clothes she recognized the cloak
  • 235and tunic that she herself and her women servants had made.
  • 236Speaking winged words she addressed Odysseus:
  • 237'Stranger, this first question I shall ask of you myself:
  • 238Who are you? Where are you from? Who gave you these clothes?
  • 239Did you not say that you came here after drifting across the sea?'
  • 240     Then in answer Odysseus, man of many wiles, addressed her:
  • 241'Queen, it would be a painful task to describe all my troubles
  • 242at length, for the gods in the high sky have sent me them in plenty;
  • 243but this I will tell you, since you question and inquire of me.
  • 244There is an island, Ogygia, lying in the sea far from here,
  • 245and on it lives a daughter of Atlas, subtle Calypso of the
  • 246lovely hair, an awesome goddess. No one, either of the gods
  • 247or of mortal men, has any dealings with her, though
  • 248some divine force compelled me to be her unhappy guest.
  • 249I was on my own, since Zeus had hurled a flashing thunderbolt
  • 250and shattered my swift ship out on the wine-dark sea, and
  • 251after that all my excellent companions perished. For nine
  • 252days I was borne along, clinging with arms wrapped round the
  • 253keel of my well-balanced ship, and on the tenth day, in the
  • 254dark of night, the gods landed me on the island Ogygia, where
  • 255Calypso of the lovely hair, an awesome goddess, lives. She took
  • 256me in, treated me kindly and looked after me, and declared
  • 257she would make me immortal and ageless for all my days;
  • 258but she was never able to win over the heart within my breast.
  • 259For seven full years I remained there, all the time drenching
  • 260with tears the immortal clothes that Calypso had given me;
  • 261but when the eighth year came round in its circling course,
  • 262she stirred me into action and urged me to leave, either
  • 263obeying a message from Zeus, or she may have changed
  • 264her mind. She sent me off on a tightly bound raft with many
  • 265provisions, bread and sweet wine, and gave me immortal clothes
  • 266to wear, and sent a warm and constant breeze to blow for me.
  • 267For seventeen days I sailed, traversing the open sea,
  • 268and on the eighteenth the shadowy mountains of your land
  • 269hove into sight, and my heart was glad; but ill luck stayed
  • pg 91270with me, for I was fated to live with more of the misery
  • 271that Poseidon, shaker of the earth, had in store for me.
  • 272He stirred up the winds and headed me off my course,
  • 273and caused an astonishing sea to swell up, and the waves
  • 274would not allow me, groaning constantly, to be borne onward
  • 275on my raft. A squall now smashed it to pieces, and I began
  • 276to swim, cleaving my way through the expanse of sea, until
  • 277the wind and water lifted me and drove me close to your land.
  • 278There, as I tried to land, the swell would have thrown me
  • 279violently on to the shore, hurling me at a grim place of huge cliffs,
  • 280but I pulled back and began to swim again, until I came upon
  • 281a river, which seemed to me the best place to land; it was clear
  • 282of rocks, and there was somewhere to shelter from the wind.
  • 283There I collapsed, fighting to stay alive, and immortal night
  • 284came on. I got out of the river fed by rains from Zeus,
  • 285and lay down to sleep some way away in a thicket under a
  • 286heap of leaves; and some god poured boundless sleep over me.
  • 287There, covered with leaves and troubled in my heart,
  • 288I slept all night, right through morning until the noonday.
  • 289The sun was westering, and sweet sleep had released me,
  • 290when I became aware of your daughter's maidservants playing
  • 291on the seashore, and she among them looking like a goddess.
  • 292I entreated her, and she did not fail to show excellent good
  • 293sense, such as you would not expect to meet in a young
  • 294person, for the young are generally given to thoughtlessness.
  • 295She gave me a large meal of bread and gleaming wine,
  • 296and made me bathe in the river, and gave me these clothes.
  • 297Though it causes me grief, I have told you the exact truth.'
  • 298     Then in turn Alcinous answered and spoke to him:
  • 299'Stranger, my daughter's judgement was certainly not correct
  • 300in one thing, that she did not bring you to our house with her
  • 301attendants, though you came to her as a suppliant first of all.'
  • 302     Then in answer Odysseus, man of many wiles, addressed him:
  • 303'Hero, do not reproach your blameless daughter because of me;
  • 304she did tell me to follow her with the maidservants, but I was
  • 305reluctant, being both fearful and moved by feelings of shame
  • 306in case your heart should take offence when you saw me.
  • 307We people on this earth are apt to suspect the worst in others.'
  • 308     Then in turn Alcinous answered and addressed him:
  • pg 92309'Stranger, it is not the habit of the heart in my breast to
  • 310become angry to no purpose; in all things moderation is best.
  • 311Father Zeus and Athena and Apollo, how I wish that
  • 312someone like you, with the same cast of mind as I have,
  • 313could marry my daughter and stay here and be called my
  • 314son-in-law! I would give you a house and property—but only
  • 315if you wanted to stay. Even so, no Phaeacian will detain you against
  • 316your will—may father Zeus never look kindly on that!
  • 317And as for your escort home, to reassure you I appoint
  • 318it for tomorrow; then you will lie, overcome by sleep, while
  • 319they row you over calm seas, until you arrive at your
  • 320native land and your house, or anywhere else you wish—
  • 321even if it is very far away, more remote than Euboea,
  • 322which those of our people who have seen it declare to be
  • 323the world's most distant place; they were then taking
  • 324fair-haired Rhadamanthys to visit Tityus, Gaia's son,* and
  • 325they went there and performed their task and returned home
  • 326successfully on the same day, all without becoming wearied.
  • 327You too will find out how far my ships are the best, and
  • 328how my young men excel at churning the sea with their oars.'
  • 329     So he spoke, and much-enduring glorious Odysseus was
  • 330glad, and he made a prayer, calling on the god by name:
  • 331'Father Zeus, may it be that Alcinous brings to fulfilment
  • 332all that he has said! Then his fame will never die out over
  • 333the grain-giving earth, and I will come to my native land.'
  • 334     While these two were conversing with each other in this way
  • 335white-armed Arete gave orders to her servants to lay
  • 336out a bed under the colonnade, and to throw fine purple
  • 337blankets on top of it and spread rugs over them, and
  • 338to add fleecy woollen cloaks to be a covering over all.
  • 339They went out of the hall holding torches in their hands, and
  • 340quickly set to work laying the strongly made bed; then they
  • 341came and stood by Odysseus and roused him with these words:
  • 342'Rise, guest, and go to your rest; your bed is ready for you.'
  • 343     So they spoke, and the thought of rest was welcome to him.
  • 344And so much-enduring glorious Odysseus slept there on
  • 345a fretted couch, under the far-echoing colonnade, while
  • 346Alcinous went to his rest in the inner part of his high palace,
  • 347and beside him his wife, lady of the house, served his bed.

Notes Settings

Notes

Editor’s Note
As Nausicaa arrives home, Odysseus sets out for the palace; shrouded in a mist, he is guided by Athena, who is disguised as a Phaeacian girl. She explains the royal family's genealogy and instructs Odysseus to approach Queen Arete (1–77). Marvelling at the scale and richness of the palace and its estate, Odysseus arrives unseen and immediately supplicates Arete, asking for an escort back to his homeland (78–152). He is welcomed, fed, and promised safe passage home the following day (153–225). Arete, however, recognizes her handiwork in the clothes worn by Odysseus, and asks him where he got them. Still concealing his identity, Odysseus replies with an abbreviated account of his wanderings, culminating in his meeting with Nausicaa, whose idea that they not enter the city together (lest it provoke gossip) Odysseus politely pretends was his own (226–307). Alcinous hints that Odysseus might marry Nausicaa (should he choose to stay), but repeats the promise to send him on his way the following day. Odysseus prays to Zeus for a safe homecoming and all go to bed (308–47).
Editor’s Note
9 Apeira: meaning 'the boundless (or indeterminate) land', a fictional place (like Hypereia, the Phaeacians' original home: see note to 6.4).
Editor’s Note
66 made her his wife: Alcinous marries his niece. Marriage to an uncle was permitted in ancient Greek society (as was marriage to half-brothers by the same father or to cousins). With no father or brother living, an unmarried girl like Arete would in any case pass into the guardianship of her nearest male relative, who here also happens to be Alcinous.
Editor’s Note
81 Erechtheus: a mythical king of Athens, who was worshipped together with Athena in a joint temple (the Erechtheum) on the Athenian acropolis.
Editor’s Note
324 Rhadamanthys … Gaia's son: Rhadamanthys, son of Zeus and Europa, entered Elysium (see note to 4.563) and was revered as a wise judge of the dead in the underworld. Tityus, by contrast, was a notorious villain, who tried to rape Leto, and whose punishment in Hades (two vultures tear at his liver) has already been witnessed by Odysseus himself (see 11.576–81). The story linking them here is otherwise unknown.
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