Odysseus and Penelope

When Telemachuswent to bed, she came to the banquet hall with her slaves Penelope. The slaves placed a chair made of ivory trimmed with silver for their mistress near the hearth, and they themselves began to clean the table at which the grooms were feasting. The slave Melanto again began to vilify Odysseus, drive him out of the house and threaten him that she would throw a hot brand at him if he did not leave! He looked at her gloomily Odysseus and said:

- Why are you angry with me? True, I am a beggar! Such was my lot, and there was a time when I was rich too; but I lost everything by the will of Zeus. Maybe you will lose your beauty soon, and your mistress will hate you. Look, Odysseus will return, and you will have to answer for your audacity. If he does not return, then Telemachus is at home, he knows how slaves behave. Nothing will be hidden from him!

She heard the words of Odysseus and Penelope and angrily she said to Melanto:

- You're angry at everyone, like a chain dog! Look, I know how you behave! You'll have to pay with your head for your behavior. Don't you know that I called this wanderer here myself?

Penelope ordered a chair for Odysseus to be placed near the hearth, and when he sat down next to her, she began to ask him about Odysseus. The wanderer told her that he himself had once received Odysseus as a guest in Crete, when he, caught in a storm, landed on the shores of Crete on the way to Troy. Penelope wept when she heard that the wanderer had seen Odysseus twenty years ago. Wanting to check if he was telling the truth, Penelope asked him how Odysseus was dressed. Nothing was easier for a wanderer than to describe his own clothes. He described her in great detail, and then Penelope believed him. The wanderer began to assure her that Odysseus was alive, that he had recently been to the land of the fesprots, and from there he went to Dodon to question the oracle of Zeus there.

- Odysseus will be back soon! - the wanderer said, before the year ends, before another new moon comes, Odysseus will return.

Penelope would have been glad to believe him, but she could not, because she had been waiting for Odysseus for so many years, and he still did not return. Penelope ordered the slaves to prepare a soft bed for the wanderer. Odysseus thanked her and asked that the old Eurycleia first washed his feet.

Eurycleia's maid washes Odysseus' feet
The maid Eurycleia washes Odysseus' feet.
(Drawing on a vase.)
Eurycleia willingly agreed to wash the feet of the wanderer: he reminded her of Odysseus, whom she once nursed herself, both in height and in his whole appearance, and even in his voice. Eurycleia brought water in a copper basin and bent down to wash the wanderer's feet. Suddenly the scar on his leg caught her eye. She knew this scar well. A boar once inflicted a deep wound on Odysseus when he was hunting with his sons Autolycus on the slopes of Parnassus. By this scar Eurycleia recognized Odysseus. She knocked over a basin of water in amazement. Tears filled her eyes, and she said in a voice trembling with joy:

- Odysseus, is it you, my dear child? How did I not recognize you before!

Eurycleia wanted to tell Penelope that her husband had finally returned, but Odysseus hastily put his hand over her mouth and quietly said:

- Yes, I am Odysseus, whom you nursed! But be silent, do not betray my secret, otherwise you will ruin me. Beware of telling anyone about my return! I will punish you severely and will not spare you, although you are my nurse, when I punish the slaves for their misdeeds, if they find out from you that I have returned. Eurycleia swore to keep a secret. Rejoicing at the return of Odysseus, she brought more water and washed his feet. Penelope didn't notice what happened; her attention was captured by the goddess Athena.

When Odysseus sat down again by the fire, Penelope began to complain about her bitter fate and told about a dream she had recently seen. She saw as if an eagle had torn apart all her snow-white domestic geese and all the women of Ithaca mourned them with her. But suddenly the eagle flew back, sat on the roof of the palace and said in a human voice: "Penelope, this is not a dream, but a sign of what will happen. Geese are grooms, I'm Odysseus, who will return soon."

Odysseus also told Penelope that her dream, like she herself sees, is so clear that it is not worth interpreting. But Penelope could not even believe such a dream, she did not believe that Odysseus would finally return. She told the wanderer that she had decided to test the suitors the next day: to take out the bow of Odysseus and invite them to pull it and hit the target; she decided to choose the one of them who would do this for her husband. The wanderer advised Penelope not to postpone this test and added:

- Before one of the suitors pulls the bow and hits the target, Odysseus will return.

This is how Penelope talked to the wanderer, not realizing that she was talking to Odysseus. But it was too late. Although Penelope was ready to talk to the wanderer all night long, it was still time for her to go to rest. She got up and went to her rest with all the slaves, and there the goddess Athena plunged her into a sweet sleep.

Odysseus, having made himself a bed of ox skin and sheepskins, lay down on it, but could not sleep. He kept thinking about how to take revenge on the suitors. The goddess Athena approached his bed; she calmed him down, promised her help and said that all his troubles would soon be over. Finally, the goddess Athena put Odysseus to sleep. But he did not sleep for long, he was awakened by the loud crying of Penelope, who complained that the gods did not allow Odysseus to return. Odysseus got up, removed his bed and, going out into the courtyard, began to pray to Zeus to send him a good omen in the first words he would hear that morning. Zeus heeded the Odyssey, and a thunderclap rolled across the sky. The first words Odysseus heard were the words of a slave who was grinding flour at a hand mill. She wanted it to be the last day that the grooms would spend feasting at Odysseus' house. Odysseus was delighted. Now he knew that Zeus the Thunderer would help him take revenge on the suitors.