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The Odyssey

by Homer

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How does Homer describe Odysseus after he has taken his bath?

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In Homer's Odysseus, bathing is a recurring event and is often a part of the hospitality (Greek: xenia) ritual. In Odyssey 5, before Calypso sends Odysseus from her island, she bathes him and dresses him "in scented clothes" (A.S. Kline translation).

In Odyssey 6, when the shipwrecked Odysseus washes ashore on Phaeacia, he is discovered by princess Nausicaa, who then gives him some clothing and bathing supplies. After Odysseus bathes, he experiences a divine transformation. The goddess Athene makes him appear taller and stronger than before, and also makes his hair look nice and thick. Likewise, after Odysseus comes to the palace of Nausicaa's parents, Homer describes another bath that Odysseus is given (Odyssey 8.416-468).

In Odyssey 19, Odysseus, disguised as a beggar, returns to his own home, where he is given a bath by an aged maidservant, Eurycleia. This bath results in Eurycleia recognizing him.

Finally, in Odyssey 23, after Odysseus has killed the suitors, he bathes and prepares to be questioned by Penelope, who is still skeptical that her husband has returned. After leaving the bath, Homer describes Odysseus in the same way as when he had bathed when he had first met Nausicaa in Book 6:

"Athene then clothed him in beauty, making him seem taller and stronger, and making the locks of his hair spring up thickly like hyacinth petals" (A.S. Kline translation).

Homer also adds that this bath left "looking like an immortal" (A.S. Kline translation).

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