In Homer's The Odyssey, what is Philotious's dilemma in Book XX?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Homer's The Odyssey, two swineherds approach Odysseus. Melanthius is disrespectful of Odysseus, but Philotious was Odysseus' stockman, and unknowingly greets his master because even dressed in rags, he reminds Philotious of his master. 

...when I saw this man...my eyes filled with tears, for he reminds me of Odysseus...

Philotious then shares his dilemma with the man he believes to be a stranger. He has been loyal to his absent employer, and the cattle herd has grown "like ears of corn." He provides food through the herd for guests in the house who show no regard toward Telemachus, or respect for the gods, but only want to take the things that belong to Odysseus.

I have often thought—only it would not be right while his son is living—of going off with the cattle to some foreign country; bad as this would be, it is still harder to stay here and be ill-treated about other people's herds.

While Philotious knows he would be happier away from the suitors and the situation that exists in Odysseus' home, his dilemma stems from a belief that Odysseus will one day return. So while he abhors the circumstances surrounding life in Odysseus' home with his master gone—and knows he could live happily somewhere else—he is still loyal to Odysseus and does not want to leave if Odysseus should return from the Trojan War, even though he has been gone so long, it would seem a flimsy hope. His words convince Odysseus that he can trust Philotious.

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