Illustration of Odysseus tied to a ship's mast

The Odyssey

by Homer

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Why doesn't Odysseus simply make his identity known to the suitors? Cite passages in the poem that support this.

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Athena advises Odysseus not to make his identity known. In book 13 she says, “But do thou be strong, for bear it thou must, and tell no man of them all nor any woman that thou hast come back from thy wanderings, but in silence endure thy many griefs, and submit to the violence of men.” She tells him that he should return quietly, without a greeting. She continues on to say, “Son of Laertes, sprung from Zeus, Odysseus of many devices, take thought how thou mayest put forth thy hands on the shameless wooers, who now for three years have been lording it in thy halls, wooing thy godlike wife, and offering wooers' gifts.” She informs Odysseus of the state of his homeland. His home has been taken over by suitors trying to woo his wife. Because of this, Odysseus must disguise himself so that he may safely enter Ithaca without being harmed by the suitors who want his money and his wife. Athena says, “methinks many a one of the wooers that devour thy substance shall bespatter the vast earth with his blood and brains. (Book 13).

Odysseus is also to test the loyalties of his family and servants. Since the suitors have inhabited his house for so long, he must make sure that the people closest to him will not turn against him. In Book 23, Odysseus asks Eumaeus and Philoetius, “Would you be men enough to stand by Odysseus if he came back? Suppose he dropped out of a clear sky, as I did? Suppose some god should bring him? Would you bear arms for him, or for the suitors?”

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