The Odyssey by Homer

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Book 15 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Theoclymenus: a fugitive prophet from Argos

Peraeus: a loyal friend of Telemachus

Summary
Athene travels to Sparta and visits Telemachus in a dream. She tells him to take his leave of Menelaus quickly and return home so that he need not fear for the welfare of his goods. She informs him that Eurymachus has given the most presents to Icarius, Penelope’s father; Telemachus had best return home in case Penelope decides to give some of her son’s wealth to her prospective husband.

Telemachus awakens, and in the morning he and Peisistratus take their leave of Menelaus and Helen. However, the Spartan king first bestows a golden goblet and silver bowl forged by Hephaestus to Telemachus as guest gifts. Helen gives him a lovely gown which could be worn by Telemachus’ future wife. As Telemachus and Peisistratus mount their chariot, an eagle bearing a captive goose flies by them on their right side. Helen interprets this as a sign of Odysseus’ imminent return and the fulfillment of his vengeance against the suitors.

Telemachus rides for two days back to Pylus, where he asks Peisistratus to drop him off at his ship so that he might board it quickly and avoid a laborious leave-taking from Nestor. Although Peisistratus knows his father will be angry, he assists his new friend by leaving him by his ship. After Peisistratus has departed for his father’s house, Telemachus’ men prepare the ship for its voyage. While Telemachus is pouring a libation to the gods, he is visited by Theoclymenus, a prophet in a long line of prophets who is presently a fugitive from the region of Argos. The prophet’s ancestor, Melampous, had sought and won the hand of Nestor’s sister years ago; Melampous then migrated to Argos. Theoclymenus himself has slain a man who has many kinsmen. Fleeing their wrath, Theoclymenus requests passage on Telemachus’ ship. The young son of Odysseus grants the fugitive’s wish to accompany him to Ithaca. Telemachus’ ship then sets out and heads for Ithaca. It sails on into the night in the hope of avoiding the suitors’ ambush; Athene had previously warned Telemachus of this imminent danger.

Meanwhile, Odysseus again tests Eumaeus. Odysseus suggests that he should leave the swineherds’ dwelling and head for the main city, where he can beg from the suitors. Eumaeus quickly dissuades him of this idea and keeps him sheltered in his midst.

Odysseus and Eumaeus stay up all night telling stories. Eumaeus tells Odysseus the story of his life. He was a prince of the island of Syria, whose homeland was visited by Phoenician traders. One of the traders made a pact with a Phoenician slave in Eumaeus’ household; he agreed to free the bondswoman and restore her to her homeland. In recompense, the slave would steal treasure to give the traders; she also agreed to turn over her charge, Eumaeus himself, to be sold as a slave wherever the Phoenician men desired.

After the Phoenicians had finished a year of trading, they prepared to depart from Syria. The slave woman stole golden vessels from the palace and led the young Eumaeus out of the palace and down to the Phoenician ship. The ship sailed away from Syria, but the slave woman died on board without reaching her homeland; her body was cast into the sea. Eumaeus himself was sold to Laertes in Ithaca, where he was greatly cared for by Anticleia, who treated him almost as well as she did her own children.

When Odysseus and Eumaeus have finished their talking, they sleep for the few remaining hours until dawn. Meanwhile, Telemachus arrives on Ithaca, having successfully avoided the suitors’ ambush. At Athene’s behest, he asks his companions to continue around the coast of Ithaca to the city, where the ship might be returned to its owner. Telemachus himself must set out on foot for Eumaeus’ dwelling, as per Athene’s instructions. Before the men have departed, Telemachus witnesses another portent: a falcon flies by on Telemachus’ right side bearing a captured pigeon...

(The entire section is 1,159 words.)