Book 3 Summary and Analysis
Nestor: the aged counselor of the Greeks during the Trojan War
Peisistratus: the youngest son of Nestor
Telemachus’ ship arrives safely on the Greek mainland at the city of Pylus. This is the domain of Nestor, the aged counselor of the Greek forces at Troy; he is renowned for his wisdom and strategy. The Pylians are in the midst of celebrating a feast dedicated to Poseidon, the Earthshaker. Seeing Telemachus and Athene (still disguised as Mentor) approaching from the shore, Nestor’s sons greet them heartily and invite them to the feast. Foremost among the sons in greeting the new arrivals is Peisistratus, Nestor’s youngest son who is close in age to Telemachus.
After the meal is finished, Telemachus explains his journey to Nestor, who is more than willing to swap endless stories with the son of his dear friend, Odysseus. Nestor informs Telemachus that while Odysseus had begun to accompany Menelaus and him when they departed from Troy, Odysseus later turned back to perform sacrifices with Agamemnon, who had remained at Troy for that purpose. Nestor, the great warrior Diomedes, and Menelaus had remained together on their journey home.
Telemachus questions Nestor concerning Agamemnon’s assassination and Menelaus’ conspicuous absence during such an event. Nestor explains that Menelaus’ ships were scattered by storm winds, and that half his fleet drifted to Egypt and to other faraway lands beyond the sea. Meanwhile, Aegisthus, who had not gone to the war, remained behind in Mycenae to seduce Clytemnestra, Agamemnon’s wife. Having slain Agamemnon, Aegisthus ruled Mycenae for seven years before being cut down by Agamemnon’s son, Orestes. It was while Orestes was burying his hated mother and her lover that Menelaus returned home in the eighth year of his wanderings.
Because Menelaus had traveled the world for so long, Nestor suggests that Telemachus visit the Spartan king in the hope that he has heard some news concerning Odysseus. Nestor has just invited Telemachus to stay the night in his palace when Athene chooses to depart from them, revealing her divinity by transforming herself into a vulture.
Nestor, overjoyed that Athene has chosen to favor Telemachus as she has the man’s father, feels an overwhelming sense of honor at her visitation. The next morning, he and his family perform a ritual sacrifice to Athene. Afterwards, Nestor’s children prepare a chariot and horses for Telemachus to visit Sparta. Peisistratus accompanies Telemachus on his journey, and the new companions ride for two days toward Menelaus’ kingdom.
Discussion and Analysis
Critics have used Nestor as a prime example of the unity of Homer’s poems. Just as he was in the Iliad, so too is the Nestor of the Odyssey inclined to tell old stories and speak verbosely. Nestor serves in many other ways as a bridge between the two Homeric poems. For example, he mentions the strong relationship between Athene and Odysseus at Troy. The old man notes that he
. . . never saw the gods showing such open affection
as Pallas Athene, the way she stood beside him, openly;
if she would deign to love you as she did him, and care for you
in her heart, then some of those people might forget about...
(The entire section is 813 words.)