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The Odyssey

by Homer

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Who are the ringleaders of the suitors in The Odyssey and how do they learn of Telemachus's journey?

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It's an interesting series of questions. As for the Suitors themselves, there are certainly two which tend to stand out within The Odyssey, dominating the scenes they participate in. These are Antinous and, to a lesser degree, Eurymachus, described within the text as "ringleaders, head and shoulders the strongest of the lot" (Homer, The Odyssey. Translated by Robert Fagles. New York: Viking Penguin, 1996. p. 144).

Across the epic, these are the two that, among all of the Suitors, will feature over and over again. In Book Two, during the Assembly, Antinous speaks out against Telemachus, casting blame on Penelope for the suffering which the Suitors had brought down on their household, and that it would not end until she had selected another husband. Eurymachus speaks here as well. Also, consider that when Odysseus takes up his bow, first suitor he kills is notably Antinous himself (439-440). In this context, Eurymachus speaks, claiming Antinous as their leader, who had driven the rest of them to their actions (441). These are just a few examples, but throughout The Odyssey, you can see Antinous looming over the rest of the Suitors as a particularly dominant personality, as does Eurymachus to a lesser degree.

As to the second part of your answer, the Suitors are shown learning of Telemachus's travels in Book 4, when Antinous and Eurymachus are approached by Noëmon, whose ship Telemachus had taken, asking for news of when Telemachus would return (144). The two are surprised by this news. In response, they plot an attack on Telemachus, with Antinous saying:

"Quick, fetch me a swift ship and twenty men—I'll waylay him from ambush, board him coming back in the straits between Ithaca and rocky Same. This gallant voyage of his to find his father will find him wrecked at last!" (145)

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Early in Homer's Odyssey, Telemachus is inspired by Athene (also spelled Athena) to make a journey in search of his father, who has been away from home for 20 years. One of the reasons for this journey is that Odysseus' palace is infested with suitors, who, believing that Odysseus is dead, want to marry Odysseus' wife Penelope.

One of the most prominent suitors is Antinous, whose name means "the opposing mind" (an appropriate name for an enemy). The other suitor identified as one of the leaders is Eurymachus.

Homer describes the suitors' reaction to Telemachus' journey at 2.296-336. Near the end of Odyssey 4, the suitors set a trap for Telemachus, who was returning from his journey, and plotted "secretly to murder Telemachus" (A.S. Kline translation).

Fortunately for Telemachus, he manages to avoid the trap set by the suitors. Homer, however, keeps the audience in suspense and we do not learn that Telemachus has made it safely home until 16.321-392.

For a complete list of the suitors, see Odyssey 16.213-257.

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