T h e G o d d e s s
A t h e n a
i n H o m e r ' s
O d y s s e y ( 4 )
So he spoke, and placed in her hand
the cup of sweet wine.
Athena rejoiced at the man's wisdom and judgment, in that to her
first he gave the golden cup; and straightway she prayed earnestly to the
-  Hear me, Poseidon, you
Earth-enfolder, and be not resentfully in answer to our prayer to bring
these deeds to fulfillment.
To Nestor, first of all, and to
his sons condescend to grant renown, and then do you grant to the rest
gracious repay for this glorious hecatomb, even to all the men of Pylos;
 and grant furthermore that Telemachus and I may return when we have
accomplished all that for which we came to this place with our quick black
Thus she prayed, and was herself
Then she gave Telemachus the fair
two-handled cup, and in like manner the dear son of Ulysses prayed.
 Then wise Telemachus took courage,
and made answer, for Athena herself put courage
in his heart, that he might ask about his father that was gone, and that
good report might be his among men:
Then in truth Menelaus bade all the
Achaeans think of their return over the large back of the sea, but in no
wise did he please Agamemnon, for he was willing under the circumstances
to hold back the host and to offer holy hecatombs,  that he might
appease the dread wrath of Athena,--fool!
nor knew he this, that with her was to be no listening; for the mind of
the Gods that are forever is not quickly turned.
 Then the horseman, Nestor of
Gerenia, answered him:
-Friend, since you called this
to my mind and did speak of it, they say that many pretenders for the hand
of your mother devise evils in your living room in your despite.
Tell me, are you willingly thus
oppressed, or do the people  throughout the land hate you, following
the voice of a God?
Who knows but Ulysses may some
day come and take vengeance on them for their violent deeds,--he alone,
it may be, or even all the host of the Achaeans?
Ah, would that bright-eyed
might choose to love you even as then she cared exceedingly for glorious
Ulysses  in the land of the Trojans, where we Achaeans suffered bitter
For never yet have I seen the Gods
so manifestly showing love, as Pallas Athena
did to him, standing manifest by his side.
If she would be pleased to love
you in such wise and would care for you at heart, then would many a one
of them completely forget marriage.
Then the Goddess, bright-eyed Athena,
spoke to him, and said:
-  Telemachus, what a word
has escaped the barrier of your teeth! Easily might a God who willed it
bring a man safe home, even from afar.
But for myself, I had rather endure
many severe dangers before I reached home and saw the day of my returning,
than after my return be slain at my hearth, as Agamemnon  was slain
by the treachery of Aegisthus and of his own wife.
But of a truth death that is common
to all the Gods themselves cannot guard from a man they love, when the
terrible fate of severe death shall strike him down.
Then wise Telemachus answered her:
-  Mentor, no longer let
us tell of these things despite our grief. For him no return can ever more
be brought to pass; no, before this the immortals have devised for him
death and black fate.
 Then among them spoke the Goddess,
-Old man, of a truth you have
told this tale rightly. But come, cut out the tongues of the victims and
mix the wine, that when we have poured libations to Poseidon and the other
immortals, we may bethink us of sleep; for it is the time to that.
 Even now has the light gone
down beneath the darkness, and it is not fitting to sit long at the feast
of the Gods, but to go our way."
So spoke the daughter of Zeus, and
they listened to her voice.
Heralds poured water over their hands,
and youths filled the bowls brim full of drink,  and served out to
all, pouring first drops for libation into the cups.
Then they cast the tongues upon the
fire, and, rising up, poured libations upon them.
But when they had poured libations
and had drunk to their heart's content, then truly Athena
and godlike Telemachus were both willing to return to the hollow ship;
Then the Goddess, bright-eyed
-Well indeed have you spoken in
this, old friend, and it were fitting for Telemachus to listen to you,
since it is far better this way.
But while he shall now follow
with you, that he may sleep  in your living rooms, I for my part will
go to the black ship, that I may hearten my comrades and tell them all.
For alone among them I declare
that I am an older man; the others are younger who follow in friendship,
all of them of like age with great-hearted Telemachus.
 There will I lay me down
by the hollow black ship this night, but in the morning I will go to the
great-hearted Cauconians, where a debt is owing to me, in no wise new or
But do you send this man on his
way with a chariot and with your son, since he has come to your house,
and give him horses,  the quickest you host in running and the best
So spoke the Goddess, bright-eyed
and she departed in the likeness of a sea-eagle; and amazement fell upon
all at the sight, and the old man marveled, when his eyes beheld it.
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©1999 Roy George