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 ( 5 )
And Nestor grasped the hand of Telemachus,
and spoke, and addressed him:
-  Friend, in no wise do
I think that you will prove a base man or a cowardly person, if really
when you are so young the Gods follow you to be your guides.
For truly this is none other of
those that have their residence on Olympus but the daughter of Zeus, Tritogeneia,
the maid most glorious, she that honored also your noble father among the
 Now, O Queen, be gracious, and grant to me fair
renown, to me and to my sons and to my revered wife; and to you in return
will I sacrifice a smooth and glossy cow, broad of brow, unbroken, which
no man have yet led beneath the yoke.
Her will I sacrifice, and I will
overlay her horns with gold.
 So he spoke in prayer, and Pallas
Athena heard him.
Then the horseman, Nestor of Gerenia,
led them, his sons and the husbands of his daughters, to his beautiful
And when they reached the glorious
palace of the king, they sat down in rows on the chairs and high seats;
 and on their coming the old man mixed for them a bowl of sweet wine,
which now in the eleventh year the housewife opened, when she had loosed
the string that held the lid.
Of it the old man bade a bowl be
mixed, and ardently he prayed, as he poured libations, to Athena,
the daughter of Zeus who bears the aegis.
And they led godlike Telemachus and
made him sit beside them; and the horseman, Nestor of Gerenia, was first
to speak among them:
-Quickly, my dear children, fulfill
my desire, that first of all the Gods I may propitiate Athena,
 who came to me in manifest presence to the rich feast of the God.
Come now, let one go to the plain
for a cow, that she may come speedily, and that the cowboy may drive her;
and let one go to the black ship of great-hearted Telemachus and bring
all his comrades, and let him leave two men only;  and let one again
bid the goldsmith Laerces come to this place, that he may overlay the cow's
horns with gold.
And do you others remain here
together; and bid the female servants within to make ready a feast throughout
our glorious living rooms, to go for seats, and logs to set on either side
of the altar, and to bring clear water.
 So he spoke, and they all set
busily to work.
The cowboy came from the plain and
from the quick, well proportioned ship came the comrades of great-hearted
Telemachus; the smith came, bearing in his hands his tools of bronze, the
implements of his craft, anvil and hammer and well-made tongs,  wherewith
he worked the gold; and Athena came to accept
Then the old man, Nestor, the driver
of chariots, gave gold, and the smith prepared it, and overlaid with that
the horns of the cow, that the Goddess might rejoice when she beheld the
And Stratius and goodly Echephron
led the cow by the horns,  and Aretus came from the chamber, bringing
them water for the hands in a basin embossed with flowers, and in the other
hand he held barley grains in a basket; and Thrasymedes, firm in fight,
stood by, holding in his hands a sharp axe, to strike the cow; and Perseus
held the bowl for the blood.
Then the old man, Nestor, driver of
chariots,  began the opening rite of hand-washing and sprinkling with
barley grains, and ardently he prayed to Athena,
cutting off as first offering the hair from the head, and casting it into
 Then fair-haired Menelaus answered
Helen and said:
-Yes truly, all this, wife, has
you spoken right. Before now have I come to know the counsel and the mind
of many warriors, and have traveled over the wide earth, but never yet
have mine eyes beheld such an one  as was Ulysses of the firm heart.
What a thing was this, too, which
that mighty man worked and endured in the carved horse, in which place
all we chiefs of the Argives were sitting, bearing to the Trojans death
Then you came to that place, and
it must be that you was bid  by some god, who wished to grant glory
to the Trojans, and godlike Deiphobus followed you on your way.
Three times did you go about the
hollow ambush, trying it with your touch, and you did name aloud the chieftains
of the Danaans by their names, likening your voice to the voices of the
wives of all the Argives.
 Now I and the son of Tydeus
and goodly Ulysses sat there in the middle and heard how you did call,
and we two were eager to rise up and come forth, or else to answer straightway
from within, but Ulysses held us back and stayed us, despite our eagerness.
 Then all the other sons
of the Achaeans held their peace, but Anticlus alone was willing to speak
and answer you; but Ulysses firmly closed his mouth with strong hands,
and saved all the Achaeans, and held him thus until Pallas
Athena led you away.
Then, disturbed to severe displeasure,
fair-haired Menelaus spoke to him:
-Out upon them, for truly in the
bed of a man of brave heart were they willing to lie, who are themselves
 Even as when in the thicket-lair
of a mighty lion a hind has laid to sleep her new-born suckling fawns,
and roams over the mountain slopes and grassy vales seeking pasture, and
then the lion comes to his lair and upon the two lets loose a cruel doom,
 so will Ulysses let loose a cruel doom upon these men.
I would, O father Zeus and Athena
and Apollo, that in such strength as when once in fair-stablished Lesbos
he rose up and wrestled a match with Philomeleides and threw him mightily,
and all the Achaeans rejoiced,  even in such strength Ulysses might
come among the pretenders; then should they all find quick destruction
and bitterness in their pretension.
Aias truly was lost in the middle
of his long-oared ships.
 Upon the great rocks of Gyrae
Poseidon at first drove him, but saved him from the sea; and he would have
escaped his doom, hated of Athena young he
was, had he not uttered a boastful word in great blindness of heart.
He declared that it was in spite
of the Gods that he had escaped the great gulf of the sea;  and Poseidon
heard his boastful speech, and straightway took his trident in his mighty
hands, and stroke the rock of Gyrae and broke it apart.
And one part remained in its place,
but the separated part fell into the sea, even that on which Aias sat at
the first when his heart was greatly blinded,  and it bore him down
into the boundless surging deep.
So there he perished, when he had
drunk the salt water.
Then the good nurse Eurycleia answered
-Dear lady, you may truly slay
me with the pitiless sword or let me remain in the house, yet will I not
hide my word from you.
 I knew all this, and gave
him whatever he bade me, bread and sweet wine.
But he took from me a mighty oath
not to tell you until at least the twelfth day should come, or you should
yourself miss him and hear that he was gone, that you might not ruin your
fair flesh with weeping.
 But now bathe yourself,
and take clean clothing for your body, and then go up to your upper chamber
with your handmaids and pray to Athena, the
daughter of Zeus who bears the aegis; for she may then save him even from
And trouble not a troubled old
man; for  the race of the son of Arceisius is not, it seems to me,
utterly hated by the blessed Gods, but there shall still be one, I think,
to hold the high-roofed living rooms and the rich fields far away.
So she spoke, and lulled Penelope's
laments, and made her eyes to cease from weeping.
She then bathed, and took clean clothing
for her body,  and went up to her upper chamber with her handmaids,
and placing barley grains in a basket prayed to Athena:
-Hear me, child of Zeus who bears
the aegis, indefatigable one.
If ever Ulysses, of many stratagems,
burned to you in his living rooms fat thigh-pieces of cows or ewe, 
remember these things now, I pray you, and save my dear son, and guard
off from him the pretenders in their evil insolence.
So saying she raised the sacred cry,
and the Goddess heard her prayer.
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©1999 Roy George