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 ( 6 )
 Then the Goddess, bright-eyed
took other counsel.
She made a phantom, and likened it
in form to a woman, Iphthime, daughter of great-hearted Icarius, whom Eumelus
married, whose home was in Pherae.
And she sent it to the house of divine
Ulysses,  to Penelope in the middle of her wailing and lamenting,
to ask her cease from weeping and tearful lamentation.
So into the chamber it passed by
the thong of the bolt, and stood above her head, and spoke to her, and
-Are you asleep Penelope, your
 No, the Gods that live at
ease suffer you not to weep or be distressed, seeing that your son is yet
to return; for in no wise is he a sinner in the eyes of the Gods.
Then the obscure phantom answered
her, and said:
 -Take heart, and be not
in your mind too sore afraid; since such a guide goes with him as men have
full often besought to stand by their side, for she has power, -- equable
And she pities you in your sorrow,
for she it is that has sent me forth to tell you this.
 Then again wise Penelope answered her:
-If you are indeed a God, and has listened to the voice
of a God, come, tell me, I pray you, also of that unfortunate one, whether
he still lives and beholds the light of the sun, or whether he is already
dead and in the house of Hades.
 And the obscure phantom answered her, and
-No, of him I may not speak at length, whether he be
alive or dead; it is an ill thing to speak words vain as wind.
So saying the phantom glided away by the bolt of the door
into the breath of the winds.
And  the daughter of Icarius started up from sleep,
and her heart was warmed with comfort, that so clear a vision had sped
to her in the darkness of night.
Now Dawn arose from her couch from
beside lordly Tithonus, to bear light to the immortals and to mortal men.
And the Gods were sitting down to council, and among them Zeus, who thunders
on high, whose might is supreme.
 To them Athena
was recounting the many afflictions of Ulysses, as she called them to mind;
for it troubled her that he abode in the dwelling of the nymph:
-Father Zeus, and you other blessed
Gods that are forever, never henceforward let sceptred king with a ready
heart be kind and gentle, nor let him heed righteousness in his mind; 
but let him ever be harsh, and work unrighteousness, seeing that no one
remembers divine Ulysses of the people whose lord he was; yet gentle was
he as a father.
He truly remains in an island
suffering grievous pains, in the living rooms of the nymph Calypso, who
 keeps him by force; and he cannot return to his own land, for he has
at hand no ships with oars and no comrades to send him on his way over
the broad back of the sea.
And now again they are minded
to slay his well-loved son on his homeward way; for he went in quest of
news of his father  to sacred Pylos and to goodly Lacedaemon.
Then Zeus, the cloud-gatherer, answered
her, and said:
-My child, what a word has escaped
the barrier of your teeth! Did you not yourself devise this plan, that
really Ulysses might take vengeance on these men at his coming?
 But concerning Telemachus,
do you guide him in your wisdom, for you can, that all without suffering
any injury he may reach his native land, and the suitors may come back
in their ship frustrated in their purpose.
So he drank and ate, [Hermes] the
messenger Argeiphontes.  But when he had dined and satisfied his soul
with food, then he made answer, and addressed her, saying:
-You, [Calypso] a Goddess,
do question me, a God, upon my coming, and I will speak my word truly,
since you ask me.
It was Zeus who asked me come
to or towards this place against my will.
 Who of his own will would
speed over so great space of salt sea-water, great past telling? Nor is
there at hand any city of mortals who offer to the Gods sacrifice and choice
But it is in no wise possible
for any other God to evade or make void the will of Zeus, who bears the
 He says that there is here
with you a man most unhappy above all those warriors who around the city
of Priam fought for nine years, and in the tenth year sacked the city and
But on the way they sinned against
and she sent upon them an evil wind and long waves.  There all the
rest of his goodly comrades perished, but as for him, the wind and the
wave, as they bore him, brought him towards this place.
Him now Zeus asks you to send
on his way with all speed, for it is not his fate to perish here far from
his friends, but it is still his lot to see his friends and reach 
his high-roofed house and his native land.
So he spoke, and Calypso, the beautiful
 While he pondered thus in mind
and heart, Poseidon, the earth-shaker, made to rise up a great wave, dread
and grievous, arching over from above, and drove it upon him.
And as when a strong wind tosses
a heap of straw that is dry, and some it scatters here, some there, 
even so the wave scattered the long timbers of the raft. But Ulysses bestrode
one plank, as though he were riding a horse, and stripped off the garments
which beautiful Calypso had given him. Then straightway he stretched the
veil beneath his breast, and flung himself headlong into the sea with hands
outstretched,  ready to swim.
And the lord, the earth-shaker, saw
him, and he shook his head, and thus he spoke to his own heart:
-So now, after you have suffered
many ills, go wandering over the deep, till you come among the folk fostered
of Zeus. Yet even so, it seems to me, you shall not make any mock at your
 So saying, he lashed his fair-maned
horses, and came to Aegae, where is his glorious palace.
daughter of Zeus, took other counsel. She stayed the paths of the other
winds, and bade them all cease and be lulled to rest;  but she roused
the swift North Wind, and broke the waves before him, to the end that Zeus-born
Ulysses might come among the Phaeacians, lovers of the oar, escaping from
death and the fates.
Then for two nights and two days
he was driven about over the swollen waves, and full often his heart forboded
-Ha me, when Zeus has at length
granted me to see the land beyond my hopes, and lo, I have prevailed to
make my way and to cross this gulf,  nowhere does there appear a way
to come forth from the gray sea.
For outside are sharp rocks, and
around them the wave roars foaming, and the rock runs up perpendicular,
and the water is deep close in shore, so that in no wise is it possible
to plant both feet firmly and escape ruin.
 Haplessly were I to seek
to land, a great wave may seize me and dash me against the jagged rock,
and so shall my striving be in vain.
But if I swim on yet further in
hope to find shelving beaches and harbors of the sea, I fear me that the
storm-wind may catch me up again,  and bear me, groaning heavily,
over the teeming deep; or that some God may even send forth upon me some
great monster from out the sea -- and many such does glorious Amphitrite
For I know that [Poseidon] the
glorious Earth-shaker is filled with wrath against me.
While he pondered thus in mind and
heart,  a great wave bore him against the rugged shore. There would
his skin have been stripped off and his bones broken, had not the Goddess,
bright-eyed Athena, put a thought in his
On he rushed and seized the rock
with both hands, and clung to it, groaning, until the great wave went by.
 This way then did he escape this wave, but in its backward flow it
once more rushed upon him and stroke him, and flung him far out in the
And just as, when a cuttlefish is
dragged from its hole, many pebbles cling to its suckers, even so from
his strong hands  were bits of skin stripped off against the rocks;
and the great wave covered him.
Then really would unfortunate Ulysses
have perished beyond his fate, had not bright-eyed Athena
Making his way forth from the surge
where it belched upon the shore, he swam outside, looking ever toward the
land in hope to find  shelving beaches and harbors of the sea.
But when, as he swam, he came to
the mouth of a fair-flowing river, where seemed to him the best place,
since it was smooth of stones, and besides there was shelter from the wind,
he knew the river as he flowed forth, and prayed to him in his heart:
 -Hear me, O king, whosoever
you are. As to one greatly longed-for do I come to you, seeking to escape
from out the sea from the threats of Poseidon.
Reverend even in the eyes of the
immortal Gods is that man who comes as a wanderer, even as I have now come
to your stream and to your knees, after many toils.
 Nay, pity me, O king, for
I declare that I am your suppliant.
Then, as he pondered, this thing seemed
to him the better:  he went his way to the wood and found it near
the water in a clear space; and he crept beneath two bushes that grew from
the same spot, one of thorn and one of olive.
Through these the strength of the
wet winds could never blow, nor the rays of the bright sun beat, 
nor could the rain pierce through them, so closely did they grow, intertwining
one with the other.
Beneath these Ulysses crept and straightway
gathered with his hands a broad bed, for fallen leaves were there in plenty,
enough to shelter two men or three  in winter-time, however bitter
And the much-enduring goodly Ulysses
saw it, and was glad, and he lay down in the midst, and heaped over him
the fallen leaves.
And as a man hides a brand beneath
the dark embers in an outlying farm, a man who has no neighbors, 
and so saves a seed of fire, that he may not have to kindle it from some
other source, so Ulysses covered himself with leaves.
shed sleep upon his eyes, that it might enfold his lids and speedily free
him from toilsome weariness.
So he lay there asleep, the much-enduring
goodly Ulysses, overcome with sleep and weariness; but Athena
went to the land and city of the Phaeacians.
These dwelt of old in spacious Hypereia
 hard by the Cyclopes, men overweening in pride who plundered them continually
and were mightier than they.
From that place Nausithous, the godlike,
had removed them, and led and settled them in Scheria far from men that
live by toil.
About the city he had drawn a wall,
he had built houses  and made temples for the Gods, and divided the
plowlands; but he, before now, had been stricken by fate and had gone to
the house of Hades, and Alcinous was now king, made wise in counsel by
To his house went the Goddess, bright-eyed
to contrive the return of great-hearted Ulysses.
She went to a chamber, richly wrought,
wherein slept a maiden like the immortal Goddesses in form and comeliness,
Nausicaa, the daughter of great-hearted Alcinous; hard by slept two hand-maidens,
gifted with beauty by the Graces, one on either side of the door-posts,
and the bright doors were shut.
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©1999 Roy George