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 ( 7 )
 But like a breath of air the
Goddess sped to the couch of the maiden, and stood above her head, and
spoke to her, taking the form of the daughter of Dymas, famed for his ships,
a girl who was of like age with Nausicaa, and was dear to her heart.
Likening herself to her, the bright-eyed
spoke and said:
 -Nausicaa, how comes it that
your mother bore you so heedless?
Your bright clothing is lying
uncared for; yet your marriage is near at hand, when you must needs yourself
be clad in fair garments, and give other such to those who escort you.
It is from things like these,
you know, that good report goes up among men,  and the father and honored
Nay, come, let us go to wash them
at break of day, for I will follow with you to aid you, that you may with
speed make you ready; for you shall not long remain a maiden.
Even now you has suitors in the
land, the noblest  of all the Phaeacians, from whom is your own lineage.
Nay, come, bestir your noble father
early this morning that he make ready mules and a wagon for you, to bear
the girdles and robes and bright coverlets.
And for yourself, too, it is far
more seemly  to go thus than on foot, for the washing tanks are far
from the city.
So saying, the Goddess, bright-eyed
departed to Olympus, where, they say, is the abode of the Gods that stands
Neither is it shaken by winds nor
ever wet with rain, nor does snow fall upon it, but the air  is outspread
clear and cloudless, and over it hovers a radiant whiteness.
Therein the blessed Gods are glad
all their days, and towards that place went the bright-eyed one, when
she had spoken all her word to the maiden.
 But when she was about to yoke
the mules, and fold the fair clothing, in order to return homeward, then
the Goddess, bright-eyed Athena, took other
counsel, that Ulysses might awake and see the fair-faced maid, who should
lead him to the city of the Phaeacians.
 So then the princess tossed
the ball to one of her maidens; the maiden indeed she missed, but cast
it into a deep eddy, and thereat they cried aloud, and goodly Ulysses
awoke, and sat up, and thus he pondered in mind and heart:
-Woe is me! to the land of what
mortals am I now come?
 Are they cruel, and wild,
and unjust? or do they love strangers and fear the Gods in their thoughts?
There rang in my ears a cry as
of maidens, of nymphs who frequent the towering peaks of the mountains,
the springs that feed the rivers, and the grassy meadows!
 Can it be that I am somewhere
near men of human speech?
Nay, I will myself make trial
 Even so Ulysses was about
to enter the company of the fair-tressed maidens, naked though he was,
for need had come upon him.
But terrible did he seem to them,
all befouled with brine, and they shrank in fear, one here, one there,
along the jutting sand-spits.
Alone the daughter of Alcinous kept
her place, for  in her heart Athena put
courage, and took fear from her limbs.
She fled not, but stood and faced
him; and Ulysses pondered whether he should embrace the knees of the fair-faced
maid, and make his prayer, or whether, standing apart as he was, he should
ask earnestly her with gentle words, in hope that she might show him the
city and give him clothing.
Then they set Ulysses in a sheltered
place, as Nausicaa, the daughter of great-hearted Alcinous, bade, and beside
him they put a cloak and a tunic for clothing,  and gave him soft
olive oil in the flask of gold, and bade him bathe in the streams of the
Then among the maidens spoke goodly
-Maidens, stand over there apart,
that by myself I may wash the brine from my shoulders, and  anoint
myself with olive oil; for of a truth it is long since oil came near my
skin. But in your presence will I not bathe, for I am ashamed to make me
naked in the middle of fair-tressed maidens.
So he said, and they went apart and
told the princess. But with water from the river goodly Ulysses washed
from his skin  the brine which clothed his back and broad shoulders,
and from his head he wiped the scurf of the unresting sea.
But when he had washed his whole
body and anointed himself with oil, and had put on him the clothing which
the unmarried maid had given him, then Athena,
the daughter of Zeus, made him  taller to look upon and mightier,
and from his head she made the locks to flow in curls like unto the hyacinth
And as when a man overlays silver
with gold, a cunning workman whom Hephaestus and Pallas
Athena have taught all manner of craft, and full of grace is the
work he produces,  even so the Goddess shed grace upon his head and
Then he went apart and sat down on
the shore of the sea, gleaming with beauty and grace; and the damsel marveled
at him, and spoke to her fair-tressed handmaids, saying:
-Listen, white-armed maidens,
that I may say somewhat.  Not without the will of all the Gods who
hold Olympus does this man come among the godlike Phaeacians.
Before he seemed to me uncouth,
but now he is like the Gods, who hold broad heaven.
Would that a man such as he might
be called my husband,  dwelling here, and that it might please him
here to remain.
But come, my maidens; give to
the stranger food and drink.
Nay, stranger, do you quickly listen
to my words, that with all speed  you may win from my father an escort
and a return to your land.
You will find a goodly grove of
hard by the road, a grove of poplar trees.
In it a spring wells up, and round
about is a meadow.
There is my father's park and
fruitful vineyard, as far from the city as a man's voice carries when he
 Sit you down there, and
wait for a time, until we come to the city and reach the house of my father.
Well did they trot, well did they
ply their ambling feet, and she drove with care that  the maidens
and Ulysses might follow on foot, and with judgment did she ply the lash.
Then the sun set, and they came to
the glorious grove, sacred to Athena.
There Ulysses sat him down, and straightway
prayed to the daughter of great Zeus:
-Hear me, child of aegis-bearing
Zeus, unwearied one.
 Listen now to my prayer,
since before you did not listen when I was smitten, what time the glorious
Earth-shaker smote me.
Grant that I may come to the Phaeacians
as one to be welcomed and to be pitied.
So he spoke in prayer, and Pallas
Athena heard him; but she did not yet appear to him face to face,
for she feared  her father's brother [Poseidon]; but he furiously
raged against godlike Ulysses, until at length he reached his own land.
Then Ulysses roused himself to go
to the city, and Athena,  with kindly
purpose, cast about him a thick mist, that no one of the great-hearted
Phaeacians, meeting him, should speak mockingly to him, and ask him who
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©1999 Roy George