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 ( 8 )
But when he was about to enter the
lovely city, then the Goddess, bright-eyed Athena,
met him  in the guise of a young maiden carrying a pitcher, and she
stood before him; and goodly Ulysses questioned her, saying:
-My child, could you not guide
me to the house of him they call Alcinous, who is lord among the people
For I am come towards this place
a stranger sore-tried  from afar, from a distant country; wherefore
I know no one of the people who possess this city and land.
Then the Goddess, bright-eyed
-Then truly, Sir stranger, I will
show you the palace as you do ask me, for it lies hard by the house of
my own noble father.
 Only go you quietly, and
I will lead the way.
But turn not your eyes upon any
man nor question any, for the men here endure not stranger-folk, nor do
they give kindly welcome to him who comes from another land.
They, indeed, trusting in the
speed of their swift ships,  cross over the great gulf of the sea,
for this the Earth-shaker [Poseidon] has granted them; and their ships
are swift as a bird on the wing or as a thought.
So speaking, Pallas
Athena led the way quickly, and he followed in the footsteps of
 And as he went through the city
in the middle of them, the Phaeacians, famed for their ships, took no heed
of him, for fair-tressed Athena, the dread
Goddess, would not suffer it, but shed about him a wonderful mist, for
her heart was kind toward him.
And Ulysses marveled at the harbors
and the stately ships, at the meeting-places where the heroes themselves
gathered, and the walls, long and  high and crowned with palisades,
a wonder to behold.
But when they had come to the glorious
palace of the king, the Goddess, bright-eyed Athena,
was the first to speak, saying:
-Here, Sir stranger, is the house
which you did ask me show to you, and you will find the kings, fostered
of Zeus,  feasting at the banquet.
Go you within, and let your heart
fear nothing; for a bold man is better in all things, though he be a stranger
from another land.
The queen shall you approach first
in the palace; Arete is the name by which she is called,  and she is
sprung from the same line as is the king Alcinous.
Nausithous at the first was born
from the earth-shaker Poseidon and Periboea, the comeliest of women, youngest
daughter of great-hearted Eurymedon, who once was king over the insolent
Giants.  But he brought destruction on his perverse people, and was
But with Periboea lay Poseidon
and begot a son, great-hearted Nausithous, who ruled over the Phaeacians;
and Nausithous begot Rhexenor and Alcinous. Rhexenor, when as yet he had
no son, Apollo of the silver bow smote  in his living room, a bridegroom
though he was, and he left only one daughter, Arete.
Her Alcinous made his wife, and
honored her as no other woman on earth is honored, of all those who in
these days direct their households in subjection to their husbands; so
heartily is she honored,  and has ever been, by her children and by
Alcinous himself and by the people, who look upon her as upon a Goddess,
and greet her as she goes through the city.
For she of herself is no wise
lacking in good understanding, and for the women to whom she has good will
she makes an end of strife even among their husbands.  If in her sight
you do win favor, then there is hope that you will see your friends, and
return to your high-roofed house and unto your native land.
So saying, bright-eyed Athena
departed over the unresting sea, and left lovely Scheria.  She came
to Marathon and broad-wayed Athens, and entered the well-built house of
Erechtheus; but Ulysses went to the glorious palace of Alcinous.
For as the Phaeacian men are skilled
above all others in speeding a swift ship upon the sea, so are the women
 cunning workers at the loom, for Athena
has given to them above all others skill in fair handiwork, and an understanding
There the much-enduring goodly Ulysses
stood and gazed. But when he had marveled in his heart at all things, 
he passed quickly over the threshold into the house.
There he found the leaders and counselors
of the Phaeacians pouring libations from their cups to the keen-sighted
Argeiphontes, to whom they were accustomed to pour the wine last of all,
when they were minded to go to their rest.
But the much-enduring goodly Ulysses
went through the living room,  wrapped in the thick mist which Athena
had shed about him, till he came to Arete and to Alcinous the king.
About the knees of Arete Ulysses
cast his hands, and straightway the wonderful mist melted from him, and
a hush fell upon all that were in the room at sight of the man,  and
they marveled as they looked upon him.
And again Alcinous answered him, and
-Stranger, not such is the heart
in my breast,  to be filled with wrath without a cause.
Better is due measure in all things.
I would, O father Zeus, and Athena
and Apollo, that you, so goodly a man, and like-minded with me, would have
my daughter to wife, and be called my son, and remain here; a house and
possessions would I give you,  if you should choose to remain, but
against your will shall no one of the Phaeacians keep you; let not that
be the will of father Zeus.
As soon as early Dawn appeared, the
rosy-fingered, the strong and mighty Alcinous rose from his couch, and
up rose also Zeus-born Ulysses, the sacker of cities.
And the strong and mighty Alcinous
led the way  to the place of assembly of the Phaeacians, which was builded
for them hard by their ships.
Towards that place they came and
sat down on the polished stones close by one another; and Pallas
Athena went throughout the city, in the likeness of the herald of
wise Alcinous, devising a return for great-hearted Ulysses.
 To each man's side she came, and spoke and said:
-Towards this place now, leaders
and counselors of the Phaeacians, come to the place of assembly, that you
may learn of the stranger who has newly come to the palace of wise Alcinous
after his wanderings over the sea, and in form is like unto the immortals.
 So saying she roused the spirit
and heart of each man, and speedily the place of assembly and the seats
were filled with men that gathered.
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©1999 Roy George