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 ( 11 )
So saying, Athena
touched him with her wand.
 She withered the fair flesh
on his supple limbs, and destroyed the flaxen hair from off his head, and
about all his limbs she put the skin of an aged old man.
And she dimmed his two eyes that
were before so beautiful, and clothed him in other clothing,  a vile
ragged cloak and a tunic, tattered garments and foul, begrimed with filthy
And about him she cast the great
skin of a swift hind, stripped of the hair, and she gave him a staff, and
a miserable wallet, full of holes, slung by a twisted cord.
So when the two had thus taken counsel
together, they parted; and thereupon the Goddess  went to goodly Lacedaemon
to fetch the son of Ulysses .
But Ulysses went forth from the harbor
by the rough path up over the woodland and through the heights to the place
where Athena had showed him that he should
find the goodly swineherd, who cared for his substance above all the slaves
that goodly Ulysses had gotten.
 He found him sitting in the fore-hall
of his house, where his court was built high in a place of wide outlook,
a great and goodly court with an open space around it.
Now all that strength is gone;
yet even so, in seeing the stubble, it seems to me  you may judge
what the grain was; for truly troubles in full measure encompass me.
But then Ares and Athena
me courage, and strength that breaks the ranks of men; and whenever I picked
the best warriors for an ambush, sowing the seeds of evil for the enemy,
never did my proud spirit feared death,  but ever far the first did
I leap forth, and slay with my spear whosoever of the enemy gave way in
flight before me.
But Pallas Athena
went to spacious Lacedaemon to remind the glorious son of great-hearted
Ulysses of his return, and to hasten his coming.
She found Telemachus and the noble
son of Nestor  lying in the fore-hall of the palace of glorious Menelaus.
Now Nestor's son was overcome with
soft sleep, but sweet sleep did not hold Telemachus, but all through the
immortal night anxious thoughts for his father kept him wakeful.
And bright-eyed Athena
stood near him, and said:
 -Telemachus, you do not well
to wander longer far from your home, leaving behind you your wealth and
men in you house so insolent, that they divide and devour all your possessions,
and you shall have gone on a fruitless journey.
Nay, rouse with all speed Menelaus,
good at the war-cry,  to send you on your way, that you may find your
noble mother still in her home.
For now her father and her brothers
ask her wed Eurymachus, for he surpasses all the suitors in his presents,
and has increased his gifts of wooing.
Beware that she carry forth from
your living rooms some treasure against your will.
 For you know what sort of
a spirit there is in a woman's breast; she is fain to increase the house
of the man who weds her, but of her former children and of the lord of
her youth she takes no thought, when once he is dead, and asks no longer
Nay, go, and yourself put all
your possessions in the charge of whatsoever one  of the handmaids
seems to you the best, until the Gods shall show you a noble bride.
And another thing will I tell
you, and do you lay it to heart.
The best men of the suitors lie
in wait for you of set purpose in the strait between Ithaca and rugged
Samos,  eager to slay you before you come to your native land.
But it seems to me this shall
not be; before that shall the earth cover many a one of the suitors that
devour your substance.
But do you keep your well-built
ship far from the islands, and sail by night as well as by day, and that
 one of the Immortals, who keeps and guards you, will send a fair breeze
in your wake.
But when you has reached the nearest
shore of Ithaca, send your ship and all your comrades on to the city, but
yourself go first of all to the swineherd who keeps your swine, and moreover
has a kindly heart toward you.
 There do you spend the night,
and ask him to go to the city to bear word to wise Penelope that she has
you safe, and you are come from Pylos.
So saying, she departed to high Olympus.
He really was busied in this way,
and was praying and offering sacrifice to Athena
by the stern of the ship, when there drew near to him a man from a far
land, one that was fleeing out of Argos because he had slain a man; 
and he was a seer. (...)
Theoclymenus by name, who now came
and stood by Telemachus; and he found him pouring libations and praying
by his swift, black ship, and he spoke, and addressed him with winged words:
 -Friend, since I find you
making burnt-offering in this place, I ask you by your offerings and by
the God, aye, and by your own life and the lives of your comrades who follow
you, tell me truly what I ask, and hide it not.
Who are you among men, and from
what place? Where is your city, and where your parents?
 Then he sat down in the stern
and made Theoclymenus sit down beside him; and his men loosed the stern
And Telemachus called to his men
and bade them lay hold of the tackling, and they quickly obeyed. The mast
of fir  they raised and set in the hollow socket, and made it fast
with fore-stays, and hauled up the white sail with twisted thongs of oxhide.
And bright-eyed Athena
them a favorable wind, blowing strongly through the sky, that, speeding
swiftly, the ship might accomplish her way over the salt water of the sea.
 So they fared past Crouni and Chalcis, with its beautiful streams.
With this he roused the swineherd,
and he took his sandals in his hands  and bound them beneath his feet
and went forth to the city.
Nor was Athena
that the swineherd Eumaeus was gone from the farmstead, but she drew near
in the likeness of a woman, comely and tall, and skilled in glorious handiwork.
And she stood over against the door
of the hut, showing herself to Ulysses,  but Telemachus did not see
her before him, or notice her; for in no wise do the Gods appear in manifest
presence to all.
But Ulysses saw her, and the dogs,
and they barked not, but with whining slunk in fear to the further side
of the farmstead.
Then she made a sign with her brows,
and goodly Ulysses perceived it,  and went forth from the living room,
past the great wall of the court, and stood before her, and Athena
to him, saying:
-Son of Laertes, sprung from Zeus,
Ulysses of many devices, even now do you reveal your word to your son,
and hide it not, that when you two have planned death and fate for the
suitors,  you may go to the famous city.
Nor will I myself be long away
from you, for I am eager for the battle.
With this, Athena
him with her golden wand.
A well-washed cloak and a tunic she
first of all cast about his breast, and she increased his stature and his
 Once more he grew dark of color,
and his cheeks filled out, and dark grew the beard about his chin.
Then, when she had wrought thus,
she departed, but Ulysses went into the hut. And his dear son marveled,
and, seized with fear, turned his eyes aside, unless it should be a God.
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©1999 Roy George