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 ( 16 )
 Meanwhile the Sicilian handmaid
bathed great-hearted Laertes in his house, and anointed him with oil, and
about him cast a fair cloak.
drew near, and made greater the limbs of the shepherd of the people, and
made him taller than before and mightier to behold.
 Then he came forth from the
bath, and his dear son marveled at him, seeing him in presence like unto
the immortal Gods.
And he spoke, and addressed him with
-Father, surely some one of the
Gods that are forever has made you better to behold in comeliness and in
 Then wise Laertes answered him:
-I would, O father Zeus, and Athena,
and Apollo, that in such strength as when I took Nericus, the well built
citadel on the shore of the mainland, when I was lord of the Cephallenians,
even in such strength I had stood by your side yesterday in our house 
with my armor about my shoulders, and had beaten back the suitors.
So should I have loosened the
knees of many of them in the living rooms, and your heart would have been
made glad within you.
spoke to Zeus, son of Cronus, saying:
-Father of us all, you son of
Cronus, high above all lords, tell to me that ask you what purpose your
mind now hides within you.
 Will you yet further bring
to pass evil war and the dread din of battle, or will you establish friendship
between the two?
Then Zeus, the cloud-gatherer, answered
her, and said:
-My child, why do you ask and
question me of this?
Did you not yourself devise this
plan,  that really Ulysses should take vengeance on these men at his
Do as you will, but I will tell
you what is fitting.
Now that goodly Ulysses has taken
vengeance on the suitors, let them swear a solemn oath, and let him be
king all his days, and let us on our part  bring about a forgetting
of the slaying of their sons and brothers; and let them love one another
as before, and let wealth and peace abound.
So saying, he roused Athena,
who was already eager, and she went darting down from the heights of Olympus.
 But when they had clothed their
bodies in gleaming bronze, they opened the doors and went forth, and Ulysses
daughter of Zeus, drew near them in the likeness of Mentor both in form
and in voice, and the much-enduring, goodly Ulysses was glad at sight of
her,  and straightway spoke to Telemachus, his dear son:
-Telemachus, now shall you learn
this -- having yourself come to the place of battle, where the best warriors
are put to the trial -- to bring no disgrace upon the house of your fathers,
for we have ever excelled in strength and in valor over all the earth.
 And wise Telemachus answered
-You shall see me, if you will,
dear father, in my present temper, bringing no disgrace upon your house,
even as you say.
So said he, and Laertes was glad,
and spoke, saying:
-What a day is this for me, kind
 Truly right glad am I: my
son and my son's son are competing with one another in valor.
Then bright-eyed Athena
near him and said:
-Son of Arceisius, far the dearest
of all my friends, make a prayer to the bright-eyed maiden and to father
Zeus, and then straightway raise aloft your long spear, and hurl it.
 So spoke Pallas
Athena, and breathed into him great might.
Then he prayed to the daughter of
great Zeus, and straightway raised aloft his long spear, and hurled it,
and smote Eupeithes through the helmet with cheek-piece of bronze.
This stayed not the spear, but the
bronze passed through,  and he fell with a thud, and his armor clanged
Then on the foremost fighters fell
Ulysses and his glorious son, and thrust at them with swords and double-pointed
And now would they have slain them
all, and cut them off from returning, had not Athena,
daughter of Zeus, who bears the aegis,  shouted aloud, and checked
all the host, saying:
-Refrain, men of Ithaca, from
grievous war, that with all speed you may part, and that without bloodshed.
So spoke Athena,
and pale fear seized them.
Then in their terror the arms flew
from their hands  and fell one and all to the ground, as the Goddess
uttered her voice, and they turned toward the city, eager to save their
Terribly then shouted the much-enduring,
goodly Ulysses, and gathering himself together he swooped upon them like
an eagle of lofty flight, and at that moment the son of Cronus cast a flaming
thunderbolt,  and down it fell before the bright-eyed daughter
of the mighty sire.
Then bright-eyed Athena
spoke to Ulysses saying:
-Son of Laertes, sprung from Zeus,
Ulysses of many devices, stay your hand, and make the strife of equal war
to cease, that unfortunately the son of Cronus be wroth with you, constant
Zeus, whose voice is borne afar.
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©1999 Roy George