Saturday, 9 July 2011



As a sequel to Book VI, this book tells of how Odysseus manages to disarm the suspicions, and indeed to gain the support, of King Alcinous and Queen Arete. The 'topos' of 'xenia', the etiquette which is required in relation to hospitality to strangers, is at the centre of the book. In the end Odysseus is very well-treated,  but the long silence of Arete, whose understanding Nausicaa has told him is crucial, allows the suspense to be maintained for much of the book.

Compared with Virgil's Latin verse, Homer is relatively straightforward. both to scan and to translate, once one has become used to the number of different word endings to be found in his Epic or Old Ionic dialect, and also to the many words, especially verbs, which are not found in the more standard Attic works, such as those of Thucydides, Xenophon and Plato. Other features of Homeric Greek are the use of the article as a demonstrative and relative pronoun, the regular use of appositional noun phrases, and the frequent use of the indefinite construction with the subjunctive, both in temporal and relative clauses. On the other hand, the genitive absolute, so common in Attic Greek, is not found.  Compared with Latin hexameter poets such as Virgil and Ovid, Homer's metre is not difficult to scan. When elision occurs the relevant syllable at the end of a word is dropped in the text, and, if it is not dropped, then hiatus, very rare in Latin verse, occurs. Other differences compared with Latin hexameters are the much more frequent appearance of spondees in the fifth foot and the regular use of a weak caesura in the third foot. 

Ll. 1-45.  Nausicaa returns to the palace.

So he prayed there, the much-enduring noble Odysseus, and the strength of the (two) mules bore the maiden to the city. But, when she came to the glorious palace of her father, she brought (them) to a halt in the front gateway, and her brothers stood around her resembling the immortals, (and) then they loosed the mules from the cart and carried the raiment inside. And she herself went to her bed-chamber; and her chamber-maid Eurymedusa, an aged woman from Apeira, had kindled a fire for her; long ago the curved ships had brought her from Apeira, and (men) had picked her out (as) a gift of honour for Alcinous, because he was king over all the Phaeacians, and they listened to (him) as (to) a god; (she it was) who had reared the white-armed Nausicaa in the palace. She had kindled the fire for her and had arranged her supper inside (her chamber).

Then, Odysseus roused himself to go to the city; and Athene, being kindly disposed to Odysseus, shed a thick mist around (him), lest any of the great-hearted Phaeacians encountering (him) should taunt (him) with words and enquire into who he was. But, when he was about to enter the lovely city, then the goddess, bright-eyed Athene, met him, resembling a young unmarried woman, carrying a pitcher. She stood before him; and he, the noble Odysseus, questioned (her thus):

'O child, could you not guide me to the house of the man (called) Alcinous, who is king among these people (here)? For I am come hither, a much-suffering stranger from far away from a distant land; therefore I do not know any of the men who inhabit this city and this land (lit. these works).'

In turn the goddess, bright-eyed Athene, addressed him (thus):

'Certainly, father stranger, I shall show you the house which you are bidding me (to do), since it  is situated near (to the house) of my excellent father. But go in silence especially, and I shall lead the way, but do not look at any of the men nor question (them). For they do not much tolerate alien men, nor do they welcome hospitably (anyone) who may have come from elsewhere. They indeed, trusting in their fast swift ships, cross over the great gulf (of the sea), since the earth-shaker has granted (this) to them; their ships (are) quick as if a (they are) a bird or a thought.'

So speaking, Pallas Athene led (the way); and he then went in (lit. after) the footsteps of the goddess. And so the Phaeacians, famous for their ships, did not notice him going across the city through them; for the fair-tressed Athene, the dread goddess, did not allow (it), so she, being kindly disposed (to him) in her heart, shed about him a wondrous mist. And Odysseus marvelled at the harbours and the well-balanced ships, and the assembly places of the heroes themselves, and the long high walls fitted with stakes, a wonder to be seen.

Ll. 46-83.  Athene tells Odysseus about Alcinous and Arete. 

But, when they came to the glorious palace of the king, the goddess, the bright-eyed Athene, began speaking among them (thus):

'This (is) the house, I would have you know, father stranger, which you bid me to point out (to you); and you will find the kings, cherished by Zeus, feasting at their banquet; and do you go inside, and do not fear anything in your heart, for a bold man proves to be better in all tasks, even if he were to come from some place elsewhere. You will come upon the queen first in the palace; Arete is the name given (to her) and (she is sprung) from the same parents who in fact produced king Alcinous. First, the earth-shaker Poseidon and Periboea, the foremost of women in beauty, the youngest daughter of great-hearted Eurymedon, who once ruled over the arrogant Giants, produced Nausithous. But he destroyed his reckless people, and was himself destroyed, but Poseidon lay with her (i.e. Periboea) and sired a son, great-hearted Nausithous, who ruled among the Phaeacians. And Nausithous sired both Rhexenor and Alcinous. Apollo, the lord of the silver bow,  smote him (i.e. Rhexenor) in his great hall, newly married (as he was), (and) being without a son, leaving only one daughter, Arete; and Alcinous made her his wife, and honoured her as not any other woman on earth is honoured, of all (lit. as many as) the women today who keep house under the authority of their husbands. Thus, she has been honoured and is (honoured) beyond (others) in heart both by her dear children and by Alcinous himself and (by) the people, who, looking upon her as a goddess, welcome (her) with their words, when she goes through the city. For she is herself also not in any way lacking in a good understanding; and (for those) to whom she is well disposed, even men, she settles disputes. If she is kindly disposed to you in her heart, then (there is) hope for you that you may see your friends and come to your high-roofed house and to your native land.

So, speaking thus, the bright-eyed Athene went away over the barren sea, and left lovely Scheria, and she came to Marathon and Athens with its wide streets, and entered the well-built house of Erechtheus. But Odysseus went to the glorious palace of Alcinous; and his heart as he kept stopping (lit. the heart of him stopping) pondered much, before he reached the bronze threshold.

Ll. 84-102.  The magnificence of the palace.

For there was a radiance as of  the sun or of the moon over the high-roofed palace of great-hearted Alcinous. For bronze walls had been constructed (lit. drawn) on this side and on that, from the threshold to the innermost part (of the great hall), and around (them was) a frieze of blue enamel; and doors of gold closed in the well-built house; and door-posts of silver had been set in a threshold of bronze, and the lintel above (was) of silver and the door-handle of gold. On either side (of the door) there were gold and silver dogs, which Hephaestus had made with skilful ingenuity to guard the palace of great-hearted Alcinous, being immortal and ageless all their days. Within, seats had been set around the wall on this side and on that, from the threshold to the innermost part (of the great hall) continuously, (and) here on (them) were thrown delicate finely-spun robes, the handiwork of women. And there the leaders of the Phaeacians were used to sit, drinking and eating; for they had these things abundantly. And golden youths stood on well-built pedestals, holding blazing torches in their hands, giving light to the banqueteers throughout the palace during the night.

Ll. 103-111.  The illustrious women servants.

And he had (lit. [there were] to him) fifty women servants throughout the palace: some grind the yellow corn on the millstone; others weave webs and, (while) sitting, twirl the yarn, like the leaves of a tall poplar-tree; and the moist olive-oil drips down from the closely-woven cloth. As much as the Phaeacians (are) skilful beyond all (other) men in sailing a swift ship upon the sea, so are the women skilled at the loom; for Athene has given to them beyond (others) that they should be acquainted with very beautiful handiwork, and brave hearts.

Ll. 112-121.  The orchard.

But outside the courtyard near the doors (there is) a great orchard of four measures of land; and a fence has been built (lit. drawn) around (it) on both sides. And within grow tall (and) flourishing trees, pears and pomegranates and apple-trees with splendid fruit, and sweet figs and luxuriantly growing olives.  Of these the fruit does not ever perish throughout the year, (and) fails neither in the winter nor in the summer; but the West Wind, blowing absolutely always, makes some (fruit) grow and ripens others. Pear upon pear ripens, apple upon apple, and cluster of grapes upon cluster of grapes and fig upon fig.

Ll. 122-132.  The vineyards, the garden, and the springs.

There too is planted his fruitful vineyard, one part of which, a warm spot on level ground, is being dried in the sun, and next (men) gather other (clusters), and others they tread; and in the foreground are unripe grapes shedding their flowers, and others are turning purple. And there, by the outermost row (of vines) well-ordered vegetable-beds of every kind are producing, (and) are in full slendour continuously; and therein (there are) two springs, one of which is dispersed throughout the whole garden, and the one on the other side flows beneath the courtyard towards the high house, from where the citizens draw their water. Such then were the splendid gifts of the gods in (the house) of Alcinous.

Ll. 133-152.  Odysseus enters the main hall and supplicates Arete.

There, the much-enduring noble Odysseus gazed in wonder as he stood (lit. standing). But when he had marvelled at everything in his heart, he passed quickly over the threshold inside the palace. And (there) he found the leaders and the chief men of the Phaeacians pouring libations from their cups to the keen-sighted slayer of Argus (i.e. Hermes), to whom they were accustomed to pour a libation last (of all), whenever they remembered sleep. But he, the much-enduring noble Odysseus, went through the palace, wearing the thick mist which Athene had shed over him, until he came to both Arete and king Alcinous. And then Odysseus cast his hands around Arete's knees, and then at once the wondrous mist was dispersed (lit. was poured back) from him. And those in the house seeing the man became silent, and, looking at (him) they marvelled; but Odysseus made his supplication (thus):

'(O) Arete, daughter of godlike Rhexenor, both to your husband and to your knees am I come, having suffered many things, and to these banqueteers, to whom may the gods grant prosperity in life (lit. in living), and may each (of them) bequeath to his children the wealth in his hall and any gift of honour which the people have given (him). But, hasten my escort so that I may reach my native land quickly, since I have been suffering miseries (far) away from my friends for a long time.'

Ll. 153-166.  Echeneus offers counsel.

So speaking, he sat down on the hearth in the ashes by the fire; and then they all were in silence, without speaking. But, at length, the old hero Echeneus addressed (them), (he) who was an elder among the Phaeacian men, and he excelled in speech, (while) understanding many ancient matters. He spoke to them with good intent, and addressed (them thus):

'Alcinous, this (is) surely not a better (way), nor is it seemly, that a stranger should sit on the floor in the ashes on the hearth; but these (others) are holding back, awaiting your word. But come now, may you make the stranger to stand up (and) sit (him) upon a silver-studded chair, and do you bid the heralds to mix the wine, so that we may pour a libation also to Zeus who hurls the thunderbolt and who at the same time pays attention to honoured suppliants; and let the housekeeper give supper to the stranger (from the stores) that are (lit. being) within (the house).'

Ll. 167-177.  Odysseus receives hospitality.

But when the holy strength of Alcinous heard this, taking the wise Odysseus, a man full of various wiles by the hand, he raised (him) from the hearth and sat (him) upon a gleaming chair, making to stand up his son, the manly Laodamas, who was sitting near him, and he loved him most of all. Then, a handmaid, bringing water for hand-washing in a fair golden jug, poured (it) over a silver basin, (for him) to wash. And she put in place a polished table beside (him). And the respectable housekeeper, bringing food, set (it) before (him), placing before (him) many dainties giving generously (from the provisions) available. And he, the much-enduring noble Odysseus, drank and ate;

Ll. 178-183.  The libation. 

And then the strength of Alcinous spoke to a herald:

'Pontonos, mixing the bowl, serve wine to all in the hall, so that we may pour libations also to Zeus who hurls the thunderbolt, and who at the same time pays attention to honoured suppliants.'

Thus he spoke, and Pontonos mixed the mellow (lit. sweet to the mind) wine, and then served (it) to all, pouring the first drops into the cups (for a libation).

Ll. 184-206.  Alcinous' advice. He wonders if Odysseus is a god.

But, when they had poured libations and drunk as much as their hearts wished, then Alcinous addressed (them) publicly and spoke to them (thus):

'Hear (me), leaders and chief men of the Phaeacians, so that I may say what the heart in my breast bids me.  Having now feasted, going home, go to bed; but in the morning, having called more of the elders to (us), let us entertain the stranger in our hall and perform splendid sacrifices to the gods, and we shall also think about his escort, how without toil and pain the stranger may, under our escort, come, quickly (and) rejoicing, to his native land, even if it is very far away, nor in the meantime will he suffer any evil and harm, until he sets foot upon his own land; and then he shall suffer there whatever fate and the dread Spinners spun out with their thread for him at his birth (lit. being born), when his mother bore him. But, if one of the immortals has come down from heaven, then indeed this is something new (lit. else) (that) the gods are contriving. For always in the past the gods have appeared to us in manifest form, whenever we perform glorious hecatombs, and they feast among us, sitting just where we (sit). And, if even some lone passer-by, going (on his way), meets (them), they do not use concealment at all, since we are closely related to them, just as the Cyclopes and the wild tribes of the Giants (are).'

Ll. 207-227.  Odysseus' reply.

And in answer (lit. answering) the wily Odysseus said to him: 'Alcinous, may something else be a care to your mind; for I am not in the least like the immortals who hold the broad heaven, not in form nor in stature, but (like) mortal men; those among men whom you know bearing misery above all others, to them would I liken myself in my sorrows. And yes, I could yet speak of even more evils, as many as I have endured by the will of the gods. But allow me (now) to eat, even though I am (lit. being) in distress; for there is not anything else more shameful than (lit. over and above) a hateful stomach which bids a man of necessity to remember (it), even (though) he is (lit. being) very exhausted and having grief in his heart, as I too have grief in my heart, and it bids (me) absolutely always to eat and drink, and makes me utterly forgetful of everything which I have suffered, and commands (me) to eat my fill. But, do you make haste at sunrise (lit. at the same time as the sun appearing), so that you may set me, that miserable man, upon my homeland, even though (I am) suffering many things; may life leave me, too, once I have seen (lit. seeing) my property and my slaves and my great high-roofed house.'

So he spoke, and then all approved (his words) and bade the escorting of the stranger, since he had spoken appropriately (lit. according to due measure).

Ll. 228-239.  Arete questions Odysseus.

But, when they had poured the libations and drunk as much as their hearts wished, they went, each man to his home, to go to bed, but the noble Odysseus was left behind in the hall, and beside him sat both Arete and the godlike Alcinous; and the handmaids cleared away the utensils of the feast. Then, the white-armed Arete began speaking to them; for, seeing (it), she knew his fine raiment, both his cloak and his tunic, which she herself had wrought with her women attendants; and, speaking in a loud voice, she addressed him (with) winged words;

'Stranger, this (question) I shall ask you first myself. Who are you among men (and) from where? Who gave you this raiment? Indeed, did you not say that you came here, wandering over the sea?'

Ll. 240-263.  Odysseus tells how Calypso detained him.

But, in answer (lit. answering), the wily Odysseus addressed her (thus): '(It is) hard, (O) queen, to tell the tale of my troubles right through to the end, since the heavenly gods have given me many; but I shall tell you this, of what you are asking and enquiring of me. A certain island, Ogygia, lies far off in the sea, where dwells the fair-tressed daughter of Atlas, the crafty Calypso, a dread goddess; nor does anyone, either among the gods or among mortal men, mix with her. But divine providence brought me, that wretched man, to her hearth alone, since Zeus, holding back my swift ship with his flashing thunderbolt, splintered (it) in the midst of the wine-dark sea. There all the rest of my trusty comrades perished, but I, taking in my arms the keel of my curved ship, was borne (adrift) for nine days; on the tenth black night the gods brought me to the island of Ogygia, where dwells the fair-tressed Calypso, a dread goddess, who, taking me (to her home), looked after (me) and said that she would make (me) immortal and ageless all my days; but she did not ever convince my heart in its breast. There I remained continuously for seven years, and all that time did I wet with my tears the raiment, which, imperishable (as it was), Calypso gave me; but when the eighth year, coming round for me, arrived, then, urging (me) on, under the influence of a message from Zeus, or even her own mind was changed, she bade me to go.

Ll. 264-274.  Odysseus' raft and the anger of Poseidon.

But she sent (me on my way) upon a raft with many fastenings, and she gave (me) many things, food and sweet wine, and she clothed (me) in imperishable raiment, and she sent forth a fair wind, both gentle and warm. For seventeen (lit. for seven and ten) days I sailed traversing the sea, and on the eighteenth (day) appeared the shadowy mountains of your land, and my own heart rejoiced, ill-fated (as I was); for, to be sure, I was yet about to experience great woe, which Poseidon, the earth-shaker, brought upon me, (Poseidon), who, stirring up the winds against me, prevented (me) from (continuing) my voyage, and aroused an immense sea, nor did the wave in any way allow (me) to be carried on my raft, as I groaned (lit. groaning) ceaselessly.

Ll. 275-297.  Odysseus explains how he came ashore and met Nausicaa.

Then indeed the squall broke up and scattered it (i.e. the raft); but I, (by) swimming, clove (my way) through this gulf (of the sea), until the wind and the waves, bearing (me), brought me to your land. There the waves would have forced me, (trying) to come ashore, on to the land, hurling (me) against a great rock and on to a joyless place; but, drawing back, I swam back, until I came to a river, where seemed to me the best place, (being) smooth of rocks, and besides there was shelter from the wind. And, (coming) out of (the water), I sank down, gasping for breath, and divine night came on; and I, going forth out of the river dropped by Zeus, fell asleep in the bushes, and heaped up leaves round and about (myself); and a god shed over (me) an endless sleep. There among the leaves, being troubled in respect of my own heart, I slept all night long, and on through dawn and (into) the middle of the day; the sun was beginning to set, before (lit. and now) sweet sleep left me. Then, I noticed the attendants of your daughter playing on the beach, and among (them) was she, like unto a goddess. I supplicated her; and she did not in any way fail in excellent understanding, as you would not expect a younger person to do (when) encountering (you); for younger people always act thoughtlessly. She gave me food in abundance and sparkling wine, and she washed (me) in the river, and gave me this raiment. Even though grieving, I have recounted this to you (as) the truth.'

Ll. 298-307.  Odysseus defends Nausicaa.  

Then, in turn, Alcinous answered him, and declared: 'Stranger, indeed I would have you know, my child was not minded aright in this respect, because she did not in any way bring you to our (house) with her attendant women; although (lit. and then) you supplicated her first (of all).'

Then, in answer (lit. answering), the wily Odysseus addressed him: 'Hero, do not, I ask you (lit. for me), reproach your blameless daughter on account of that; for she did indeed bid me follow with her attendants; but I was not willing, being afraid and ashamed, lest perhaps your heart might be angry, when you saw (me) (lit. seeing [me]); for we are exceedingly suspicious, (we) races of men upon the earth.'

Ll. 308-333.  Alcinous offers Odysseus conveyance to his home.

Then, again, Alcinous answered him and declared: 'Stranger, my heart in my breast (is) not of such a kind as to be angry without good reason; and due measure (is) better in all things. Would, (O) father Zeus and Athene and Apollo, that you, being such a man as you are, and thinking the things which I (do) exactly, should have my daughter (to wife) and be called my son-in-law, remaining here. And I would also give (you) a house and possessions, if you were to remain (here) willingly; but no one among the Phaeacians will detain you against your will; and may this not be welcome to father Zeus. And, in respect of your escort (home), I appoint (it) for the following (time), so that you may know it well, (even) for tomorrow; and then you will lie down, overcome by sleep, and they shall sail (lit. drive) over a calm (sea), until you may reach your native-land and your house, and anywhere, if it is dear to you, even if it is even very much further away than Euboea, which (those) of our people who saw it, when they took fair-haired Rhadamanthus to visit Tityus, the son of Gaea, say is indeed the most distant (of lands). And they went there, and on the same day, without weariness, they accomplished (the journey) and made (the journey) back home. And you yourself too will know in your mind by how much my ships (are) the best and my young men (are the best) at throwing up the sea with the oar.'

So he spoke, and the much-enduring noble Odysseus rejoiced, and then in prayer (lit. praying) he spoke and said (some) words and uttered (them) aloud:

'(O) father Zeus, would that Alcinous may fulfil all the things which (lit. as many as) he has said; (would) that his fame be inextinguishable over the grain-giving earth, and that I may reach my native-land.'

Ll. 334-347.  To bed!

Thus they spoke such things to one another, and the white-armed Arete bade her attendants to place a bedstead under the porch and to throw fair purple blankets upon (it), and to spread coverlets on top, and to place fleecy mantles above to cover (it). So they went out of the great hall, holding torches in their hands. But, when they had busily spread the stout bedstead, standing near to Odysseus, they roused (him) with these words: 'Stir yourself to go to bed, O stranger! A bed had been made for you.' Thus they spoke; and it seemed welcome to him to go to sleep. So he, the much-enduring noble Odysseus slumbered there on the corded (lit. pierced) bedstead under the echoing portico; and then Alcinous lay down in the innermost (chamber) of the lofty house, and beside (him) his lady wife prepared the bed and bedclothes.

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