Odysseus was a Grandfather: Telemachus’ Night at Nestor’s

The obsession with Odysseus’ family life continues (a sister and now a grandson!): My students always have questions when they read about Telemachus’ stay in Pylos at Nestor’s home. Before one banquet, he is bathed by Nestor’s youngest daughter Polycaste (3.464-5):

“Then pretty Polycaste, the youngest daughter of Nestor the son of Neleus, bathed Telemachus”

  τόφρα δὲ Τηλέμαχον λοῦσεν καλὴ Πολυκάστη, Νέστορος ὁπλοτάτη θυγάτηρ Νηληϊάδαο.

The commentators Heubeck, West and Hainsworth (1988, 189) suggest that this scene was invented by Homer to anticipate the birth of Telemachus’ son recorded in the Hesiodic Catalogue of Women. We have this fragment from Eustathius: Hes. Fr. 221 (Eustathius in Hom. (π 117—20) p. 1796. 38)

“Well-belted Polycaste, the youngest daughter of Nestor Neleus’ son, gave birth to Persepolis after having sex with Telemachus Thanks to golden Aphrodite.”

Τηλεμάχωι δ’ ἄρ’ ἔτικτεν ἐύζωνος Πολυκάστη Νέστορος ὁπλοτάτη κούρη Νηληϊάδαο Περσέπολιν μιχθεῖσα διὰ χρυσῆν ᾿Αφροδίτην

I don’t know if I really buy the suggestion that the Homeric passage is already referring to this idea.  The lines from Hesiod seem a little late (the separation of the dative Τηλεμάχωι from μιχθεῖσα is a little severe for Homer) and the lines seem ‘copied’ rather than formulaic: the middle line is straight from the Odyssey and the final one is awfully close to a disputed line from the Theogony: Th. 1014: [Τηλέγονον δὲ ἔτικτε διὰ χρυσῆν ᾿Αφροδίτην·] In any case, what I love about this fragment is that someone, like my students, imagined that the bathing scene was not that innocent after all! Here’s an update for this–after more searching, it seems that Telemachus has several different possible marriages in the mythical tradition: Hellanikos has Telemachus marry Nausicaa Hesiod has Telemachus married to Polycaste, Nestor’s daughter Eugammon has Telemachus married to Kirke Lykophron has Telemachus marry Kassiphone, the daughter of Kirke and Odysseus From these possible pairings, the children are limited: Persepolis is the son of Telemachus and Polycaste according to Hesiod; Perseptolis, son of Nausicaa and Telemachus according to Eustathius; Andokidês is the son, according to Hellanikos

6 thoughts on “Odysseus was a Grandfather: Telemachus’ Night at Nestor’s

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