The ‘Trial’ Of Odysseus: The Ithacan Assembly in Odyssey 24

Aristophanes of Byzantium  and Aristarchus (according to the scholia) believed that the Odyssey should end at 23.296, once the happy couple have retired to their bed-chamber. But, of course, the epic does not end. Book 24 treats us to a second trip to the Underworld (where the suitors talk to Agamemnon), a final battle and dea ex machina and, in the middle, a public debate over what to do about Odysseus.

Even a less than generous reading would concede some points to all parties…

“In this way, they busied themselves with dinner in their halls.
But rumor went as a swift messenger everywhere through the city
singing of the hateful death and fate of the suitors.
And as each person heard this they traveled from different places
with weeping and lamentation up to Odysseus’ home
where they carried out the corpses and buried them,
while some from other cities they sent to their own homes
once they placed them to be carried on swift fishing boats.
Then, pained in their hearts, they gathered together in the assembly.
When they had collected there and were assembled,
Eupeithes stood among them and spoke.
Unforgettable grief sat in his thoughts over Antinoos
Who was the first man shining Odysseus killed.
Shedding tears for him, he addressed them and spoke:

“Friends, this man has devised a great accomplishment for the Achaeans:
He led a many fine men away on his ships—
He lost the ships, and he lost the men.
Then, when he returned, he killed those who were best of the      Kephallanians.
But come, let us go, before that man flies off to Pylos
or shining Elis where the Epeians rule.
otherwise we will be ashamed forever.
This will be an object of reproach even for men to come to learn,
If we do not pay back the murders of our relatives and sons.
It cannot be sweet to my mind at least to live
But instead, I would rather die immediately and dwell with the dead.
But, let’s go so that those men don’t cross to the mainland first.”

So he spoke while crying and pity took hold of all the Achaeans.
Then the herald Medon and the divine singer joined them
From Odysseus’ home, since sleep had released them.
They stood in the middle and silence overcame each man.
Then, Medon, understanding important things, spoke among them:

“Hear me now, Ithakans—Odysseus did not complete these deeds
Without the willingness of the immortal gods.
I myself saw an undying god who stood right near Odysseus
And took the form of Mentor in every way.
And the immortal god appeared then right before Odysseus
Encouraging him, and he rushed through the home
Driving the suitors on. There they were falling, packed close together.”

As he said this, pale fear clutched all of them.
Then the old hero Halitherses spoke among them,
The son of Mastoris, a man who could see before and after.
He addressed them and spoke among them with good intentions:

“Hear now what I have to say, Men of Ithaka.
These things have happened because of your own wickedness.
You did not obey me or Mentor, the shepherd of the host,
To stop your children from their foolishness.
They were committing a great act because of their evil stupidity,
wasting the goods and dishonoring the wife
of the best man. They did not expect him to return.
Now, believe me, this has turned out as I declare it.
Let us not go, lest anyone else discover evil closing around him.”

He said this, and some rose up with a great cry to leave,
More than half, but many remained gathered there
Since this speech was not pleasing to their thoughts
But they heeded Eupeithes instead. Then they quickly hurried to get their weapons.
When they had girded their bodies with flashing bronze,
They gathered together again before the well-wayed city.
Eupeithes was the leader among these fools.
He claimed that he was going to pay back the murder of his son—
But he wasn’t going to come home again either, his fate was decided.”

ὣς οἱ μὲν περὶ δεῖπνον ἐνὶ μεγάροισι πένοντο·
ὄσσα δ’ ἄρ’ ἄγγελος ὦκα κατὰ πτόλιν ᾤχετο πάντῃ
μνηστήρων στυγερὸν θάνατον καὶ κῆρ’ ἐνέπουσα.
οἱ δ’ ἄρ’ ὁμῶς ἀΐοντες ἐφοίτων ἄλλοθεν ἄλλος
μυχμῷ τε στοναχῇ τε δόμων προπάροιθ’ ᾿Οδυσῆος,
ἐκ δὲ νέκυς οἴκων φόρεον καὶ θάπτον ἕκαστοι,
τοὺς δ’ ἐξ ἀλλάων πολίων οἶκόνδε ἕκαστον
πέμπον ἄγειν ἁλιεῦσι θοῇσ’ ἐπὶ νηυσὶ τιθέντες·
αὐτοὶ δ’ εἰς ἀγορὴν κίον ἁθρόοι, ἀχνύμενοι κῆρ.
αὐτὰρ ἐπεί ῥ’ ἤγερθεν ὁμηγερέες τ’ ἐγένοντο,
τοῖσιν δ’ Εὐπείθης ἀνά θ’ ἵστατο καὶ μετέειπε·
παιδὸς γάρ οἱ ἄλαστον ἐνὶ φρεσὶ πένθος ἔκειτο,
᾿Αντινόου, τὸν πρῶτον ἐνήρατο δῖος ᾿Οδυσσεύς·
τοῦ ὅ γε δάκρυ χέων ἀγορήσατο καὶ μετέειπεν·
“ὦ φίλοι, ἦ μέγα ἔργον ἀνὴρ ὅδε μήσατ’ ᾿Αχαιούς·
τοὺς μὲν σὺν νήεσσιν ἄγων πολέας τε καὶ ἐσθλοὺς
ὤλεσε μὲν νῆας γλαφυράς, ἀπὸ δ’ ὤλεσε λαούς,
τοὺς δ’ ἐλθὼν ἔκτεινε Κεφαλλήνων ὄχ’ ἀρίστους.
ἀλλ’ ἄγετε, πρὶν τοῦτον ἢ ἐς Πύλον ὦκα ἱκέσθαι
ἢ καὶ ἐς ῎Ηλιδα δῖαν, ὅθι κρατέουσιν ᾿Επειοί,
ἴομεν· ἢ καὶ ἔπειτα κατηφέες ἐσσόμεθ’ αἰεί.
λώβη γὰρ τάδε γ’ ἐστὶ καὶ ἐσσομένοισι πυθέσθαι,
εἰ δὴ μὴ παίδων τε κασιγνήτων τε φονῆας
τεισόμεθ’· οὐκ ἂν ἐμοί γε μετὰ φρεσὶν ἡδὺ γένοιτο
ζωέμεν, ἀλλὰ τάχιστα θανὼν φθιμένοισι μετείην.
ἀλλ’ ἴομεν, μὴ φθέωσι περαιωθέντες ἐκεῖνοι.”
ὣς φάτο δάκρυ χέων, οἶκτος δ’ ἕλε πάντας ᾿Αχαιούς.
ἀγχίμολον δέ σφ’ ἦλθε Μέδων καὶ θεῖος ἀοιδὸς
ἐκ μεγάρων ᾿Οδυσῆος, ἐπεί σφεας ὕπνος ἀνῆκεν,
ἔσταν δ’ ἐν μέσσοισι· τάφος δ’ ἕλεν ἄνδρα ἕκαστον.
τοῖσι δὲ καὶ μετέειπε Μέδων πεπνυμένα εἰδώς·
“κέκλυτε δὴ νῦν μευ, ᾿Ιθακήσιοι· οὐ γὰρ ᾿Οδυσσεὺς
ἀθανάτων ἀέκητι θεῶν τάδε μήσατο ἔργα·
αὐτὸς ἐγὼν εἶδον θεὸν ἄμβροτον, ὅς ῥ’ ᾿Οδυσῆϊ
ἐγγύθεν ἑστήκει καὶ Μέντορι πάντα ἐῴκει.
ἀθάνατος δὲ θεὸς τοτὲ μὲν προπάροιθ’ ᾿Οδυσῆος
φαίνετο θαρσύνων, τοτὲ δὲ μνηστῆρας ὀρίνων
θῦνε κατὰ μέγαρον· τοὶ δ’ ἀγχιστῖνοι ἔπιπτον.”
ὣς φάτο, τοὺς δ’ ἄρα πάντας ὑπὸ χλωρὸν δέος ¿ρει.
τοῖσι δὲ καὶ μετέειπε γέρων ἥρως ῾Αλιθέρσης
Μαστορίδης· ὁ γὰρ οἶος ὅρα πρόσσω καὶ ὀπίσσω·
ὅ σφιν ἐ¿ φρονέων ἀγορήσατο καὶ μετέειπε·
“κέκλυτε δὴ νῦν μευ, ᾿Ιθακήσιοι, ὅττι κεν εἴπω.
ὑμετέρῃ κακότητι, φίλοι, τάδε ἔργα γένοντο·
οὐ γὰρ ἐμοὶ πείθεσθ’, οὐ Μέντορι ποιμένι λαῶν,
ὑμετέρους παῖδας καταπαυέμεν ἀφροσυνάων,
οἳ μέγα ἔργον ἔρεζον ἀτασθαλίῃσι κακῇσι,
κτήματα κείροντες καὶ ἀτιμάζοντες ἄκοιτιν
ἀνδρὸς ἀριστῆος· τὸν δ’ οὐκέτι φάντο νέεσθαι.
καὶ νῦν ὧδε γένοιτο, πίθεσθέ μοι, ὡς ἀγορεύω·
μὴ ἴομεν, μή πού τις ἐπίσπαστον κακὸν εὕρῃ.”
ὣς ἔφαθ’, οἱ δ’ ἄρ’ ἀνήϊξαν μεγάλῳ ἀλαλητῷ
ἡμίσεων πλείους· —τοὶ δ’ ἁθρόοι αὐτόθι μεῖναν· —
οὐ γάρ σφιν ἅδε μῦθος ἐνὶ φρεσίν, ἀλλ’ Εὐπείθει
πείθοντ’· αἶψα δ’ ἔπειτ’ ἐπὶ τεύχεα ἐσσεύοντο.
αὐτὰρ ἐπεί ῥ’ ἕσσαντο περὶ χροῒ νώροπα χαλκόν,
ἁθρόοι ἠγερέθοντο πρὸ ἄστεος εὐρυχόροιο.
τοῖσιν δ’ Εὐπείθης ἡγήσατο νηπιέῃσι·
φῆ δ’ ὅ γε τείσεσθαι παιδὸς φόνον, οὐδ’ ἄρ’ ἔμελλεν
ἂψ ἀπονοστήσειν, ἀλλ’ αὐτοῦ πότμον ἐφέψειν.

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