“My Mother Is Like This…”

The scene: Telemachus is asking Euryklea how she treated the beggar (who is Odysseus) over night. He does not know that she knows that it is Odysseus. It is not clear whether or not she knows that he knows that this is Odysseus. So, Telemachus takes the opportunity to complain about his mom.

Odyssey 20.128-145

“She stood once she went to the threshold and he addressed addressed Eurykleia
“Dear auntie, how did you honor the guest in our home
With sleep and food—or does he lie there uncared for?
For this is the way my mother is even though she is really intelligent.
She madly honors one man of the mortal human race
Who is worse and then she dishonors another by sending him away.”

Then wise Eurykleia addressed him in turn.

“You shouldn’t blame the blameless now child.
For he sat and was drinking her as long as he wanted
And he said that he was no longer hungry—for she asked him.
But when they were thinking about going to be and sleep
She ordered the slave women to law out blankets for him
But he, just like someone who is completely wretched and poor,
Would not sleep on a bed and on blankets,
But on unworked oxhide and fleeces of sheep
He slept in the front hall. We put a cloak on him.”
So she spoke and Telemachus went out of the bedroom
With a spear in his hand. The swiftfooted dogs were following him.

στῆ δ’ ἄρ’ ἐπ’ οὐδὸν ἰών, πρὸς δ’ Εὐρύκλειαν ἔειπε·
“μαῖα φίλη, πῶς ξεῖνον ἐτιμήσασθ’ ἐνὶ οἴκῳ
εὐνῇ καὶ σίτῳ, ἦ αὔτως κεῖται ἀκηδής;
τοιαύτη γὰρ ἐμὴ μήτηρ, πινυτή περ ἐοῦσα·
ἐμπλήγδην ἕτερόν γε τίει μερόπων ἀνθρώπων
χείρονα, τὸν δέ τ’ ἀρείον’ ἀτιμήσασ’ ἀποπέμπει.”
τὸν δ’ αὖτε προσέειπε περίφρων Εὐρύκλεια·
“οὐκ ἄν μιν νῦν, τέκνον, ἀναίτιον αἰτιόῳο.
οἶνον μὲν γὰρ πῖνε καθήμενος, ὄφρ’ ἔθελ’ αὐτός,
σίτου δ’ οὐκέτ’ ἔφη πεινήμεναι· εἴρετο γάρ μιν.
ἀλλ’ ὅτε δὴ κοίτοιο καὶ ὕπνου μιμνῄσκοντο,
ἡ μὲν δέμνι’ ἄνωγεν ὑποστορέσαι δμῳῇσιν,
αὐτὰρ ὅ γ’, ὥς τις πάμπαν ὀϊζυρὸς καὶ ἄποτμος,
οὐκ ἔθελ’ ἐν λέκτροισι καὶ ἐν ῥήγεσσι καθεύδειν,
ἀλλ’ ἐν ἀδεψήτῳ βοέῃ καὶ κώεσιν οἰῶν
ἔδραθ’ ἐνὶ προδόμῳ· χλαῖναν δ’ ἐπιέσσαμεν ἡμεῖς.”
ὣς φάτο, Τηλέμαχος δὲ διὲκ μεγάροιο βεβήκει
ἔγχος ἔχων· ἅμα τῷ γε κύνες πόδας ἀργοὶ ἕποντο.

Schol. Q ad Od. 20.131 ex.

“This is what my mother is like…” He is not slandering his mother but he means that she honors those beggars who bring good tidings about Odysseus even though they are lying but then does not honor those good ones because they don’t lie.”

τοιαύτη γὰρ ἐμοὶ μήτηρ] οὐ διαβάλλει τὴν μητέρα, ἀλλὰ λέγει ὅτι τοὺς μὲν πτωχοὺς εὐαγγελιζομένους περὶ ᾿Οδυσσέως τιμᾷ καίπερ ψευδομένους, τοὺς δὲ ἀγαθοὺς διὰ τὸ μὴ ψεύδεσθαι ἀτιμάζει. Q.

 

An ancient Greek vase showing Medea in the act of murdering one of her children.

Maybe his mother should have been like this…. (Ixion Painter, Medea killing a son, c. 330 BC (Louvre, Paris).)

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