Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
HOW TELEMĂCHUS WENT TO LOOK FOR HIS FATHER
 THE next day, as soon as it was light, Telemăchus sent
the officers to call the people to the Assembly. And
when the people heard the call, they came quickly, for
such a thing had not happened now for many years. And,
when they were all gathered together, Telemăchus
himself went, holding a spear in his hand, and with two
dogs at his heels. And when he sat down in his
father's place all who were there wondered to see him,
for he looked not like the boy but like a man.
The first that stood up in the Assembly was a certain
old man, Aegyptus by name—very old he was, so that he
was almost bent double, and he was very wise. He had
four sons, but one was dead, for he had gone with
Ulysses to Troy, and had died, with the rest of
Ulysses' companions, on his way back, as has been told.
Another son was one of the Suitors;
 and two were
with their father, working on the farm. Aegyptus said:
"Listen to me, men of Ithaca! who has called us
together to-day? Is it Telemăchus who has done this?
If it is he, what does he want? Has he heard anything
of his father, and of the men who went with him to
fight against Troy?"
Then Telemăchus stood up in his place and said: "Men
of Ithaca, I am in great trouble. First, I fear that
my father is dead, and you, who all loved him, feel for
me. And then there have come men from all the islands
round about, making suit to my mother, and while they
wait they devour my substance. But my mother will not
listen to any one of them, for she still believes that
her husband will come back. Yes; they waste all that I
have, and I cannot hinder them from doing it."
And he dashed his spear on the ground, and sat down
weeping. Then one of the Suitors, Antinoüs by name,
stood up and said: "Telemăchus, do not blame us, but
blame your mother. Surely there never was so crafty a
woman." And he told the people
 the story of the
web, how she wove it by day and unwove it by night.
"Do not let her put us off any longer. Make her choose
one of us and marry him. But till you do this, we will
not leave your house."
Then said Telemăchus: "How could I do this to my own
mother? It would be against my duty as a son. And
besides, I should have to pay a great sum of money to
her father, all the dowry that she brought with her.
No; I cannot do this thing."
And when he had ended his speech there happened a
strange thing. Two eagles were seen high up in the
air, which flew along till they came to the place where
the Assembly was. Then they fought together, and tore
from each other many feathers.
Then said a certain man who knew what such things
meant: "Beware, ye Suitors; great trouble is coming to
you and to others. As for Ulysses, he said that he
should come back to Ithaca in the twentieth year after
his going, and that, I verily believe, he will do."
Then Telemăchus spake again: "Give me a ship with
twenty rowers, and I will go to
 the mainland, to
certain kings who went to Troy with my father, as
Nestor and Menelaüs. And if I hear that he is dead, I
will come back, and make a great mound for him that
will keep his name in remembrance, and I will also make
my mother choose another husband."
Then stood up one Mentor, whom Ulysses had made steward
of his house when he went away, and said: "I am
ashamed of this people of Ithaca. There is not one of
them who remembers Ulysses, and yet he was as gentle as
a father with them. Let no king henceforth be gentle
and kind. Let him rather be a hard man and
unrighteous, for then his people will remember him.
See, now, these Suitors, how they are bent on doing
evil. Well, I will not hinder them. They will have to
suffer for what they do. But the people I blame. See,
now, how they sit without saying a word, when they
ought to cry shame upon the Suitors; and yet they are
many in number and the Suitors are few."
Then stood up one of the Suitors, and said: "Surely,
Mentor, your wits are wandering,
 when you bid the
people put us down by force. They could not do it.
And if Ulysses himself came back, he could not do it.
He would come to a bad end if he fought with us, for we
are many in number. And as for the ship and the twenty
rowers that Telemăchus asks for, let Mentor find them
for him. As for me, I do not think that he will be
able to do it."
Then the Assembly was dismissed. And Telemăchus went
down to the sea-shore; and after he had washed his
hands in the sea, he prayed to Athené, saying: "Hear
me, O goddess, thou didst bid me yesterday take a ship
and rowers and ask about my father—yes, it was thou,
though it seemed as if King Mentes was speaking to me—but
the Suitors hinder me, and the people will not
help. I pray thee, therefore, to put it into my heart
what I should do."
And while he was yet speaking, Athené stood before him,
and she had taken the shape of Mentor the steward. She
said: "Be brave; you have spirit and wit; and are, I
take it, a true son of your father and mother. Go now
on this journey, for I
 trust that it will turn out
to your profit. As for the Suitors, take no thought
about them; they speak folly, and do not know the doom
that is coming upon them. Make ready provisions for a
journey, wine and meat; meanwhile I will collect men
who will offer of their own free will to go with you,
and I will also find a ship, the best in all Ithaca."
So Telemăchus went back to the palace, and he found the
Suitors flaying goats and singeing swine for their
dinner. And Antinoüs caught him by the hand, and said:
"Come now, Telemăchus; eat and drink with us, and we
will find a ship and rowers for you, that you may be
able to go whither you will, and ask after your father."
But Telemăchus said: "Do you think that I will eat and
drink with you, who are wasting my substance in this
shameful fashion? Be sure that I will have my revenge
on you. And if you will not let me have a ship of my
own, then I will sail in another man's." And another
of the Suitors said: "What now will Telemăchus do?
Will he get men from Pylos, where old Nestor lives, or
 Sparta, where King Menelaüs is, to fight
against us? Or, maybe, he will put poison in our wine,
and so destroy us."
And another said: "What if he should perish himself as
his father has perished? It would be a great business
dividing his property. As for his house, we would give
it to his mother and the man whom she may choose for
So they made sport of him. But he went to the
store-room of the palace, where there were laid up
casks of old wine, and olive oil, and clothing, and
plates of gold and silver and copper. All these things
were in the charge of his nurse Eurycleia. Telemăchus
said to her: "Look out for me twelve jars of wine, not
the best, but the second best, and twenty measures of
barley meal. I will come for them to-night when my
mother is asleep, for I am going to Pylos and to
Sparta, to see whether I can hear anything about my
But the old woman cried out: "Oh, my son, why will you
travel abroad, you an only son? Your father has
perished; will you perish also? These wicked men, the
 Suitors, will plot against you and kill you.
Surely it would be better to sit quietly at home."
Telemăchus said: "Mother, I must go, for it is the
gods that bid me. Swear now that you will say nothing
to my mother about it for ten or twelve days, unless,
indeed, she should ask you about me: then you must say
for what I am gone."
So the old woman sware that she would say nothing. And
Telemăchus went among the Suitors, and behaved as if he
had nothing on his mind. Meanwhile Athené, in Mentor's
shape, had got a crew of sailors together, persuading
them to go as no man could have persuaded them. And
she borrowed a ship, for no man could refuse to lend
her what she asked for. And lest the Suitors should
come to know of what was going on, she caused a deep
sleep to fall upon them. They slept each man in his
chair. And then she came to the palace, and she still
had the shape of Mentor, and called Telemăchus out,
saying to him, "The rowers are ready: let us go."
So the two went down to the shore, and
 found the
ship, and the ship's crew ready to go on board. And
Telemăchus said: "Come now, my friends, to my room at
the palace, for there I have stored away the meat and
the drink that we want for the voyage. One woman only
knows about the matter; not my mother, nor any of her
maids, but only my old nurse."
So they went up to the palace, and carried all the
provisions themselves to the shore, and stowed it away
in the ship. And Telemăchus went on board, and sat
down on the stern, and Mentor, that was really Athené,
sat down by him. And he told the sailors to make ready
First, they pushed off the ship from the shore. Then
they raised the mast, which was made of a pine tree,
and lay along the deck in a kind of crutch that was
made for it. A hole was ready in which to put the end.
So the men raised it, and made it fast with ropes on
both sides. And they hauled up the sail with ropes
made of ox hide. And the wind filled the sail, and the
ship went quickly through the water, the sea bubbling
and foaming about it as it
 went, and Telemăchus
poured wine out of a bowl, praying to the god of the
sea, and to Zeus that he might have a prosperous
voyage. So all the night the ship sped along till the
dawn began to show in the east.