Odyssey for Boys and Girls - Alfred J. Church

The Slaying of the Suitors

Ulysses cried aloud: "This work is done; and now I will try at another mark." As he spoke, he aimed his arrow at Antinoüs. The man was raising a cup to his lips. There was not a thought of danger in his mind: who could have dreamt that any man, though he were ever so strong and brave, should dare such a thing, being but one against many? The head of the arrow passed through the neck of Antinoüs; and the blood gushed out of his nostrils, and he fell, overturning the table that was near him. All the Suitors, when they saw him fall, leapt from their seats, but when they looked, all the arms had been taken down from the walls. For a moment they doubted whether the stranger had killed the man by chance or on purpose; but Ulysses cried out: "I am Ulysses! Dogs, you thought that I should never come back. Therefore you have devoured my goods, and made suit to my wife, though I was yet living, and have had no fear of god or of man before your eyes. And now a sudden destruction has come upon you all."

When they heard these words, the Suitors trembled for fear. There was only one man among them who could so much as speak. This was Eurymachus. He said: "If you are indeed Ulysses of Ithaca, you speak the truth. We have done great wrong to you. But the man who was most to blame lies dead here. It was Antinoüs who was the chief of your enemies. What he desired was not merely marriage with your wife, but to destroy your house, and to be king of Ithaca. But we will pay you back twenty times for all that we have taken of yours."

Ulysses said: "Talk not of paying back. You shall die this day, all of you."

[Illustration] from Odyssey for Boys and Girls by Alfred J. Church


Eurymachus said: "This man will not stay his hand, but will kill us all with his arrows. Let us make a rush for the door, and we will raise a cry in the city, and this archer will soon have shot his last."

As he spoke, he rushed on with two-edged knife in his hand; but Ulysses shot an arrow at him as he came, and he fell forward dead. And Telemăchus slew another with his spear; but he could not draw out the spear from the wound, lest the enemy should take him at a disadvantage as he stooped.

Now it was plain that when Ulysses should have shot away all his arrows, the Suitors would have the better of them. So Telemăchus ran to the armoury, and fetched down four helmets, and four shields, and eight spears. With these he armed himself and the two servants—that is, the swineherd and the herdman of the cattle. Now while Ulysses had yet arrows in his quiver, the Suitors held back, for the three bravest of them had been slain, and they had neither armour nor weapon. But the goatherd saw their need, and he crept secretly up to the armoury and brought down thence twelve helmets and shields and as many spears. When Ulysses saw this, he cried to Telemăchus: "There is treachery, my son. Have the women done this thing, or is it the goatherd?" Telemăchus answered: "It is my fault, father. I left the door of the armoury open." While some of the Suitors were arming themselves, the goatherd went again to the armoury, but the swineherd and his companion followed him, and caught him as he was taking arms, and bound him with a rope. As soon as they had done this, they hastened back to the hall and stood by the side of Ulysses. Then a certain Agelaüs said to the other Suitors: "Friends, we can overcome these four if we join together. Let six of us throw our spears all at once." This they did, but the spears went wide of the mark. But the spears of the four went not wide, for each slew his man, and this they did again and again. On the other hand, both Telemăchus and the swineherd were wounded, but not to their great hurt. The swineherd slew Ctesippus, and as he smote him, he cried: "Take that for the ox-foot which you gave to our guest." And all the courage that was in the Suitors left them, and they were as a flock of birds which is scattered and torn by eagles.

Leiodes, the priest, prayed Ulysses that he would spare him, saying that he had done no wrong, but had only served at the altar. But Ulysses answered: "It is enough that you have served at the altar of these wicked men, and that you have made suit to my wife." And he slew him without mercy. But the minstrel and the herald he spared. "Go," said he, "and sit by the altar." So they went and sat by the altar, fearing lest they also should be slain.

So the Suitors were slain, every one of them. And Ulysses bade the women come and wash the hall and the tables with water and smoke them with sulphur. And he said to the nurse: "Go now, and tell the queen that her husband has come back."