The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane. — Marcus Aurelius

Story of Greece - Mary Macgregor

Odysseus Returns to Ithaca

The small island of Ithaca, of which Odysseus was king, lay on the western shore of Greece. His subjects deemed that their king was dead, for ten years had passed since Troy had been destroyed, and yet he had not come home.

But Penelope, the wife of Odysseus, would not believe that her lord was dead; she clung to the hope that he would yet return. Princes came to the palace to beg the queen to wed, but in vain did each urge his suit, for hope whispered in the heart of Penelope, 'My lord is still alive.'

Laertes, the father of Odysseus, was too old, her little son Telemachus was too young, to help the queen, when the princes rudely insisted on living in the palace and in wasting the goods of Odysseus. Again and again they entreated her to wed one among them. But the queen grew angry and rebuked them for their insolence in living in the palace. From day to day, from week to week, from month to month, even from year to year, Penelope mocked at the impatience of her suitors.

For she set up in the hall of the palace a large loom and began to weave a beautiful robe. 'Ye princely youths, my wooers,' she said, 'now that Odysseus is dead, as ye declare, do ye abide patiently, how eager soever on this marriage of mine, till I finish the robe.'

The princes agreed to wait until the robe was finished, but little did they dream how long the queen would take to her task.

Day after day, day after day, they watched as Penelope sat at her web weaving, ever weaving. But night after night, night after night, when the insolent princes had gone to bed, the queen carefully unraveled the work they had seen her do by day.

For three long years did Penelope mock her suitors in this way, but when the fourth year came, and the robe was still incomplete, one of the queen's serving-maids betrayed her secret to the princes.

Then the queen could no longer refuse to wed, yet still she tried to put off the day as long as might be. So she promised to marry him who could most easily bend the great bow of Odysseus, and hit the mark on which she should decide. There was now but a little while until the day would dawn on which the trial of strength and skill was to take place.

Telemachus meanwhile had grown into a tall lad, and, guided by Athene, he left the palace where the princes wasted his wealth to go in search of his father. It might be that Odysseus was a captive in some distant land.

But Odysseus was on his way to Ithaca, sailing in the ship of a king who had befriended him.

As the vessel glided into the harbour of the little island, Odysseus lay asleep on the deck. So the sailors lifted him in a rug on which he lay and put him down in his own kingdom by the side of the road.

When he awoke Odysseus did not at first know where he was, for Athene had covered the land with a thick mist.

'O woe is me now, unto what mortals' land am I now come?' cried the king, well-nigh in tears with desire for his own country.

Even as he spoke, Athene stood by his side disguised as a young man.

'What land is this?' asked Odysseus, not yet knowing that it was the goddess to whom he spoke, but thinking that it was one of the country folk.

'Thou art witless, stranger, or thou art come from afar, if indeed thou askest of this land,' said Athene. 'Verily it is rough and not fit for the driving of horses, yet is it not a very sorry isle, though narrow withal. For herein is corn past telling, and herein, too, wine is found, and the rain is on it evermore and the fresh dew. And it is good for feeding goats and feeding kine; all manner of wood is here, and watering-places unfailing are herein. Wherefore stranger, the name of Ithaca hath reached even unto Troyland.'

Then Odysseus knew that it was the grey-eyed goddess Athene who spoke to him, and he answered, 'Methinks that thou speakest thus to mock me and beguile my mind. Tell me whether, in very deed, I am come to mine own country?'

The goddess did not answer, but silently she scattered the mist that the king might see that he was indeed in his own kingdom.

The Odysseus was glad and stooped to kiss the earth, knowing that at last his weary wanderings were at an end.


Front Matter

The Great God Pan
The Six Pomegranate Seeds
The Birth of Athene
The Two Weavers
The Purple Flowers
Danae and Her Little Son
The Quest of Perseus
Andromeda and Sea-Monster
Acrisius Killed by Perseus
Achilles and Briseis
Menelaus and Paris Do Battle
Hector and Andromache
The Horses of Achilles
The Death of Hector
Polyphemus the Giant
Odysseus Escapes from Cave
Odysseus Returns to Ithaca
Argus the Hound Dies
The Bow of Odysseus
The Land of Hellas
Lycurgus and His Nephew
Lycurgus Returns to Sparta
Training of the Spartans
The Helots
Aristomenes and the Fox
The Olympian Games
The Last King of Athens
Cylon Fails to be Tyrant
Solon Frees the Slaves
Athenians Take Salamis
Pisistratus Becomes Tyrant
Harmodius and Aristogiton
The Law of Ostracism
The Bridge of Boats
Darius Rewards Histiaeus
Histiaeus Shaves His Slave
Sardis Is Destroyed
Sandal Sewn by Histiaeus
Earth and Water
Battle of Marathon
Miltiades Sails to Paros
Aristides is Ostracised
The Dream of Xerxes
Xerxes Scourges the Hellespont
Bravest Men of All Hellas
Battle of Thermopylae
Battle of Artemisium
Themistocles at Salamis
Themistocles Tricks Admirals
Battle of Salamis
Battle of Plataea
Delian League
Themistocles Deceives Spartans
Themistocles is Ostracised
Eloquence of Pericles
Pericles and Elpinice
The City of Athens
Great Men of Athens
Thebans Attack Plataeans
Attica Invaded by Spartans
Last Words of Pericles
Siege of Plataea
The Sentence of Death
Brasidas Loses His Shield
The Spartans Surrender
Brasidas the Spartan
Amphipolus Surrenders
Alcibiades the Favourite
Socrates the Philosopher
Alcibiades Praises Socrates
Images of Hermes Destroyed
Alcibiades Escapes to Sparta
The Siege of Syracuse
Athenian Army is Destroyed
Alcibiades Returns to Athens
Antiochus Disobeys Alcibiades
Walls of Athens Destroyed
March of the Ten Thousand
Pelopidas and Epaminondas
Seven Conspirators
Battle of Leuctra
Death of Epaminondas
The Two Brothers
Timoleon exiles Dionysius
Icetes Attacks Timoleon
Battle of Crimisus
Demosthenes' Wish
Greatest Orator of Athens
The Sacred War
Alexander and Bucephalus
Alexander and Diogenes
Battle of Granicus
The Gordian Knot
Darius Gallops from Battle
Tyre Stormed by Alexander
Battle of Gaugamela
Alexander Burns Persepolis
Alexander Slays Foster-Brother
Porus and His Elephant
Alexander Is Wounded
The Death of Alexander
Demosthenes in the Temple