The Odyssey Book 1: lines 125-143

I’ve gotten back to reading the Odyssey after a bit of a hiatus when I needed do other things.

The suitors confront PenelopeHere we see Telemachus leading Athena/Mentes, the guest-friend, into his house. A few things are going on. We as the audience have our first glimpse of the suitors, and its not a flattering picture. They’re loud and drunken. Their purported host’s arrival seems largely irrelevant as they are already in the middle of their revels.

Nevertheless in stark contrast we see Telemachus giving the guest-friend Athena/Mentes all the traditional marks of the ceremonially privileged status. Telemachus seat him/her at the head of the table and personally sees to her/his needs. Notably the suitors are not even friendly. Such behavior was in Greek society of the time when the Odyssey is set and when it was performed by bards not merely rude but so unacceptable as to be blasphemous, i.e., an offense of the gods, most notably Zeus. If the gods were the personification of the fundamental forces of the world, in ancient Greek religion, then to offend the gods was to act against those basic forces of the world. In other words, the suitors were in effect viewed as violated fundamental laws of nature. The symbolism of the pillar associated directly with Odysseus standing right by where the suitors are wantonly consuming the resources (such as wine) of his now impoverished house (since we see where the house has not been repaired) is dramatic.

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