The Odyssey: Book 2 lines 1-24

plan of house of Odysseus from Autenrieth

plan of house of Odysseus from Autenrieth

The second book of the Odyssey begins with the coming of the next dawn. This passage gives a fascinating insight into the manner of dress and daily habits of the early ancient Greeks. Telemachus awakes and puts on his sword (over his shoulder)and his sandals. No explicit reference was made to putting on a tunic, but I think that this can be implied from the context. Then Telemachus leaves his room.

That Telemachus and the rest of the royal household awake at dawn ought not seem a surprise. Lighting was by oil lamps only apart from the sunlight allowed in through the many opening in the roof. Yet oil was expensive and used for many other things as well. Thus, one generally rose with the sun and went to bed with it too in ancient Greek society.

The first question that should pop into the reader’s mind when Telemachus immediately encounters a herald calling him to an assembly is who exactly called the assembly. Was it his mother Penelope or the suitors? The former would have the right in the royal household, but the latter should not. Yet as Telemachus goes to that assembly we again see the association of Athena, this time directly with Telemachus himself rather than through Mentes.

Significantly, Telemachus takes his seat in the place of his father Odysseus; namely he sits in the place of the king his father. The strong implication is that Telemachus is symbolically taking on the role of his father in his father’s absence. Once again this simple act would be understood by both the ancient Greek audience and the suitors themselves as a direct challenge to the suitors’ efforts to usurp the kingship.

The assembly has been called by the old warrior Aegyptius (whose name means Egyptian). His sons Antiphus and Eurunomus have come with their father. These are friends of Odysseus, familiar with his exploits– including the killing of the cyclops Polyphemus.

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