Book XXII Then Ulysses tore off his rags, and sprang on to the broad pavement with
his bow and his quiver full of arrows. He shed the arrows on to the ground
at his feet and said, "The mighty contest is at an end. I will now see
whether Apollo will vouchsafe it to me to hit another mark which no man
has yet hit."
On this he aimed a deadly arrow at Antinous, who was about to take
up a two-handled gold cup to drink his wine and already had it in his hands.
He had no thought of death- who amongst all the revellers would think that
one man, however brave, would stand alone among so many and kill him? The
arrow struck Antinous in the throat, and the point went clean through his
neck, so that he fell over and the cup dropped from his hand, while a thick
stream of blood gushed from his nostrils. He kicked the table from him
and upset the things on it, so that the bread and roasted meats were all
soiled as they fell over on to the ground. The suitors were in an uproar
when they saw that a man had been hit; they sprang in dismay one and all
of them from their seats and looked everywhere towards the walls, but there
was neither shield nor spear, and they rebuked Ulysses very angrily. "Stranger,"
said they, "you shall pay for shooting people in this way: om yi you shall
see no other contest; you are a doomed man; he whom you have slain was
the foremost youth in Ithaca, and the vultures shall devour you for having
Thus they spoke, for they thought that he had killed Antinous by
mistake, and did not perceive that death was hanging over the head of every
one of them. But Ulysses glared at them and said:
"Dogs, did you think that I should not come back from Troy? You
have wasted my substance, have forced my women servants to lie with you,
and have wooed my wife while I was still living. You have feared neither
Cod nor man, and now you shall die."
They turned pale with fear as he spoke, and every man looked round
about to see whither he might fly for safety, but Eurymachus alone
"If you are Ulysses," said he, "then what you have said is just.
We have done much wrong on your lands and in your house. But Antinous who
was the head and front of the offending lies low already. It was all his
doing. It was not that he wanted to marry Penelope; he did not so much
care about that; what he wanted was something quite different, and Jove
has not vouchsafed it to him; he wanted to kill your son and to be chief
man in Ithaca. Now, therefore, that he has met the death which was his
due, spare the lives of your people. We will make everything good among
ourselves, and pay you in full for all that we have eaten and drunk. Each
one of us shall pay you a fine worth twenty oxen, and we will keep on giving
you gold and bronze till your heart is softened. Until we have done this
no one can complain of your being enraged against us."
Ulysses again glared at him and said, "Though you should give me
all that you have in the world both now and all that you ever shall have,
I will not stay my hand till I have paid all of you in full. You must fight,
or fly for your lives; and fly, not a man of you shall."
Their hearts sank as they heard him, but Eurymachus again spoke
"My friends, this man will give us no quarter. He will stand where
he is and shoot us down till he has killed every man among us. Let us then
show fight; draw your swords, and hold up the tables to shield you from
his arrows. Let us have at him with a rush, to drive him from the pavement
and doorway: we can then get through into the town, and raise such an alarm
as shall soon stay his shooting."
As he spoke he drew his keen blade of bronze, sharpened on both
sides, and with a loud cry sprang towards Ulysses, but Ulysses instantly
shot an arrow into his breast that caught him by the nipple and fixed itself
in his liver. He dropped his sword and fell doubled up over his table.
The cup and all the meats went over on to the ground as he smote the earth
with his forehead in the agonies of death, and he kicked the stool with
his feet until his eyes were closed in darkness.
Then Amphinomus drew his sword and made straight at Ulysses to
try and get him away from the door; but Telemachus was too quick for him,
and struck him from behind; the spear caught him between the shoulders
and went right through his chest, so that he fell heavily to the ground
and struck the earth with his forehead. Then Telemachus sprang away from
him, leaving his spear still in the body, for he feared that if he stayed
to draw it out, some one of the Achaeans might come up and hack at him
with his sword, or knock him down, so he set off at a run, and immediately
was at his father′s side. Then he said:
"Father, let me bring you a shield, two spears, and a brass helmet
for your temples. I will arm myself as well, and will bring other armour
for the swineherd and the stockman, for we had better be
"Run and fetch them," answered Ulysses, "while my arrows hold out,
or when I am alone they may get me away from the door."
Telemachus did as his father said, and went off to the store room
where the armour was kept. He chose four shields, eight spears, and four
brass helmets with horse-hair plumes. He brought them with all speed to
his father, and armed himself first, while the stockman and the swineherd
also put on their armour, and took their places near Ulysses. Meanwhile
Ulysses, as long as his arrows lasted, had been shooting the suitors one
by one, and they fell thick on one another: when his arrows gave out, he
set the bow to stand against the end wall of the house by the door post,
and hung a shield four hides thick about his shoulders; on his comely head
he set his helmet, well wrought with a crest of horse-hair that nodded
menacingly above it, and he grasped two redoubtable bronze-shod
Now there was a trap door on the wall, while at one end of the
pavement there was an exit leading to a narrow passage, and this exit was
closed by a well-made door. Ulysses told Philoetius to stand by this door
and guard it, for only one person could attack it at a time. But Agelaus
shouted out, "Cannot some one go up to the trap door and tell the people
what is going on? Help would come at once, and we should soon make an end
of this man and his shooting."
"This may not be, Agelaus," answered Melanthius, "the mouth of
the narrow passage is dangerously near the entrance to the outer court.
One brave man could prevent any number from getting in. But I know what
I will do, I will bring you arms from the store room, for I am sure it
is there that Ulysses and his son have put them."
On this the goatherd Melanthius went by back passages to the store
room of Ulysses, house. There he chose twelve shields, with as many helmets
and spears, and brought them back as fast as he could to give them to the
suitors. Ulysses′ heart began to fail him when he saw the suitors putting
on their armour and brandishing their spears. He saw the greatness of the
danger, and said to Telemachus, "Some one of the women inside is helping
the suitors against us, or it may be Melanthius."
Telemachus answered, "The fault, father, is mine, and mine only;
I left the store room door open, and they have kept a sharper look out
than I have. Go, Eumaeus, put the door to, and see whether it is one of
the women who is doing this, or whether, as I suspect, it is Melanthius
the son of Dolius."
Thus did they converse. Meanwhile Melanthius was again going to
the store room to fetch more armour, but the swineherd saw him and said
to Ulysses who was beside him, "Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, it is that
scoundrel Melanthius, just as we suspected, who is going to the store room.
Say, shall I kill him, if I can get the better of him, or shall I bring
him here that you may take your own revenge for all the many wrongs that
he has done in your house?"
Ulysses answered, "Telemachus and I will hold these suitors in
check, no matter what they do; go back both of you and bind Melanthius′
hands and feet behind him. Throw him into the store room and make the door
fast behind you; then fasten a noose about his body, and string him close
up to the rafters from a high bearing-post, that he may linger on in an
Thus did he speak, and they did even as he had said; they went
to the store room, which they entered before Melanthius saw them, for he
was busy searching for arms in the innermost part of the room, so the two
took their stand on either side of the door and waited. By and by Melanthius
came out with a helmet in one hand, and an old dry-rotted shield in the
other, which had been borne by Laertes when he was young, but which had
been long since thrown aside, and the straps had become unsewn; on this
the two seized him, dragged him back by the hair, and threw him struggling
to the ground. They bent his hands and feet well behind his back, and bound
them tight with a painful bond as Ulysses had told them; then they fastened
a noose about his body and strung him up from a high pillar till he was
close up to the rafters, and over him did you then vaunt, O swineherd Eumaeus,
saying, "Melanthius, you will pass the night on a soft bed as you deserve.
You will know very well when morning comes from the streams of Oceanus,
and it is time for you to be driving in your goats for the suitors to feast
There, then, they left him in very cruel bondage, and having put
on their armour they closed the door behind them and went back to take
their places by the side of Ulysses; whereon the four men stood in the
cloister, fierce and full of fury; nevertheless, those who were in the
body of the court were still both brave and many. Then Jove′s daughter
Minerva came up to them, having assumed the voice and form of Mentor. Ulysses
was glad when he saw her and said, "Mentor, lend me your help, and forget
not your old comrade, nor the many good turns he has done you. Besides,
you are my age-mate."
But all the time he felt sure it was Minerva, and the suitors from
the other side raised an uproar when they saw her. Agelaus was the first
to reproach her. "Mentor," he cried, "do not let Ulysses beguile you into
siding with him and fighting the suitors. This is what we will do: when
we have killed these people, father and son, we will kill you too. You
shall pay for it with your head, and when we have killed you, we will take
all you have, in doors or out, and bring it into hotch-pot with Ulysses′
property; we will not let your sons live in your house, nor your daughters,
nor shall your widow continue to live in the city of
This made Minerva still more furious, so she scolded Ulysses very
angrily. "Ulysses," said she, "your strength and prowess are no longer
what they were when you fought for nine long years among the Trojans about
the noble lady Helen. You killed many a man in those days, and it was through
your stratagem that Priam′s city was taken. How comes it that you are so
lamentably less valiant now that you are on your own ground, face to face
with the suitors in your own house? Come on, my good fellow, stand by my
side and see how Mentor, son of Alcinous shall fight your foes and requite
your kindnesses conferred upon him."
But she would not give him full victory as yet, for she wished
still further to prove his own prowess and that of his brave son, so she
flew up to one of the rafters in the roof of the cloister and sat upon
it in the form of a swallow.
Meanwhile Agelaus son of Damastor, Eurynomus, Amphimedon, Demoptolemus,
Pisander, and Polybus son of Polyctor bore the brunt of the fight upon
the suitors′ side; of all those who were still fighting for their lives
they were by far the most valiant, for the others had already fallen under
the arrows of Ulysses. Agelaus shouted to them and said, "My friends, he
will soon have to leave off, for Mentor has gone away after having done
nothing for him but brag. They are standing at the doors unsupported. Do
not aim at him all at once, but six of you throw your spears first, and
see if you cannot cover yourselves with glory by killing him. When he has
fallen we need not be uneasy about the others."
They threw their spears as he bade them, but Minerva made them
all of no effect. One hit the door post; another went against the door;
the pointed shaft of another struck the wall; and as soon as they had avoided
all the spears of the suitors Ulysses said to his own men, "My friends,
I should say we too had better let drive into the middle of them, or they
will crown all the harm they have done us by us outright."
They therefore aimed straight in front of them and threw their
spears. Ulysses killed Demoptolemus, Telemachus Euryades, Eumaeus Elatus,
while the stockman killed Pisander. These all bit the dust, and as the
others drew back into a corner Ulysses and his men rushed forward and regained
their spears by drawing them from the bodies of the
The suitors now aimed a second time, but again Minerva made their
weapons for the most part without effect. One hit a bearing-post of the
cloister; another went against the door; while the pointed shaft of another
struck the wall. Still, Amphimedon just took a piece of the top skin from
off Telemachus′s wrist, and Ctesippus managed to graze Eumaeus′s shoulder
above his shield; but the spear went on and fell to the ground. Then Ulysses
and his men let drive into the crowd of suitors. Ulysses hit Eurydamas,
Telemachus Amphimedon, and Eumaeus Polybus. After this the stockman hit
Ctesippus in the breast, and taunted him saying, "Foul-mouthed son of Polytherses,
do not be so foolish as to talk wickedly another time, but let heaven direct
your speech, for the gods are far stronger than men. I make you a present
of this advice to repay you for the foot which you gave Ulysses when he
was begging about in his own house."
Thus spoke the stockman, and Ulysses struck the son of Damastor
with a spear in close fight, while Telemachus hit Leocritus son of Evenor
in the belly, and the dart went clean through him, so that he fell forward
full on his face upon the ground. Then Minerva from her seat on the rafter
held up her deadly aegis, and the hearts of the suitors quailed. They fled
to the other end of the court like a herd of cattle maddened by the gadfly
in early summer when the days are at their longest. As eagle-beaked, crook-taloned
vultures from the mountains swoop down on the smaller birds that cower
in flocks upon the ground, and kill them, for they cannot either fight
or fly, and lookers on enjoy the sport- even so did Ulysses and his men
fall upon the suitors and smite them on every side. They made a horrible
groaning as their brains were being battered in, and the ground seethed
with their blood.
Leiodes then caught the knees of Ulysses and said, "Ulysses I beseech
you have mercy upon me and spare me. I never wronged any of the women in
your house either in word or deed, and I tried to stop the others. I saw
them, but they would not listen, and now they are paying for their folly.
I was their sacrificing priest; if you kill me, I shall die without having
done anything to deserve it, and shall have got no thanks for all the good
that I did."
Ulysses looked sternly at him and answered, "If you were their
sacrificing priest, you must have prayed many a time that it might be long
before I got home again, and that you might marry my wife and have children
by her. Therefore you shall die."
With these words he picked up the sword that Agelaus had dropped
when he was being killed, and which was lying upon the ground. Then he
struck Leiodes on the back of his neck, so that his head fell rolling in
the dust while he was yet speaking.
The minstrel Phemius son of Terpes- he who had been forced by the
suitors to sing to them- now tried to save his life. He was standing near
towards the trap door, and held his lyre in his hand. He did not know whether
to fly out of the cloister and sit down by the altar of Jove that was in
the outer court, and on which both Laertes and Ulysses had offered up the
thigh bones of many an ox, or whether to go straight up to Ulysses and
embrace his knees, but in the end he deemed it best to embrace Ulysses′
knees. So he laid his lyre on the ground the ground between the mixing-bowl
and the silver-studded seat; then going up to Ulysses he caught hold of
his knees and said, "Ulysses, I beseech you have mercy on me and spare
me. You will be sorry for it afterwards if you kill a bard who can sing
both for gods and men as I can. I make all my lays myself, and heaven visits
me with every kind of inspiration. I would sing to you as though you were
a god, do not therefore be in such a hurry to cut my head off. Your own
son Telemachus will tell you that I did not want to frequent your house
and sing to the suitors after their meals, but they were too many and too
strong for me, so they made me."
Telemachus heard him, and at once went up to his father. "Hold!"
he cried, "the man is guiltless, do him no hurt; and we will Medon too,
who was always good to me when I was a boy, unless Philoetius or Eumaeus
has already killed him, or he has fallen in your way when you were raging
about the court."
Medon caught these words of Telemachus, for he was crouching under
a seat beneath which he had hidden by covering himself up with a freshly
flayed heifer′s hide, so he threw off the hide, went up to Telemachus,
and laid hold of his knees.
"Here I am, my dear sir," said he, "stay your hand therefore, and
tell your father, or he will kill me in his rage against the suitors for
having wasted his substance and been so foolishly disrespectful to
Ulysses smiled at him and answered, "Fear not; Telemachus has saved
your life, that you may know in future, and tell other people, how greatly
better good deeds prosper than evil ones. Go, therefore, outside the cloisters
into the outer court, and be out of the way of the slaughter- you and the
bard- while I finish my work here inside."
The pair went into the outer court as fast as they could, and sat
down by Jove′s great altar, looking fearfully round, and still expecting
that they would be killed. Then Ulysses searched the whole court carefully
over, to see if anyone had managed to hide himself and was still living,
but he found them all lying in the dust and weltering in their blood. They
were like fishes which fishermen have netted out of the sea, and thrown
upon the beach to lie gasping for water till the heat of the sun makes
an end of them. Even so were the suitors lying all huddled up one against
Then Ulysses said to Telemachus, "Call nurse Euryclea; I have something
to say to her."
Telemachus went and knocked at the door of the women′s room. "Make
haste," said he, "you old woman who have been set over all the other women
in the house. Come outside; my father wishes to speak to
When Euryclea heard this she unfastened the door of the women′s
room and came out, following Telemachus. She found Ulysses among the corpses
bespattered with blood and filth like a lion that has just been devouring
an ox, and his breast and both his cheeks are all bloody, so that he is
a fearful sight; even so was Ulysses besmirched from head to foot with
gore. When she saw all the corpses and such a quantity of blood, she was
beginning to cry out for joy, for she saw that a great deed had been done;
but Ulysses checked her, "Old woman," said he, "rejoice in silence; restrain
yourself, and do not make any noise about it; it is an unholy thing to
vaunt over dead men. Heaven′s doom and their own evil deeds have brought
these men to destruction, for they respected no man in the whole world,
neither rich nor poor, who came near them, and they have come to a bad
end as a punishment for their wickedness and folly. Now, however, tell
me which of the women in the house have misconducted themselves, and who
"I will tell you the truth, my son," answered Euryclea. "There
are fifty women in the house whom we teach to do things, such as carding
wool, and all kinds of household work. Of these, twelve in all have misbehaved,
and have been wanting in respect to me, and also to Penelope. They showed
no disrespect to Telemachus, for he has only lately grown and his mother
never permitted him to give orders to the female servants; but let me go
upstairs and tell your wife all that has happened, for some god has been
sending her to sleep."
"Do not wake her yet," answered Ulysses, "but tell the women who
have misconducted themselves to come to me."
Euryclea left the cloister to tell the women, and make them come
to Ulysses; in the meantime he called Telemachus, the stockman, and the
swineherd. "Begin," said he, "to remove the dead, and make the women help
you. Then, get sponges and clean water to swill down the tables and seats.
When you have thoroughly cleansed the whole cloisters, take the women into
the space between the domed room and the wall of the outer court, and run
them through with your swords till they are quite dead, and have forgotten
all about love and the way in which they used to lie in secret with the
On this the women came down in a body, weeping and wailing bitterly.
First they carried the dead bodies out, and propped them up against one
another in the gatehouse. Ulysses ordered them about and made them do their
work quickly, so they had to carry the bodies out. When they had done this,
they cleaned all the tables and seats with sponges and water, while Telemachus
and the two others shovelled up the blood and dirt from the ground, and
the women carried it all away and put it out of doors. Then when they had
made the whole place quite clean and orderly, they took the women out and
hemmed them in the narrow space between the wall of the domed room and
that of the yard, so that they could not get away: and Telemachus said
to the other two, "I shall not let these women die a clean death, for they
were insolent to me and my mother, and used to sleep with the
So saying he made a ship′s cable fast to one of the bearing-posts
that supported the roof of the domed room, and secured it all around the
building, at a good height, lest any of the women′s feet should touch the
ground; and as thrushes or doves beat against a net that has been set for
them in a thicket just as they were getting to their nest, and a terrible
fate awaits them, even so did the women have to put their heads in nooses
one after the other and die most miserably. Their feet moved convulsively
for a while, but not for very long.
As for Melanthius, they took him through the cloister into the
inner court. There they cut off his nose and his ears; they drew out his
vitals and gave them to the dogs raw, and then in their fury they cut off
his hands and his feet.
When they had done this they washed their hands and feet and went
back into the house, for all was now over; and Ulysses said to the dear
old nurse Euryclea, "Bring me sulphur, which cleanses all pollution, and
fetch fire also that I may burn it, and purify the cloisters. Go, moreover,
and tell Penelope to come here with her attendants, and also all the maid
servants that are in the house."
"All that you have said is true," answered Euryclea, "but let me
bring you some clean clothes- a shirt and cloak. Do not keep these rags
on your back any longer. It is not right."
"First light me a fire," replied Ulysses.
She brought the fire and sulphur, as he had bidden her, and Ulysses
thoroughly purified the cloisters and both the inner and outer courts.
Then she went inside to call the women and tell them what had happened;
whereon they came from their apartment with torches in their hands, and
pressed round Ulysses to embrace him, kissing his head and shoulders and
taking hold of his hands. It made him feel as if he should like to weep,
for he remembered every one of them.
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