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Philosophia
October 25th, 2007, 08:13 AM
THE KILLING OF THE SUITORS--THE MAIDS WHO HAVE MISCONDUCTED THEMSELVES ARE MADE TO CLEANSE THE CLOISTERS AND ARE THEN HANGED.

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. {166} 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: 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 killed
him."

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, {167} have forced my women servants to
lie with you, and have wooed my wife while I was still living.
You have feared neither God 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 spoke.

"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
saying:

"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 armed."

"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,
{168} and he grasped two redoubtable bronze-shod spears.

Now there was a trap door {169} on the wall, while at one end of
the pavement {170} 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 {171} 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, {172} that he may linger on in an agony."

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 on."

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 Ithaca."

This made Minerva still more furious, so she scolded Ulysses
very angrily. {173} "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
Alcimus 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 killing 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 dead.

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, {174} 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 between the
mixing bowl {175} 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 spare 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 yourself."

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 the other.

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 you."

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 are innocent." {176}

"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 {177} 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 suitors."

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 suitors."

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. {178} 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 maidservants
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. {179}