Homer’s Odyssey: Book 2

“When young Dawn with her rose-red fingers shone once more…” (2.1).

This formula will frame this book, appropriately measuring one day; it will also recur throughout the epic. It’s unclear how a Cyclops spoiler is known, but Telemachus takes the “speaking stick” — a staff giving him the floor in a public assembly of the Ithacans. He gripes about the suitors squandering everything in his home. Mic drop.

Antinous counters with the assertion that Penelope has been prevaricating for years, taking forever in weaving a shroud for her father-in-law which, as was eventually found out, was being unravelled at night so that it would never be finished and she would never have to act. One of her own women ratted her out. (The concept of “weaving” perhaps makes Penelope a good match for Odysseus, who is also a weaver of sorts — a weaver of tales.)

Zeus sends a bird omen that is interpreted by a seer as meaning that Odysseus is not far from home. One suitor mocks such superstition: “Flocks of birds go fluttering under the sun’s rays, / not all are fraught with meaning. Odysseus? / He’s dead now” (2.203-205). Telemachus announces his quest. Athena as Mentor praises him: “Few sons are the equals of their fathers; / most fall short” (2.309-310), but Telemachus shows promise.

The difference between indulgence and honorable generosity leads to suitors taunting Telemachus, but he prepares for the amassing of supplies for the journey. The nurse physicalizes delusion: “Why, dear child, what craziness got into your head?” (2.401). Athena recruits crewmen, then “showered sweet oblivion over the suitors, / dazing them as they drank” (2.437-438). (Well, if she can just do this then why all the … okay, I get it. It’s a process.)

Athena also apparently has the power to send the sailors a wind (2.461), so off they go “all night long and through the dawn” (2.477).

Odyssey: Book 3
Odyssey Index