Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

Homer’s Odyssey: Book 6

Odysseus, as foretold, has washed ashore on Phaeacia where king Nausithous built the walled city of Scheria and Alcinous now rules. A disguised Athena fetches Alcinous’ daughter Nausicaa, saying she should be attending the laundry, bringing her clothes down to the water. Nausicaa asks Daddeeee, pleeeease let me borrow the wagon. Mother packs a picnic lunch for her and her maids.

Odysseus wakes up, wondering what savages he has to cope with now. He emerges naked except for an olive branch, telling the princess he is at her mercy and, by the way, “I have never laid eyes on anyone like you, / … / I look at you and a sense of wonder takes me” (6.175-177).

Nausicaa calms her skittish maids and insists “we must tend him well. Every stranger and beggar / comes from Zeus” (6.227-228). Odysseus is re-humanized with some food and a bath in the river, some oil and clothes. “Zeus’ daughter Athena made him taller to all eyes” (6.253). Nausicaa is a bit smitten and worries about potential scandal if she returns with a strange man. She instructs Odysseus to approach not the king but her mother, grasp her knees, and she “will take you to her heart” (6.343). Clearly the queen mum calls the shots.

Odyssey: Book 7
Odyssey Index