Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Odyssey, Bk 3: King Nestor Remembers

The Odyssey ...the people lined the beaches, sacrificing sleek black bulls to Poseidon

Athena in disguise makes an offering and prays to Poseidon. What happens when a goddess is acting behind another god's back, and she prays to that god? Apparently it doesn't get attention, not yet anyway.

[Agamemnon] meant to detain us there and offer victims,
anything to appease Athena's dreadful wrath-- (160-161)
I wonder if that was his daughter that Aggie wished to sacrifice? According to Aeschylus, his wife kills him for it. According to Nestor in Homer, his son did so:
But Atreus' son Agamemnon...you yourselves, even
in far-off Ithaca, must have heard how he returned,
how Aegisthus hatched the king's horrendous death. (218-220)
Nestor knows nothing of Odysseus. He says,
"Still I advise you to visit Menelaus.
He's back from abroad at last, from people so removed
you might abandon hope of ever returning home,
once the winds had driven you that far off course...
So, off you go with your ships and shipmates now.
Or if you'd rather go by land, there's team and chariot,
my sons at your service too..." (358-366)
So Athena echoes:
"...But you, seeing my friend is now your guest,
speed him on his way with a chariot and your son
and give him the finest horses that you have,
bred for stamina, trained to race the wind."
With that the bright-eyed goddess winged away
in an eagle's form and flight.
Amazement fell on all the Achaeans there. (411-417)
There's no refusing a goddess. The next day Nestor leads the choreography of a slaughter in offering. Homer makes this ritual killing sound so glamorous, but despite the gold-wrapped horns I bet it's grubby and messy and blood spatters their clean clothes. On the other hand, this must be a handsome sight:
During the ritual lovely Polycaste, youngest daughter
of Nestor, Neleus' son, had bathed Telemachus.
Rinsing him off now, rubbing him down with oil,
she drew a shirt and handsome cape around hime.
Out of his bath he stepped, glistening like a god,
strode in and sat by the old commander Nestor. (521-526)
Telemachus and Nestor's son Pisistratus ride on.

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