Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Bad Guests in the Odyssey

(Lattimore's translations again.)

When we first come upon the estate of Eumaios in Odyssey 14 and receive a description of his property, it is noted that the suitors have been eating the best of the pigs:

These were
the breeding females, but the males lay outside, and these were
fewer by far, for the godlike suitors kept diminishing
their numbers by eating them, since the swineherd kept having
to send them in the best of all the well-fattened porkers
at any time. (14.15-20)

The reader is reminded, perhaps, of the behavior of Odysseus' men on Thrinakia. As the hunger becomes more and more unbearable, Eurylochos exhorts his companions:
Come then, let us cut out the best of Helios' cattle,
and sacrifice them to the immortals who hold wide heaven... (12.343-4)

So spoke Eurylochos, and the other companions assented.
At once, cutting out from near at hand the best of Helios'
cattle... (12.352-4)

Odysseus' men were punished for being bad guests on Thrinakia and eating what was not rightfully theirs. The fact that the suitors too eat 'the best' of the animals reminds us of the punishment Odysseus' men received and reinforces the inevitability of the coming vengeance on the suitors, who seem to parallel the men on Thrinakia in this respect.

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