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Eumaeus 1

Eumaeus, Odysseus and the dog Argos | od339gen: "A hound that lay there raised his head and pricked up his ears, Argos, the hound of Odysseus, of the steadfast heart, whom of old he had himself bred." (Hom.Od.17.290). Bonaventura Genelli (1798 – 1868).

The Disguised Odysseus: "Eumaeus, I hope Zeus will look on you as kindly as I do for picking out the best portion for a poor fellow like me."
Eumaeus 1: "Eat my guest, strange man that you are, and take your pleasure of what is here now; the god will give you such or withhold it, as in his own mind he may wish." (Homer, Odyssey 14.440).

"Servants, when their masters are no longer there to order them about, have little will to do their duties as they should. All-seeing Zeus takes half the good out of a man on the day when he becomes a slave." (Eumaeus 1 to the disguised Odysseus. Homer, Odyssey 17.320).

Eumaeus 1 was Odysseus' loyal servant and swineherd, a man of sound principles, who never forgot the immortals. He received Odysseus in his hut when after his wanderings Odysseus returned to Ithaca, and later he helped his master to get rid of the SUITORS OF PENELOPE, who were pestering the palace.

Prince in another island

According to Eumaeus 1 himself, he came originally from Syria, an island above Ortygia (Delos) where the inhabitants lived a happy life, never spoiled by scourges, and always reaching Old Age. There Eumaeus 1 led the life of a little prince, for his father was king of the island's two cities, being looked after by a Phoenician nurse.

His nurse betrays him

To this island, says Eumaeus 1, came one day a gang of Phoenician sailors with their ship stored with pretty commodities, and one of them, having seduced the prince's nurse, invited her to come with them back to her country. She gladly accepted, adding that she planned to bring away all the gold that she could lay her hands on, and as a way of paying for her passage home, she also offered to bring little Eumaeus 1 on board with her. For, she said, the little boy could fetch a fortune for them when put up for sale in a foreign country.

Sold in Ithaca

The Phoenician traders stayed for a whole year in the island of Syria, and when they had bought their homeward freight and were ready to sail, the nurse took the gold and the child and came on board. However, while they still were in the open sea, the treacherous maid fell sick and died, and Eumaeus 1 was left alone until the ship arrived to Ithaca where Odysseus' father Laertes bought him. This is how Eumaeus 1 came to Ithaca, and as he was received in the house of a kind master, he loved Penelope, Telemachus, Odysseus, and the whole of this family more than his own. For he said:

"… I shall never find so kind a master again wherever I may go, not even if I return to my parents' house … And much as I should like to be back in my own country and set eyes on them again, my longing for them has given place in my heart to overwhelming regret for the lost Odysseus." (Eumaeus 1 to the disguised Odysseus. Homer, Odyssey 14.138).

Brought up like a son

Also Odysseus' mother Anticlia 1 made a wide place for Eumaeus 1 in her heart, bringing him up together with her own daughter Ctimene, until this girl was married to someone in Same, in the island of Cephallenia. It was then that Anticlia 1 fitted Eumaeus 1 in new clothes, and packed him off to the farm.

Hard working swineherd

Having thus become the family's swineherd, Eumaeus 1 used to take the animals to those pastures where they could find the right fodder, keeping the pigs at night in a large farmyard surrounded by high walls of stone, which he had himself built. And being a thorough kind of person, he fenced the whole length of the walls with a stockade made of oak. Inside the yard, which was also protected by fierce dogs, there were twelve sties for the pigs to rest; but the boars, which at the time of Odysseus' return had been decimated by the SUITORS OF PENELOPE, lay outside the yard. They could at night be protected by Eumaeus 1 himself, who, wrapped in a thick cloak, spent the night outside, armed with a sword and a javelin to keep intruders away. Eumaeus 1 used to take his meals and rest in a cabin, and was otherwise assisted by four laborers, one of which was Mesaulius, whom Eumaeus 1 had bought from the Taphian traders with his own resources.

Pension scheme in jeopardy

Having lived thus for many years, and being a loyal servant and a hard worker, Eumaeus 1 could hope to be pensioned off, and receive from his master Odysseus a fair reward in the form of a bit of land, a cottage, and an attractive wife. But life not always runs smoothly, and the palace's finances being severely undermined by the SUITORS OF PENELOPE, Eumaeus 1 saw his future in jeopardy. And yet he was forced to slaughter the best animals and send them to these glutton scoundrels, who were never content with just one or two at a time. And forced were too the other Ithacan herdsmen; for also them had to choose day by day their best goat, and drive it in for the SUITORS to guzzle on. So, being disgusted with the whole state of affairs in Ithaca, Eumaeus 1 had lived the recent years as a hermit, just with his swine, and never coming to the city and the palace unless invited by Penelope.


Now the SUITORS were not just unwanted guests consuming Odysseus' estate. This is indeed what they were at the beginning. But later, as their outrageous behavior met resistance from young Telemachus, they turned gradually into a seditious group, plotting against the life of Odysseus' son, and threatening to kill the king himself, if ever he returned. Whether they were or not fully aware of their escalation, which changed them from pestering youths into criminals, turned to be irrelevant for Odysseus and his own people, who, at the time of retaliation, mainly considered the consequences of the SUITORS' actions.

Receives his disguised master

During the twentieth year of his absence, Odysseus landed on Ithaca. Disguised as an old beggar, and following Athena's instructions, he turned his back on the coast, and going through woods and hills, came to the hut of Eumaeus 1. There he was kindly received by the swineherd, who, without recognizing his master, invited the beggar to join him in his meal, putting bread and wine in front of him, and slaughtering a couple of young porkers for the visitor's sake. And when Odysseus thanked him, said Eumaeus 1:

"… My conscience would not let me turn away a stranger who was even meaner than you, for strangers and beggars all come in Zeus' name …" (Eumaeus 1 to the disguised Odysseus. Homer, Odyssey 14.56).

Beggar and swineherd tell stories to each other

During the talk, Eumaeus 1 told Odysseus' the story of his life, and Odysseus, who was still playing the role of the beggar, told him what appeared to be a bunch of lies. But the swineherd was not unaware of the possibility of his guest lying; for he knew that:

"Beggars in need of sustenance tell lies, and are unwilling to give a true story."(Eumaeus 1 to the disguised Odysseus. Homer, Odyssey 14.124).

This is why it is clear that his favors rested more, as he himself explained, on the respect he had for the laws of hospitality and the pity he felt for the stranger, than on stories meant to touch his heart.

Telemachus sends Eumaeus 1 to the palace

While Odysseus was staying at Eumaeus 1's house, his son Telemachus returned from Pylos and Sparta, where he had been looking for news about his father, disembarking in the island at the first point he reached. His ship had just eluded the ambush that the SUITORS had set out at sea, and when Telemachus, following Athena's instructions, came to Eumaeus 1's hut, he sent the swineherd to go quickly and tell his mother Penelope that she had him safely back from Pylos. And when Eumaeus 1 left the farm on his errand, Odysseus revealed himself to his son; and from that moment father and son started to plan the downfall and death of the SUITORS OF PENELOPE. Eumaeus 1 was not first to deliver the message; for a messenger from Telemachus' crew had been sent running off to the palace, and conveyed it first. But on his way back, having climbed up the hills above the city, Eumaeus 1 saw the SUITORS' ship that, without having achieved anything, came into the harbor carrying a crowd of armed men.

About begging for meals and not for work

The day after, as Odysseus and his son had agreed, Telemachus bade Eumaeus 1 to take the beggar to the palace where he could beg for his meals. In this manner, the swineherd brought his king, who looked like a wretched old beggar, to the city. In their way they fell with the goatherd Melanthius 2, who drove some goats for the SUITORS, with two shepherds to help him. And when Melanthius 2 saw the couple coming along, he burst into a torrent of injuries. For Melanthius 2 was the kind of man fond of reproaching those who, as he said, always beg for meals and never for work. No doubt, Melanthius 2 would have been able to give that miserable wretch an occupation, so that he could work his muscles up, preventing him at the same time of being such a killjoy at parties just by showing his nauseating presence. For such wastrels as this one never want to do anything, but instead love to walk around and make a living through alms. And having uttered these and other clever thoughts, he finished his speech with the same kind of elegance he had started it by landing a kick on Odysseus' hip as he passed by.

Eumaeus 1 curses the goatherd

Now, this kind of cheap morality with which hypocrisy and fraud disguise themselves, was just about nothing for Eumaeus 1, who could see through it. And that is why he called upon the gods, cursed the goatherd, and prayed for Odysseus' return so that he would send flying Melanthius 2's newly acquired insolent manners; for this goatherd cared in fact nothing for Odysseus' herds, and went about in the town leaving bad shepherds to ruin the king's flocks. This kind of invocation have of course no effect upon an impudent mind such as Melanthius 2's; and that is why, on hearing Eumaeus 1's speech, he retorted with more insults, adding that he wished Telemachus' death, sure as he was that his father's homecoming would never come about. And this said, he left to join the SUITORS, whom he admired and with whom he shared the meals.

The Suitor Antinous 2 scolds the swineherd

Eumaeus 1 and Odysseus arrived to the palace soon after the goatherd, and he who had been wandering for twenty years started to go the rounds and beg from each of the SUITORS in his own home. But beggars are not welcome among merry banqueters, and that is why these asked each other who he was and whence he came; and when they learned from the goatherd Melanthius 2 that the swineherd had brought him, the suitor Antinous 2 took the chance to scold Eumaeus 1, saying:

"O most distinguished swineherd, why did you bring this fellow to the city? Do we not already have tramps in plenty to pester us and ruin our dinners? Are you dissatisfied with the numbers collected here to eat your master's food that you must invite this one also?" (Antinous 2 to Eumaeus 1. Homer, Odyssey 17.375).

Who are invited and who not

Now Eumaeus 1, who was following Telemachus' instructions and could not, in any case, have invited Odysseus, said with his own words what is known of all:

"Who would take it on himself to press hospitality on a wandering stranger, unless he were some worker for the public good, a prophet, a physician, a skilled workman, or inspired minstrel …? These are the men who all over the endless earth are invited. But nobody would ask in a beggar to eat him out of house and home." (Eumaeus 1 to Antinous 2. Homer, Odyssey 17.382).

The beggar stays anyway

Despite the several conflicts that the beggar's presence caused, Odysseus made a place for himself in the palace, and it was Eumaeus 1 who arranged a meeting between the king and Penelope. For she, seeing that the stranger had traveled far, was anxious to ask him questions about her husband.

The fateful bow appears

On the second day of Odysseus' arrival, Penelope decided to confront the SUITORS with the bow that was supposed to test their skill, promising that she would marry whoever among them who proved to be the handiest at stringing the bow and shooting the marks. Having then declared this to the SUITORS, she told Eumaeus 1 to hand over the bow to them. Eumaeus 1 accepted it in tears and put it before the SUITORS, and also Philoetius wept when he saw Odysseus' bow. For these loyal servants knew nothing yet of what their master had schemed with his son, even less that he was alive and near. Nor did they suspect that the appearance of the bow signalled the downfall of the SUITORS, and not, as it seemed to them, the definitive acceptance of Odysseus' death. But the suitor Antinous 2 was not in a sentimental mood; and that is why he scolded both Eumaeus 1 and Philoetius, saying:

"You foolish yokels … poor wretches, why are you streaming tears, snivelling and upsetting your mistress, as though the loss of her beloved husband weren't enough …" (Antinous 2 to Eumaeus 1 and Philoetius. Homer, Odyssey 21.85).

Difficult to bend on a holiday

The SUITORS decided then to try the bow from left to right, the way the wine went round. The first to make the attempt was Liodes, and when he failed he said that this bow would break the heart and be the death of many; and as it happens, truth may come out of any mouth. Then the rest of the SUITORS ordered Melanthius 2 to grease and thaw the bow before they tried it, and when also Eurymachus 2 failed, Antinous 2 proposed to postpone the test. For this day, being the holiday of the archer god Apollo, was not time, he argued, to bend bows.

Odysseus reveals himself to the swineherd and the cowman

In the meantime, Eumaeus 1 and the cowman Philoetius slipped out of the palace, and Odysseus followed them. Having called them out ,the king tested their loyalty, and when he was reassured of their feelings he revealed himself to them, showing his well known scar. Then, after explaining his plan and instructing them, he told them to return to the palace.

Argument about the bow

When the three came back, Odysseus asked the SUITORS to let him test the bow, not to win the lady, but for the sake of testing. This was, as the SUITORS saw it, a preposterous idea, and it was evidently wine without moderation, they said, what had caused the beggar to lose all sense of proportion, making him wish to compete with his betters. Queen Penelope reproached then the SUITORS for the meanness they showed to all who came to her house, but Telemachus, putting an end to the argument, said:

"My mother, no Achaean man has more authority over this bow than I, to give or withhold, at my pleasure." (Telemachus to Penelope. Homer, Odyssey 21.344).

Eumaeus 1 forced to choose

In the meanwhile Eumaeus 1, following the instructions that Odysseus had given him moments ago outside the palace, picked up the bow and was taking it along to give it to his master. But suddenly the SUITORS saw him and yelled at him:

"Where are you taking the bow, wretched swineherd and vagabond? If we could have our way, the very dogs you have bred would tear you to pieces, out there among your pigs were no one goes." (The SUITORS to Eumaeus 1. Homer, Odyssey 21.362).

And as servants are not used to oppose noblemen, Eumaeus 1, frightened by the crowd of angry young men, put the bow back where it had been. However, Telemachus would not allow now any hesitations, and forcing the swineherd to choose sides, he threatened:

"Forward there with the bow, old fellow! You'll soon find that you can't obey us all. Take care I don't chase you up the fields with a shower of stones." (Telemachus to Eumaeus 1. Homer, Odyssey 21.369).

End of the SUITORS

The SUITORS, who were more aware of the entertaining value of things than of their meaning, laughed all they could at Telemachus' outburst, disregarding the fact that now the swineherd was not obeying them any more, but instead, doing as Telemachus had demanded, carried the bow down the hall to Odysseus. This is how Odysseus received the bow, and stringing it without effort he shot all the marks. And without wasting any time, he went for another target and shot the suitor Antinous 2 dead. The SUITORS, still deluded, thought that he had killed their friend by accident, but Odysseus, revealing himself and refusing all agreement with his enemies, started shooting at the rest of them. In the battle that ensued, no one among the SUITORS survived, and it was Eumaeus 1 that, having spied the goatherd Melanthius 2 when he went to the store-room to fetch a load of armour for the SUITORS, prevented him to fetch them, tying him with a rope. When the battle was over, Odysseus asked his nurse Euryclia which among the fifty women-servants in the palace had been disloyal. These were ordered to clean the battlefield, removing the bodies of the slain and washing tables and chairs. And when the whole house was again in order, Telemachus, Philoetius and Eumaeus 1 took the women who had betrayed their king to the courtyard, and hanged them. And they also killed the disloyal servant and goatherd Melanthius 2, after slicing his nose and ears off, ripping away his privy parts as raw meat for the dogs, and lopping off his hands and feet.


This is what has been told about Eumaeus 1, upon whom freedom was bestowed when Telemachus ruled Ithaca. His death has never been reported.
Eumaeus 2 was a Trojan warrior who fell at Troy killed by Diomedes 2.




Ctesius 1 & unknown


Ctesius 1, son of Ormenus 5, was king of the island called Syria.


Related sections

Apd.Ep.7.32; Hom.Od.14. passim, 15.301ff., 16.11ff., 17.180ff., 21.80, 21.188, 22.157; Hyg.Fab.126.