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Odysseus sits by the fire as Eumaeus 1 discovers Telemachus at the entrance of his hut. 3511: Eumaeus, Odysseus and Telemachus. Drawing by Bonaventura Genelli, 1798-1868.

"My mother certainly says I am Odysseus' son; but for myself I cannot tell. It's a wise child that knows its own father." (Telemachus to Athena as the Taphian stranger. Homer, Odyssey 1.215).

Telemachus is the Ithacan prince who longed for his father Odysseus' return, hoping that it would put an end to the outrages that were being committed by the SUITORS OF PENELOPE during his absence.

The time of his birth

Telemachus was born short before the outbreak of the Trojan War; for he was still a babe when King Agamemnon's agent Palamedes came to Ithaca and destroyed his parent's home by forcing Odysseus to comply with The Oath of Tyndareus, and join the alliance that sailed against Troy in order to demand, by force or by persuasion, the restoration of Helen and the Spartan property that the seducer Paris had stolen.

Odysseus joins the allies

Odysseus, who did not wish to become the victim of the oath he himself had devised, feigned madness in an attempt to stay at home. But clever Palamedes rightly felt that he was pretending, and threatening to kill little Telemachus, forced Odysseus to give up his pretence, and join the allies. For this reason and from that time, Odysseus was hostile to Palamedes, and when later they were fighting at Troy, Odysseus plotted against him, and had him stoned to death by the army as a traitor. Nevertheless, Odysseus had to fight at Troy for ten years, and when the war was over he was not able to find his way home, but instead wandered for another ten years, coming to places both known and unknown. As time passed, and neither Odysseus nor his army returned to Ithaca and Cephallenia, many started to believe that he was dead.


That is why a nice collection of youths, coming from several parts of the island realm, came to his palace in order to court Queen Penelope, whom they considered a widow. The fact that the queen could be, for her age, the mother of any of these youths, who are known as the SUITORS OF PENELOPE, did not disturb their minds, which were filled with the desire of obtaining Odysseus' royal prerogatives. In addition, these youths did not conduct their suit from their own homes, but instead imposed themselves in the palace, consuming Odysseus' estate for their own sustenance. They argued that Penelope forced them to act as they did for having fooled them by means of The Shroud of Laertes, saying that she would marry once she had finished her work. However, after three years of wait, they discovered that she unravelled by night what she wove by day. So, in order to avoid further cheating, the SUITORS decided to stay at her home, and undermine the palace's finances as a way of persuading her to choose one of them as husband more sooner than later. This is why Telemachus, who was now about twenty years old, had reasons to fear his own ruin; for the SUITORS, as he put it, were eating him out of house and home.

The wrath and sympathy of the gods

But whatever happens on earth has been rehearsed in heaven. And all this was, as they say, the will of the gods, or at least of some god; and particularly that of Poseidon, who was implacable against Odysseus on account of his son the Cyclops Polyphemus 2, whom Odysseus blinded at the beginning of his homeward voyage. And since it takes a god to defeat a god or to curb his will, Athena, whose heart was wrung because of Odysseus' sufferings, took his defence in the assembly of the gods, and descended to earth to embolden young Telemachus. For no one ever reaches maturity whose spirit has not been instilled by a god or a goddess. And since the distance between thought and deed is short for a deity, Athena, having bound under her feet her golden sandals, was carried by them in an instant to Odysseus' palace.

The Taphian stranger gives advice

There, having assumed the appearance of a chieftain from the island of Taphos, which is off the coast of Acarnania, the western coast of mainland Greece, she met Telemachus and suggested him to call the Ithacan lords to assembly, and there exhort the SUITORS to be off. Athena also advised him to sail to Pylos and Sparta, and find out, by meeting Nestor and Menelaus, whether he could learn about his father, or by chance pick up a truthful rumour from heaven. She also made clear for him his choices, saying that if Odysseus were alive and on his way back, he could reconcile himself with the SUITORS' wastage still for some time. But, the goddess said, if Odysseus were dead he should build him a funeral mound, and give his mother to a new husband. Yet the goddess advised him to destroy the mob of the SUITORS who wasted his estate, adding:

"You are no longer a child: you must put childish thoughts away." (Athena to Telemachus. Homer, Odyssey 1.296).

These were the instructions that Athena, in the guise of a Taphian leader supposedly visiting Ithaca, gave to Telemachus, filling him with daring. One could ask, as Odysseus himself did, why the goddess in her wisdom did not tell Telemachus that his father was alive, instead of arranging a trip to the two Peloponnesian cities. But, as Athena has explained, the adventure was thought to redound to the young man's credit. For the gods will not do what has to be done by men. Yet they appreciate those who are civilized, intelligent, and self-possessed, and these they never desert.

A new heart

Telemachus perceived such a change in his own state of mind that he realised that a divinity had been with him; for insight or courage do not appear in the mind by themselves, but instead are planted there by the gods. And when the gods leave, insight and courage leave with them, and that is why Hector 1, who was the bravest man and the pillar of Troy, was seized by fear when he confronted Achilles, and ran away like a fawn. So with this new heart Telemachus summoned the Ithacan assembly, and there gave the SUITORS formal notice to quit his palace, exhorting them to feast elsewhere, or in each other's homes. He also exposed the details of their main outrages: how they wasted the palace's wealth in great parties, enjoying a life free of charge, and how they pestered Penelope with unwanted attentions. However, the assembly was reluctant to condemn the SUITORS, the reason being that they were the sons of many a nobleman of the island realm present in the gathering. And since wrong deeds usually look less wrong when perpetrated by sons, cousins, uncles or other lovely relatives, the majority of the assembly found it seemly to keep silent and abstain from disapproving their darling children. And for that, they were themselves blamed by Mentor 4, an old friend of Odysseus. It was at this meeting that Telemachus declared that he intended to sail to Pylos and Sparta in order to inquire after Odysseus' whereabouts, saying that if he learned that his father was on his way back he might reconcile himself to one more year of wastage; but that if he ascertained that Odysseus was dead he would build him funeral mound, and give his mother to a new husband. However, he also promised to destroy the SUITORS who were consuming his estate, vouching:

"I will not rest till I have let hell loose upon you …" (Telemachus to the SUITORS. Homer, Odyssey 2.317).

At first the SUITORS, who were used to rob Telemachus of his best for being too young to understand, did not believe that he would ever bring his journey off. Yet, watching his new attitude, they started to fear that perhaps Telemachus wished to cut their throats, or perchance return home from Pylos and Sparta, either with help or with a deadly poison to pop in the wine-bowl. And these scenarios like nightmares never fail to appear in the minds of evil-doers; for evil deeds are both preceded and followed by evil thoughts.

Even scoundrels want peace

And since no one loves to be hated, the SUITORS entreated Telemachus to leave all thoughts of violence, and instead take his ease with them and share a friendly dinner. For even robbers must at some point love peace and friendship if they ever are to enjoy the fruits of their crimes. But Telemachus had had enough of their abuses, and with Athena's help, he put a ship and a crew in the same place, and sailed away.


Telemachus came first to Pylos, which is in southwestern Peloponnesus, and was there received by King Nestor, who told him what he knew about The Returns of the ACHAEAN LEADERS after the war. But knowing very little about Odysseus' fate, Nestor urged Telemachus to pay Menelaus a visit at Sparta, for, said Nestor, he had only just got back from abroad. For this purpose, Nestor put a chariot and horses at his disposal, and Telemachus traveled the land route from Pylos to Sparta in two days, having as charioteer Nestor's son Pisistratus 1, who later became the father of Pisistratus 2, the king of Messenia who was expelled by Temenus 2 and Cresphontes, two of the HERACLIDES.


In the evening of the second day, the two young men arrived to Menelaus' palace, where they enjoyed the king's hospitality. Menelaus narrated his own account of The Returns giving a detailed account of his own meeting in Egypt with Proteus 2, "The Old Man of the Sea." This god, whom Menelaus had not been able to catch without the instructions of a goddess, said the following: that two of the ACHAEAN LEADERS, Agamemnon and Ajax 2, had lost their lives when they were returning home; but that a third one, Odysseus, though still alive, was kept a prisoner in an island somewhere in the vastness of the sea by the goddess Calypso 3, who loved him too much to let him go.

The SUITORS plot against Telemachus

Having heard this, Telemachus made immediate arrangements for a prompt return to Ithaca, following the advice that Nestor had given him:

"Don't stray too long from home, nor leave your wealth unguarded with such a set of scoundrels in the place …" (Nestor to Telemachus. Homer, Odyssey 3.314).

That was a sound recommendation. For the SUITORS were meanwhile alarmed, having realised that Telemachus had been able to implement the expedition they had hoped to turn into a farce. And fearing that Telemachus, who no longer was the child they had known, would prove to be their bane, they decided to wait for his ships in the Ithacan straits, and by killing him put a grim end to his trip in search of his father. With this criminal purpose in mind, about twenty of them embarked in full armour, choosing an appropriate place where to set an ambush and murder the uncomfortable prince.

Odysseus returns

It may look as a coincidence that Odysseus returned to Ithaca while Telemachus, who had waited for him in vain for so long, was away. And yet it often happens that things start to move simultaneously, which have long been still. As soon as he landed, Odysseus was informed by Athena of the situation at his palace, the goddess of invention and resource never deserting he who endures with intelligence and self-possession, and having together planned the downfall of the SUITORS, she disguised him, changing his appearance into that of a beggar.

Strangers and beggars

In his new attire Odysseus went towards the spot where Athena told him he would meet his most faithful servant, Eumaeus 1, who without recognising him, offered him hospitality, saying:

"… strangers and beggars all come in Zeus' name." (Eumaeus 1 to the disguised Odysseus. Homer, Odyssey 14.56).

That sounds very nice, and yet many know how strangers and beggars not seldom tell lies and cheat, more or less as Odysseus himself did in Eumaeus 1's hut. For not wishing to reveal his identity, he invented all kind of fantastic tales about his life to touch the heart of the swineherd Eumaeus 1. Yet no one should be censured too severely for these tricks. For as Odysseus himself said:

"… A tramp's life is the worst thing that anyone can come to. But exile, misfortune, and sorrow, often force a man to put up with its miseries, for his wretched stomach's sake." (Odysseus to Eumaeus 1. Homer, Odyssey 15.344).

Athena urges Telemachus

In the meantime, Athena informed Telemachus that it was time to return home. For his property was unguarded with the SUITORS in his palace, and his mother's relatives were pressing her to marry. Besides, said the goddess, Penelope might carry off some of his things from the house without his permission; for a woman, the goddess added, likes to bring riches to the house of the man who marries her, soon forgetting her former husband and her children by him.

Understanding hospitality

Athena watches as Telemachus kisses his father. print008: The meeting between Ulysses and Telemachus. Charles Baude, Engraver.

Now, as no guest comes and goes as he pleases in a palace, Telemachus begged Menelaus to give him leave to return to Ithaca, which the king conceded without hesitation, being the kind of man who condemned

"… any host who is either too kind or not kind enough."

which he supported in the fact that

"There should be moderation in all things, and it is equally offensive to speed a guest who would like to stay and to detain one who is anxious to leave."

the rule being:

"Treat a man well while he is with you, but let him go when he wishes." (Menelaus to Telemachus. Homer, Odyssey 15.69).

So, Menelaus being a reasonable man in this respect, Telemachus and Pisistratus 1 could immediately leave Sparta. But when they were near Pylos, Telemachus asked his friend not to drive him past his ship, but instead drop him there, thus saving him from being kept at the palace by Nestor's passion for hospitality. Pisistratus 1 did as Telemachus requested, advising him to embark, at once, that is, before he himself reached home, explaining that:

"My father is far too obstinate to let you go, but will come down here himself to fetch you, and I do not see him going back alone. For whatever your excuse, he will be very much annoyed." (Pisistratus 1 to Telemachus. Homer, Odyssey 15.209).

Telemachus avoids the ambush

This is how the two young men parted, and Telemachus sailed away without more ado. On approaching Ithaca, he, following Athena's instructions, sailed by night, avoiding the straits where the SUITORS' ship was lying in ambush. And having landed in the island at the first point he reached, Telemachus sent both ship and crew round to the port, while he himself paid a visit to the swineherd Eumaeus 1, as Athena told him to do.

Telemachus meets his father

At Eumaeus 1's hut Telemachus met his father, and talked with him without knowing who he was. But then Athena appeared to Odysseus alone, for as they say

"… in no wise do the gods appear in manifest presence to all." (Homer, Odyssey 16.160).

and making him come out of the hut, she touched him with her golden wand, and changed his looks, restoring his youthful vigour so much that Telemachus, when he came back, said in awestruck tone:

"Stranger, you are not the same now as the man who just went out." (Telemachus to Odysseus. Homer, Odyssey 16.180).

It was then that Odysseus told Telemachus the truth, and kissed his son. And from that moment they started to plan the downfall and death of the SUITORS, which came about when Odysseus, having come to his palace disguised as a beggar, took the bow that was his own, and shooting at the SUITORS, started killing them with arrows. A battle then ensued in the hall of Odysseus' palace, in which all of the SUITORS were slain either by Odysseus himself, or Telemachus, or Eumaeus 1, or Philoetius; for no more than these four confronted the glad scoundrels, who were more than one hundred.

Party over

All that happened suddenly, when no thought of bloodshed had yet entered the heads of the SUITORS. And such a contrast there was between the festive atmosphere and the death of the suitor Antinous 2, who was the first to leave this world with an arrow through his throat, that they thought that the beggar had killed him by accident. Too late did they realise that, except for the swords they were carrying, there were no weapons at hand, for they had been previously removed from the hall by Telemachus. The SUITORS then made an attempt to negotiate, and promised to make amends. Yet Odysseus was not in a mood for forgiveness and reconciliation, and that is why the SUITORS had to fight for their lives the best they could.

Telemachus' wishes fulfilled

When the battle was over and they were all dead, Telemachus, following his father's instructions, took the maids who had slept with the SUITORS, and had them hanged in the courtyard. And he, along with Eumaeus 1 and Philoetius, also killed the disloyal servant Melanthius 2, who had sided with the SUITORS, after slicing his nose and ears off, and ripping away his privy parts as raw meat for the dogs. They were so angry at him and his lack of loyalty that they also lopped off his hands and feet. This is how Telemachus' wishes were fulfilled, for he had said:

"… if men could have anything for the asking, my father's return would be my first choice." (Telemachus to Eumaeus 1. Homer, Odyssey 16.147).

Odysseus' exile

However, some affirm that, because of the killing of the SUITORS OF PENELOPE, Odysseus was accused of having gone too far. King Neoptolemus of Epirus, the son of Achilles, was then called to act as arbiter in the Ithacan civil conflict, and he condemned Odysseus to exile, and the SUITORS' relatives to pay a compensation to Telemachus, who ruled Ithaca after Odysseus.

Telemachus at Aeaea

It has also been said that Odysseus' son by Circe, Telegonus 3, who had been sent by his mother to find his father, was carried by a storm to Ithaca, where, driven by hunger, began to lay waste the fields. Odysseus and Telemachus, not knowing who he was, attacked him, and in the fight Odysseus was killed by Telegonus 3, before they realised who they all were. After this, they say, Telegonus 3, following Athena's instructions, returned to the island of Aeaea (Circe's home), taking with him both Telemachus and Penelope. And they assert that Athena arranged a double marriage, Telegonus 3 marrying Penelope, and Telemachus wedding Circe.






Polycaste 2


Polycaste 2, King Nestor's youngest daughter, prepared Telemachus' bath when he visited Pylos. Her mother was either Anaxibia 3 or Eurydice 8. Anaxibia 3 was daughter of Cratieus, and Eurydice 8 was daughter of Clymenus 4 and the eldest of her father's daughters.

Nothing else is told about Persepolis.




Latinus 1

Latinus 1 is the king of Latium who was succeeded by Aeneas. Otherwise, Latinus 1 is said to be son either of Faunus 1 and Marica, or of Odysseus and Calypso 3, or of Odysseus and Circe, or of Heracles 1 and an Hyperborean Girl.



Poliporthes is sometimes called son of Odysseus and Penelope; but some have said that, hearing Odysseus' hopes and prayers, King Alcinous of the Phaeacians gave his daughter to Telemachus, and Poliporthes was born.

Related sections Mentor 4, Odysseus, Penelope, SUITORS OF PENELOPE  

Apd.1.9.9; Apd.Ep.3.7; CYP.1; Dictys 6.6; Hes.CWE.12; Hom.Od. passim; Hyg.Fab.127; RET.1; TEL.1.