14 Jan Homer: “Odyssey”: Book III: Telemachus in Pylos
Although this, the third book of the “Odyssey”, involves no action or dispute, it is remarkably readable and entertaining. Perhaps its central character is Nestor, the old king of Pylos, whose recollections, hospitable instincts, and love of the gods succeed in holding our attention throughout the book. Certainly he treats his visitors, the young Telemachus and the goddess Athene, albeit in the guise of Mentor, a former friend of Telemachus’ father Odysseus, with considerable generosity. The beach, just north of Pylos, on which Nestor is sacrificing black bulls to Poseidon, when his visitors arrive, is reputed to be that of the present-day Voidokilia, which according to Peter Fiennes, writing in his recently published travel book, “A Thing of Beauty” (Oneworld 2021), is “perhaps the most idyllic beach in all of Greece.” When Athene gives up her disguise and flies back to Olympus in the form of a sea-eagle (see ll. 371-2), this allows Nestor to indulge his love of the goddess by further sacrifices and ritual feasts. Nestor is remarkably explicit about the great difficulties that the Greeks experienced during the protracted siege of Troy. Although he can tell his visitors little about the fate or the whereabouts of his friend Odysseus, he is a mine of information about the dismal death of his former leader Agamemnon on his return from Troy, and how his quarrel with his brother Menelaus was the cause of the problems afflicting so many of the Greeks when they tried to go home. Undoubtedly, the Gerenian horseman (Γερήνιος ἱππότα), to use the somewhat strange formulaic epithet, with which he is repeatedly described, is one of the personalities in Homer’s epics who was most popular with the audiences when poets were declaiming. The content of Book III of the “Odyssey” is probably the foundation of Nestor’s popularity.
Ll. 1-50. Telemachus, with Athene in attendance, reaches Pylos.
Now, the sun. on leaving the most beautiful mere, sprang up into the brazen heaven to bring light to the immortals and to mortal men on the fruitful earth; and they came to Pylos, the well-built citadel of Neleus, and on the shore of the sea they (i.e. the people of Pylos) were offering sacrifices, all-black bulls, to the dark-haired Earth-Shaker (i.e. Poseidon). And there were nine companies (there), and five hundred (men) sat in each (one), and in each (company) they offered nine bulls (to be sacrificed). When they had tasted the innards, and were burning the thigh-bones on (the altar) for the god, the (others) (i.e. Telemachus and his crew) put in (to the shore), and hauled up and furled the sail of the trim ship, and moored her, and they themselves disembarked. Then, Telemachus stepped out of the ship, and Athene led the way; the goddess, bright-eyed Athene spoke first to him: “Telemachus, you no longer need to feel any shame, (no,) not a whit; for this reason you have sailed across the sea, to seek news of your father – where the earth covered him (and) what fate befell him. But come now, go straightaway to Nestor, tamer of horses; let us learn what counsel he has hidden in his breast. And do you beseech him to speak infallible truths; but he will not tell a lie; for he is very wise.”
Then, Telemachus spoke to her in reply: “Mentor, how I shall I go (up to him)? And how shall I greet him? Nor am I at all experienced in the subtleties of speech; moreover, a young man feels ashamed to question an older (man).”
Then, the goddess, bright-eyed Athene, replied to him: “Telemachus, some (things) you yourself will devise in your mind, and a god will come up with the rest; for I do not think that you were born and raised without the favour of the gods.”
Having spoken thus, Pallas Athene quickly led the way; and then he followed in the footsteps of the goddess. And they came to the gathering and the companies of the men of Pylos. There Nestor sat with his sons, and roundabout (them) his companions were preparing the feast, roasting pieces of meat and putting others on the spit. Now, when they saw the strangers, they all came (around them) in a throng, and they clasped their hands in greeting and bade (them) be seated. In the first place, Nestor’s son, Pisistratus, came close (to them) and took the hands of both (of them) and made (them) sit down by the feast on soft fleeces (spread) on the sand of the sea beside his brother Thrasymedes and his father; then he served (them) with helpings of innards, and poured sweet wine in a golden cup; and in welcome he addressed Pallas Athene, daughter of Zeus who bears the aegis: “Pray now, O stranger, to the lord Poseidon; for his (is) the feast, which you have chanced upon in coming here. Now, when you have made a drink offering and have prayed, as is fitting, give this cup of sweet wine to this (friend of yours) to pour, since I think that he too should pray to the immortals; for all men have need of the gods. But he is the younger and the same age as myself; for this reason I shall give you the golden goblet first.”
Ll. 51-101. Telemachus identifies himself to Nestor.
As he (i.e. Pisistratus) spoke, he placed the cup of sweet wine in her hand; and Athene rejoiced at the discreet and judicious man, because he gave her the golden goblet first; and at once she prayed earnestly to the lord Poseidon: “Hear (me), Poseidon, you Earth-Sustainer, and do not refuse our prayer to bring these deeds to fulfilment. Firstly, grant renown to Nestor and his sons, and then grant a gracious recompense to all the rest of the Pylians for this glorious sacrificial offering. And grant, furthermore, that Telemachus and I can return, having achieved what we came here to do in our swift back ship.”
So she prayed and then she herself fulfilled every petition. Then, she gave Telemachus the beautiful two-handled cup; and the dear son of Odysseus prayed in just the same way. Then, when they had roasted the outer flesh, and drawn (it from the spits), they divided up the portions and dined on the glorious feast. Now, when they had satisfied their desire for food and drink, the Gerenian (i.e. Gerenia was a town on the Messenian gulf, and Nestor was supposed to have been brought up there) horseman Nestor was the first to speak to them: “Who are you, O (you) strangers? (And) from where do you sail over the watery ways? Do you wander over the sea on some business (matter), or at random, like pirates, who wander at risk to their lives, while bringing evil to men of other lands?”
Then, wise Telemachus took courage and addressed him in reply; for Athene has put the courage in his heart to ask about his absent father, and so that a good report might be had of him among his men: “O Nestor, son of Neleus, great glory of the Achaeans, you ask from where we are (come); and I shall surely tell you. I am come (in quest of) widespread news of my father, the divinely stout-hearted Odysseus, whom they say once fought by your side and sacked the city of the Trojans. For of all the other (men) who fought with the Trojans, we have heard where each (one) died a woeful death, but in his case the son of Cronos (i.e. Zeus) has even arranged for his death to go unreported. For no man can say exactly where he died, whether he was overcome by enemy warriors on the mainland, or on the sea in the midst of the waves of Amphitrite (i.e. the daughter of Nereus and the wife of Poseidon). Therefore, I have now come to (grasp) your knees (to see) if perhaps you may be willing to tell (me) of his woeful death, whether you have perhaps seen it with your own eyes or heard the story of (him) on his wanderings from someone else; for his mother bore him to excessive sorrow. And do not soften your words out of concern for me or pity, but tell me clearly how you caught sight (of him). I beseech (you), if ever my father, noble Odysseus, promised you something by word or deed in the land of the Trojans, where you Achaeans suffered woes, and (then) accomplished (it), be mindful of these (things) now, I (pray you), and tell me the full truth.”
Ll. 102-140. Nestor speaks of his painful memories of the siege of Troy, but emphasises his good relationship with Odysseus.
Then, the Gerenian horseman Nestor answered him: “O (my) friend, now you have reminded me of the sorrow which we, the sons of the Achaeans, irrepressibly courageous (as we were), endured in that land, (and) all (the things which we endured) in our ships as we wandered in search of booty, wherever Achilles might lead, and also all (the battles) that we fought around the great city of king Priam; and then all our best (men) were slain there. There lies warlike Ajax, and there Achilles, and there Patroclus, a counsellor equal to the gods, and there my own dear son Antilochus, both strong and peerless, (who) excelled in speed of running and (as) a warrior; but we suffered many evils besides these; who among mortal men could speak of them all? Nay, if you were to remain (here) for five or six years, and inquire into all these evils that the noble Achaeans suffered there, you would become distressed long before that, and make your way back to your native-land. For we went about plotting their ruin by all kinds of stratagems, but the son of Cronos made (it) hard to achieve. There no one ever chose to vie (with him) face to face, since godlike Odysseus very much prevailed with all kinds of devices, your father (that is), if you are truly his son; amazement takes hold of me as I look (at you). For, in truth, you speak just like (he did), nor would you think that a younger man could speak so like (him). To be sure, all the time (we were) there, godlike Odysseus and I never spoke on opposite sides in the assembly or in the council, but, having one mind, we advised the Argives with wisdom and shrewd counsel how the very best (outcomes) might be achieved. But, when we had sacked the lofty city of Priam, and had gone way in our ships, and a god had scattered the Achaeans, even then Zeus planned in his mind a woeful return for the Argives, since in no way were they all sensible or just; for this reason, many of them met an evil fate, through the deadly wrath of the bright-eyed daughter of a mighty sire (i.e. Athene). For she had caused strife between the two sons of Atreus (i.e. Agamemnon and Menelaus). Now, these two had called all the Achaeans to an assembly, and at sunset they, the sons of the Achaeans, came recklessly and in (a state of) disorder, (as they were) sodden with wine, (and) they told (them) the reason why they had gathered the host together.
Ll. 141-183. Nestor goes on to speak of the quarrel between the sons of Atreus, and how this adversely affected the arrangements for the return journey of the Achaeans.
“Then, in truth, Menelaus told all the Achaeans to give heed to their journey home over the broad back of the sea, but, (in saying this), he utterly failed to please Agamemnon; for he was wishing to hold back the host and offer holy hecatombs, in order to appease the dreaded wrath of Athene – fool (that he was), as he did not know that she had no thought of complying; for the minds of the gods that live forever are not quickly altered. So the two of them stood exchanging harsh words; but the well-greaved Achaeans arose with a wondrous noise, and the divided counsel was agreeable to them. That night we rested, revolving hard thoughts against one another in our minds; for Zeus was arranging a dreadful calamity for us. And in the morning some of us launched our ships on the bright sea, and put on board our possessions and our deep-girded women. Now, half of the host were held back and stayed there with Atreus’ son, Agamemnon, shepherd of the host; but (the other) half (of us) embarked and rowed away (in our ships); and they sailed very swiftly, as a god had made smooth the yawning sea. When we came to Tenedos (i.e. an island in the Aegean near the Trojan coast), we offered up sacrifices to the gods, as we longed (to return) to our homes, but Zeus, hard-hearted (as he was), did not yet intend (us to make) our return, and he again let loose upon (us) disastrous strife for a second time. (Then,) some turned around their ships with oars on both sides and departed in the company of the lord Odysseus, shrewd and full of wiles (as he was), (wishing) once more to do favours to Atreus’ son, the lord Agamemnon; but I with a full company of ships, which followed me, fled on, since I was aware that the god (i.e. Zeus) was devising evil (things). And the warlike son of Tydeus (i.e. Diomedes) fled, and summoned his companions (to go with him). And, after a long interval, the auburn-haired Menelaus came to join us (i.e. Nestor and Diomedes), and he met (with us) in Lesbos (i.e. an island in the eastern Aegean off the west coast of modern Turkey), (as we were) debating the course of our long sea-voyage, whether we should sail to the north of rugged Chios (i.e. an island in the northeastern Aegean off the coast of modern Turkey and separated from it by a narrow strait), in the direction of the island of Psyria (i.e an island due west of Chios), while keeping it on the left, or to the south of Chios, past windy Mimas (i.e. the large peninsula on the west coast of modern Turkey, opposite Chios). And we asked the god to show (us) a portent; then he showed us (one), and bade (us) cut through the midst of the sea to Euboea (i.e. the large island lying off the coast of eastern Greece), so that we might escape from the misery as soon as possible. Then, a shrill wind sprang up to blow on (them); and the (ships) ran very swiftly over passages teeming with fish, and during the night they came in to land at Geraestus (i.e. the south-western promontory of Euboea); and (there) we laid upon (the altar) of Poseidon many bulls’ thigh-bones, (thankful) to have traversed the great sea. It was on the fourth day, when the companions of Tydeus’ son, Diomedes, tamer of horses, anchored their well-balanced ships in Argos; but I (i.e. Nestor) kept going towards Pylos, and the wind was never quenched (from the time) when the god first caused (it) to blow.
Ll. 184-228. Nestor tells Telemachus about the return of some of the Achaeans, and exchanges thoughts with him about the situation in Ithaca.
“So I arrived, dear child, without any news (of the others), nor do I know anything of those of the Achaeans, who were saved and (of those) who were lost. But those (things) I have learned since residing in our halls, you will be told about, as is proper, nor will you be left in the dark. They say that the Myrmidons, who fight with the spear, returned home safely, (those) whom the famous son of great-hearted Achilles (i.e. Neoptolemus) led, and that Philoctetes, the glorious son of Poias, (returned home) safely (too). Then did Idomeneus bring (back) to Crete all his companions who had survived the war, and the sea did not take away any of them. And of the son of Atreus (i.e. Agamemnon), even you yourselves, have heard, though living far away, both how he came home, and how Aegisthus plotted his woeful death. How good (a thing it is) that a son should remain behind when a man dies, since he (i.e. Orestes) took his revenge on his father’s killer, the guileful Aegisthus, who slew his glorious father! You too, my friend, for I see that you (are) very comely and tall, be you valiant, so that a man (who is) not yet born may also praise you.”
Then, the wise Telemachus spoke to him in reply: “O Nestor, son of Neleus, great glory of the Achaeans, that son of his certainly took his full revenge, and the Achaeans will spread his fame far and wide, and to men of future generations, so that they may hear (of it). For if only the gods would invest such great strength in me, to take revenge on the suitors for their grievous transgressions, (those men) who have insulted me and shouted reckless (remarks at me)! But, I (would have you know), the gods have no such happiness in store for my father and me; and now, at any rate, I must endure.”
Then, the Gerenian horseman Nestor answered him: “O my friend, since you have put me in mind of this, and have spoken (of it), they say that many suitors for the hand of your mother are devising evil (schemes) in your halls against your wishes; tell me, whether you willingly allow yourself to be oppressed, or whether the people hate you across the land, following the voice of a god. Who knows, but he (i.e. Odysseus) may come some day and take his revenge on them for their violence, he alone, it may be, or even the Achaeans all together? For if (only) bright-eyed Athene may chose to love you, as she once cared for glorious Odysseus in the land of the Trojans, where we Achaeans suffered woes – for I have never seen the gods show their love so openly, as (when) Pallas Athene stood manifestly by his side – if she should choose to love you in this way, and would care (for you) in her heart, then many a one of them would utterly escape the notice of marriage.”
Then, wise Telemachus said to him in reply: “O old man, in no way do I think that your words will be fulfilled; for you speak of (something) very hard; amazement is taking hold of me. I have no hope that these (things) will happen, no, not even if the gods should will it so.”
Ll. 229-275. Telemachus asks about Agamemnon’s death.
Then, the goddess, bright-eyed Athene, spoke to him (as follows): “Telemachus, what a word has escaped the barrier of your teeth! Easily might a god who willed (it) rescue a man, even from afar. But I would rather suffer many toils on my journey home and see the day of my return, than, after my return, to be slain at my own hearth, as Agamemnon was murdered by the guile of Aegisthus and of his own wife (i.e. Clytemnestra). But, in truth, not even the gods can ward off the death (which is) common (to all) from a man they love, when the deadly fate of grievous death shall lay (him) low.”
Then, wise Telemachus spoke to him in reply: “Mentor, let us no longer talk of these (things), despite our sorrow: and his return (is) no longer to be expected, but in his case the immortals have already devised his death and a black fate. But now I wish to make inquiry and to ask Nestor about another subject, since he knows better than any others (what is) right and prudent; for they say that he has been king over three generations of men; and he seems to me to be looked at as though (he were) immortal.” “O Nestor, son of Neleus, do you tell me the truth: how did the son of Atreus, wide-ruling Agamemnon, die? Where was Menelaus? And what death did guileful Aegisthus devise for him (i.e. Agamemnon), since he slew a much mightier (man than himself)? Was he (i.e. Menelaus) not in Achaean Argos, but was he wandering somewhere else among men, and so he (i.e. Aegisthus) took courage and slew him (i.e. Agamemnon).
Then, the Gerenian horseman, Nestor, answered him: “Well then, my child, I shall tell you the whole truth. Surely you yourself can foresee how this (matter) would have fallen out, if the son of Atreus, auburn-haired Menelaus, on his return from Troy, had found Aegisthus in his halls alive; now for him, not even in death, would they have heaped up a mound on the earth, but dogs and birds would have rent his (body), as he lay on the plain far from the city, nor would any of the Achaean (women) have lamented him; for very wicked (was) the deed he had devised. For we lingered there, fulfilling our many martial contests; but he, at ease in a corner of Argos, tried all the time to enchant Agamemnon’s wife with his words.
“To be sure, the queenly Clytemnestra at first rejected the shameful deed; for she was possessed of a good heart; and there was with (her) a man of song, whom the son of Atreus had directly enjoined to guard his wife, when he set out for Troy. But, when the fate of the gods was bound to his destruction, then he (i.e. Aegisthus) took the bard to a desert island, and left (him there) to be the prey and spoil of the birds, and he led her, willing as he was willing, to his own house. Then, he burned many thigh-pieces on the holy altars of the gods, and hung up many pleasing offerings, both woven (articles) and gold, when he had accomplished the dreadful deed, which, in his heart, he had never thought would be possible.
Ll. 276-328. Nestor tells of Menelaus’ wanderings.
“Now we were sailing together on our way from Troy, the son of Atreus and I, feeling kindly towards one another; but when we came to holy Sunium, the cape of Athens (i.e. the southern tip of Attica, to the south-east of Athens), there Phoebus Apollo visited us with his painless shafts and slew Menelaus’ helmsman, as he was holding in his hands the steering-paddle of the ship he was running; (he was) Phrontis, son of Onetor, who used to surpass the tribes of men in steering a ship, when the storm winds are blowing strongly. So there he (i.e. Menelaus) put in to shore, though (he was) eager to be on his way, so that he might bury his comrade and pay (him) the proper funeral honours. But, when he also set sail (i.e. Nestor had already done so) in his hollow ships over the wine-dark sea, and came swiftly to Malea’s steep headland (i.e. the stormy south-eastern promontory of the Peloponnese), then the far-seeing Zeus devised a troubled course (for him), and poured out blasts of piercing winds, and the waves (were) swollen like mountains. There he divided his fleet into two parts, and he took some of them to Crete, where the Cydonians (i.e. one of the four tribes of Crete) dwelt around the streams of the Iardanus (i.e. a river at the western end of the north coast of Crete). Now, there is a certain smooth rockface (looking) sheer towards the sea in the misty deep on the borders of (the territory of) Gortyn (i.e. a city in south-central Crete); there the South West Wind thrust great waves against the western headland, near Phaestus, and a small rock holds back a great wave. And there they came, and the men barely escaped destruction, but the waves smashed the ships into pieces against the rocks; then the wind and the current took up the (other) five ships with their dark prows and drove (them) to Egypt. So there he was roaming around with his ships among men who spoke a strange tongue, gathering up quite a livelihood as well as gold; but, meanwhile, Aegisthus had devised these woeful (plans) at their home. After slaying the son of Atreus (i.e. Agamemnon), he was lord of Mycenae, rich in gold, for seven years, and the people were subdued by him. But in the eighth (year) godlike Orestes came back from Athens and put to death his father’s murderer, the guileful Aegisthus, who had killed his glorious father. Then, having killed him, he gave a funeral feast to the Argives over (the bodies of) his hated mother (i.e. Clytemnestra) and the impotent Aegisthus; and, on the self-same day, Menelaus, good at the war-cry, came to him, bringing much treasure, as much of a load as his ships could carry.
“And you, my friend, do not wander far from your home for any length of time, leaving behind your property and those men in your house, (who are) so arrogant that they divide among themselves and devour all your wealth, and you will have gone on a fruitless journey. But to Menelaus I urge and command (you) to go; for he has recently come from abroad, from such men as no one would wish in his heart to go back to, and the storms once drove him astray into a sea so great that even the birds do not venture to go into it within the space of a year, since (it is so) great and terrible. But now, go your way with your ship and your comrades; but, if you wish (to go) by land, (there is) a chariot and horses beside you, and at your side are my sons, who will be your escorts to lovely Lacedaemon (i.e. Sparta), where auburn-haired Menelaus (resides). And do you yourself beseech him to tell (you) the truth; but he will not tell a lie; for he is extremely wise.”
Ll. 329-370. Athene continues to encourage Telemachus to visit Menelaus.
So he (i.e. Nestor) spoke, and the sun set and the darkness came on. Then, the goddess, bright-eyed Athene, spoke among them: “O old (man), you have surely told this (tale) aright. But come, cut the (victims’) tongues (into pieces) and mix the wine, so that, when we have made drink offerings to Poseidon and the other immortals, we can think of sleep; for (it is) the right time for it. For now the light has gone down below the darkness, nor is it fitting to sit for long at the feast of the gods, but (rather) to go (to bed).”
Thus spoke the daughter of Zeus, and they hearkened to her voice. And heralds poured water on their hands, and filled the mixing bowls with drink, and they distributed (it) to everyone, beginning with the cups (for the libations); then, they cast the tongues on to the fire, and, as they arose, poured libations upon (them). But, when they had poured their drink offerings and had drunk as much as their hearts could wish, then Athene and godlike Telemachus both longed to return to their hollow ship. But Nestor sought to hold (them) back, and accosted them with these words: “May Zeus and the other immortals stop you going from my (house) to your swift ship, as though from one utterly unclad and penniless, who does not have any cloaks or plenty of blankets in his house, on which both he and his guests may sleep softly. But in my (house there are) cloaks and fair blankets. The dear son of this man Odysseus shall surely not lie down on the deck of a ship, so long as I still live, and when there are sons left in my halls to entertain strangers, whoever (it is that) may come to my house.”
Then, the goddess, bright-eyed Athene, addressed him: “Well indeed have you spoken these (words), (you) dear old man; and it is fitting that Telemachus should obey you, since (that would be) so much better (for him). But, (while) he may now follow with you, so that he may sleep in your halls, I shall go to our black ship, so that I may encourage our companions and tell (them) everything. For I declare that I alone among them am an older (man); but the other men (who) follow (us) in friendship (are) younger, (and) all (of them) of a similar age to great-hearted Telemachus. Now there I shall lie by the hollow black ship; but in the morning I shall go in pursuit of the great-hearted Cauconians (i.e. a tribe resident in Triphylia to the south-west of Pylos), where a debt is owing to me, which is in no way new or small (i.e. this probably refers to property carried off in a raid and then wrongfully retained). But, since he has come to your house, send this (man) on his way with a chariot and with your son (i.e. Pisistratus); and give him horses, which (are) the fleetest at running and the most strong (that) you (have).”
Ll. 371-403. Athene departs, and Nestor prays to her.
Having spoken thus, bright-eyed Athene departed in the guise of a sea-eagle; and amazement took hold of all (of them), as they gazed (at her). And the old man (i.e. Nestor) marvelled, when he saw (it) with his eyes; and he grasped the hand of Telemachus, and spoke these words (to him) and uttered (them) aloud: “(O) my friend, I do not think that you are base and feeble, if the gods follow you as guides since you are so young. For (surely) this (is) none other (of those) who live on (Mount) Olympus, but the most honoured Tritogenia (i.e. the lady of Lake Tritonis, in Libya, and an epithet of Athene), but the daughter of Zeus, (who) surely gave honour to your noble father among the Argives. But be gracious, (O) my queen, and grant great renown to myself, to my sons, and to my revered queen (i.e. Eurydice); and to you in return I shall sacrifice a yearling heifer, broad-fronted (and) unbroken, which no man has yet led beneath the yoke; to you I shall sacrifice her, having spread gold around her horns.”
So he spoke in prayer, and Pallas Athene heard him. Then, the Gerenian horseman Nestor led them, his sons, and his daughters’ husbands to his beautiful palace. And, when they reached the king’s glorious palace, they sat down in rows on seats and chairs; and, when they had come, the old man mixed up a bowl of sweet wine (for them), which was in its eleventh year, which the housekeeper opened when she had loosened the lid. The old man mixed a bowl of this (wine), and poured out libations in earnest prayer to the daughter of Zeus who bears the aegis.
But, when they had made their drink offerings, and had drunk as much as their hearts could wish, they went, each to his own home, to take their rest, and there the Gerenian horseman Nestor lulled the dear son of godlike Odysseus to sleep on the perforated bedspread under the resounding portico, and beside (him was) Pisistratus of the good ashen spear, a leader of men, who (alone) among his sons in the palace was still unwed; but he himself slept in the innermost (chamber) of his lofty house, and his wife, the lady of the house, prepared their bed and its bedding.
Ll. 404-446. Nestor prepares to sacrifice to Athene.
At the time when the child of the morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, the Gerenian horseman Nestor arose from his bed, and went out and sat down on his polished stone(-benches), (which were) in front of his lofty doors, white and glistening with oil (as they were); on these there once used to sit Neleus, equal to the gods as a counsellor; but by this time he had met his fate and gone to Hades, and now there sat upon (them) Nestor of Gerenia, the warder of the Achaeans, holding a sceptre. And around (him) his sons gathered in a throng, as they came from their bedchambers, Echephron, and Stratius, and Perseus, and Aretus, and the godlike Thrasymedes. And then after them there came (as) the sixth the heroic Pisistratus, and (with them) they led godlike Telemachus and made (him) sit beside (them).
And the Gerenian horseman Nestor began speaking to them: “Quickly, my dear children, satisfy my desire that I may surely propitiate Athene first of all the gods, (she) who came with me in person to the god’s rich feast. But come now, let someone go to the plain for a heifer, so that she may come as quickly as possible, and may a head-herdsman drive (her); and let someone go to the black ship of great-hearted Telemachus and fetch all his comrades, and leave only two (of them); and let someone bid the goldsmith Laerces come here, so that he may spread gold on the heifer’s horns. Now, the rest (of you) stay here as a group, and tell the handmaidens (who are) inside to prepare a feast throughout our glorious palace, and (to set) seats and logs of firewood on both sides (of the altar), and to bring fresh water.”
So he (i.e. Nestor) spoke, and they all busied themselves with their work. The heifer came from the plain, and great-hearted Telemachus’ comrades came from the swift well-balanced ship, and the coppersmith (i.e. Laerces) came, holding in his hands his bronze instruments, the implements of his craft, an anvil, and a hammer, and a pair of tongs, with which he worked in gold; then the old man Nestor, who fights from chariots, gave (him) gold; and then he prepared (it), and poured (it) around the horns of the heifer, so that the goddess might rejoice when she saw the glorious offering. And Stratius and godly Echephron led the heifer by the horns. Then, Aretus came from his chamber, bringing them water for washing their hands in a cauldron adorned with flowers, and in his other hand (i.e. his left-hand) he held barley grains in a basket, and Thrasymedes, steadfast in battle, stood by (him), holding a sharp double-headed axe in his hand in order to strike the heifer. And Perseus held the bowl for the blood; and the old man Nestor, who fights from a chariot, began (the sacrifice) with the washing of hands and the (sprinkling of) the barley-grains, and he prayed earnestly to Athene, cutting the hair from the head and casting (it) into the fire.
Ll. 447-497. After the sacrifice is completed, Telemachus departs.
Now, when they had prayed and cast the barley-grains, straightway the son of Nestor, the high-spirited Thrasymedes, took his stand nearby and struck (the blow); and the double-headed axe cut through the sinews of her neck, and dissolved the strength of the heifer. And the (women) cried out in a loud voice, the daughters, and daughters-in-law, and the revered wife of Nestor, Eurydice, the eldest of the daughters of Clymenus. Then, the other (sons), having lifted (her head) from the broad-wayed earth, held (it) up; and Pisistratus, leader of men, cut her throat. And when the black blood had flowed from her, and the life had left the bones, then they quickly dismembered her and cut out the thigh-bones all in the proper manner, and covered (them) with fat made into two layers, and placed raw pieces of meat upon them. Then, the old man burned (them) on a piece of wood, and poured sparkling wine over them; and beside him the young (men) held five-pronged forks in their hands. But, when the thigh-bones were completely burnt, and they had tasted the inner parts, they cut up the rest and skewered (it) all around with spits, and roasted (it), holding the sharp spits in their hands.
Meanwhile, the fair Polycaste, the youngest daughter of Nestor, son of Neleus, had bathed Telemachus. Now, when she had bathed (him) and anointed (him) richly with olive-oil, and had cast a fair cloak and a tunic around him, he came forth from the bath-tub with a body like one of the immortals; and he went and sat down beside Nestor, shepherd of the people.
Now, when they had roasted the outer flesh and had drawn (it) from (the spits), they sat down and feasted; and goodly men waited on (them), pouring wine into golden cups. But, when they had satisfied their desire for food and drink, the Gerenian horseman Nestor began to speak to them: “Come, my sons, bring up those horses with their beautiful manes for Telemachus, and yoke (them) to the bottom of the chariot. so that he may undertake his journey.”
So he spoke, and they readily heard and obeyed him, and they quickly yoked the swift horses to the bottom of the chariot. Then, the housekeeper placed bread and wine in (the chariot), and such delicacies as kings fostered by Zeus are wont to eat.
Then, Telemachus got into the chariot; and Nestor’s son Pisistratus, leader of men, climbed into the chariot beside (him), and took the reins in his hands, and he cracked the whip to set (them) in motion, and, not unwillingly, they sped on their way to the plain, and left the steep citadel of Pylos. And all day long they shook the yoke which they bore around (their necks).
Then, the sun set and all the ways grew dark, and they came to Pherae (i.e. a city on the gulf of Messenia between Pylos and Sparta), to the house of Diocles, son of Ortilochus, whom Alpheus (i.e. the river-god of Elis and the western Peloponnese) begot (as) a son. And there they spent the night, and he put hospitable (materials) beside them.
At the time when the child of the morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, they yoked the horses and climbed into their embellished chariot; and they drove forth from the gateway and the resounding portico; and he cracked the whip to set (them) in motion, and, not unwillingly, they sped on their way. And they came to the wheat-bearing plain, and then they completed their journey there; for so did their swift horses carry (them) on their way. Then, the sun set and all the ways grew dark.