Melanthius

Melanthius, the son of Dolius, plays the minor, yet important character of Odysseus‘ disloyal goatherd in Homer‘s Odyssey. In contrast, Odysseus‘ cowherd, Philoetius, and swineherd, Eumaeus, have both remained loyal to Odysseus during his twenty years of wanderings, as had the father and six brothers of Melanthius.

Melanthius provides the best goats of the herd to make a feast for the suitors of Penelope. He serves the suitors at the dining table, pouring them wine or lighting a fire in the hall upon their order. He is apparently favored a lot by them: Eurymachus is said to like him best of all, and he is allowed to have meals in the same dining hall with the suitors.

Odysseus, disguised as a beggar and accompanied by Eumaeus, encounters Melanthius by the fountain dedicated to the nymphs on his way into town. Melanthius immediately taunts Odysseus and proceeds to kicks him on the hip, unaware that he is really dishonoring his master, causing Odysseus to consider attacking him. Later, when Odysseus is brought in front of the suitors, Melanthius asserts that he knows nothing of the stranger, and that Eumaeus alone is responsible for bringing him in. His speech results in the suitors rebuking Eumaeus.

Early in the battle with the suitors, Eumaeus and Philoetius catch Melanthius trying to steal more weapons and armour for the suitors. On the orders of Odysseus, they bind him and string him up from the rafters, where he is mocked by Eumaeus. When the battle is won, Telemachus (the son of Odysseus), Eumaeus, and Philoetius hang the twelve unfaithful maidservants, which include Melanthius’s sister Melantho, before turning their attention to Melanthius. They take him to the inner court, chop off his nose and ears with a sword, pull off his genitals to feed to the dogs, and then, in their fury, chop off his hands and feet.

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Antinous ( son of Eupeithes)

In Greek mythology, Antinous (Greek: Ἀντίνοος), son of Eupeithes, is most known for his role in Homer’s Odyssey. One of two prominent suitors vying for Penelope’s hand in marriage, the other being Eurymachus, Antinous is presented as a violent, mean-spirited, and overly-confident character who willfully defiles Odysseus’ home while the hero is lost at sea. In an attempt to kill Telemachus, the son of Odysseus and Penelope, Antinous sends out a small band of suitors in the strait between Ithaca and rugged Same where there is a rocky isle called Asteris, to intercept the young prince on his journey back to Ithaca from the hall of Menelaus. The plan, however, fails, as Telemachus avoids the trap with help from the goddess Athena.

Antinous is a prime example of disregard for the custom of xenia (guest-friend hospitality); rather than reciprocating food and drink with stories and respect, he and his fellow suitors simply devour Odysseus’ livestock. He also shows no respect for the lower-classed citizenry, as is exemplified when he assaults a beggar, who is actually Odysseus in disguise, with a chair, which even the other suitors disapprove of. Antinous is the first of the suitors to be killed. Drinking in the Great Hall, he is slain by an arrow to the throat shot by Odysseus. Eurymachus then tries to blame Antinous for the Suitor’s wrongs.

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Eumaios

Eumaios is Ithakan swineherd who takes Odysseus in when he returns home in the guise of a beggar, and he shows us that it’s not just kings who can be hospitable—even swineherds know how to treat a guest right.

Good Host

When Odysseus first shows up, Eumaios has no idea who he is. In fact, he simply calls him “old man of many sorrows” (14.386)—which actually sounds about right. He doesn’t believe Odysseus’s tale, but he’ll give him a meal anyway: “It is not for [your lying words] that I will entertain and befriend you, but for fear of Zeus, the god of guests, and for my own pity” (14.388-89).

When it’s time to eat, he puts his chine where his mouth is. Homer actually spends a while describing just how fair he is:

The swineherd stood up to divide the portions, for he was fair minded, and separated all the meat into seven portions. One he set aside, with a prayer, for the nymphs and Hermes, the son of Maia, and the rest he distributed to each man, but gave Odysseus in honor the long cuts of the chine’s portion of the white-toothed pig, and so exalted the heart of his master. (14.432-438)

Everyone—he, Odysseus, and the other swineherds—gets a fair portion, but, as the guest, Odysseus gets the good stuff. And it “exalts” the heart of his master. It seems like Eumaios’s hospitality doesn’t just reflect well on him; it also reflects well on Odysseus.

Loyal Servant

That’s not the only way Eumaios proves what a good servant he is. When he’s talking to the disguised Odysseus, he says that he misses Odysseus so much that he “feel[s] some modesty about naming him … So I call him my master, though he is absent” (14.144-147). Even though Odysseus has been gone for 20 years and is in all likelihood at the bottom of the Mediterranean somewhere, Eumaios still thinks of him as his master. Really, he’s almost as loyal as Penelope.

Like Penelope, he makes sure that things are taken care of in his master’s absence. He even sleeps outside with his pigs—and “Odysseus was happy that his livelihood was so well cared for while he was absent” (14.527). You have to be careful in Ancient Greece: you never know when your master or a god is going to be checking up on you, so you’d better make sure that you’re behaving. Just like Santa Claus.

But it’s not all sleeping with pigs and dividing meat fairly. Check out how he welcomes Telemachos, when the boy comes back from his adventure:

He came up to meet his master, and kissed his head, and kissed too his beautiful shining eyes, and both his hands, and the swelling tear fell from him. And as a father, with heart full of love, welcomes his only and grown son, for whose sake he has undergone many hardships when he comes back in the tenth year from a distant country, so now the noble swineherd, clinging fast to godlike Telemachos, kissed him even as if he had escaped dying […].’ (16.14-21)

Eumaios feels so much loyalty to Telemachos that he treats the boy like a son. But is it really all that surprising that the perfect master (Odysseus) and the perfect mistress (Penelope) also have the perfect servant?

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Circe

The sorceress of the island Aiaia. She turns Odysseus’s men into sheep, seduces him, and then finally sends them on their way with directions to the Underworld.

Here’s a hint: if you happen to shipwreck on the island of Aeaea, and an intoxicatingly beautiful woman offers you some refreshment, don’t take the bait. The chances are very high that you’ve just run into Circe, the immortal sea witch. She may seem gracious at first, but as soon as she’s done wining and dining her guests, she whips out her magic wand and transforms them into animals. A true pet lover, Circe fills her palace with her formerly human pals, spending most of her days lounging around with her strangely docile lions, panthers, and pigs. Circe is most famous for her appearance in Homer’s Odyssey where she transforms Odysseus’ men into swine. In the end, though, Odysseus gets friendly with Circe (like really friendly), and the sea witch transforms his men back, gives them directions to the Underworld, and sends them on their way. Hey, maybe she’s not so bad after all. Eh…

Basic Information

Name Circe
Nickname Kirke
The Sea Witch
Sex Female
Current city Lives in her palace on the island of Aeaea

Work & Education

Occupation Goddess
Sea Witch
Education Hecate’s School of Witchcraft (a grade-A institution)

Beliefs

Political views Free love!

Family & Friends (& Enemies)

Parents Helios (Dad)
Perse (Mom)
Siblings Aeetes
Pasiphae
Perses
Children According to some, I had Ardeas, Latinus, and Telegonus with Odysseus.
Friends Hecate (The goddess of magic and one cool chick)
Enemies Scylla (She stole that sexy boy, Glaucus, from me, so I turned her into a sea monster.)
Aeetes (My brother who’s still mad at me for cleansing Medea and Jason after they killed Abysrtus)

Relationships

Relationship status Big crush on Glaucus
Major fling with Odysseus
Interested in Nothing but hunks (and Severus Snape)

Favorites

Quotations “I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.”
– Winston Churchill

“I put a spell on you
Because you’re mine”
– from “I Put a Spell on You” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

“Men are pigs.”
– Popular Saying (So, why not make them appear as they really are! :-))

“‘He calls her Circe,’ Mike said. ‘He claims she turns men into pigs.'”
– from The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

“I foresaw your departure,
Your men with my help braving
The crying and pounding sea. You think
A few tears upset me? My friend,
Every sorceress is
A pragmatist at heart; nobody sees essence who can’t
Face limitation. If I wanted only to hold you
I could hold you prisoner.”
– from “Circe’s Power” by Louise Glück

Activities & Interests

Likes Herbal Medicine
Long walks on the beach
Private islands
Severus Snape (Hey, I have a thing for potion masters)
Activities Conjuring
Casting spells
Transforming men into pigs and other selected beasts
Seducing
Interests Alchemy
Sorcery
Groups Gods and Goddesses
Sea Witch Union
Daughters of the Sun
Severus Snape Fan Club
Witches

 

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Aeolus

 Aeolus was a son of Hippotes who is mentioned in Odyssey book 10 as Keeper of the Winds who gives Odysseus a tightly closed bag full of the captured winds so he could sail easily home to Ithaca on the gentle West Wind. But instead his men thought it was filled with riches, so they opened it which is why the journey was extended. All three men named Aeolus appear to be connected genealogically, although the precise relationship, especially regarding the second and third Aeolus, is often ambiguous.

This Aeolus is most frequently conflated with Aeolus, the son of Poseidon, god of the sea. It is difficult to differentiate this Aeolus from the second Aeolus, as their identities seem to have been merged by many ancient writers. The father of this third Aeolus is given as Hippotes, son of Mimas, a son of the first Aeolus (son of Hellen). According to some accounts, Hippotes married the same Melanippe who was the mother of Arne. This Aeolus lived on the floating island of Aeolia and was visited by Odysseus and his crew in the Odyssey. He gave hospitality for a month and provided for a west wind to carry them home. He also provided a gift of a bag containing all winds but the west, which Odysseus’s crew members unwittingly opened just before they were to reach Ithaca. Unfortunately, they were blown back to Aeolia, where Aeolus refused to provide any further help,[10] because he believed that their short and unsuccessful voyage meant that the gods did not favour them. This Aeolus was perceived by post-Homeric authors as a god, rather than as a mortal and simple Keeper of the Winds (as in the Odyssey).

Like the previous, this Aeolus was said to have had twelve children – six sons and six daughters. According to Diodorus, he was father of six sons by Cyane, daughter of Liparus (the eponym of the island Lipara, whom Aeolus assisted in conquering lands above Surrentum, Italy). The sons’ names were Agathyrnus, Astyochus, Androcles, Iocastus, Pheraemon, Xuthus, whereas the daughters are not mentioned at all. The sons were said to have become kings: Iocastus of the region in southern Italy as far as Rhegium; Pheraemon and Androcles of the part of Sicily between the Strait of Messina and Lilybaeum; Xuthus of Leontini; Agathyrnus of what was known as Agathyrnitis, having founded Agathyrnum; and Astyochus of Lipara. All were said to have been remembered as just and pious rulers.[11] Another list of Aeolus’ children is found in scholia on the Odyssey. The latter source gives the sons’ names as Androcles, Chrysippus, Iocastus, Phalacrus, Pheraemon, Xuthus, and the daughters’ as Aeole, Astycrateia, Dia, Hephaestia, Iphthe, Periboea; their mother in this account is Telepora or Telepatra, daughter of Laestrygon.

Parthenius of Nicaea[13] recorded a love affair between Odysseus and Aeolus’ daughter Polymele; the latter was said to have ended up betrothed to her own brother Diores.

In the Aeneid by Virgil, Juno offers Aeolus the nymph Deiopea as a wife if he will release his winds upon the fleet of Aeneas.

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The Sirens

These are the dangerous ladies who lure men to their deaths with their voices. Odysseus becomes the first mortal to live to tell the tale, because he has his men tie him to the mast while they plug their ears and sail on by. This is what they say:

Come this way, honored Odysseus, great glory of the Achaians, and stay your ship, so that you can listen here to our singing; for no one else has ever sailed past this place in his black ship until he has listened to the honey-sweet voice that issues from our lips; then goes on, well-pleased, knowing more than ever he did; for we know everything that the Argives and Trojans did and suffered in wide Troy through the gods’ despite. Over all the generous earth we know everything that happens. (12.184-196)

What’s cool is that people usually think of the Sirens as being super sexy and luring men by their feminine charms—but here, it sounds like they’re actually promising Odysseus knowledge.

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Nausikaa

Sometimes spelled Nausicaa. The Phaiakian princess, daughter of Alkinoös and Arete. Nausikaa finds Odysseus, and she who brings him to the palace (somewhat indirectly) to ask for help from the Queen. Her father the King offers her hand in marriage to Odysseus, which might have been nice (she thinks so), if he hadn’t been married already.

Nausikaa is just as hospitable as her daddy, telling Odysseus that “you shall not lack for clothing nor anything else, of those gifts which should befall the unhappy suppliant on his arrival” (6.191-193). This is a girl who was raised right.

Plus, she totally has a crush on Odysseus. She tells her friends, “A while ago he seemed an unpromising man to me. Now he even resembles one of the gods, who hold high heaven. If only the man to be called my husband could be like this one, a man living here, if only this one were pleased to stay here” (6.242-245). Well, sure. That’s what you get when you have Athene looking out for you.

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Hermes (Mercury)

Hermes is the messenger of the gods and the guide to the dead, so he’s a busy guy. If you manage to catch him on a coffee break, though, you should totally have a chat with him. He has traveled almost everywhere and has a ton of good stories to tell. You better watch your wallet, though. Hermes is easy to get along with in general, but (being the god of thieves) he’s also known for finding sneaky ways of stealing anything that catches his eye.

Basic Information

Name Hermes
Nickname Mercury (to the Romans)
Sex Male
Birthday On the day I stole Apollo’s cattle and invented the lyre. I am awesome.
Current city Mount Olympus

Work & Education

Occupation Messenger of the Gods
Guide to the Underworld
God of Thieves and Trickery
God of Travelers
Education Ha! I’m amazing; I invented the lyre on the day I was born. What do I need with school?

Beliefs

Political views Go Zeus!

Family & Friends (& Enemies)

Parents Zeus (dad), Maia (mom)
Siblings My dad has tons of children: Apollo, Artemis, Ares, Dionysus, Hebe, Athena, the Muses, Persephone, and more.
Children Pan, Hermaphroditos, Priapos, Lykos, Pherespondos, Pronomos, Eleusis, Autolycus
Friends Apollo
Zeus (well, he’s more of a boss than a friend)

Relationships

Relationship status Married to Peitho, goddess of persuasion (We have an open relationship.)
Interested in Friendship
Dating

Favorites

Quotations “The person who steals bread during a famine is not treated as a thief.”
– Cat Stevens”

“Whenever you have truth it must be given with love, or the message and the messenger will be rejected.”
– Mohandas Gandhi

“Been caught stealing, once when I was five.”
– Jane’s Addiction

Activities & Interests

Likes Stamps
Trains
Airplanes
Feasts
Secrets
Singing telegrams
The lyre
Activities Flying through the sky to deliver messages
Playing incredibly ingenious tricks
Public speaking and debate
Interests Flying
Pick pocketing
Traveling
Letter writing (it’s a dying art)

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Agamemnon

Make way for the king. King Agamemnon, that is. Back in the day, Agamemnon, King of Mycenae, was one of the biggest, most powerful dudes in Greece. Agamemnon is a Greek king and Menelaos’s brother. His unfaithful wife Klytaimestra (Clytemnestra) teamed up with her lover Aigisthos to kill him when he came back from fighting the Trojan War. In the Underworld, he tells us why we should really try to marry a woman who isn’t going to betray and murder us:

So there is nothing more deadly or more vile than a woman who stores her mind with acts that are of such sort, as this one did when she thought of this act of dishonor, and plotted the murder of her lawful husband. See, I had been thinking that I would be welcome to my children and thralls of my household when I came home, but she with thoughts surpassingly grisly splashed the shame on herself and the rest of her sex, on women still to come, even on the one whose acts are virtuous. (11.421-434)

Got that? One woman’s misdeeds make all the rest of us look bad. (Of course, Aigisthos’s treachery doesn’t make all men look bad. That would just be silly.)

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Calypso

Sometimes spelled Calypso. The goddess who holds Odysseus hostage for purposes of sex. On the one hand, she sure is hospitable: she invites Hermes to “speak what is in your mind. My heart is urgent to do it if I can, and if it is a thing that can be accomplished. But come in with me, so I can put entertainment before you” (5.87-90) and even Odysseus says that she “loved me excessively and cared for me, and she promised to make me an immortal and all my days to be ageless, but never so could she win over the heart within me” (7.254-258).

On the other hand, she’s basically keeping Odysseus as a sex captive: “By nights he would lie beside her, of necessity, in the hollow caverns, against his will, by one who was willing, but all the days he would sit upon the rocks, at the seaside, breaking his heart in tears and lamentation and sorrow as weeping tears he looked out over the barren water” (5.152-158).

Well, that’s probably what he’s going to tell Penelope, at any rate.

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