Books 1-4: The Telemachy

Book I: Introduction; the scene on Ithaca

The proem (1-10) announces the poet's theme, "the man" of line 1, gives a very brief introduction to events so far and invokes the Muse. It is very similar to the proem of the Iliad in tone and content.

The briefest mention of Odysseus' current plight is given - he is now on Calypso's island in the tenth year of his wanderings, and the seventh of his captivity on Ogygia - and then the Council of the Gods begins. The description of Odysseus' wanderings are misleading, since the audience now expects the poem to focus on this aspect of his myth, rather than the tack actually taken, which concentrates on events in Ithaca. In the Council of the Gods, the wrath of the absent Poseidon is explained by Zeus himself, for Odysseus was responsible for the blinding of Poseidon's son Polyphemus. It is decided that Poseidon must give up his anger, Hermes will tell Calypso (whose name means "Concealer") to free Odysseus and Athena will tell Telemachus to denounce the suitors who are ruining him with their extravagance and to seek out news of his father from Nestor and Menelaus. Athena speaks to Telemachus personally, though in disguise, and tells him to call the suitors to an assembly the next day. Meanwhile, we are told that Penelope is desperately attempting to evade marriage with that crowd of suitors.

Book II: The Ithacan Assembly; Telemachus' journey

At the assembly, despite Telemachus' passionate denunciation of the suitors, they show no intentions of leaving, preferring to squander his wealth. They are getting tired of Penelope's refusals, as she stays faithful to a husband everyone is certain is dead. They advise Telemachus to send her back to her father's palace so that she can marry again. Telemachus' request for a ship for his journey is met with derision on their part. Nevertheless, he gets his ship, with the help of Mentor (actually Athena), an old friend of his father's.

Book III: Telemachus at Pylos

On arrival at Pylos, Telemachus meets Nestor and his sons at a feast. Telemachus asks after his father, and the old king, in his typically garrulous manner, tells him about the Greeks' departure from Troy and of the demise of Agamemnon. He goes on to tell him a little of Menelaus' adventures, but regrets that he knows nothing of Odysseus' current whereabouts. Telemachus stays for a while, and then heads off in the company of Nestor's son Peisistratus to Sparta to make further enquires of Menelaus.

Book IV: Telemachus at Sparta

On arrival at Sparta, Telemachus is entertained by Menelaus and Helen. He hears more stories of the returns of other Greek heroes from Troy. Then Menelaus tells him of his fight with Proteus, the old man of the sea, and of his prophecy, which explained that Odysseus was being held captive on Ogygia, Calypso's island. The scene cuts to Ithaca, where the suitors are plotting to kill Telemachus in an ambush, after hearing of his journey abroad.

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