Books 20-24: Grand Finale

Book XX: Before the slaying of the Suitors

Odysseus spends the night despondently, after seeing some of his female servants going to bed with the suitors. Athena comforts him. He is wakened in the morning by his wife's laments, and prays for good omens for his plans, which Zeus sends. Everyone is busy preparing for the festival of Apollo. Philoetius the cowherd arrives, and is found to be loyal. But Ctesippus the cowherd insults Odysseus and throws a hoof at him. An omen is seen by the suitors, which Theoclymenus correctly interprets as portentous of their death. They ignore him, and insult Telemachus.

Book XXI: The Archery Contest

Penelope brings out Odysseus' bow from its storeroom. She promises that she will marry whoever proves to be the best archer there by stringing the bow and shooting an arrow through a line of twelve axes. Telemachus sets up the axes. One suitor makes the attempt but fails. None of them can even string the bow. Meanwhile, Odysseus reveals his identity to Eumaeus and Philoetius. Antinous suggests the contest be postponed until the following day when not even Eurymachus can string the bow. Odysseus asks to be allowed to try, despite initial derision from the suitors, and completes the task with ease, after Penelope has been sent away. Telemachus stands beside his father, armed.

Book XXII: The Slaying of the Suitors

Odysseus shoots Antinous dead then reveals his identity. The battle begins. Eurymachus repents and begs for mercy, but is killed. Telemachus kills Amphinomus. Athena helps Odysseus and his partisans throughout the battle. Melantheus helps the remaining suitors arm themselves, but all are killed, with the exceptions of Phemius the bard and Medon the herald. Eurycleia is summoned. All the faithless slave girls are forced to clean up the great hall and are then hanged. Melantheus is killed and then disfigured for his treachery. Odysseus purifies the palace and has Penelope sent for.

Book XXIII: Penelope recognises Odysseus

Eurycleia tells Penelope what has happened. The Queen cannot believe it, nor can she believe that Odysseus is her husband when she sees him. He bides his time with her, but makes preparations to keep news of the slaughter secret, for fear of reprisals. She finally tricks him into revealing his identity, and becomes convinced he is her husband. They embrace. He tells her the story of his wanderings. They spend the night together. In the morning, Odysseus goes off to see his father Laertes on his farm.

Book XXIV: The Truce

The souls of the dead suitors descend to Hades, escorted by Hermes. They talk to Achilles and Agamemnon. The latter asks why such a large number of men are coming to the halls of the dead at once. Amphimedon replies, upon which Agamemnon praises Odysseus and his virtuous wife Penelope. Odysseus visits Laertes, and, after a false story, reveals himself to his father. They embrace. The families of the suitors hold an assembly, in which they decide to get their revenge on Odysseus in battle. The battle is begun, but Athena commands that they all make peace.

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