Summary: Book 17
Telemachus leaves Odysseus at Eumaeus’s hut and reaches his palace where mother Penelope and nurse Eurycleia receive him with tears. He meets Theoclymenus and Piraeus in the palace hall and tells Piraeus not to bring his gifts from Menelaus to the palace as the suitors might kill him and steal the gifts. Telemachus tells Penelope of the news he received of Odysseus in Pylos and Sparta, but he does not reveal that he has seen Odysseus with his own eyes in Eumaeus’s hut. Theoclymenus then reveals that Odysseus is in Ithaca at this very moment. Meanwhile, Eumaeus and Odysseus head for the town in Telemachus’s footsteps. On the way they meet Melanthius, a subordinate of the suitors, who heaps scorn on Eumaeus and kicks his beggar companion. Odysseus gets a similar welcome at the palace.
The suitors give him food unwillingly and Antinous humiliates him. When Odysseus returns insult, Antinous hits him with a stool that disgusts even the other suitors. The reports of this cruelty reach Penelope, who asks to bring the beggar to him so that she can question him about Odysseus. Odysseus, however, does not want the suitors to see him going toward the queen’s room. Eumaeus returns to his hut, leaving Odysseus alone with Telemachus and the suitors.
Summary: Book 18
Arnaeus, a rash beggar, walks into the palace and insults Odysseus, challenging him to a boxing match. Nicknamed as Irus, he thinks that he will beat the old man easily but Athena gives Odysseus extra strength and stature. Irus soon regrets his decision and tries to escape, but by now, the suitors have noticed him and egg on the fight for the sake of their own entertainment. Soon, Odysseus knocks down Irus and stops short of killing him.
The suitors congratulate Odysseus on his victory. One of them, the moderate Amphinomus, toasts him and gives him food. Fully aware of the bloodshed to come and overcome by pity for Amphinomus, Odysseus pulls him aside and tells him that Odysseus will soon be home. He gives him a veiled warning to leave the palace and return to his own land. But Amphinomus doesn’t go, despite being “fraught with grave forebodings,” for Athena has fixed his death at the hands of Telemachus (18.176). Athena now gets Penelope to make an appearance before her suitors. The goddess gives her extra stature and beauty to inflame their hearts. Penelope falsely tells her suitors that Odysseus had instructed her to take a new husband, if he fails to return before Telemachus began growing facial hair. She then tricks them into bringing her gifts by claiming that suitors should try to win her hand by giving things to her, rather than claiming what’s rightfully hers. The suitors present her gifts, and as they celebrate, Odysseus instructs the maidservants to go to Penelope. The maidservant Melantho, Melanthius’s sister, insults him as an inferior being and a drunk. Odysseus then scares them off with threats. Athena now incites Eurymachus to insult Odysseus in the hope to make Odysseus angrier at the suitors. When Odysseus responds with insults, Eurymachus throws a stool at him but misses, hitting a servant instead. A riot is about to break out but Telemachus diffuses the situation, to the consternation of the suitors.