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Why Did Odysseus Kill The Suitors ? The Odyssey: Questions & Answers

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The Odyssey is an epic Greek poem that tells the story of the return journey of Odysseus to the island of Ithaca. It describes the challenges that Odysseus had to face as he tried to return home. Some of the challenges include various monsters, a visit to the afterlife, cannibals, drugs, enchanting women, and Poseidon’s hostility, one of the Greek Gods, himself.

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After facing many woes in his journey home, unfortunately, Odysseus discovered that his trials were not over upon reaching Ithaca. There he found that 108 young men, the suitors, had invaded his house. Their purpose was to put pressure on Odysseus’ wife, Penelope, to marry one of them. The suitors are described negatively as being rude, slovenly, disrespectful and ungrateful.

The suitors’ issue was resolved by holding a bow contest, which led to the slaughter of the suitors by Odysseus and his son, Telemachus. With the intervention from Athena, goddess of wisdom, victory, and war, peace was restored on Ithaca.

Odysseus’s story highlights the power of love for home and family; because of his intense love for his family and his desire to return home, Odysseus overcame fear and hatred and ultimately defeated the suitors who threatened to steal everything that belonged to him.

The Suitors

Odysseus is the king of Ithaca, a Greek island with a rugged terrain known for its isolation. To fight for the Greeks in the Trojan War, Odysseus departed from Ithaca, leaving behind his newborn child, Telemachus and his wife, Penelope. 10 years had passed, and Odysseus still had not returned.

During this long absence of Odysseus, 108 unmarried young men suspected that Odysseus had died in the war or even in his journey back home. These young men, who are called the suitors in the poem, took up residence in Odysseus’ home and vied Penelope’s hand in marriage. 52 of the suitors were from Dulichium, 24 from Same, 20 from Zacynthus, and the other 12 were from Ithaca.

Penelope, displeased by their presence, devised a plan to delay the suitors’ courtship. According to her plan, she declared that she would only choose her suitor after weaving a funeral shroud to be presented to Odysseus’ father, Laertes.

Penelope worked on the shroud for three years, all in a while waiting for her husband’s return to Ithaca. However, one of Penelope’s maidservants named Melantho revealed Penelope’s delaying plan to Eurymachus, who later told the suitors.

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Upon learning of her tactic, the suitors demanded Penelope choose her husband among them.

The suitors displayed bad behavior in Odysseus’ home. They drank wine and ate his food. Telemachus, Odysseus’s son, who had grown up into a young man, was extremely frustrated with the suitors’ bad behavior.

Telemachus expressed his irritation about the suitors’ behavior to one of Odysseus’ guest-friends, Mentes, who is actually goddess Athena in disguise. Upon listening to Telemachus, Athena urged Telemachus to stand up to the suitors and then search for his father.

Once Odysseus returned home disguised as a beggar by Athena (so that he can plot his revenge), together with Telemachus and two of Telemachus’ friends, Eumaeus and Philoetius, they set out to kill the suitors and those maidservants who were disloyal to him.

List of Suitors

Out of 108 suitors, three of them are considered important in telling the epic poem. They are:

Antinous

He is the son of Eupheithes and is the first of the suitors to die amid Odysseus’ return to Ithaca. He is the most disrespectful among the suitors, and according to the epic poem, he is the one that planned to kill Telemachus upon his return to Ithaca. His plan, however, was outvoted by Amphinomus. Antinous behaves arrogantly in Odysseus’ home when Odysseus is disguised as a beggar; not only did he disrespect Odysseus by not showing any hospitality, but he also threw a stool at him.

Eurymachus

The son of Polybus, he is the second among the suitors to appear in the epic poem. He acted as the leader among them due to his charisma. He outdoes the other suitors in gift-giving, which made him the likely candidate to win Penelope’s hand in marriage. The union between Eurymachus and Penelope was also supported by Penelope’s father and brothers. Despite his charismatic image, Eurymachus is actually very deceitful. He discovered Penelope’s plan to delay her remarriage from one of her maidservants, Melantho, with whom he was having an affair. Upon Odysseus’s revelation to the suitors, Eurymachus put all the blame on Antinous to escape Odysseus’ wrath. However, ultimately he is killed by an arrow shot by Odysseus.

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Amphinomus

He is the son of King Nisos and is acknowledged to be the most sympathetic among the suitors because he attempted to dissuade the suitors from killing Telemachus. Odysseus knew about this and wanted to spare his life. Therefore, he warned Amphinomus to leave his house before the final battle took place. However, Amphinomus decided to stay and eventually got killed by Telemachus, along with the other suitors.

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