Still disguised, Odysseus entered the palace. Only his dog Argos – now old and frail – knew him. Laying back his ears and wagging his tail joyfully he died, content to have seen his master one last time. Inside, Odysseus asked the suitors for alms, but received only abuse and blows. But Penelope was curious about the newcomer and granted him an audience in her private quarters. Despite his longing, Odysseus did not reveal his true identity. Instead, as Penelope wept ‘for her husband, who was sitting beside her’, he claimed to be a Cretan prince, who knew Odysseus before the Trojan War, adding that Odysseus would soon be home.
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Instructed by Penelope, Odysseus’ old nurse Eurycleia bathed him – and, as she did, she recognized the scar inflicted on the boar hunt on Parnassus. Warning her to keep silent, Odysseus rejoined Penelope, who related a dream in which an eagle killed her pet geese. Its interpretation was clear: the geese were the suitors, the eagle Odysseus.
Next day, Penelope, wearied by the suitors’ demands, promised to marry whoever strung Odysseus’ bow and fired an arrow through the eyes of a row of axes. Not one suitor could even string it. Then the beggar asked to try:
And as a singer, virtuosic on the lyre, effortlessly stretches a new string around a peg, fastening each end with twisted sheep-gut, even so without effort Odysseus strung the great bow. Then holding it in his right hand he tested the string, and it sang like the voice of a swallow.
With Telemachus and Eumaeus at his side, Odysseus shot down the defenceless suitors. Then he ordered the colluding maidservants to scrape and scrub the hall, before they too were hanged.
After an emotional reunion with Penelope, Odysseus hurried to Laertes’ farmstead, where he fought off an attack by the suitors’ relatives. The Odyssey ends with Athene’s intervention, forcing the warring sides to reach an agreement.