Odyssey (Rapsodies 19 to 24)
wool, and all kinds of household work. Of these, twelve in all have
misbehaved, and have been wanting in respect to me, and also to
Penelope. They showed no disrespect to Telemachus, for he has only
lately grown and his mother never permitted him to give orders to
the female servants; but let me go upstairs and tell your wife all
that has happened, for some god has been sending her to sleep."
"Do not wake her yet," answered Ulysses, "but tell the women who
have misconducted themselves to come to me."
Euryclea left the cloister to tell the women, and make them come
to Ulysses; in the meantime he called Telemachus, the stockman, and
the swineherd. "Begin," said he, "to remove the dead, and make the
women help you. Then, get sponges and clean water to swill down the
tables and seats. When you have thoroughly cleansed the whole
cloisters, take the women into the space between the domed room and
the wall of the outer court, and run them through with your swords
till they are quite dead, and have forgotten all about love and the
way in which they used to lie in secret with the suitors."
On this the women came down in a body, weeping and wailing bitterly.
First they carried the dead bodies out, and propped them up against
one another in the gatehouse. Ulysses ordered them about and made them
do their work quickly, so they had to carry the bodies out. When
they had done this, they cleaned all the tables and seats with sponges
and water, while Telemachus and the two others shovelled up the
blood and dirt from the ground, and the women carried it all away
and put it out of doors. Then when they had made the whole place quite
clean and orderly, they took the women out and hemmed them in the
narrow space between the wall of the domed room and that of the
yard, so that they could not get away: and Telemachus said to the
other two, "I shall not let these women die a clean death, for they
were insolent to me and my mother, and used to sleep with the
So saying he made a ship's cable fast to one of the bearing-posts
that supported the roof of the domed room, and secured it all around
the building, at a good height, lest any of the women's feet should
touch the ground; and as thrushes or doves beat against a net that has
been set for them in a thicket just as they were getting to their
nest, and a terrible fate awaits them, even so did the women have to
put their heads in nooses one after the other and die most
miserably. Their feet moved convulsively for a while, but not for very
As for Melanthius, they took him through the cloister into the inner
court. There they cut off his nose and his ears; they drew out his
vitals and gave them to the dogs raw, and then in their fury they
cut off his hands and his feet.
When they had done this they washed their hands and feet and went
back into the house, for all was now over; and Ulysses said to the
dear old nurse Euryclea, "Bring me sulphur, which cleanses all
pollution, and fetch fire also that I may burn it, and purify the
cloisters. Go, moreover, and tell Penelope to come here with her
attendants, and also all the maid servants that are in the house."
"All that you have said is true," answered Euryclea, "but let me
bring you some clean clothes- a shirt and cloak. Do not keep these
rags on your back any longer. It is not right."
"First light me a fire," replied Ulysses.
She brought the fire and sulphur, as he had bidden her, and
Ulysses thoroughly purified the cloisters and both the inner and outer
courts. Then she went inside to call the women and tell them what
had happened; whereon they came from their apartment with torches in
their hands, and pressed round Ulysses to embrace him, kissing his
head and shoulders and taking hold of his hands. It made him feel as
if he should like to weep, for he remembered every one of them.