The Odyssey

what is the fate of the suitors


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In Book XXII, after he has proven himself with the axe heads, Odysseus stands by the door and kills Antinous with an arrow through the throat. The suitors look for weapons on the wall, but there are none. They promise death for Odysseus, but he reveals his identity and vows to exact vengeance. The suitors are intimidated, and Eurymakhos says that the dead Antinous was their leader and coerced them into following him; if Odysseus spares the suitors, they will repay what they took from him. Odysseus angrily refuses, and Eurymakhos calls on the suitors to draw their swords and fight.

Eurymakhos attacks, but Odysseus cuts him down with an arrow in his chest. While Odysseus staves off the suitors with his bow, Telemachus retrieves arms and armor from the room he stored them in and gives them to his father, Eumaeus, and Philoitios. Melanthios steals away to the storeroom and returns with arms and armor for the suitors. Eumaeus catches him in the act the second time around, and he and Philoitios tie him in a painful position to the rafters.

Athena appears in the main hall in the form of Mentor, though Odysseus knows it is she. The suitors threaten to kill Mentor if he joins the fight, but Athena, while on Odysseus' side, does not immediately join in the action; she wants Odysseus and Telemachus to prove their worth first. The suitor Agelaos leads the plan: attack Odysseus alone. But Athena sends their spears awry, and Odysseus' team slaughters a number of the suitors while suffering only minor damage. Athena's shield appears in the hall, inspiring further dread in the suitors. One suitor, Leodes, supplicates himself at Odysseus' knees, excusing himself from the others' actions. Odysseus does not believe his claims and decapitates Leodes. Phemios, the minstrel, also begs mercy, and Telemachus grants it to him and also to Medon, their herald.

With the suitors all dead, Odysseus asks Eurykleia, the old nurse, which of the women of his house were disloyal to him. Twelve were, she replies, and Odysseus has them clean the bloody room before they are hanged outside. The men amputate several of Melanthios' body parts. Odysseus orders the room to be purified with fire and brimstone, and weeps as all his loyal servants embrace him.