Thence we went on to the Aeoli island where lives Aeolus son of
dear to the immortal gods. It is an island that floats (as it were)
upon the sea, iron bound with a wall that girds it. Now, Aeolus has
six daughters and six lusty sons, so he made the sons marry the daughters,
and they all live with their dear father and mother, feasting and
enjoying every conceivable kind of luxury. All day long the atmosphere
of the house is loaded with the savour of roasting meats till it groans
again, yard and all; but by night they sleep on their well-made bedsteads,
each with his own wife between the blankets. These were the people
among whom we had now come.
"Aeolus entertained me for a whole month asking me questions all
time about Troy, the Argive fleet, and the return of the Achaeans.
I told him exactly how everything had happened, and when I said I
must go, and asked him to further me on my way, he made no sort of
difficulty, but set about doing so at once. Moreover, he flayed me
a prime ox-hide to hold the ways of the roaring winds, which he shut
up in the hide as in a sack- for Jove had made him captain over the
winds, and he could stir or still each one of them according to his
own pleasure. He put the sack in the ship and bound the mouth so tightly
with a silver thread that not even a breath of a side-wind could blow
from any quarter. The West wind which was fair for us did he alone
let blow as it chose; but it all came to nothing, for we were lost
through our own folly.
"Nine days and nine nights did we sail, and on the tenth day our
land showed on the horizon. We got so close in that we could see the
stubble fires burning, and I, being then dead beat, fell into a light
sleep, for I had never let the rudder out of my own hands, that we
might get home the faster. On this the men fell to talking among themselves,
and said I was bringing back gold and silver in the sack that Aeolus
had given me. 'Bless my heart,' would one turn to his neighbour, saying,
'how this man gets honoured and makes friends to whatever city or
country he may go. See what fine prizes he is taking home from Troy,
while we, who have travelled just as far as he has, come back with
hands as empty as we set out with- and now Aeolus has given him ever
so much more. Quick- let us see what it all is, and how much gold
and silver there is in the sack he gave him.'
"Thus they talked and evil counsels prevailed. They loosed the
whereupon the wind flew howling forth and raised a storm that carried
us weeping out to sea and away from our own country. Then I awoke,
and knew not whether to throw myself into the sea or to live on and
make the best of it; but I bore it, covered myself up, and lay down
in the ship, while the men lamented bitterly as the fierce winds bore
our fleet back to the Aeolian island.
"When we reached it we went ashore to take in water, and dined
by the ships. Immediately after dinner I took a herald and one of
my men and went straight to the house of Aeolus, where I found him
feasting with his wife and family; so we sat down as suppliants on
the threshold. They were astounded when they saw us and said, 'Ulysses,
what brings you here? What god has been ill-treating you? We took
great pains to further you on your way home to Ithaca, or wherever
it was that you wanted to go to.'
"Thus did they speak, but I answered sorrowfully, 'My men have
me; they, and cruel sleep, have ruined me. My friends, mend me this
mischief, for you can if you will.'
"I spoke as movingly as I could, but they said nothing, till
father answered, 'Vilest of mankind, get you gone at once out of the
island; him whom heaven hates will I in no wise help. Be off, for
you come here as one abhorred of heaven. "And with these words he
sent me sorrowing from his door.
"Thence we sailed sadly on till the men were worn out with long
fruitless rowing, for there was no longer any wind to help them. Six
days, night and day did we toil, and on the seventh day we reached
the rocky stronghold of Lamus- Telepylus, the city of the Laestrygonians,
where the shepherd who is driving in his sheep and goats [to be milked]
salutes him who is driving out his flock [to feed] and this last answers
the salute. In that country a man who could do without sleep might
earn double wages, one as a herdsman of cattle, and another as a shepherd,
for they work much the same by night as they do by day.
"When we reached the harbour we found it land-locked under steep
with a narrow entrance between two headlands. My captains took all
their ships inside, and made them fast close to one another, for there
was never so much as a breath of wind inside, but it was always dead
calm. I kept my own ship outside, and moored it to a rock at the very
end of the point; then I climbed a high rock to reconnoitre, but could
see no sign neither of man nor cattle, only some smoke rising from
the ground. So I sent two of my company with an attendant to find
out what sort of people the inhabitants were.
"The men when they got on shore followed a level road by which
people draw their firewood from the mountains into the town, till
presently they met a young woman who had come outside to fetch water,
and who was daughter to a Laestrygonian named Antiphates. She was
going to the fountain Artacia from which the people bring in their
water, and when my men had come close up to her, they asked her who
the king of that country might be, and over what kind of people he
ruled; so she directed them to her father's house, but when they got
there they found his wife to be a giantess as huge as a mountain,
and they were horrified at the sight of her.
"She at once called her husband Antiphates from the place of
and forthwith he set about killing my men. He snatched up one of them,
and began to make his dinner off him then and there, whereon the other
two ran back to the ships as fast as ever they could. But Antiphates
raised a hue and cry after them, and thousands of sturdy Laestrygonians
sprang up from every quarter- ogres, not men. They threw vast rocks
at us from the cliffs as though they had been mere stones, and I heard
the horrid sound of the ships crunching up against one another, and
the death cries of my men, as the Laestrygonians speared them like
fishes and took them home to eat them. While they were thus killing
my men within the harbour I drew my sword, cut the cable of my own
ship, and told my men to row with alf their might if they too would
not fare like the rest; so they laid out for their lives, and we were
thankful enough when we got into open water out of reach of the rocks
they hurled at us. As for the others there was not one of them left.
"Thence we sailed sadly on, glad to have escaped death, though
had lost our comrades, and came to the Aeaean island, where Circe
lives a great and cunning goddess who is own sister to the magician
Aeetes- for they are both children of the sun by Perse, who is daughter
to Oceanus. We brought our ship into a safe harbour without a word,
for some god guided us thither, and having landed we there for two
days and two nights, worn out in body and mind. When the morning of
the third day came I took my spear and my sword, and went away from
the ship to reconnoitre, and see if I could discover signs of human
handiwork, or hear the sound of voices. Climbing to the top of a high
look-out I espied the smoke of Circe's house rising upwards amid a
dense forest of trees, and when I saw this I doubted whether, having
seen the smoke, I would not go on at once and find out more, but in
the end I deemed it best to go back to the ship, give the men their
dinners, and send some of them instead of going myself.
"When I had nearly got back to the ship some god took pity upon
solitude, and sent a fine antlered stag right into the middle of my
path. He was coming down his pasture in the forest to drink of the
river, for the heat of the sun drove him, and as he passed I struck
him in the middle of the back; the bronze point of the spear went
clean through him, and he lay groaning in the dust until the life
went out of him. Then I set my foot upon him, drew my spear from the
wound, and laid it down; I also gathered rough grass and rushes and
twisted them into a fathom or so of good stout rope, with which I
bound the four feet of the noble creature together; having so done
I hung him round my neck and walked back to the ship leaning upon
my spear, for the stag was much too big for me to be able to carry
him on my shoulder, steadying him with one hand. As I threw him down
in front of the ship, I called the men and spoke cheeringly man by
man to each of them. 'Look here my friends,' said I, 'we are not going
to die so much before our time after all, and at any rate we will
not starve so long as we have got something to eat and drink on board.'
On this they uncovered their heads upon the sea shore and admired
the stag, for he was indeed a splendid fellow. Then, when they had
feasted their eyes upon him sufficiently, they washed their hands
and began to cook him for dinner.
"Thus through the livelong day to the going down of the sun we
there eating and drinking our fill, but when the sun went down and
it came on dark, we camped upon the sea shore. When the child of morning,
fingered Dawn, appeared, I called a council and said, 'My friends,
we are in very great difficulties; listen therefore to me. We have
no idea where the sun either sets or rises, so that we do not even
know East from West. I see no way out of it; nevertheless, we must
try and find one. We are certainly on an island, for I went as high
as I could this morning, and saw the sea reaching all round it to
the horizon; it lies low, but towards the middle I saw smoke rising
from out of a thick forest of trees.'
"Their hearts sank as they heard me, for they remembered how
had been treated by the Laestrygonian Antiphates, and by the savage
ogre Polyphemus. They wept bitterly in their dismay, but there was
nothing to be got by crying, so I divided them into two companies
and set a captain over each; I gave one company to Eurylochus, while
I took command of the other myself. Then we cast lots in a helmet,
and the lot fell upon Eurylochus; so he set out with his twenty-two
men, and they wept, as also did we who were left behind.
"When they reached Circe's house they found it built of cut
on a site that could be seen from far, in the middle of the forest.
There were wild mountain wolves and lions prowling all round it- poor
bewitched creatures whom she had tamed by her enchantments and drugged
into subjection. They did not attack my men, but wagged their great
tails, fawned upon them, and rubbed their noses lovingly against them.
As hounds crowd round their master when they see him coming from dinner-
for they know he will bring them something- even so did these wolves
and lions with their great claws fawn upon my men, but the men were
terribly frightened at seeing such strange creatures. Presently they
reached the gates of the goddess's house, and as they stood there
they could hear Circe within, singing most beautifully as she worked
at her loom, making a web so fine, so soft, and of such dazzling colours
as no one but a goddess could weave. On this Polites, whom I valued
and trusted more than any other of my men, said, 'There is some one
inside working at a loom and singing most beautifully; the whole place
resounds with it, let us call her and see whether she is woman or
"They called her and she came down, unfastened the door, and
them enter. They, thinking no evil, followed her, all except Eurylochus,
who suspected mischief and stayed outside. When she had got them into
her house, she set them upon benches and seats and mixed them a mess
with cheese, honey, meal, and Pramnian but she drugged it with wicked
poisons to make them forget their homes, and when they had drunk she
turned them into pigs by a stroke of her wand, and shut them up in
her pigsties. They were like pigs-head, hair, and all, and they grunted
just as pigs do; but their senses were the same as before, and they
"Thus then were they shut up squealing, and Circe threw them
acorns and beech masts such as pigs eat, but Eurylochus hurried back
to tell me about the sad fate of our comrades. He was so overcome
with dismay that though he tried to speak he could find no words to
do so; his eyes filled with tears and he could only sob and sigh,
till at last we forced his story out of him, and he told us what had
happened to the others.
"'We went,' said he, as you told us, through the forest, and in
middle of it there was a fine house built with cut stones in a place
that could be seen from far. There we found a woman, or else she was
a goddess, working at her loom and singing sweetly; so the men shouted
to her and called her, whereon she at once came down, opened the door,
and invited us in. The others did not suspect any mischief so they
followed her into the house, but I stayed where I was, for I thought
there might be some treachery. From that moment I saw them no more,
for not one of them ever came out, though I sat a long time watching
"Then I took my sword of bronze and slung it over my shoulders;
also took my bow, and told Eurylochus to come back with me and show
me the way. But he laid hold of me with both his hands and spoke piteously,
saying, 'Sir, do not force me to go with you, but let me stay here,
for I know you will not bring one of them back with you, nor even
return alive yourself; let us rather see if we cannot escape at any
rate with the few that are left us, for we may still save our lives.'
"'Stay where you are, then, 'answered I, 'eating and drinking at
ship, but I must go, for I am most urgently bound to do so.'
"With this I left the ship and went up inland. When I got
the charmed grove, and was near the great house of the enchantress
Circe, I met Mercury with his golden wand, disguised as a young man
in the hey-day of his youth and beauty with the down just coming upon
his face. He came up to me and took my hand within his own, saying,
'My poor unhappy man, whither are you going over this mountain top,
alone and without knowing the way? Your men are shut up in Circe's
pigsties, like so many wild boars in their lairs. You surely do not
fancy that you can set them free? I can tell you that you will never
get back and will have to stay there with the rest of them. But never
mind, I will protect you and get you out of your difficulty. Take
this herb, which is one of great virtue, and keep it about you when
you go to Circe's house, it will be a talisman to you against every
kind of mischief.
"'And I will tell you of all the wicked witchcraft that Circe
try to practise upon you. She will mix a mess for you to drink, and
she will drug the meal with which she makes it, but she will not be
able to charm you, for the virtue of the herb that I shall give you
will prevent her spells from working. I will tell you all about it.
When Circe strikes you with her wand, draw your sword and spring upon
her as though you were goings to kill her. She will then be frightened
and will desire you to go to bed with her; on this you must not point
blank refuse her, for you want her to set your companions free, and
to take good care also of yourself, but you make her swear solemnly
by all the blessed that she will plot no further mischief against
you, or else when she has got you naked she will unman you and make
you fit for nothing.'
"As he spoke he pulled the herb out of the ground an showed me
it was like. The root was black, while the flower was as white as
milk; the gods call it Moly, and mortal men cannot uproot it, but
the gods can do whatever they like.
"Then Mercury went back to high Olympus passing over the wooded
but I fared onward to the house of Circe, and my heart was clouded
with care as I walked along. When I got to the gates I stood there
and called the goddess, and as soon as she heard me she came down,
opened the door, and asked me to come in; so I followed her- much
troubled in my mind. She set me on a richly decorated seat inlaid
with silver, there was a footstool also under my feet, and she mixed
a mess in a golden goblet for me to drink; but she drugged it, for
she meant me mischief. When she had given it me, and I had drunk it
without its charming me, she struck she, struck me with her wand.
'There now,' she cried, 'be off to the pigsty, and make your lair
with the rest of them.'
"But I rushed at her with my sword drawn as though I would kill
whereon she fell with a loud scream, clasped my knees, and spoke piteously,
saying, 'Who and whence are you? from what place and people have you
come? How can it be that my drugs have no power to charm you? Never
yet was any man able to stand so much as a taste of the herb I gave
you; you must be spell-proof; surely you can be none other than the
bold hero Ulysses, who Mercury always said would come here some day
with his ship while on his way home form Troy; so be it then; sheathe
your sword and let us go to bed, that we may make friends and learn
to trust each other.'
"And I answered, 'Circe, how can you expect me to be friendly
you when you have just been turning all my men into pigs? And now
that you have got me here myself, you mean me mischief when you ask
me to go to bed with you, and will unman me and make me fit for nothing.
I shall certainly not consent to go to bed with you unless you will
first take your solemn oath to plot no further harm against me.'
"So she swore at once as I had told her, and when she had
her oath then I went to bed with her.
"Meanwhile her four servants, who are her housemaids, set about
work. They are the children of the groves and fountains, and of the
holy waters that run down into the sea. One of them spread a fair
purple cloth over a seat, and laid a carpet underneath it. Another
brought tables of silver up to the seats, and set them with baskets
of gold. A third mixed some sweet wine with water in a silver bowl
and put golden cups upon the tables, while the fourth she brought
in water and set it to boil in a large cauldron over a good fire which
she had lighted. When the water in the cauldron was boiling, she poured
cold into it till it was just as I liked it, and then she set me in
a bath and began washing me from the cauldron about the head and shoulders,
to take the tire and stiffness out of my limbs. As soon as she had
done washing me and anointing me with oil, she arrayed me in a good
cloak and shirt and led me to a richly decorated seat inlaid with
silver; there was a footstool also under my feet. A maid servant then
brought me water in a beautiful golden ewer and poured it into a silver
basin for me to wash my hands, and she drew a clean table beside me;
an upper servant brought me bread and offered me many things of what
there was in the house, and then Circe bade me eat, but I would not,
and sat without heeding what was before me, still moody and suspicious.
"When Circe saw me sitting there without eating, and in great
she came to me and said, 'Ulysses, why do you sit like that as though
you were dumb, gnawing at your own heart, and refusing both meat and
drink? Is it that you are still suspicious? You ought not to be, for
I have already sworn solemnly that I will not hurt you.'
"And I said, 'Circe, no man with any sense of what is right can
of either eating or drinking in your house until you have set his
friends free and let him see them. If you want me to eat and drink,
you must free my men and bring them to me that I may see them with
my own eyes.'
"When I had said this she went straight through the court with
wand in her hand and opened the pigsty doors. My men came out like
so many prime hogs and stood looking at her, but she went about among
them and anointed each with a second drug, whereon the bristles that
the bad drug had given them fell off, and they became men again, younger
than they were before, and much taller and better looking. They knew
me at once, seized me each of them by the hand, and wept for joy till
the whole house was filled with the sound of their hullabalooing,
and Circe herself was so sorry for them that she came up to me and
said, 'Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, go back at once to the sea where
you have left your ship, and first draw it on to the land. Then, hide
all your ship's gear and property in some cave, and come back here
with your men.'
"I agreed to this, so I went back to the sea shore, and found
men at the ship weeping and wailing most piteously. When they saw
me the silly blubbering fellows began frisking round me as calves
break out and gambol round their mothers, when they see them coming
home to be milked after they have been feeding all day, and the homestead
resounds with their lowing. They seemed as glad to see me as though
they had got back to their own rugged Ithaca, where they had been
born and bred. 'Sir,' said the affectionate creatures, 'we are as
glad to see you back as though we had got safe home to Ithaca; but
tell us all about the fate of our comrades.'
"I spoke comfortingly to them and said, 'We must draw our ship
to the land, and hide the ship's gear with all our property in some
cave; then come with me all of you as fast as you can to Circe's house,
where you will find your comrades eating and drinking in the midst
of great abundance.'
"On this the men would have come with me at once, but Eurylochus
to hold them back and said, 'Alas, poor wretches that we are, what
will become of us? Rush not on your ruin by going to the house of
Circe, who will turn us all into pigs or wolves or lions, and we shall
have to keep guard over her house. Remember how the Cyclops treated
us when our comrades went inside his cave, and Ulysses with them.
It was all through his sheer folly that those men lost their lives.'
"When I heard him I was in two minds whether or no to draw the
blade that hung by my sturdy thigh and cut his head off in spite of
his being a near relation of my own; but the men interceded for him
and said, 'Sir, if it may so be, let this fellow stay here and mind
the ship, but take the rest of us with you to Circe's house.'
"On this we all went inland, and Eurylochus was not left behind
all, but came on too, for he was frightened by the severe reprimand
that I had given him.
"Meanwhile Circe had been seeing that the men who had been left
were washed and anointed with olive oil; she had also given them woollen
cloaks and shirts, and when we came we found them all comfortably
at dinner in her house. As soon as the men saw each other face to
face and knew one another, they wept for joy and cried aloud till
the whole palace rang again. Thereon Circe came up to me and said,
'Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, tell your men to leave off crying;
I know how much you have all of you suffered at sea, and how ill you
have fared among cruel savages on the mainland, but that is over now,
so stay here, and eat and drink till you are once more as strong and
hearty as you were when you left Ithaca; for at present you are weakened
both in body and mind; you keep all the time thinking of the hardships-
you have suffered during your travels, so that you have no more cheerfulness
left in you.'
"Thus did she speak and we assented. We stayed with Circe for a
twelvemonth feasting upon an untold quantity both of meat and wine.
But when the year had passed in the waning of moons and the long days
had come round, my men called me apart and said, 'Sir, it is time
you began to think about going home, if so be you are to be spared
to see your house and native country at all.'
"Thus did they speak and I assented. Thereon through the
day to the going down of the sun we feasted our fill on meat and wine,
but when the sun went down and it came on dark the men laid themselves
down to sleep in the covered cloisters. I, however, after I had got
into bed with Circe, besought her by her knees, and the goddess listened
to what I had got to say. 'Circe,' said I, 'please to keep the promise
you made me about furthering me on my homeward voyage. I want to get
back and so do my men, they are always pestering me with their complaints
as soon as ever your back is turned.'
"And the goddess answered, 'Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, you
none of you stay here any longer if you do not want to, but there
is another journey which you have got to take before you can sail
homewards. You must go to the house of Hades and of dread Proserpine
to consult the ghost of the blind Theban prophet Teiresias whose reason
is still unshaken. To him alone has Proserpine left his understanding
even in death, but the other ghosts flit about aimlessly.'
"I was dismayed when I heard this. I sat up in bed and wept, and
gladly have lived no longer to see the light of the sun, but presently
when I was tired of weeping and tossing myself about, I said, 'And
who shall guide me upon this voyage- for the house of Hades is a port
that no ship can reach.'
"'You will want no guide,' she answered; 'raise you mast, set
white sails, sit quite still, and the North Wind will blow you there
of itself. When your ship has traversed the waters of Oceanus, you
will reach the fertile shore of Proserpine's country with its groves
of tall poplars and willows that shed their fruit untimely; here beach
your ship upon the shore of Oceanus, and go straight on to the dark
abode of Hades. You will find it near the place where the rivers Pyriphlegethon
and Cocytus (which is a branch of the river Styx) flow into Acheron,
and you will see a rock near it, just where the two roaring rivers
run into one another.
"'When you have reached this spot, as I now tell you, dig a
a cubit or so in length, breadth, and depth, and pour into it as a
drink-offering to all the dead, first, honey mixed with milk, then
wine, and in the third place water-sprinkling white barley meal over
the whole. Moreover you must offer many prayers to the poor feeble
ghosts, and promise them that when you get back to Ithaca you will
sacrifice a barren heifer to them, the best you have, and will load
the pyre with good things. More particularly you must promise that
Teiresias shall have a black sheep all to himself, the finest in all
"'When you shall have thus besought the ghosts with your
offer them a ram and a black ewe, bending their heads towards Erebus;
but yourself turn away from them as though you would make towards
the river. On this, many dead men's ghosts will come to you, and you
must tell your men to skin the two sheep that you have just killed,
and offer them as a burnt sacrifice with prayers to Hades and to Proserpine.
Then draw your sword and sit there, so as to prevent any other poor
ghost from coming near the split blood before Teiresias shall have
answered your questions. The seer will presently come to you, and
will tell you about your voyage- what stages you are to make, and
how you are to sail the see so as to reach your home.'
"It was day-break by the time she had done speaking, so she
me in my shirt and cloak. As for herself she threw a beautiful light
gossamer fabric over her shoulders, fastening it with a golden girdle
round her waist, and she covered her head with a mantle. Then I went
about among the men everywhere all over the house, and spoke kindly
to each of them man by man: 'You must not lie sleeping here any longer,'
said I to them, 'we must be going, for Circe has told me all about
it.' And this they did as I bade them.
"Even so, however, I did not get them away without misadventure.
had with us a certain youth named Elpenor, not very remarkable for
sense or courage, who had got drunk and was lying on the house-top
away from the rest of the men, to sleep off his liquor in the cool.
When he heard the noise of the men bustling about, he jumped up on
a sudden and forgot all about coming down by the main staircase, so
he tumbled right off the roof and broke his neck, and his soul went
down to the house of Hades.
"When I had got the men together I said to them, 'You think you
about to start home again, but Circe has explained to me that instead
of this, we have got to go to the house of Hades and Proserpine to
consult the ghost of the Theban prophet Teiresias.'
"The men were broken-hearted as they heard me, and threw
on the ground groaning and tearing their hair, but they did not mend
matters by crying. When we reached the sea shore, weeping and lamenting
our fate, Circe brought the ram and the ewe, and we made them fast
hard by the ship. She passed through the midst of us without our knowing
it, for who can see the comings and goings of a god, if the god does
not wish to be seen?
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