"Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns
driven time and again off course, once he had plundered
the hallowed heights of Troy.
"Many cities of men he saw and learned their minds,
many pains he suffered, heartsick on the open sea,
fighting to save his life and bring his comrades home.
But he could not save them from disaster, hard as he strove -
the recklessness of their own ways destroyed them all,
the blind fools, they devoured the cattle of the Sun
and the Sungod blotted out the day of their return.
"Launch out on his story, Muse, daughter of Zeus,
start from where you will - sing for our time too."
The tale opens with a divine council on Mount Olympus by Zeus. All the major gods and goddesses are present except Poseidon, who is visiting the land of the Ethiopians. Zeus is speaking about the story of Aegisthus, the murderer of Agamemnon, when Athene interrupts him. The bright-eyed goddess reminds her father of poor Odysseus being separate from his family. She suggests that the gods resume their former friendship with him, and send Hermes immediately to Calypso, ordering her to free Odysseus. She points out that while Poseidon is bitter because Odysseus has blinded one of his sons, yet he can still be made to submit to the combined will of the other gods. Zeus and the other gods acquiesce to this suggestion, and Athene disguises herself as a mighty warrior to go see Telemachus, the son of Odysseus.
When Athene arrives at Ithaca she finds that the palace of Odysseus is overrun by a horde of suitors trying to court Penelope, wife of Odysseus, and ravaging his property by holding feasts. Athene identifies herself as Mentes, a Taphian chieftain and an old friend of Odysseus, and is welcomed by Telemachus. The two sit down to dinner and Telemachus apologizes for the behavior of the suitors. He asks Athene for news of his father, if there was any. Athene tells him that Odysseus is alive and that he will eventually return home to regain his throne and punish the suitors. Athene admonishes that he call a meeting of the Assembly at which he can give the suitors notice to leave his house and also announce his intention of sailing off to Pylos and Sparta to seek news of his father. Furthermore, Athene points out, if Odysseus is dead, then it is time for Telemachus to take responsibility by claiming his inheritance and punishing the suitors. The goddess then departs.
The next morning Telemachus calls together the Assembly. At the meeting Telemachus declares that he has not called together the Assembly for any civic danger or necessity but to officially denounce the suitors who have wasted his father's wealth on the pretext of courting Penelope. The gathered Assembly is quite for a few moments before Antinous, one of the most insolent suitors, verbally attacks Telemachus. Antinous argues that Penelope is leading on all the suitors, but refuses to choose one of them, thus preventing them from selecting other wives. Eurymachus, another suitor, later adds that the suitors will not leave until Penelope selects one of them. Telemachus then proposes that he be given a ship and crew to search for news of his father. He asserts that if Odysseus is really deceased he will conduct a funeral ceremony and coerce his mother to choose a new husband. On the other hand, if he finds out that Odysseus is still alive then he will no longer accept the suitors at his house. Mentor, an old friend of Odysseus, then rises to speak and praises the wisdom of Telemachus, but other suitors harass him and the Assembly disperses.
After the dispersal of the Assembly Telemachus goes to the seashore and prays to Athene for help. She appears to him as Mentor and together they plan to get a ship despite the opposition of the suitors. Then Telemachus goes home and tells his old nurse, Eurycleia, of his plans and orders her not to tell his mother of his leave for as long as possible so she will not worry about him. At the same time, Athene, disguised now as Telemachus, searches through the town pulling together a crew and procuring a ship. Returning to Mentor, she then joins Telemachus again and they, with the crew load the ship. At nightfall, they set sail and start off to Pylos to seek information from King Nestor about Odysseus.