‘The Odyssey’ is a Greek epic that is still read to this day for its exciting plot and memorable characters. In this lesson, learn about one of those characters, Eumaeus, and test yourself with a quiz.
Intro to The Odyssey
The Odyssey is a Greek epic commonly credited to the poet Homer, who is thought to have penned it sometime in the late 8th century. It’s still read to this day because of its beautiful style, intense plot, and bizarre characters.
The Odyssey tells the tale of Odysseus, a hero of the Trojan War, and his crazy journey back home after the war. Have you ever gone on a road trip that stretched on so long you described it as taking ‘years?’ Well, Odysseus understands your pain. Except his trip home was actually ten years long. Can you imagine? You fight in a decade-long war and it takes you just as long to get back to your family.
And the trip isn’t an easy one, either. Odysseus has to cross the sea and deal with some bizarre people and monsters before he makes landfall. When he does finally arrive back in Ithaca, the first person he visits is the subject of this lesson: his best friend forever, the servant Eumaeus.
Who Is Eumaeus?
So who is this Eumaeus? Well, besides being a guy with a ton of silent vowels in his name, Eumaeus is Odysseus’s lifelong friend. He’s a servant, too, tending to Odysseus’s livestock, namely the pigs. Eumaeus actually comes from royal blood – his father was the king of the island Syria, not to be confused with modern-day Syria – but he was stolen away by a sailor and then sold to Odysseus’s father Laertes as a slave.
Eumaeus was treated as the equal of Odysseus and his sister and raised alongside them by Odysseus’s mom.Odysseus and Eumaeus remained friends all through their youth and adulthood, though Eumaeus is never given his freedom. It’s implied that Eumaeus wouldn’t want to leave Odysseus, though, even if this freedom were offered. This can be really strange to a modern-day audience, so you may have to really try and put yourself in Eumaeus’s situation. If you were kidnapped at a young age, taken across the sea from your family and raised by another – though you were a servant – wouldn’t you maybe have a hard time leaving, too? Eumaeus also feels great honor in serving at the side of the king of Ithaca, as we’ll see later.
Eumaeus Waits for Odysseus
While Odysseus is off being a huge war hero in the Trojan War, Eumaeus is waiting back in Ithaca with his huge dogs and the pigs he tends. But things aren’t all fun and games in Ithaca, especially when it comes to dealing with Penelope’s suitors. Penelope is the wife of Odysseus, and when everyone believes her husband is dead, chaos ensues in the palace. Suitors show up to court Penelope – and then never leave.
Have you ever had those friends who just won’t stop eating your food and trashing your house, and just won’t go home? Yeah, that’s what Penelope, her son Telemachus, and the faithful Eumaeus deal with for years and years with the suitors. Except instead of one or two people, it’s over a hundred.Despite all this chaos, Eumaeus cares for Telemachus like his own son while Odysseus is gone, and the two grow very close.
Eumaeus is assured several times over the years Odysseus is absent that his friend and master is alive, and that he’s coming home. In fact, he’s assured of this so many times without seeing any payoff or indication this is true, that he doesn’t believe it when Odysseus finally shows up.
Eumaeus and Odysseus Reunited
When Odysseus finally gets back into town, the first place he goes is to Eumaeus’s hut. Eumaeus is the first mortal he encounters, and Odysseus doesn’t reveal his true identity during this meeting. That’s right; not only has Odysseus taken his time in coming home, but he won’t actually show his face, and insists on appearing to his faithful servant as an old man. A Zeus-fearing man, Eumaeus treats this stranger well in order to properly honor the gods, offering him food and shelter. Odysseus gives him news of the war and insists that Odysseus is well.
Eumaeus doesn’t believe him, and he’s sure suspicious of the tale Odysseus, still disguised, weaves as a fake backstory.While Odysseus is at Eumaeus’s hut, Telemachus arrives. Telemachus was only a baby when Odysseus left for war twenty years ago and doesn’t recognize his father through his disguise. Eumaeus and Telemachus embrace as a father and son would, which probably makes Odysseus feel a bit lousy. But he still doesn’t reveal himself to Eumaeus until the next morning, when Penelope arranges a final test for the suitors to win her hand. Odysseus wins the contest and reveals his true identity. Odysseus, Telemachus, and good old Eumaeus then slaughter every suitor in a heartwarming father-son-surrogate father bonding moment.
Homer’s epic Greek work, The Odyssey, offers some truly memorable characters, one of whom is the faithful Eumaeus, servant and lifelong friend of Odysseus. Eumaeus, from royal blood originally, was kidnapped as a boy and sent to live as a servant at the house of Odysseus’s family, who raised him as one of their own. He tends the livestock while Odysseus is away, dealing with the terrible, obnoxious suitors. He grows very close to Odysseus’s son, a surrogate father to the boy. When Odysseus arrives home, he wins back the hand of his wife Penelope and then reveals himself.
After which, Eumaeus helps him and Telemachus murder the other suitors.