Odyssey XIV

The part of Book XIV that always gives students pause is the poet’s sudden direct address: “And, you, Eumaeus, my noble swineherd,” etc. Peter Jones says that the figure of speech, apostrophe, is reserved for characters whom, for whatever reason, the poet has particular affection for. In the Iliad, it is used for Patroclus and Menelaus, while in the Odyssey, only Eumaeus is addressed that way.

Odysseus is, of course, the great hero of the Odyssey, and Telemachus and Penelope match his qualities in their own ways. But if you’re looking for a character who is truly good, Eumaeus is your man. He is courageous, hospitable, intelligent, and, most of all, loyal. I can imagine him being used allegorical as an example of a Christian: faithfully tending his Lord’s flocks until the day of return.

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