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Telemachus and Penelope in front of a tapestry weaving frame, drawing from a 5th centruy BC vase painting

Telemachus (also transliterated as Telemachos or Telémakhos; literally, "far-away fighter", Τηλέμαχος) is a figure in Greek mythology, the son of Odysseus and Penelope. His part in the saga of Odysseus was described by Homer in the epic poems of the Iliad and the Odyssey, in which his part of the story is often portrayed as a passage into manhood from childhood. In particular, the first four books of the Odyssey are sometimes referred to as the Telemachy.

In the Odyssey

Telemachus was born on the day that his father was called to fight in the Trojan War. Attempting to renege on his oath to defend Helen, Odysseus sowed salt into his fields in feigned madness. When the emissary Palamedes, who has been sent to call Odysseus to battle, placed the infant Telemachus before the plow, Odysseus stopped, proving his sanity and obliging himself to the war.

After his father had been gone for nearly 20 years, young Telemachus came of age and was visited by Athena, who disguised herself as Mentor and advised him to travel in search of news of his father. He traveled to Pylos and Lacedaemon. Their rulers, Nestor and Menelaus, were very courteous. Nestor's son Pisistratus accompanied him on this search, however, they only find out that Odysseus is being held captive by Calypso. When he returns, he visits the swineherd Eumaeus under the prompting of Athena, and discovers that the beggar staying with the swineherd at the time is indeed his father. He then accompanies Odysseus and the swineherd into the hall where they kill all the suitors.

Telemachus's story is mostly separate from the actual main conflict of the story, but also potrays an important event for Telemachus. For most of his life, having been sheltered and raised by his mother and his nurse, he has not gained the masculinity that comes with adulthood. For instance, when Telemachus calls the people of Ithaca for council in the square, after telling the people of his plight, he bursts into tears. Athena pushes Telemachos off into his own transformation in the story. This is another tale Homer has weaved into the Odyssey.

Athena (in the form of Mentor) und Telemachus

Odyssey

Book 2: Telemachus Prepares for his Voyage
Book 3: Telemachus Visits Nestor in Pylos

Telemachus in the Palace of Menelaus

Book 4 Telemachus Visits Menelaus in Sparta

Book 15: Telemachus Returns to Ithaca

Reunion of Odysseus and Telemachus, Henri-Lucien Doucet

Telemachus and the Nymphs of Calypso, Angelika Kauffmann

The Sorrow of Telemachus, Angelika Kauffmann


Calypso's Reception of Telemachus and Me, Benjamin West


Telemachus, Luigi Bienaimé,

Other Appearances

According to the Telegony, Telemachus married Circe after his father's death.

Telemachus is the subject of Francois Fénelon's The Adventures of Telemachus, Son of Ulysses (1699), a scathing attack on the monarchy of France. In James Joyce's Ulysses, Stephen Dedalus is the analogue of Telemachus.

Christian tradition holds that an act of Saint Telemachus caused the end of the colosseum games.

The Odyssey, Homer , Robert Fagles (Translator), Bernard MacGregor Walke Knox (Introduction)


Greek Mythology


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