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Free Study Guide-The Odyssey by Homer-Free Book Notes Summary
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BOOK 3

Summary

Telemachus, Athena disguised as Mentor, and the crew reach Pylos, the capital of Nestor's kingdom. They are greeted at the seashore by Nestor and his sons, who are performing a sacrifice to the gods. Telemachus introduces himself as Odysseus' son and asks for news of his father. Nestor praises Odysseus and relates how the heroes of Troy went their separate ways after a dispute between Agamemnon, the leader of the expedition, and Menelaus, his brother, over whether they should sail for home immediately or stay and make sacrifices to the gods. Odysseus had originally sailed for home with Nestor and Menelaus, but after a dispute decided to rejoin Agamemnon, whereupon Nestor lost contact with him.

Nestor then tells the stories of the return home of various heroes, including Agamemnon and Menelaus. Agamemnon was murdered upon his return home by Aegisthus, his wife's lover, and Nestor praises Orestes, Agamemnon's son, who avenges his father's murder by killing Aegisthus. Telemachus wishes to have similar strength so that he might take vengeance on his mother's suitors. Nestor suggests that Telemachus go to Sparta to speak to Menelaus, who, having only recently returned home, may have some more recent news of Odysseus' whereabouts.


After the stories of Agamemnon and Menelaus are told and libations poured to the gods, Athena-Mentor leaves for the ship in the semblance of a sea-eagle, while Telemachus is taken to Nestor's house. He sleeps there comfortably and the next morning is given a chariot to leave for Sparta with Peisistratus, Nestor's youngest son, as companion. He leaves only after Nestor has performed another sacrifice to Athena. They reach Pherae, stay there for the night, and the next day drive onwards once again.

Notes

The Odyssey serves as a sequel to The Iliad in several ways. The Trojan War lies in the background as the reader learns about Odysseus and Ithaca. In this Book, Nestor talks about the war, and the large canvas of an epic comes alive with the mention of other heroes and events. Odysseus' valor obtains a special meaning for Telemachus when he hears it praised by Nestor, who has been a friend and companion of his father in war. These stories provide Telemachus with the inspiration to mature and act out his role as a hero.

Nestor is garrulous, generous, helpful, and wise. He has no precise information about Odysseus' fate but is able to relate the stories of Agamemnon's and Menelaus' return in great detail. His grand sacrifice to Athena when he realizes that it is she disguised as Mentor is indicative of the importance of the need to please the gods. The role of Athena deserves a special mention here. It is she who helps Telemachus to introduce himself in an articulate manner to Nestor and his people. And it is she who reminds him that a god can bring a man home safe even from afar. She helps him now as she had helped Odysseus during the Trojan War.

The details of the sacrifices performed contribute to the vivid portrayal of the life and customs of the ancient Greeks. Mention of where Telemachus slept and how he was bathed accounts for a controlling realism that gives the poem much of its special flavor. There is a certain quiet poetry to these domestic scenes that makes The Odyssey familiar and friendly.

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