HOMER, ODYSSEY BOOK 12 - Theoi Classical Texts Library
Free summary and analysis of Book 12 in Homer's The Odyssey that won't make you please see your text, but the Sirens basically promise Odysseus immortal. In Greek mythology, the Sirens were dangerous creatures, who lured nearby sailors with their 6 Sirens and death; 7 Christian belief and modern reception; 8 See also . Odysseus was curious as to what the Sirens sang to him, and so, on the advice of Circe, . Commentary on the Aeneid of Vergil, Book ; ^ Virgil. Odysseus' Tale: Sirens, Scylla & Helius. BOOK Return to Ithaca  “We then were busied with these several tasks, howbeit Circe was not unaware of who have gone down alive to the house of Hades to meet death twice, while other.
For we know all the toils that in wide Troy the Argives and Trojans endured through the will of the gods, and we know all things that come to pass upon the fruitful earth. And presently Perimedes and Eurylochus arose and bound me with yet more bonds and drew them tighter. But when they had rowed past the Sirens, and we could no more hear their voice or their song, then straightway my trusty comrades took away the wax with which I had anointed their ears and loosed me from my bonds.
Then from the hands of my men in their terror the oars flew, and splashed one and all in the swirl, and the ship stood still where it was, when they no longer plied with their hands the tapering oars. But I went through the ship and cheered my men with gentle words, coming up to each man in turn: But now come, as I bid, let us all obey. Do you keep your seats on the benches and smite with your oars the deep surf of the sea, in the hope that Zeus may grant us to escape and avoid this death.
And to thee, steersman, I give this command, and do thou lay it to heart, since thou wieldest the steering oar of the hollow ship.
From this smoke and surf keep the ship well away and hug the cliff, lest, ere thou know it, the ship swerve off to the other side and thou cast us into destruction. But of Scylla I went not on to speak, a cureless bane, lest haply my comrades, seized with fear, should cease from rowing and huddle together in the hold.
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But nowhere could I descry her, and my eyes grew weary as I gazed everywhere toward the misty rock. For on one side lay Scylla and on the other divine Charybdis terribly sucked down the salt water of the sea.
Odysseus and the Sirens
Verily whenever she belched it forth, like a cauldron on a great fire she would seethe and bubble in utter turmoil, and high over head the spray would fall on the tops of both the cliffs. But as often as she sucked down the salt water of the sea, within she could all be seen in utter turmoil, and round about the rock roared terribly, while beneath the earth appeared black with sand; and pale fear seized my men.
So we looked toward her and feared destruction; but meanwhile Scylla seized from out the hollow ship six of my comrades who were the best in strength and in might. Turning my eyes to the swift ship and to the company of my men, even then I noted above me their feet and hands as they were raised aloft. To me they cried aloud, calling upon me by name for that last time in anguish of heart.
And as a fisher on a jutting rock, when he casts in his baits as a snare to the little fishes, with his long pole lets down into the sea the horn of an ox of the steading, and then as he catches a fish flings it writhing ashore, even so were they drawn writhing up towards the cliffs. Then at her doors she devoured them shrieking and stretching out their hands toward me in their awful death-struggle. Most piteous did mine eyes behold that thing of all that I bore while I explored the paths of the sea.
Then while I was still out at sea in my black ship, I heard the lowing of the cattle that were being stalled and the bleating of the sheep, and upon my mind fell the words of the blind seer, Theban Teiresias, and of Aeaean Circe, who very straitly charged me to shun the island of Helios, who gives joy to mortals.
Then verily I spoke among my comrades, grieved at heart: Nay, row the black ship out past the island. Verily thou art wholly wrought of iron, seeing that thou sufferest not thy comrades, worn out with toil and drowsiness, to set foot on shore, where on this sea-girt isle we might once more make ready a savoury supper; but thou biddest us even as we are to wander on through the swift night, driven away from the island over the misty deep.
It is from the night that fierce winds are born, wreckers of ships. How could one escape utter destruction, if haply there should suddenly come a blast of the South Wind or the blustering West Wind, which oftenest wreck ships in despite of the sovereign gods? Nay, verily for this time let us yield to black night and make ready our supper, remaining by the swift ship, and in the morning we will go aboard, and put out into the broad sea. Then verily I knew that some god was assuredly devising ill, and I spoke and addressed him with winged words: But come now, do ye all swear to me a mighty oath, to the end that, if we haply find a herd of kine or a great flock of sheep, no man may slay either cow or sheep in the blind folly of his mind; but be content to eat the food which immortal Circe gave.
But when they had sworn and made an end of the oath, we moored our well-built ship in the hollow harbor near a spring of sweet water, and my comrades went forth from the ship and skilfully made ready their supper.
But when they had put from them the desire of food and drink, then they fell to weeping, as they remembered their dear comrades whom Scylla had snatched from out the hollow ship and devoured; and sweet sleep came upon them as they wept.
But when it was the third watch of the night, and the stars had turned their course, Zeus, the cloud-gatherer, roused against us a fierce wind with a wondrous tempest, and hid with clouds the land and sea alike, and night rushed down from heaven.
And as soon as early Dawn appeared, the rosy-fingered, we dragged our ship, and made her fast in a hollow cave, where were the fair dancing-floors and seats of the nymphs. Then I called my men together and spoke among them: Then for a full month the South Wind blew unceasingly, nor did any other wind arise except the East and the South. But when all the stores had been consumed from out the ship, and now they must needs roam about in search of game, fishes, and fowl, and whatever might come to their hands—fishing with bent hooks, for hunger pinched their bellies—then I went apart up the island that I might pray to the gods in the hope that one of them might show me a way to go.
The Odyssey by Homer: Book XII
And when, as I went through the island, I had got away from my comrades, I washed my hands in a place where there was shelter from the wind, and prayed to all the gods that hold Olympus; but they shed sweet sleep upon my eyelids. All forms of death are hateful to wretched mortals, but to die of hunger, and so meet one's doom, is the most pitiful. Nay, come, let us drive off the best of the kine of Helios and offer sacrifice to the immortals who hold broad heaven.
And if we ever reach Ithaca, our native land, we will straightway build a rich temple to Helios Hyperion and put therein many goodly offerings. And if haply he be wroth at all because of his straight-horned kine, and be minded to destroy our ship, and the other gods consent, rather would I lose my life once for all with a gulp at the wave, than pine slowly away in a desert isle.
Straightway they drove off the best of the kine of Helios from near at hand, for not far from the dark-prowed ship were grazing the fair, sleek kine, broad of brow. Around these, then, they stood and made prayer to the gods, plucking the tender leaves from off a high-crested oak; for they had no white barley on board the well-benched ship.
Now when they had prayed and had cut the throats of the kine and flayed them, they cut out the thigh-pieces and covered them with a double layer of fat and laid raw flesh upon them. They had no wine to pour over the blazing sacrifice, but they made libations with water, and roasted all the entrails over the fire. Then it was that sweet sleep fled from my eyelids, and I went my way to the swift ship and the shore of the sea.
But when, as I went, I drew near to the curved ship, then verily the hot savour of the fat was wafted about me, and I groaned and cried aloud to the immortal gods: If they do not pay me fit atonement for the kine I will go down to Hades and shine among the dead. As for these men I will soon smite their swift ship with my bright thunder-bolt, and shatter it to pieces in the midst of the wine-dark sea.
But when I had come down to the ship and to the sea I upbraided my men, coming up to each in turn, but we could find no remedy—the kine were already dead. For my men, then, the gods straightway shewed forth portents. The hides crawled, the flesh, both roast and raw, bellowed upon the spits, and there was a lowing as of kine. But when Zeus, the son of Cronos, brought upon us the seventh day, then the wind ceased to blow tempestuously, and we straightway went on board, and put out into the broad sea when we had set up the mast and hoisted the white sail.
She ran on for no long time, for straightway came the shrieking West Wind, blowing with a furious tempest, and the blast of the wind snapped both the fore-stays of the mast, so that the mast fell backward and all its tackling was strewn in the bilge. On the stern of the ship the mast struck the head of the pilot and crushed all the bones of his skull together, and like a diver he fell from the deck and his proud spirit left his bones. Therewith Zeus thundered and hurled his bolt upon the ship, and she quivered from stem to stern, smitten by the bolt of Zeus, and was filled with sulphurous smoke, and my comrades fell from out the ship.
Like sea-crows they were borne on the waves about the black ship, and the god took from them their returning. But I kept pacing up and down the ship till the surge tore the sides from the keel, and the wave bore her on dismantled and snapped the mast off at the keel; but over the mast had been flung the back-stay fashioned of ox-hide; with this I lashed the two together, both keel and mast, and sitting on these was borne by the direful winds.
All night long was I borne, and at the rising of the sun I came to the cliff of Scylla and to dread Charybdis. But anyone who hears their song is bewitched by its sweetness, and they are drawn to that island like iron to a magnet.
And their ship smashes upon rocks as sharp as spears. And those sailors join the many victims of the Sirens in a meadow filled with skeletons. Taking a large block of beeswax, a gift from Circe, Odysseus breaks it into small pieces and gives one to each of his men. He tells them to soften it and put it into their ears. In this way, they will not hear the song of the Sirens. But Odysseus wants to hear that famous song and still survive.
Circe has told him how to do it. When he is firmly tied, and his men have the beeswax in their ears, they row their ship alongside the island. Then Odysseus hears the magical song of the Sirens as it floats over the summertime waters: The songs we sing, soothe away sorrow, And in our arms, you will be happy. Odysseus, bravest of heroes, The songs we sing, will bring you peace. He longs to plunge into the waves and to swim to the island.
He wants to embrace the Sirens. He strains so hard that the bonds cut deeply into the flesh of his back and arms. Nodding and scowling at his ear-plugged men, he urges them to free him. Expecting this reaction, the men row harder and harder with their oars. To Odysseus, who is bewitched by the song, the Sirens look as beautiful as Helen of Troy. To his crew, made deaf with beeswax, the Sirens seem like hungry monsters with vicious, crooked claws. The ship speeds forward and soon the song of the Sirens is an echo of an echo.
Only then do the crew members stop rowing and unplug their ears. Eurylochus unbinds his grateful captain, Odysseus, who has now come to his senses. By heeding the advice of the goddess Circe, Odysseus has avoided a catastrophe.
He will face many more trials and temptations before he reaches his home and family.