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The Enduring Loyalty, Love, And Compassion Of Eumaios

993 words - 4 pages

Imagine leaving your wealth, home, family, and even country behind for twenty years. While away, people will inevitably attempt to steal your possessions, seduce your spouse, and act as though you will never return. Most likely, more people will try to harm your estate than those who will continue working and behaving in an honest manner. This notion holds true in Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey. While Odysseus wages war and struggles to return to Ithaka , a multitude of suitors court his wife and live at the cost of his possessions. On the other hand, a few people like Eumaios remain steadfast to the truth and work to maintain Odysseus’ estate and possessions. Eumaios, Odysseus’ swineherd, embodies compassion, love, and loyalty.
Throughout the poem, Homer portrays Eumaios as a compassionate character. Compassion, derived from the Greek word sympatheia and Latin term compassio, means feeling the suffering of another person. Essentially, Eumaios puts himself in the place of the misfortunate characters he encounters. To begin, when the Odysseus beggar arrives at the swineherd’s home, Eumaios tells him, “Come to the cabin. You’re a wanderer too. / You must eat something, drink some wine” (14.53-4). At this point, Eumaios does not know the true identity of the “wanderer.” He thinks the person merely needs his assistance. Not even knowing the person’s background, Eumaios benevolently invites the stranger into his home to give him food and shelter. In this same book, when the Odysseus beggar goes to sleep, “His own host threw over him / a heavy blanket cloak, his own reserve / against the winter wind” (616-8). Eumaios simply regards the needs and comfort of his guest over that of his own, as he thoughtfully places his cloak on the Odysseus beggar and decides to brave the cold winter weather. Finally, Eumaios exhibits compassion when he immediately wants to tell Telémakhos’ family that he has safely returned from searching for his father. Eumaios states, “Should I not likewise / call on Laërtês with your news?” (16.160-1) He goes on telling Telémakhos that he is concerned about Laërtês because, “since you sailed for Pylos; / he has not taken food or drink” (165-6). Eumaios feels the pain and hardship that Laërtês endures, as he feels that the distressed Laërtês needs instantaneous notice of his grandson’s return.
In addition to being empathetic throughout the poem, Eumaios loves those who need it most: Odysseus, Telémakhos, and the swine entrusted to him. When everyone else had finished dinner and went to bed for the evening, Eumaios “took a sharpened lance, and went to rest / under a hollow rock where swine were sleeping” (14.629-30). Homer uses this as an opportunity to show that Eumaios truly treasured his swine; instead of sleeping like the others, he ventures out into the cold to watch over the vulnerable swine. Later, when Telémakhos returns from searching for Odysseus, it is remarked that Eumaios “kissed the young man’s head, his shining eyes...

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