Greek mythology consists of stories and poems that talk about various gods, heroes, and the sundry rituals of the ancient Greeks. The Odyssey is one of them, an epic poem attributed to the ancient Greek poet Homer.
This epic beautifully narrates the eventful story of Odysseus, the legendary Greek King of Ithaca, who returns to his homeland after the Trojan War that lasted nearly a decade. His journey back to Ithaca was a harrowing experience as Odysseus was the only Ithacan to return alive after ten long years.
Let us all dive deeper into ancient Greek mythology as we find out who is the son of Odysseus and how did he help his father in The Odyssey.
Who Is The Son of Odysseus?
Telemachus is the son of Odysseus. Odysseus is married to Penelope, the daughter of Icarius of Sparta. Together they had one son, Telemachus. He played a sizeable role in Homer’s Odyssey and was a devoted son who matures during the epic. Moreover, he is highlighted in the first four books of the poem known as The Telemachia.
In the Odyssey, he is around 20 years old. The story of Telemachus is a tale of an ambiguous young boy who matures into a man.
Homer portrays him as a callow, helpless youth, unable to ward off the suitors swarming around his mother for the throne of Ithaca in the absence of his father. He would ultimately go on to become King of Ithaca and marry the enchantress Circe.
The Trojan War lasted nearly ten years. In this time, Telemachus had grown a bit older and started looking for information pertaining to his fathers’ whereabouts.
Before we get to the role of Telemachus in The Odyssey, let’s get acquainted with his past.
Bonus Read: Discover secrets about the Greek God of Darkness.
Birth of Telemachus
Odysseus was one of the suitors of Helen of Sparta. However, he knew that Menelaus would win Helen’s hand in marriage. Knowing this, he went on to marry Helen’s cousin, Penelope, who was more beautiful and virtuous than Helen. Telemachus, the son of Odysseus, was born out of this marriage.
In The Odyssey, the birth of Telemachus is sung by a chorus of maids. They sing about his journey from his time in the womb till the time he surfaces into the real world. They were sailing from the caves of Fate through a sea made from his mothers’ blood till he reached the shore nine months later.
During his infant years, Telemachus was saved by dolphins when he fell into the ocean. As a tribute, Odysseus wore the symbol of a dolphin on his shield.
Origins of the name
The name Telemachus is derived from the Ancient Greek name “Tēlémakho,” which is composed of two elements.
- “Tēlé” which translates to ‘far away.’
- “makhos” which means ‘war or battle.’
Thus, the name Telemachus means a person who is far from the battle.
This name is apt for the son of Odysseus because, unlike his father, Telemachus has not been a part of any wars. He was only an infant when his father left reluctantly to fight in the Trojan War. However, Telemachus does get his hands dirty as he fights alongside his father, Odysseus, to kill suitors who had invaded their castle.
Early Role in the Odyssey
In the absence of Odysseus, suitors from all over come to Ithaca. Invading the castle with the help of maids, the arrogant suitors demand that the queen choose one of them as her husband and, therefore, King of Ithaca.
Help arrived in the form of Athena, the Goddess of War and Wisdom. She disguised herself as an old friend of Odysseus called Mentes. Further on, Telemachus greeted her warmly and invited her to the feast taking place in his castle.
Meanwhile, Telemachus, who does not know his father at all, believes he is dead. Athena, disguised as Mentes, gives Telemachus some hope and foretells of his father’s arrival.
Athena’s arrival brings a spirit of positivity to Telemachus. Always lacking a father figure to guide him, he finally finds a mentor in Mentes.
Under the guidance of Athena, he develops his caliber and demeanor and learns to be assertive, slowly transforming into a young prince.
Telemachus soon becomes assertive and confronts the suitors regarding their arrogant behavior and tries to boycott them from the estate.
Soon after this, Telemachus sets sail in order to learn about his father’s whereabouts.
Commanded by Athena to head to Pylos and then to Sparta, Telemachus embarked on a new journey. There he would meet King Nestor of Pylos and Menelaus in Sparta, both of whom have fought alongside his father, Odysseus.
Bonus Read: Want to know what the eight most evil mythological characters are?
Unraveling Secrets in Pylos and Sparta
On the shores of Pylos, Telemachus and his crew are greeted by the people offering them food and drinks. In Ancient Greek, people were generously hospitable to the point where they would provide shelter, food, and beverages to any stranger without asking questions.
Despite being insecure and assuming himself to having no public speaking skills, Telemachus manages to make a good impression on the King using his eloquent speech, similar to that of Odysseus.
In Plyos, he learned of his father’s impressive feats on and off the battlefield. The King also tells him of the time Odysseus hatched a plan that helped them capture Troy. Additionally, Nestor tells him the tale of Orestes, son of Agamemnon, who avenged his father and saved the throne. Regaling in his father’s tales reinforces his respect for loyalty and devotion.
Unfortunately, no answers were to be found in Pylos. Nestor arranged a chariot for Telemachus, and he drove towards Sparta with Pisistratus as his aide.
Here he unraveled the truth about his father’s existence. Menelaus disclosed to Telemachus that Odysseus may be alive and is being held captive by a goddess named calypso. However, Telemachus is in doubt because Helen told him glorious yet conflicting tales of Odysseus’ tribulations in Troy.
Meanwhile, the suitors learn of Telemachus’ return to Ithaca and plan to ambush and kill him. Hearing this, Athena played the leading role and managed to save the prince by guiding him past the mob and told him to go directly to the pig farm owned by Eumaeus, the swineherd.
Bonus Read: Are you a fan of the myths and legends of H.P. Lovecraft?
Return to Ithaca
After reaching the shores of Ithaca, Telemachus made his way to the pig farm as advised by Athena. Here Odysseus, disguised as a beggar, was waiting for his son’s arrival. He finally revealed himself to Telemachus. Father and son were finally united after over twenty long years! Together they hatched a plan to get rid of the suitors from the castle.
The prince informed Odysseus of the numerous suitors who were present in the castle. He was instructed to take all the weapons and place them in the storeroom. However, he had to only leave weapons for him and his father outside.
Although he had not seen his father in twenty years, Telemachus was still motivated by his father, whom he only knew to be a legend. He believed in the Old Gods, especially the Goddess Athena, and put his faith in them. This was the force that drove him.
Telemachus met with his mother Penelope and devised a plan, all the while refraining from disclosing his father’s arrival. To marry the queen, the suitors would have to shoot an arrow through twelve ax heads. The only catch was, they had to use Odysseus’ bow and string it as well.
Telemachus was the first one to attempt stringing the bow. He failed multiple times before being subtly stopped by Odysseus, now disguised as a suitor due to Athena’s help. The suitors were neither capable of stringing the bow and even the ones that did, yet failed to shoot the arrow through the ax head.
Finally, once all the suitors had failed miserably, Odysseus shot an arrow and won the contest. He then approached the queen and revealed his true identity. The plan worked out perfectly. Odysseus was the only one left with a weapon. All in all, he swiftly carried out his justice.
With his son by his side, Odysseus managed to kill all the suitors and reclaimed his throne.
King Epirus, who was the arbiter of the dispute, exiled Odysseus because he had gone too far. Thus, making Telemachus the King of Ithaca.
To summarise, Telemachus is the son of Odysseus and Penelope. Through the course of The Odyssey, he grows up from a dubious young boy uncertain of his budding power to become a strong, determined adult.
Though he has many talents like his father, Odysseus, he would never end up being the man Odysseus was. However, in the battle with the suitors, where he displayed his skills and fought heroically, he gained his father’s appreciation and assurance.