Eumaeus in The Odyssey: A Servant and Friend

How does eumaeus help odysseus killing suitorsEumaeus in The Odyssey is written as Odysseus’ swineherd and friend. He is the first person Odysseus seeks after arriving back home in Ithaca. But who is he? Why did Odysseus seek him first in his arrival, instead of his wife, Penelope? And how did a servant, tending to livestock, become the Ithacan king’s lifelong friend and confidant? To understand the relationship these two have, we need to go over the events of the Odyssey and a bit of Greek mythology.

The Odyssey

As Odysseus journeys towards his home after the Trojan War, he and his men seem to encounter numerous obstacles along the way. His journey was anything but smooth, from insubordinate men that lead them into chaotic situations to injuring demigods that rule to perilous waters.

His misfortune begins on the island of the Cicones, where his men raid and terrorize the villagers forcing them to flee. Once the Ciconians return with a vengeance, they exact revenge, dwindling Odysseus and his men in numbers and forcing them back to sea. This act caught the attention of the Greek gods who once favored the Ithacan king.

The next obstacle they encounter is the Lotus plant, where his men are tempted to stay on the Lotus-Eaters island, prompting Odysseus to drag them by their hairs and tie them to the ship to leave. But one of the most dangerous and prominent obstacles Odysseus and his men face is the demigod Polyphemus.

In Sicily, home of the Cyclops, the Greek hero ventures into a cave with his men. There, they wine and dine as if the home was theirs, taking what they could. As Polyphemus enters his home, he witnesses Odysseus and his men lounging about, eating his food and treating his home as theirs.

Odysseus then demands Polyphemus to welcome them, sheltering them from their journey and bidding them a safe journey home. Instead of reciprocating Odysseus’s remarks, Polyphemus takes two men lounging about and eats them right in front of Odysseus. This prompts Odysseus and his men to flee, hiding in the cave as Polyphemus blocks the entrance with a boulder.

The Divine Antagonist

Odysseus hatches a plan; he takes a piece of the giant’s wooden club and sharpens it into a spear. He then offers Polyphemus wine enough to get the giant tipsy on its alcohol and then blind him. Odysseus and his men eventually escape but not without gaining Poseidon, Polyphemus’ father, ire. Because of this, god Poseidon makes it hellishly impossible for the Ithacans to return home safely, sending storms after storms their way and leading them into dangerous islands that do them more harm than good.

One of Poseidon’s attempts to prolong Odysseus’ journey leads the crew to a young titans island, the island of Helios. Odysseus was warned to never dock on the said god’s island, for he had precious cattle never to be touched on the sacred isle. He loved his animals more than anything in the world. So much so that he even ordered his daughters to look after the golden livestock. However, because of Poseidon’s storm, Odysseus and his men were forced to settle on the island, waiting for it to pass.

A few days passed, and the Ithacan men quickly ran out of food, they were starving and tired, and the golden cattle were just a few minutes away. Odysseus leaves his men be, warning them to stay away from the livestock as he ventures into a temple to pray.

Upon his return, Odysseus realizes that his men have slaughtered the young titan’s animals, offering the plumpest one up to the gods. He immediately rounds up his men and sets sail, fearing for their lives if they stay on the island. Unbeknownst to him, Zeus, the sky god, sends a bolt of lightning down their way, drowning all his men but him. Odysseus survives only to be trapped on the island of Calypso for seven years.

Struggles in Ithaca

Eumaeus in the odyssey oddyseus sonBack on Ithaca, Telemachus struggles to reign control of his mother’s suitors as they feast inside their castle, wasting resources and fighting off their disrespectful behavior. More than a hundred in number, the suitors refuse to leave as they take up space and trash Odysseus’ beloved home. With the help of his father’s faithful friend, Eumaeus, they keep the suitors at bay, patiently and loyally waiting for their kings to return home.

Telemachus leaves Ithaca to find his fathers’ whereabouts, hoping to bring him back home. He leaves the suitors to Eumaeus, joins Athena, disguised as Mentor, and sets sail towards Pylos.

Eumaeus waits for both Telemachus and Odysseus on a cliff, far away from the castle. He tends to Odysseus’ livestock in the meanwhile. When Odysseus finally escapes Calypso’s island, the first person he seeks is his longtime friend Eumaeus. Dressed as a beggar, Odysseus travels to Eumaeus’ hut, asking for food and shelter. Eumaeus did not recognize Odysseus and thought of the beggar as a poor soul. He invites the man in and gives him a blanket for warmth.

Telemachus arrives and is greeted with love as Eumaeus welcomes him into his house, worried about the young man’s safety. There, Odysseus reveals himself to the pair, and the trio, altogether, plans the massacre of Penelope’s suitors.

The Murder of Penelope’s Suitors

As the three venture towards the castle, they are greeted by Penelope, Odysseus’ wife, who immediately lands her eyes on the beggar. With wit and trust, Penelope announces her decision; whoever can wield her husband’s bow and shoot it will have her hand in marriage and the throne of Ithaca. Suitors step up one by one and fail each time until the beggar succeeds in the task.

After revealing his identity, he points his bow towards the most arrogant of the suitors, shooting him in the neck and killing him ruthlessly. Together with his son, Telemachus, his lifelong friend Eumaeus, and a few men who recognize him, the group kills all the suitors vying for his wife’s hand in marriage. The suitor’s family plans a revolt but is thwarted as Athena steps in; Odysseus then reclaims his rightful place at the throne and gains his family back.

Who Is Eumaeus in The Odyssey?

In the Odyssey, Eumaeus is the childhood friend and faithful servant of Odysseus. Odysseus and Eumaeus grow up together and are treated with love and care. But who is Eumaeus, and why is a servant brought up together with a future king?

Eumaeus actually has royal blood running through his veins; he is the son of Ktesios, the king of Syria, and was kidnapped by his nurse, who fell in love with a Phoenician sailor. But how did Eumaeus come to Ithaca?

The nurse and the sailor abduct the young infant to travel the seas and meet the goddess Artemis. The Greek goddess strikes down the couple and a few other men, forcing the ship to dock. The boat eventually stops in Ithaca, where the king, Laertes, Odysseus’ father, buys the infant as a servant for his children. Eumaeus is brought up alongside Odysseus and his sister Ctimene.

Anticlea, Odysseus’ mother, treats him as an equal to her children, providing him with the most delicate things as he grows up. He was treated like family in the castle, despite being a servant, and is loved dearly by those he serves, allowing him to fully and unconditionally offer them his loyalty. As they grew up, Eumaeus becomes Odysseus’ swineherd as he refuses to leave Ithaca and yearned to stay by Odysseus side.

How Does Eumaeus Help Odysseus?

After the end of the Trojan War, Eumaeus awaits his dear friend’s return eagerly, but instead of waiting a few months, he ends up waiting a few years for his return. When word spread that Odysseus was dead, he did not lose faith and kept waiting, keeping Odysseus’ place at the throne safe from the hungry suitors coveting the king’s wife and land. He took care of Penelope as she navigated dealing with her suitors. He also acted as a father towards Telemachus, giving him strength and protecting him against the suitors and their plots.


Now that we’ve talked about Eumaeus, who he is in The Odyssey, and his background, let’s go over the critical points of this article:

  • Eumaeus in the odyssey mercury ordering calypso to release odysseusEumaeus is the friend and servant of Odysseus who loyally waits for the king’s return.
  • He is a father figure to Odysseus’ son Telemachus, giving him strength and protecting the young lad from the suitors vying for Penelope’s hand.
  • Odysseus encounters numerous obstacles as he travels back to his home, the majority of which stem from garnering the Greek gods’ anger.
  • Poseidon’s hatred endangers them in the waters, forcing them to stop over multiple islands, leading them to fight for their survival.
  • Helios’ anger brings his men to death as Zeus sends a lightning bolt their way in the middle of a storm, drowning his men and washing Odysseus ashore on the Island of Calypso.
  • Odysseus is imprisoned on the island for seven years as punishment for failing to keep his men in check. Here, the young Ithacan king has an affair with the nymph and is set free after Athena begs Zeus for his release.
  • After arriving home in Ithaca, Eumaeus is the first person he seeks, traveling towards his hut in disguise, asking for shelter and warmth.
  • Eumaeus helps the poor beggar asking for shelter, and provides him a blanket; when Telemachus arrives, the beggar reveals his identity as Odysseus.
  • Together, the three plot to kill all of Penelope’s suitors to reclaim his rightful place on the throne.
  • They massacre the lot after winning Penelope’s hand in marriage, and finally, Odysseus reclaims the throne Eumaeus, and Telemachus worked hard to ensure

In conclusion, Eumaeus is Odysseus’ loyal subject and beloved friend who waited almost a decade for his return. His loyalty is shown in the way he kept the throne safe from suitors and faithfully protected Telemachus. Now you know about Eumaeus, who he is in The Odyssey, and his background as a character.

Ancient Literature (May 25, 2024) Eumaeus in The Odyssey: A Servant and Friend. Retrieved from
"Eumaeus in The Odyssey: A Servant and Friend." Ancient Literature - May 25, 2024,
Ancient Literature January 11, 2022 Eumaeus in The Odyssey: A Servant and Friend., viewed May 25, 2024,<>
Ancient Literature - Eumaeus in The Odyssey: A Servant and Friend. [Internet]. [Accessed May 25, 2024]. Available from:
"Eumaeus in The Odyssey: A Servant and Friend." Ancient Literature - Accessed May 25, 2024.
"Eumaeus in The Odyssey: A Servant and Friend." Ancient Literature [Online]. Available: [Accessed: May 25, 2024]

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