Telemachus at Pylos

Not so Odysseus of Ithaca. When he was still missing ten years after the war ended, his son Telemachus sought news of him from his surviving comrades. His first port of call was Pylos, where he found Nestor and his followers feasting on the beach. Once Nestor learned Telemachus’ identity, he unleashed a stream of reminiscences of the Trojan War and the murder of Agamemnon at Mycenae, and of his own homecoming (‘the wind did not fail us once, but a god caused it to blow’).

Then he invited Telemachus to his palace:

Telemachus at Pylos Photo Gallery

The Geranian horseman Nestor led his sons and his sons-in-law back to his beautiful palace. When they reached the shining royal palace, they sat down in order on couches and thrones. As they came, the old man mixed wine in a mixing bowl, ten years old and sweet to taste, which the housekeeper had opened, and undone the fastening. When they had drunk to their satisfaction, each man went home to sleep, but the Geranian horseman Nestor told godlike Odysseus’ dear son Telemachus to sleep on a corded bedstead beneath the echoing portico.

Next day, Nestor arranged for his youngest daughter to bathe Telemachus and anoint him with oils before providing him with a chariot and charioteer (his own son, Peisistratus) and sending him off on the next leg of his quest to Sparta and the court of Menelaus.

These descriptions are particularly evocative in the light of the discovery of a Bronze Age palace inland from Voidhokilia near modern Chora. Excavations begun by Carl Blegen in 1939 revealed an unprecedentedly large cache of Linear B tablets, which confirmed that its Bronze Age name was Pylos. They also brought to light a well-appointed megaron (central hall), its walls adorned by fine frescoes – and a painted bath (which the romantically inclined believe to be the very bath in which Telemachus was bathed).

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