Melanthius (Odyssey)

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Melanthius /məˈlænθiəs/ (Ancient Greek: Μελάνθιος), the son of Dolius, is a minor, yet important character in Homer's Odyssey: Odysseus's disloyal goatherd. In contrast, Odysseus's cowherd Philoetius and swineherd Eumaeus have both remained loyal to Odysseus during his twenty years of wanderings, as have Melanthius's father and six brothers.


Melanthius provides the best goats of the herd for a feast for the suitors of Penelope.[1] He serves the suitors at the dining table, pouring them wine[2] or lighting a fire in the hall upon their order.[3] He is apparently favored by many of them: Eurymachus is said to like him best of all, and he is allowed to have meals in the same dining hall with the suitors.[4]

Odysseus, disguised as a beggar and accompanied by Eumaeus, encounters Melanthius on his way into town, by the fountain dedicated to the nymphs. Melanthius immediately taunts Odysseus and proceeds to kick him on the hip, unaware that he is really dishonoring his master, causing Odysseus to consider attacking him.[5] Later, when Odysseus is brought in front of the suitors, Melanthius asserts that he knows nothing of the stranger and that Eumaeus alone is responsible for bringing him in. His speech results in the suitors' rebuking Eumaeus.[6]

Early in the battle with the suitors, Eumaeus and Philoetius catch Melanthius trying to steal more weapons and armour for the suitors. On the orders of Odysseus, they bind him and string him up from the rafters, where he is mocked by Eumaeus.[7] When the battle is won, Telemachus (the son of Odysseus), Eumaeus, and Philoetius hang the twelve unfaithful maidservants, which include Melanthius's sister, Melantho, before turning their attention to Melanthius. They take him to the inner court, chop off his nose and ears with a sword, pull off his genitals to feed to the dogs, and then, in their fury, chop off his hands and feet.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Odyssey 20. 174
  2. ^ Od. 20. 226
  3. ^ Od. 21. 163
  4. ^ Od. 17. 257 ff
  5. ^ Od. 17. 212 ff
  6. ^ Od. 17. 370 - 375
  7. ^ Od. 17. 161 - 203
  8. ^ Od. 22. 458 - 488


  • Homer, and Stanley Lombardo. Odyssey. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub. Co, 2000.