Homer on Odysseus’ herald, Eurybates




As you read these passages note the physical description of Eurybates, the kinds of missions he is sent on, and Odysseus' opinion of him.


(All translations are by Stan Lombardo.)


Iliad 1.319-329 [as Agamemnon prepares to take Briseis away from Achilles]

            But Agamemnon

Did not forget his spiteful threat against Achilles.

He summoned Talthybius and Eurybates,

Faithful retainers who served as his herards:
“Go to the hut of Achilles, son of Peleus;

Bring back the girl, fair-cheeked Briseis.

If he won’t give her up, I’ll come myself

With my men and take her—and freeze his heart cold.”

It was not the sort of mission a herald would relish.

The pair trailed along the barren seashore

Until they came to the Myrmidons’ ships and encampment.

They found Achilles sitting outside his hut

Beside his black ship. He was not glad to seem them.

They stood respectfully silent, in awe of this king,

And it was Achilles who was moved to address them first.


Iliad 2.181-185 [Just after Athena appears to Odysseus and encourages him to rally the Greeks]

Odysseus knew that voice [Athena’s], and he set off at a run,

Throwing his cloak behind him—Eurybates

The herald, his man from Ithaca, gathered it up—

And he went up to Agamemnon and got from him

His ancestral staff, that splinter of eternity,

And with it went along the ships of the Greeks.

Whenever he encountered a chieftain or the like,

He tried to restrain him with gentle words.


Iliad 9.164-171 [as the Greeks prepare to send an embassy to Achilles]

And then spoke Nestor, the Gerenian rider:

“Son of Atreus, most glorious Agamemnon,

Your gifts for Achilles are beyond reproach.

But come, we must dispatch envoys

As soon as possible to Achilles’ tent,

And I see before me who should volunteer,

Phoenix, dear to Zeus, should lead the way,

Followed by Ajax and brilliant Odysseus.

Odius and Eurybates can attend them as heralds.

Now bring water for our hands and observe silence,

That we may beseech Zeus to have mercy on us.”


Odyssey 19.242-248
[Odysseus, disguised as a beggar, is speaking to Penelope about himself]

                        “. . . And one more thing;

He had a herald, a little older than he was,

And I will tell you what he looked like.

He was slope-shouldered, with dark skin

And curly hair. His name was Eurybates.

And Odysseus held him in higher esteem

Than his other men, because they thought alike.”