Theoclymenus in The Odyssey plays a small but vital role in the play. He is a famous prophet’s descendant fleeing prosecution for a crime of manslaughter he had committed in Argos.
He meets Telemachus and asks to come aboard, and Telemachus welcomes and offers hospitality as he returns to Ithaca. But who is Theoclymenus in The Odyssey?
The answer comes as Telemachus journeys to Pylos and Sparta, searching for his father’s whereabouts.
Who Is Theoclymenus in The Odyssey?
Telemachus journeys to Pylos to meet Nestor, a close friend of his father,, Odysseus. Athena, disguised as Mentor, helps Telemachus conversate with Nestor as they approach Pylos. After arriving at Pylos, Telemachus finds Nestor and his sons on the shore, offering a sacrifice to the Greek god Poseidon.
Nestor gives them a warm welcome but had, unfortunately, no knowledge of Odysseus. He suggested for Telemachus to visit Menelaus, Odysseus’ friend who ventured to Egypt. With that, he sends his son Pisistratus with Telemachus to journey to Sparta the next day.
Arriving at Sparta, Telemachus and Pisistratus are welcomed by Menelaus and Helen, who recognized Telemachus from his father’s features. They were fed and bathed as Menelaus, the hospitable man he is, prepared food for them to feast on.
Over supper, Menelaus tells him of his father’s adventures, from the Trojan Horse to the slaughter of the Trojans. He recounts the day of his return from Troy and how he got stranded in Egypt, where he was forced to capture Proteus, the divine old man of the Sea. He was told of the whereabouts of his friend Odysseus and how he can venture back to Sparta.
Instructed by Athena to return to his home, Telemachus travels with Pisistratus back to Pylos and bids Menelaus and Helen farewell. Arriving at Pylos, Telemachus drops Pisistratus off and insists that he could no longer visit Nestor again; he proceeds to depart when the seer, Theoclymenus, pleads to let him aboard.
The Uninvited Guest’s Past
Theoclymenus’ past is tragic but is significant in Telemachus’ voyage searching for his father. Tainted with a sinful past and was exiled from Argos for killing a member of his family, Theoclymenus meets Telemachus and offers himself to provide the young voyager with answers to the many questions he may have.
Despite Theoclymenus’ past, Telemachus welcomed him aboard because he was desperate for answers.
The seer’s role in The Odyssey is that of a hype-man, giving courage to Telemachus as he ventures in search of Odysseus. As a prophet, he sees visions that would help curb Telemachus’ doubts.
When a bird flew over carrying a dove in its talons, he interpreted this as a good sign and that it exhibits the strength of Odysseus’ house and his line of kin.
Theoclymenus, a visionary who is gifted in reading the birds, satiated each of Telemachus’ curiosity and would consistently deliver good news.
Arriving at Ithaca, he was also able to mention that his Father, Odysseus is already on the island gathering information. With the interpretations given, Telemachus has hope that his father would remain alive and that despite the difficulties with the suitors, they would succeed.
Role of Theoclymenus in The Odyssey
The role of Theoclymenus in The Odyssey is that of a seer to provide interpretations to the things seen in birds’ case. He would give representations to something that ordinary folks could not see and would not deem significant. He provided Telemachus with the hope that his father would be alive and well so that they could both return home to Ithaca and deal with his mother’s suitors.
Without Theoclymenus in The Odyssey, Telemachus would not have had the hope and faith to fight for his home. He wouldn’t have believed that his father, Odysseus, was still alive, nor would he have had the strength to hold on. Theoclymenus’ interpretation of the omen perceives Odysseus as an aggressive creature.
As a powerful regal eagle asserts superiority over the vulnerable one, he would reign further, surviving each challenge thrown his way. This was interpreted as Odysseus being a solid contender who would not die from something trivial as a voyage home; the eagle symbolizes strength in Odysseus’ will, family, and courage.
Telemachus and Theoclymenus
Theoclymenus and Telemachus have a warm and kind friendship. Although transactional, Theoclymenus needed to escape prosecution while Telemachus needed to calm his nerves. Theoclymenus approached Telemachus stating he was a prophet that could interpret birds as omens which could help them find his father.
He gives Telemachus answers to his questions and quells his doubts, all of which provide Telemachus the courage needed to voyage further. It is also worth noting that Telemachus’ warm reception of Theoclymenus is considerate despite the urgency.
Now that we’ve discussed Theoclymenus, who he is, his role in The Odyssey, his past, and his the omens he interprets, let us go over the key points of this article:
- Theoclymenus, a prophet’s descendant, can interpret the birds as omens which played a small yet vital role in The Odyssey.
- Escaping prosecution for Manslaughter in Argos, He asks to board Telemachus’ ship in exchange for his services; Telemachus warmly welcomes him aboard.
- In search of his father, Telemachus went to Pylos as instructed by the Mentor, who was Athena in disguise.
- He met Nestor, one of his father’s allies, during the Trojan war. Although he had no information on his father’s whereabouts, he instructed them to travel with Pisistratus to Sparta, where Menelaus lived.
- Before his return home, Menelaus was stranded in Egypt, where he meets the Old sea god Proteus.
- Menelaus proceeded to tell them of his adventures with Odysseus; from the tales of the Trojan Horse to the slaughtering of the Trojans, he recounted each detail to Telemachus and his men.
- Menelaus then describes being stranded in Egypt and his struggles to capture Proteus, who informed him that Odysseus was on an island captive by the nymph Calypso.
- As he left, he thanked Menelaus and Helen for their hospitality and proceeded to sail to Pylos.
- Arriving at Pylos to drop Pisistratus, he meets Theoclymenus, a prophet wishing to board the ship; he warmly welcomes the seer and proceeds to sail to Ithaca.
- The role of Theoclymenus in The Odyssey is seen as he proceeds to interpret an eagle with a dove in his talons, in which case states that the eagle being Odysseus and his kin would remain a powerful line and that no one would dare betray.
- It is also worth noting that Theoclymenus also interpreted that Odysseus, much similar to the regal eagle, would swoop down and kill its prey which is implied to be the suitors unknowingly surprised by Odysseus.
- In addition, Theoclymenus also tells of Telemachus’ father’s whereabouts and that he is currently in Ithaca seeking plans to return.
In conclusion, Theoclymenus has a minute yet vital role in The Odyssey. He provided a means of relief and the confidence that Telemachus needed during the latter’s lowest point. Telemachus had doubts, doubts that involved his strength for the throne, his father’s well-being, as well as his fears for the suitors and their plans.
Theoclymenus quelled the thought to all these doubts and fears, and in exchange for boarding Telemachus’ ship, he’d be the young voyager’s courage.
He provided interpretations to certain omens seen in the birds, and as a prophet, he told Telemachus that he would remain fit for the throne as next of kin to his father.
Without Theoclymenus in The Odyssey, Telemachus’ doubts would have eaten him whole and prevented him from truly becoming the man Odysseus envisioned him to be. We can say that Theoclymenus gave Telemachus the reassurance he needed.