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Homer’s Odyssey Book 23. The reunification of Penelope and Odysseus The Greek warrior Odysseus has returned home to Ithaca after ten years fighting at Troy and an additional ten years struggling to find his way home. He has returned disguised as a beggar and finds his house besieged by gluttonous suitors vying for the hand of his wife, Penelope, and hoping to inherit his home and property. Odysseus defeats the suitors with the help of his son and his loyal swineherd and sets about taking back control. The goddess Athena restores his visage and he appears before his wife in new clothes, resembling an older version of the man who left some twenty years earlier. But how can Penelope be sure that this is really her husband - and even if he is, can she trust the man who now stands before her? Odysseus is perturbed that she does not instantly welcome him home and she devises a trick to test him. Penelope orders their bed removed from their chamber so Odysseus can sleep outside and he reacts with anger. The bridal bed of Penelope and Odysseus was a secret known only to them and one maid and it cannot be moved. Odysseus tells how he built their entire house around a great olive tree, the trunk of which formed the head of their bed. Now Penelope knows that this is truly her husband returned. Not only does he know their secret but at this moment she has managed to get the great trickster, the “man of many twists and turns,” to reveal his emotions – his true self. Now Odysseus is finally home. Yet his homecoming is bittersweet and after spending the night with her and telling of his long journey (the gods have to hold back the morning sun,) he reveals that he must again leave to fulfill a prophecy and make his peace with the god Poseidon. The returning warrior must wander once again. The Odyssey is an ancient story that existed in many forms told by ancient bards in the archaic period of ancient Greece. Sometime in the seventh century BCE, this version of the story was written down, probably as a written record of a live performance. Scholars are divided over what has been called “The Homeric Question” – was Homer a real person who composed the Iliad and Odyssey (which were performed by a single bard as a long epic song accompanied by the lyre) or a mythical personage applied to an ancient bardic tradition where this great song-poem was recited in many versions across the Greek-speaking world? Whatever the answer to the question of Homeric authorship is, the Odyssey remains one of the world’s most famous and influential stories. The Odyssey is many things, but at its heart it is a magnificent story of a combat veteran returning home from war.