Telemachus is a figure in Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

, the son of Odysseus
Odysseus or Ulysses was a legendary Greek king of Ithaca and the hero of Homer's epic poem the Odyssey. Odysseus also plays a key role in Homer's Iliad and other works in the Epic Cycle....

 and Penelope
In Homer's Odyssey, Penelope is the faithful wife of Odysseus, who keeps her suitors at bay in his long absence and is eventually reunited with him....

, and a central character in Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

's Odyssey
The Odyssey is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other work ascribed to Homer. The poem is fundamental to the modern Western canon, and is the second—the Iliad being the first—extant work of Western literature...

. The first four books in particular focus on Telemachus' journeys in search of news about his father, who has been away at war. Therefore, they are traditionally accorded the collective title the Telemachy
The Telemachy is a term traditionally applied to the first four books of Homer's epic poem the Odyssey. They are named so because – just as the Odyssey tells the story of Odysseus – they tell the story of Odysseus' son Telemachus as he journeys from home for the first time in search of news about...



Telemachus' name in Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 means "far from battle", perhaps reflecting his absence from the Trojan War
Trojan War
In Greek mythology, the Trojan War was waged against the city of Troy by the Achaeans after Paris of Troy took Helen from her husband Menelaus, the king of Sparta. The war is among the most important events in Greek mythology and was narrated in many works of Greek literature, including the Iliad...

. Homer also calls Telemachus by the patronymic epithet "Odysseus' son".


In the Odyssey by Homer, under the instructions of Athena
In Greek mythology, Athena, Athenê, or Athene , also referred to as Pallas Athena/Athene , is the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, warfare, strength, strategy, the arts, crafts, justice, and skill. Minerva, Athena's Roman incarnation, embodies similar attributes. Athena is...

, Telemachus spends the first four books trying to gain knowledge of his father, Odysseus, whom he has never met. At the outset of Telemachus' journey, Odysseus has been absent from his home at Ithaca
Ithaca or Ithaka is an island located in the Ionian Sea, in Greece, with an area of and a little more than three thousand inhabitants. It is also a separate regional unit of the Ionian Islands region, and the only municipality of the regional unit. It lies off the northeast coast of Kefalonia and...

 for twenty years due to the Trojan War and the intervention of Poseidon
Poseidon was the god of the sea, and, as "Earth-Shaker," of the earthquakes in Greek mythology. The name of the sea-god Nethuns in Etruscan was adopted in Latin for Neptune in Roman mythology: both were sea gods analogous to Poseidon...

. During his absence, Odysseus' house has been occupied by hordes of suitors seeking the hand of Penelope. Telemachus first visits Nestor
Nestor (mythology)
In Greek mythology, Nestor of Gerenia was the son of Neleus and Chloris and the King of Pylos. He became king after Heracles killed Neleus and all of Nestor's siblings...

 and is well received by the old man who regales him with stories of his father's glory. Telemachus then departs with Nestor's son Peisistratus
Peisistratus (Odyssey)
Peisistratus or Peisistratos or Pisistratus was a figure in Greek mythology, the youngest son of Nestor. He became an intimate friend of Telemachus, son of Odysseus, and travelled with him on his unsuccessful search for his father...

, who accompanies him to the halls of Menelaus
Menelaus may refer to;*Menelaus, one of the two most known Atrides, a king of Sparta and son of Atreus and Aerope*Menelaus on the Moon, named after Menelaus of Alexandria.*Menelaus , brother of Ptolemy I Soter...

 and his wife Helen. Whilst there, Telemachus is again treated as an honored guest as Menelaus and Helen tell complementary, yet contradictory stories of his father's exploits at Troy.

The Odyssey returns focus to Telemachus upon his father's return to Ithaca in Book XV. He visits Eumaeus
In Greek mythology, Eumaeus was Odysseus's swineherd and friend before he left for the Trojan War. His father, Ktesios son of Ormenos, was king of an island called Syria. When he was a young child a Phoenician sailor seduced his nurse, a slave, who agreed to bring the child among other treasures...

, the swineherd, who happens to be hosting a disguised Odysseus. After taking his son's measure, and at the urging of Athena, Odysseus reveals his identity to Telemachus, and the two begin plotting the slaughter of the suitors.

When Penelope challenges the suitors to string Odysseus' bow and shoot an arrow through the handle-holes of twelve axeheads, Telemachus is the first to attempt the task. He would have completed the task, nearly stringing the bow on his fourth attempt; however, Odysseus subtly stops him before he can finish his attempt. Following the failure of the suitors at this task, Odysseus reveals himself, and he and Telemachus bring swift and bloody death to the suitors.


The Telegony
The Telegony is a lost ancient Greek epic poem about Telegonus, son of Odysseus by Circe. His name is indicative of his birth on Aeaea, far from Odysseus' home of Ithaca. It was part of the Epic Cycle of poems that recounted the myths not only of the Trojan War but also of the events that led up...

 was a short 2-book epic poem recounting the life and death of Odysseus after the events of the Odyssey. In this mythological postscript, Odysseus is accidentally killed by Telegonus
Telegonus is the name of three different characters in Greek mythology.-Son of Odysseus:In Greek mythology, Telegonus was the youngest son of Circe and Odysseus....

, his unknown son by the goddess Circe
In Greek mythology, Circe is a minor goddess of magic , described in Homer's Odyssey as "The loveliest of all immortals", living on the island of Aeaea, famous for her part in the adventures of Odysseus.By most accounts, Circe was the daughter of Helios, the god of the sun, and Perse, an Oceanid...

. After Odysseus' death Telemachus returns to Aeaea
Aeaea or Eëa was a mythological island said to be the home of the sorceress Circe. Odysseus tells Alcinous that he stayed here for a year on his way home to Ithaca....

 with Telegonus and Penelope, and there marries Circe.

From the Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology
Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology
The Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology is an encyclopedia/biographical dictionary.- Characteristic :...


The son of Odysseus and Penelope (Hom. Od. i. 216). He was still an infant at the time when his father went to Troy, and in his absence of nearly twenty years he grew up to manhood. After the gods in council had determined that Odysseus should return home from the island of Ogygia, Athena, assuming the appearance of Mentes, king of the Taphians, went to Ithaca, and advised Telemachus to eject the troublesome suitors of his mother from his house, and to go to Pylos and Sparta, to gather information concerning his father. Telemachus followed the advice, but the suitors refused to quit his house; and Athena, in the form of Mentes, accompanied Telemachus to Pylos. There they were hospitably received by Nestor, who also sent his own son to conduct Telemachus to Sparta. Menelaus again kindly received him, and communicated to him the prophecy of Proteus concerning Odysseus (Hom. Od. i.–iv.). From Sparta Telemachus returned home; and on his arrival there, he found his father, with the swineherd Eumaeus. But as Athena had metamorphosed him into a beggar, Telemachus did not recognise his father until the latter disclosed to him who he was. Father and son now agreed to punish the suitors; and when they were slain or dispersed, Telemachus accompanied his father to the aged Laertes. (Hom. Od. xv.–xxiv.; comp. Odysseus.) In the Post-Homeric traditions, we read that Palamedes, when endeavouring to persuade Odysseus to join the Greeks against Troy, and the latter feigned idiocy, placed the infant Telemachus before the plough with which Odysseus was ploughing (Hygin. Fab. 95; Serv. ad Aen. ii. 81; Tzetz. ad Lycoph. 384; Aelian, V. H. xiii. 12.). According to some accounts, Telemachus became the father of Perseptolis either by Polycaste, the daughter of Nestor, or by Nausicaa
Nausicaa is a character in Homer's Odyssey . She is the daughter of King Alcinous and Queen Arete of Phaeacia. Her name, in Greek, means "burner of ships".-Role in the Odyssey:...

, the daughter of Alcinous (Eustath. ad Hom. p. 1796; Dict. Cret. vi. 6.). Others relate that he was induced by Athena to marry Circe, and became by her the father of Latinus
Latinus was a figure in both Greek and Roman mythology.-Greek mythology:In Hesiod's Theogony, Latinus was the son of Odysseus and Circe who ruled the Tyrsenoi, presumably the Etruscans, with his brothers Ardeas and Telegonus...

 (Hygin. Fab. 127; comp. TELEGONUS), or that he married Cassiphone, a daughter of Circe, but in a quarrel with his mother-in-law he slew her, for which in his turn he was killed by Cassiphone (Tzetz. ad Lycoph. 808.). He is also said to have had a daughter called Roma, who married Aeneas
Aeneas , in Greco-Roman mythology, was a Trojan hero, the son of the prince Anchises and the goddess Aphrodite. His father was the second cousin of King Priam of Troy, making Aeneas Priam's second cousin, once removed. The journey of Aeneas from Troy , which led to the founding a hamlet south of...

 (Serv. ad Aen. i. 273.). One account states that Odysseus, in consequence of a prophecy that his son was dangerous to him, sent him away from Ithaca. Servius (ad Aen. x. 167) makes Telemachus the founder of the town of Clusium in Etruria.

Later classical authors

In Contest of Homer and Hesiod
Contest of Homer and Hesiod
The Contest of Homer and Hesiod or simply Certamen is a Greek narrative that expands a remark made in Hesiod's Works and Days to recount an imagined poetical agon between Homer and Hesiod, in which Hesiod bears away the prize, a bronze tripod, which he dedicates to the Muses of Mount Helicon...

, it is alleged that the Roman Emperor Hadrian
Hadrian , was Roman Emperor from 117 to 138. He is best known for building Hadrian's Wall, which marked the northern limit of Roman Britain. In Rome, he re-built the Pantheon and constructed the Temple of Venus and Roma. In addition to being emperor, Hadrian was a humanist and was philhellene in...

 asked the Delphic Oracle about Homer's birthplace and parentage. The Oracle replied that Homer came from Ithaca and that Telemachus was his father by Epicasta, daughter of Nestor.

According to Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

 and Dictys of Crete, Telemachus married Nausicaa, King Alcinous' daughter, and fathered a son named Perseptolis or Ptoliporthus.

Other appearances

Telemachus is the subject of François Fénelon
François Fénelon
François de Salignac de la Mothe-Fénelon, more commonly known as François Fénelon , was a French Roman Catholic archbishop, theologian, poet and writer...

's The Adventures of Telemachus, Son of Ulysses
Les Aventures de Télémaque
Les aventures de Télémaque was a didactic French novel by Fénelon, Archbishop of Cambrai and tutor to the seven-year-old Duc de Bourgogne . It was published anonymously in 1699 and reissued in 1717 by his family...

 (1699), a scathing attack on the monarchy
A monarchy is a form of government in which the office of head of state is usually held until death or abdication and is often hereditary and includes a royal house. In some cases, the monarch is elected...

 of France.

Telemachos and Circe are the subjects of Gluck's 1765 opera Telemaco, ossia L'isola di Circe
Telemaco, ossia L'isola di Circe is an operatic dramma per musica in two acts by Christoph Willibald Gluck...

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