Pandora’s stories: the dog Argos

Our dog Argos is named after Odysseus’ famous hound. Remember how Homer describes him at the point when Odysseus has returned home in disguise after his long absence:

So they spoke. And a dog, lying there, lifted its head and pricked up its ears. Argos was the hound of noble Odysseus, who had bred him himself, though he sailed to sacred Ilium before he could enjoy his company. Once the young men used to take the dog out after wild goat, deer and hare, but with his master gone he lay neglected by the gate, among the heaps of mule and cattle dung that Odysseus’ men would later use to manure the fields. There, plagued by ticks, lay Argos the hound. But suddenly aware of Odysseus’ presence, he wagged his tail and flattened his ears, though no longer strong enough to crawl to his master. Odysseus turned his face aside and hiding it from Eumaeus wiped away a tear then quickly said: ‘Eumaeus, it’s strange indeed to see this dog lying in the dung. He’s finely built, but I can’t tell if he had speed to match or was only a dog fed from the table, kept by his master for show.’

Then, Eumaeus, the swineherd, you replied: ‘Yes this dog belongs to a man who has died far away. If he had the form and vigour he had when Odysseus left for Troy you’d be amazed by the speed and power. He was keen-scented on the trail, and no creature he started in the depths of the densest wood escaped him. But now he is in a sad state, and his master has died far from his own country, and the thoughtless women neglect him. When their masters aren’t there to command them, servants don’t care about the quality of their work. Far-voiced Zeus takes half the good out of them, the day they become slaves.’

With this he entered the stately house and walking straight into the hall joined the crowd of noble suitors. As for Argos, seeing Odysseus again in this twentieth year, the hand of dark death seized him.

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