Now there came up a public beggar who was wont to beg through the town of Ithaca
, and was known for his greedy belly, eating and drinking without end. No strength had he nor might, but in bulk was big indeed to look upon.
Arnaeus was his name, for this name his honored mother had given him at his birth; but Irus all the young men called him, because he used to run on errands1
when anyone bade him. He came now, and was for driving Odysseus from his own house; and he began to revile him, and spoke winged words:
“Give way, old man, from the doorway, lest soon thou be even dragged out by the foot. Dost thou not see that all men are winking at me, and bidding me drag thee? Yet for myself, I am ashamed to do it. Nay, up with thee, lest our quarrel even come to blows.”
Then with an angry glance from beneath his brows Odysseus of many wiles answered him:
“Good fellow, I harm thee not in deed or word, nor do I begrudge that any man should give thee, though the portion he took up were a large one. This threshold will hold us both, and thou hast no need to be jealous for the goods of other folk. Thou seemest to me to be a vagrant, even as I am; and as for happy fortune, it is the gods that are like to give us that.2
But with thy fists do not provoke me overmuch, lest thou anger me, and, old man though I am, I befoul thy breast and lips with blood. So should I have the greater peace tomorrow, for I deem not that thou shalt return a second time to the hall of Odysseus, son of Laertes.”
Then, waxing wroth, the vagrant Irus said to him: “Now see how glibly the filthy wretch talks, like an old kitchen-wife. But I will devise evil for him, smiting him left and right, and will scatter on the ground all the teeth from his jaws, as though he were a swine wasting the corn.
Gird thyself now, that these men, too, may all know our fighting. But how couldst thou fight with a younger man?”
Thus on the polished threshold before the lofty doors they stirred one another's rage right heartily. And the strong and mighty Antinous heard the two,
and, breaking into a merry laugh, he spoke among the wooers:
“Friends, never before has such a thing come to pass, that a god has brought sport like this to this house. Yon stranger and Irus are provoking one another to blows. Come, let us quickly set them on.”
So he spoke, and they all sprang up laughing and gathered about the tattered beggars. And Antinous, son of Eupeithes, spoke among them, and said:
“Hear me, ye proud wooers, that I may say somewhat. Here at the fire are goats' paunches lying, which
we set there for supper, when we had filled them with fat and blood. Now whichever of the two wins and proves himself the better man, let him rise and choose for himself which one of these he will. And furthermore he shall always feast with us, nor will we suffer any other beggar to join our company and beg of us.”