But the goddess, flashing-eyed Athena, put it into the heart of the daughter of Icarius, wise Penelope, to set before the wooers in the halls of Odysseus the bow and the gray iron, to be a contest and the beginning of death.
She climbed the high stairway to her chamber, and took the bent key in her strong hand—a goodly key of bronze, and on it was a handle of ivory. And she went her way with her handmaidens to a store-room, far remote, where lay the treasures of her lord,
bronze and gold and iron, wrought with toil. And there lay the back-bent bow and the quiver that held the arrows, and many arrows were in it, fraught with groanings—gifts which a friend of Odysseus had given him when he met him once in Lacedaemon
, even Iphitus, son of Eurytus, a man like unto the immortals.
They two had met one another in Messene
in the house of wise Ortilochus. Odysseus verily had come to collect a debt which the whole people owed him, for the men of Messene
had lifted from Ithaca
in their benched ships three hundred sheep and the shepherds with them.
It was on an embassy in quest of these that Odysseus had come a far journey, while he was but a youth; for his father and the other elders had sent him forth. And Iphitus, on his part, had come in search of twelve brood mares, which he had lost, with sturdy mules at the teat; but to him thereafter did they bring death and doom,
when he came to the stout-hearted son of Zeus, the man Heracles, who well knew1
deeds of daring; for Heracles slew him, his guest though he was, in his own house, ruthlessly, and had regard neither for the wrath of the gods nor for the table which he had set before him, but slew the man thereafter,
and himself kept the stout-hoofed mares in his halls. It was while asking for these that Iphitus met Odysseus, and gave him the bow, which of old great Eurytus had been wont to bear, and had left at his death to his son in his lofty house. And to Iphitus Odysseus gave a sharp sword and a mighty spear,
as the beginning of loving friendship; yet they never knew one another at the table, for ere that might be the son of Zeus had slain Iphitus, son of Eurytus, a man like unto the immortals, who gave Odysseus the bow. This bow goodly Odysseus, when going forth to war, would never
take with him on the black ships, but it lay in his halls at home as a memorial of a dear friend, and he carried it in his own land.