Now Hermes the Healer led the ghosts of the suitors down to the land of the dead. He urged them on, waving the fine gold wand that he used to make men fall asleep—or wake them up--- and they trailed after him uttering high, shrill cries. He led them down moldering paths and past the Land of Dreams and into the fields of asphodel.
The ghosts of the heros (who are already in the land of shades) remember Achille's funeral
Now the ghosts of Achilles and Patroclus and Ajax, heroes of the Trojan War, were standing together in the gloom when Agamemnon, flanked by his comrades and men-at-arms, marched up to them. “Hail Agamemnon,” said the shade of Achilles. “We used to think that Zeus loved you best, when you were our leader on the fields of Troy. But you died young. And you were not given a hero’s death. If only you had died in battle at Troy, at won fame for yourself and your son.”
“Achilles,” the ghost of Agamemnon replied, “oh happy man. You were the greatest warrior on the battlefield and you died the death of a hero, surrounded by the best Trojan and Archive champions. I remember that day and your funeral. We fought all day, until Zeus stopped us with a sudden gale. Then we gathered your body and took you away from the fighting, down to the ships, where your handsome flesh was cleansed with warm water and soothing oils. Your mother, Thetis, rose from the sea and her unearthly cries frightened the armies. They would have run away but Nestor told them it was only your immortal mother, longing to join you in death. We built a magnificent funeral pyre and for seventeen days we mourned you, weeping to the dirges sung by the nine Muses, songs to pierce the heart. On the eighteenth day we sacrificed droves of sheep and cattle and gave your body to the flames, and when the gods had reduced your corpse to ash, we gathered up your white bones and put them, together with seasoned wine and oils, in a two-handled golden cup that your mother said was made by the god Hephaestus. Your bones are mixed with those of Patroclus, Achilles, and over them we built a noble tomb, high on the headlands. It is a landmark that can be seen from far out on the sea, by men from our times and men of days to come.”
“And then there were your funeral games. Your mother Thetis gathered priceless trophies from the gods and every champion strained to win such a prize. You were dear to the gods Achillles, and your name will never die. But I? For my return Zeus hatched a pitiful death at the hands of Aegisthus and my accursed wife.”
The ghosts of the suitors arrive and tell their story
These shades were exchanging stories of their fate when Hermes arrived with the ghosts of the suitors killed by King Odysseus. Achilles and Agamemnon were surprised to see the shades of so many young heros come down at once. They approached the group and Agamemnon recognized the ghost of Amphimedon. “Amphimedon,” he called out to his old friend, “what happened to you and these others. Good men and all in your prime. Did Poseidon send a storm to wreck your ships? Or were you on a raid? Tell me. I visited your house in Ithaca once, the time that Menelaus and I came to urge Odysseus to sail with us to Troy. That wasn’t easy.”
“I remember you Agamemnon,” said Amphimedon, “and I’ll tell you the story of our death. We were courting Penelope, wife of Odysseus, who was gone so many years. She neither spurned nor embraced a marriage. No, she simply planned our death. First she tricked us into waiting for her to weave a funeral shroud for old Laertes. It would not do, she said, for a wealthy man like him to die without a shroud and it was her job. So she set up her loom and set to the task. All day she wove but at night she unraveled her work and we, well we trusted her. For three years she deceived us, and in our pride and passion we didn’t investigate until a servant woman told us of her trick. We caught her in the act and she was forced to finish the shroud. But then some wicked spirit brought Odysseus back. Can you believe it?”
Amphimedon continued. “Odysseus landed at the edge of his estates and was taken in by the swineherd. Telemachus landed there too and the two of them schemed against us. Telemachus came back to the palace and Odysseus followed, disguised as an old, tattered beggar. None of us knew him and we treated him badly. Insults and objects were flying and he just took it until Zeus made his blood boil. Then he and Telemachus secretly hid all of the weapons and cunning man, he had his wife set out his gleaming bow and propose a contest. None of us had the strength to string that powerful weapon. Then it came into Odysseus’s hands and we insisted that he should not have it but Telemachus stepped in. Once he got that bow in his clutches, it was all over. Odysseus won the contest with ease and then shot Antinous dead before the man even knew what was happening. Clearly a god was urging him on. Odysseus and his henchmen chased us round the hall, slashing left and right, and our blood stained the floor. Everyone was killed. Our bodies are still piled up at the palace and no one knows yet, not even our families who might wash our wounds and mourn us.”
“Happy Odysseus!” Agamemnon’s ghost cried, “to have such a loyal and faithful wife. The immortal gods themselves will lift and glorious song in praise of Penelope and her great virtue. Not like my miserable, treacherous wife Clytemnestra, who will always be remembered for her deadly plot against me, her own husband.”
So they traded stories of their fate, standing there in the gloomy underworld.