In Odyssey 14 Eumaeus the swineherd is the first person that meets Odysseus upon his return to Ithaca. Although he doesn't recognize his master, he offers him shelter and treats him to a feast:

Then the goodly swineherd called to his comrades saying: “Bring forth the best of the boars, that I may slaughter him for the stranger who comes from afar, and we too shall have some profit therefrom, who have long borne toil and suffering for the sake of the white-tusked swine, while others devour our labour without atonement.” So saying, he split wood with the pitiless bronze, and the others brought in a fatted boar of five years old, and set him by the hearth. Nor did the swineherd forget the immortals, for he had an understanding heart, but as a first offering he cast into the fire bristles from the head of the white-tusked boar, and made prayer to all the gods that wise Odysseus might return to his own house.

Then he raised himself up, and smote the boar with a billet of oak, which he had left when splitting the wood, and the boar's life left him. And the others cut the boar's throat, and signed him, and quickly cut him up, and the swineherd took as first offerings bits of raw flesh from all the limbs, and laid them in the rich fat. These he cast into the fire, when he had sprinkled them with barley meal, but the rest they cut up and spitted, and roasted it carefully, and drew it all off the spits, and cast it in a heap on platters. Then the swineherd stood up to carve, for well did his heart know what was fair, and he cut up the mess and divided it into seven portions. One with a prayer he set aside for the nymphs and for Hermes, son of Maia, and the rest he distributed to each.

And Odysseus he honored with the long chine of the white-tusked boar, and made glad the heart of his master; and Odysseus of many wiles spoke to him, and said: “Eumaeus, mayest thou be as dear to father Zeus as thou art to me, since thou honourest me with a good portion, albeit I am in such plight.” To him then, swineherd Eumaeus, didst thou make answer, and say: “Eat, unhappy stranger, and have joy of such fare as is here. It is the god that will give one thing and withhold another, even as seems good to his heart; for he can do all things.”

Source: Homer. The Odyssey with an English Translation by A.T. Murray, PH.D. in two volumes. Cambridge, MA., Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann, Ltd. 1919.

Why does Eumaeus set aside a portion for the nymphs and for Hermes?


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