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Odyssey Case

Essay by   •  November 11, 2013  •  Essay  •  650 Words (3 Pages)  •  1,351 Views

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Although Homer empowers many female characters in The Odyssey, Ancient Greece as a whole did not share his beliefs. This is evident in some of his other works such as The Iliad, where a woman's worth is judged to be less than that of a tripod (Homer, Illiad 23.704-705). The role of women was most commonly reduced to being the

wombs to harbor male heirs (Massey 4). Double standards abounded, such as those associated with infidelity. Men were allowed to sleep with their female slaves, yet if a woman betrayed her husband, she would be ostracized; She would be excluded from public ceremonies, and even be considered a public outcast. In The Odyssey, Penelope remains faithful to Odysseus as she waits indefinitely for his return. However, Odysseus finds himself in the beds of a few non-mortal temptresses like Circe and Calypso (Homer, Odyssey 10.293-301). If the situation were reversed, Penelope would have been shunned by not only her husband, but the constituents of Ithaka as well. Further evidence for this is displayed at the end of the book, when Odysseus wants to brutally execute the maids who sleep with the suitors--an act he considers betrayal. Penelope still manages to be a strong and independent character as she wards off her suitors for twenty years. Despite her heartbreak she refuses all the suitors and maintains hope that her husband will someday return, despite having any evidence that he will. Even when he does return and reveals himself to her, she puts him through multiple tests before believing him to be the man she married. She only believes it is truly him when he describes their bed, indicating that she has really been faithful because he is the only man to have seen it and therefore the only one that could answer the question. Homer presents Penelope in a way that makes the reader revere her patience and loyalty to Odysseus. When Odysseus encounters Agamemnon's ghost at the underworld, even he remarks that, despite viewing all women as evil after being murdered by his adulterous wife, Penelope is to be respected. Despite the positive portrayal and semblance of some equality it is important to note that Homer's contemporary culture firmly deviated from that of The Odyssey.

Two women that played a considerable role in Odysseus' journey were Calypso, a nymph who seductively imprisoned him for seven years, and Circe, a sorceress with whom Odysseus and his men spent a year. Calypso holds Odysseus captive, offering him immortality as her husband. Several years go by yet Calypso refuses to release him. During this time Odysseus is full of grief and attempts to escape her so that he can return to Penelope (Homer, Odyssey 5.205-210). Odysseus thus is living in an entirely female dominated existence, living at the mercy of his mistress (Blundell 52). Calypso is caring and good-natured towards Odysseus, which is an interesting contrast to the way an Ancient Greek man

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