Throughout Greek mythology the gods challenge humanity, punishing them and guiding them. In the Odyssey, women share these characteristics with the divine. They not only stand as obstacles in Odysseus’ journey and increasing his desire for order in society, but they also stand as a source of wisdom. When Odysseus first reaches Phaeakia, Athene instructs him to seek the favor of the Queen Arete telling him that “there is no good intelligence that she herself lacks. / she dissolves quarrels, even among men” (Odyssey 7.73-74), knowing that Arete’s wisdom will aid him.
Circe, Odysseus’ first challenge in his journey home, tests his will by tempting him with the des...
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.../ were settled by Pallas Athene… who had likened herself… to Mentor”(Odyssey 24.546-48). Odysseus proves to Penelope that he deserves her prudence and their complementary marital union results in Ithaka’s unification, blessed by the grace of Pallas Athene.
Through trials, Odysseus learns that the union of man’s strength and woman’s wisdom gives rise to order. Tested with bestial pleasures, immortality, and political utopia, Odysseus cultivates virtue and recognizes his desire for order through the union of marriage. Each obstacle in his journey represents a step in his intellectual progression towards wisdom, justice and order. Thus Odysseus’ true homecoming is not when he reaches his homeland in Ithaka, but when he proves to Penelope that he desires her virtue and unifies his strength with her wisdom; it is in this moment that Ithaka joins the order in the cosmos.
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