Greek Women in The Odyssey

Greek Women in The Odyssey

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The women in The Odyssey are a fair representation of women in ancient Greek culture. In his work, Homer brings forth women of different prestige. First there are the goddesses, then Penelope, and lastly the servant girls. Each of the three factions forms an important part of The Odyssey and helps us look into what women were like in ancient Greece.
The role that the housemaids play in The Odyssey is that of servitude. They are expected to serve the suitors and put up with their rude demeanor. During the course of the ten years that the suitors are there, many of the housemaids sleep with them. Upon returning to Ithica, and slaughtering the suitors, Odysseus makes the housemaids who slept with the suitors clean up their dead bodies. After this he hangs them by the neck, with this gesture he indirectly calls them “harlots”. This indicates one of many feelings toward women of that time.
Then there is Odysseus’ wife, Penelope. She is depicted as an individual. Homer makes her character appear as very clever and also very loyal. Never once during Odysseus twenty years of absence does she remarry. She tolerates the suitors in her home for ten years but never chooses, always with the hope that her first husband, Odysseus, will return. Homer also makes her seem clever when she gets all of the suitors to bring her gifts before she “chooses one” knowing that they are in a short supply of resources. In another instance he portrays her as clever in the way that she keeps the suitor away by weaving the tunic for Odysseus and secretly taking it apart every night. The role Penelope plays is very important because she is seen as a person, not a possession.
Finally, there are the goddesses. They represent women in all their glory. They are very human-like in that they feel the same emotions like jealousy, anger, pride, revenge, excitement, joy, compassion, etc. The exception being that they have supernatural powers. Homer even makes then human-like to the extent that they fall in love with mortals, for instance Calypso.

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