For the Greeks, Homer's Odyssey was much more than just an entertaining tale of gods, monsters, and men, it served as cultural paradigm from which every important role and relationship could be defined. This book, much more so than its counter part The Iliad, gives an eclectic view of the Achean's peacetime civilization. Through Odyssey, we gain an understanding of what is proper or improper in relationships between father and son, god and mortal, servant and master, guest and host, and--importantly--man and woman. Women play a vital role in the movement of this narrative. Unlike in The Iliad, where they are chiefly prizes to be won, bereft of identity, the women of Odyssey are unique in their personality, intentions, and relationship towards men. Yet, despite the fact that no two women in this epic are alike, each--through her vices or virtues-- helps to delineate the role of the ideal woman. Below, we will show the importance of Circe, Calypso, Nausicaa, Clytaemestra, and Penelope in terms of the movement of the narrative and in defining social roles for the Ancient Greeks.
Before we delve into the traits of individual characters, it is important to understand certain assumptions about women that prevailed in the Homeric Age. By modern standards, the Ancient Greeks would be considered a rabidly misogynistic culture. Indeed, the notoriously sour Boetian playwright Hesiod-- who wrote about fifty years before Homer-- proclaimed "Zeus who thunders on high made women to be an evil to mortal men, with a nature to do evil (Theogony 600)." While this view may have been extreme even for the Greeks, they were convinced of the physical and intellectual inferiority of women. Thus, they believed that it was better for all--...
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...ocial structure of a defunct culture that was just as complex, if not more complex, than our own. It defined and sustained Greek society for hundreds of years; much like the Bible once did in Christian nations. Yet, despite its archaic nature, The Odyssey remains fresh two and a half millennia after its conception. Homer's world has woven the fantastic together with the ordinary in such a way that it will never fall apart. In a significant sense, The Odyssey is immortal.
Fagles, Robert. The Odyssey. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1996.
Katz, Marilyn. Penelope's Renown. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991
Hesiod. "Theogony." Perseus. Web. 24 Mar. 2015
Morford, Mark. Classical Mythology. 5th edition. White Plains, NY: Logman, 1995.
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