The Odyssey, written by Homer at the end of the 8th century is one of the most influential pieces of literature in our society. Through this epic, Homer was able to compose a piece of literature that remains prominent in classrooms today. The Odyssey proves to to be influential, in that scholars today are still learning from Homer’s creation centuries later. Homer’s, The Odyssey was one of the only epics of its time to have such prominent female characters.
Through the character’s and plot, Homer challenges ancient greek social standings by making women a prominent key to the plot and life of protagonist’s, Odysseus and Telemachus. In ancient greek, a woman’s place was often lacking in comparison to men, but, through the Odyssey, it is demonstrated just how important women are. The women in The Odyssey proved that a woman has the power to make or break a man’s purpose. Homer created personalities and roles for females in the epic that contradicted true ancient greek beliefs.
Throughout the epic, it is demonstrated just how powerful female presence is.
One must understand the real life roles of women in Greece during the time to then understand the different lives the women in the Odyssey led. Women in Greece at this time led a life of subservience to the man. Their main role and duties were to bear children and be caretakers of the home. Society was ruled and governed by men with little regard to the opinions of women.
Women rarely held any position higher than that of “the wife of so and so”. They were married at the young age of 13 to 14 and the whole role of a women’s education was to prepare her for a family (Cartwright, 2016). If, as a woman, you were not married, it was believed that you had no other calling in life. In the eyes of the law, women were “under the complete authority of their husbands” (Cartwright, 2016). It is apparent that women’s lives in ancient greece were far from glamorous. Most of a woman’s life was to satisfy and obey her husband. In the Odyssey, some traditional roles of women are depicted and evident throughout the story; However, Homer took this opportunity and made the females in his story lead a very different purpose.
Homer put women in non-traditional roles that were unheard of in everyday life. The women in the Odyssey were given heightened personalities that allowed their characters to develop with as the story continues. Throughout the journey, it was women that helped guide the way or women who were able to deter “God-like” men such as Odysseus. Without these women Odysseus’ epic journey may have had a different outcome. Some women tempted him and some women would make sure he was on the right track to make it safely back home. A whole new identity and purpose was created for the woman. There are three different types of women throughout “The Odyssey”; humans such a Penelope, goddesses like Athena and even mythical creatures such as Calypso. Odysseus encounters each one of these women and is affected by them all.
Penelope, Odysseus’ husband is a very loyal and faithful wife to him. She fights off suitors for years and raises their son Telemachus alone in hopes of his return. Even with all of the suitors begging for Penelope she patiently awaits her one true love to hopefully return home. After the war ends, Odysseus is unaccounted for and Penelope must wait 10 more years to be reunited with her husband. The reader is drawn to Penelope because of her goodness. Her loyalty during a 20 span period is unwavering. The relationship of Penelope and Odysseus is uncommon in its devotion and romance. Most relationships end in all sorts of tragedies, but not the marriage between Odysseus and Penelope. This is impart of Penelope herself. Without this overwhelming loyalty Penelope has for Odysseus their relationship could have ended in tragedy. Penelope was a beacon of hope and showed Odysseus the power of faithfulness in a relationship.