In the epic poem Odyssey, Homer delineates the homecoming of a great warrior and the hero of the epic Odysseus from the Trojan War. Though seemingly, it might sound like a male-dominated ancient myth, women pull the strings in the Odyssey, whether it may be Helen of Troy who inflicted upon the spears and arrows thirst for blood or may it be Circumspect Penelope who motivated Odysseus to come home. Also goddess Athene, nymph Kalypso and Circe, mortals Nausikaa and Klytaimestra serve as strings of the harp for Odyssey. Odyssey, by giving a significant and a dynamic role to the women, thrusts a pinnacle change in the ancient regard of women as mere instruments of pleasures.
Athene in Odyssey is a supernatural divinity, directing the story to a dramatic end. It was gray-eyed Athene who helped Odysseus make his way home. She, by her supernatural powers, sometimes veils Odysseus, (VII 14-17)
Then Odysseus rose to go to the city. Athene
with kind thought for Odysseus drifted a deep mist about him,
for fear some one of the great-hearted Phaiakians, meeting him,
might speak to him in a sneering way and ask where he came from.
or sometimes decorates him. (XXIII, 159-61)
Athene suffused great beauty, to make him
taller to behold and thicker, and on his head she arranged
the curling locks that hung down like hyacinthine petals.
Athene modifies the conditions to abet Odysseus his way home. (VI 13-14)
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It was to his house that the gray-eyed goddess Athene
went, devising the homecoming of great-hearted Odysseus
She also accentuates Odysseus’ wish to go home. She constantly reminds him of his dear wife and his own country by saying: (XV 20-23)
For you know what the mind is like in the breast of a woman.
She wants to build up the household of the man who marries her,
and of former children, and of her beloved and wedded husband,
she has no remembrance, when he is dead, nor does she think of him.
Athene thus plays a fecund role to escort Odysseus back home. Being an immortal, she is bestowed with many supernatural powers, making her work easier. The importance of goddess Athene reiterates the respect and gravity of woman in ancient Greek philosophy. Athene, being a goddess, also represents how the Greeks grandeur women to honor them with a seat of goddess. “Did the woman have same respect in the mortal world?” is a question to be considered.
Kalypso is presented as a nymph who captures Odysseus and holds him as a detainee. Seemingly, she cares for him because when he was leaving from there, she was truly benevolent to him. She apportioned Odysseus with clothing, wine, water and other travel needs. (V 261-68)
It was the fourth day and all his work was finished. Then on
the fifth day shining Kalypso saw him off from the island
when she had bathed him and put fragrant clothing upon him,
and the goddess put two skins aboard, one filled with dark wine
and the other, the big gone, filled with water, and put on provisions
in a bag, and stored there many good things to keep a man’s strength up,
and sent a following wind to carry him, warm and easy.
Kalypso, being a nymph demonstrates attractive womanhood and reveals a soft corner found in most women. Odysseus, while his way back home, pitches into many caring relationships with woman.
Nausikaa is a young daughter of Alkinoos and Arete, rulers of Phaiakia. She is presented to be a figure of beauty and admiration. (VI 15-9)
and she went into the ornate chamber, in which a girl
was sleeping, like the immortals goddesses for stature and beauty,
... example of such a woman is Penelope, Odysseus's wife. She uses her feminine cleverness and cunning towards helping her husband. She convinces the ... good men into pigs. But Odysseus is much to clever to be tricked by this goddess and he eats a plant that ... reader to perceive as 'bad' women: the goddesses Kalypso and Kerke. Kalypso is a goddess who kept Odysseus on her island for seven years ...
Nausikaa, the daughter of greathearted Alkinoos,
and beside her two handmaidens with beauty given from the Graces
slept on either side of the post with the shining doors closed.
Her youth is captivated by Odysseus’ personality and charm. She is persuaded to marry him, but out of loyalty and friendship, she does not try to win him and lets him go. She sets forth a lively example of loyal, accomplished relationship between men and women.
Eureklya is an old, loyal nurse who still serves Penelope, Odysseus’ wife. She knows Odysseus inside out and is the first mortal to recognize him when he made up to his homeland Ithaka. She is presented as a care giving humane lady. But not all the women in Odyssey are a shadow of divinity and virtue.
Klytaimestra is Agamemnon’s wife who scams against her husband and gets him killed. Agamemnon is so much turned against women that he does not trust any woman anymore and considers them baneful. (XI 427-30)
So there is nothing more deadly or more vile than a woman
who stores her mind with acts that are of such sort, as this one
did when she thought of this act of dishonor, and plotted
the murder of her lawful husband.
Klytaimestra presents a traditional incriminatory image of woman in ancient Greek myths. This image being refreshed in Odysseus’ mind, he is exhilarated to test his own wife.
Penelope is a loyal, faithful wife who waits for her husband, Odysseus for twenty years. She loves her husband and is very much distressed by her husband’s long absence. She has trouble believing that her husband is back home and is in clouds until she is shown an undeniable mark of identity. (XIII 209-217)
‘Do not be angry with me, Odysseus, since, beyond other men,
you have the most understanding. The gods granted us misery,
in jealousy over the thought that we two, always together,
should enjoy our youth, and then come to the threshold of old age.
Then do not now be angry with me nor blame me, because
I did not greet you, as I do now, at first when I saw you.
For always the spirit deep in my very heart was fearful
That some one of mortal men would come my way and deceive me
with words. For there are many who scheme for wicked advantage’.
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Penelope is figured as an ideal wife in Odyssey. She shatters the chains of traditional encumbrance associated with women. She is a portrait of sacrifice, faithfulness and honesty.
There is a spectrum of roles for woman in the Odyssey. Athene being an immortal continues the tradition of being philanthropic divinity. Kalypso epitomizes a sympathetic face of womanhood with a tinge of possessiveness. Nausikaa portraits a young maiden with tender youth, arrested by her aristocratic nurture, abiding traditional feminine hierarchy. Eureklya houses virtues of loyalty, service and faithfulness. Klytaimestra impersonates the folk role of women in ancient myths, being treacherous and unfaithful wife. Penelope represents an ideal wife with a hint of witty, altruistic and affectionate women. At every stage while moving closer to the home, for a woman, there is a woman to arrest the journey and a woman who persuades and helps him. Doesn’t it seem like woman’s play?