There is really no way to generalize the women in Homers Odyssey because they all have their own distinct traits that make each of them great, strong, and powerful women. A very powerful woman is Arete. She is as powerful as the king, Alcinous. Her daughter Nausicaa is an amazing woman, even though she is so young. She displays great intelligence in handling Odysseus. These women I speak of above are great women in a good sort of way but there are also some very bad women that still have some amazing qualities. For instance Clytemnestra who has great vengeance and deceit.
Another Homeric women that breaks the mold is Helen. She is so independent and headstrong its almost scary. These qualities Im applying to all these women are not their only but they are the most memorable. In fact some of them share the traits I have already laid out. One other thing I would like to mention before I go on is how different these women are from what I expected. I thought they would all be weak and completely under the control of the heroic men but all the ones Ive mentioned are very powerful and could probably do with out their men. I know Helen would be all right with out Menelaus.
Helen is extremely independent and fairly evil. For the most part only does what she wants to do. First off she ran away with Paris and started the Trojan war. Now I know its said that Paris took her but I would beg to differ. The best example I have is the horse story Menelaus tells Telemecus. It begins with the men in the Trojan horse waiting to ambush the city, and Helen walked around it Three times….. / feeling, and stroking its flanks, / challenging all the fighters, calling each by name – (Hom. 4. 310-312). What Helen wanted to do was blow the Greeks cover and help the Trojans win the war.
This also shows how smart she is because the Greeks had been away from there wives for ten years and were getting a little lonely. Homer tells us that Anticlus was hot to salute her, but of course Odysseus had to save everyone from her (Hom. 4. 320). This whole story gives a lot of insight to Helen and what she wanted. Its quite obvious that she wanted to stay with the Trojans or else she would not of taunted the men like she did but this is a direct conflict with the story she tells about Odysseus. She tries to play the role of the good woman that stays faithful to her husband and really wanted to go home.
Her story is about the time that she saw Odysseus inside of Troy dressed up like a beggar. Odysseus tells her about the Greeks plan to sack the city and her response is my heart leapt up- / my heart had changed by now- (Hom. 4. 292-293). Now I only have one question; why if her heart had changed and she wanted to go home would she taunt the men in the horse? I think there is only one answer which is that she was lying. Helen is a bad woman that tries to trick people into thinking she is good but thanks to Menelaus we get a true view of Helen. The view we get of Clytemnestra is not quite as clear.
There is quite a bit of information left out of the story we get but still its enough to make some assumptions about her stronger qualities especially vengeance, deception, and hardness. There are only a couple of places that we get any information about the deception of her husband but it is still a running idea throughout the Odyssey both for Odysseus and for Telemecus. Some of the places we do get pieces of the story are at King Nestors and from Agamemnon himself in the land of the dead. Athena tells us that Agamemnon was killed… -by his own wife (Hom. 3. 268).
This gives insight to how far her vengeance will take her. She will kill her own husband and all his comrades (Hom. 11. 467). When her mind is made up to do something she will stop at nothing to do it, even if it means killing a lot of innocent people in the process. This also shows how hard her heart is and how feelingless she is. After Agamemnon is dead she still will not yield to her heart. In fact she turned her back on his dead body and even lacked the heart / to seal his eyes with her hand or close his jaws (Hom. 11. 481-483). Her vengeance was reached to full extent and then some.
Agamemnons stories also provide details to her deceit. While he was away she let Aegisthus into her bed and also plotted with him to kill her husband. Agamemnon had no clue what to expect and Clytemnestra fooled him into thinking every thing was all right, but he did eventually find out how deceptive his wife had been only it was on his death bed: he (Aegisthus) with my own accursed wife (Hom. 11. 463). From this view we get to see how strong Clytemnestra is. She killed her own husband and then turned her back on him on his death bed. Its not any one or any woman that can do this.
Her vengeance and her will are among the strongest in the Odyssey. Now I feel bad for only giving the view of bad evil women in this epic because there are some great women who help Odysseus and are all around good people. Some of them even make it possible for Odysseus to get home. Another is more powerful than a king, but lets look at her daughter first. Nausicaa is a young woman who most of all wants a husband. At first glance of her she seems to be naive and, well, young, but she proves that first impressions can be deceiving. We get a better view of her personality when she runs into a naked Odysseus.
He walks out of the bushes a terrible sight, all crusted, caked with brine- and scares the hell out of the maids of Nausicaa but only she held fast….. / courage within her heart (Hom. 6. 151-154). Now I would think that a young woman washing, still a virgin, seeing a huge naked crusty man walk out of the bushes would get away fast but she has courage to stay, and even some how finds skillful words to respond to Odysseus plea for help. She is an amazing woman. I know if I were in that same situation I would not only run, but I would scream like a baby for help.
No, not this kings daughter she keeps her wits about her. She also proves a wise judge of character when saying that Odysseus is neither a wicked man nor a fool (Hom. 6. 205) Her wisdom comes through in a couple of other places. First when she tells Odysseus to stay back and come to the palace after her because she knows that if people see her with a man from foreign parts. She only spurns her own- (Hom. 6. 310). The other time her wisdom comes shining through is when she is telling Odysseus how to go about getting home: quickly, across the hall until you reach my mother……..
And my fathers throne is drawn close beside her; there he sits and takes his wine, a mortal like a god. Go past him, grasp my mothers knees, if you want to see the day of your return, rejoicing, soon, (Hom. 6. 333-341) She knows whose in charge and who will get Odysseus home. Another great quality we can see from these incidents is her nobility. She not only doesnt run but she acts as a noble person would by giving Odysseus a bath, cloths, and a way home. We dont see everyone doing this just the richer noble people, and this is what was expected.
Its odd that she being so young would know how to handle a stranger looking to get home, but she does it and she does it very well. This makes a lot of seance when we look at her mother, Arete. The queen almost has more power that her husband because Odysseus is told that if she takes him to heart, / there is hope that he will see his loved ones (Hom. 7. 87-88). Nowhere is it mentioned that he should win the kings favor only his wives because she lacks nothing in good seance and judgment- (Hom. 7. 85). She is such a great woman that the town gazes on her as a god (Hom. 7. 83).
Odysseus goes to her and begs her to sail him home, and she listens urging the king to do her bidding, but later she does something that is even weirder for a woman to do. This act shows further her great power in the Phaecia. She questions him first (Hom. 7. 273). This was definitely a mans job back in the day of ancient Greece but because of her influence she gets to be the first to question him. It is very obvious how great of a woman she is and all the awesome personal traits she posses because Homer basically tells us. She is probably the most powerful mortal woman in the entire Odyssey which makes it appropriate to conclude with her.
The Odyssey peasants women in a very different way than is expected because of the great power and qualities of character they have. Ive only spoken about a few but there are a lot more. The women in the Odyssey were one of if not the most interesting aspect. I love them and how unbelievable they all are. Another this is that they are essential to the progression of the story and to Odysseus journey. Professor Curley said that if at any time Odysseus would have married one of the women he meets on his way home the story would be over so its very easy to see how important they are to the epic as a whole.
Not only does Odysseus have to make a physical journey home he also has to make a journey through possible wives until he finds the perfect woman for him, Penelope. While I was reading I noticed how there was a great, powerful woman after another and that the men other than Odysseus Telemecus were not much of a focus at all, but there were so many different women that took the focus of Homer. I guess you could say that the Odyssey is about great women in ancient Greece but even I think that would be quite a stretch. I guess its just another aspect of Homers masterpiece.