The Role of Women in the Odyssey Essay

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The Role of Women in The Odyssey

Homer wrote the classic epic The Odyssey more than 2,500 years ago. At that time in ancient Greek society, as well as in the whole of the ancient world, the dominant role was played by men. Society was organized, directed, and controlled by men, and it was accepted that women occupied a subservient and inferior position. Women, of course, were valued, but were expected to possess certain traits and perform certain tasks that men demanded of them. Does Homer's writing in The Odyssey support or refute the common belief of his time regarding women? Homer endorsed the dominating belief of his time concerning women by treating the female characters unequally and differently compared to the male characters in
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However, Odysseus, after encountering his mother, Anticleia, in Hades and discovering that Penelope was still alive and faithful to him, he still slept with Calypso! When he then returned to Ithaca and was reunited with Penelope, he told her of his encounters with Circe and Calypso without hesitation or shame! Another example of how the rules and expectations for women did not apply to men in The Odyssey is when Eumaeus, the loyal swine herdsman of Odysseus, recounts how he came to Ithaca as a captive of a slave woman, Phoinikia. This woman was seduced by a roaming seafarer who, '…made such love to her as women in their frailty are confused by, even the best of them.'; The god Artemis later kills Phoinikia for her 'treachery.';
Odysseus is doing nothing wrong when, despite knowing his wife was alive and faithful, commits adultery with two other women. However, it would most likely be unforgivable to Odysseus if Penelope had been unfaithful and remarried not knowing whether her husband was still alive, and desperately needing a husband. Male seducers are represented by boys sowing their oats; a normal part of male life. Seduced females are viewed, however, as weak, frail, and treacherous. These examples speaks volumes about Homer's view regarding the inequalities between men and women in his epic. Many times throughout The Odyssey men speak condescendingly to
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