The roles of women play an essential and critical part of the epic poem, The Odyssey. There are two main roles that the female figures play, one being the good woman and the other being the seductress. Although women were considered subordinate to the men, the role of the good woman offers aid and pity to the male figures, such as Odysseus, that need it throughout the story. The character of a seductress is exhibited by most of the female figures. By taking on traits / qualities of a seductress, the women of The Odyssey were able to control the male figures on the poem, enabling them to use this manipulation and power to their advantage.
Although these roles may be opposites, each role adds a different dimension making it an essential theme of the story. Therefore, the relationship between the hero and the women forms the majority of the story. The relationship between Athena and Odysseus is the perfect example of the relationship between the woman and the hero in this poem. Athena, goddess of wisdom and battle, and daughter of Zeus, is seen assisting both Odysseus and Telemachus in many difficult situations simply because of the talents and physical attributes such as being confident, practical, clever, and a great warrior, characteristics that are similar to hers. Although the poem fails to mention much of Athena as the goddess, she does represent them at the council of the gods on Mount Olympus. Athena flaunts her warlike qualities creating battle in which her "side" was undoubtedly the victor (Book 22).
Through the mist of confusion and blood, Athena makes sure to keep Odysseus and Telemachus safe. The goddess even "held the night" so that Odysseus and Penelope could have longer to get reacquainted. Homer comments that "she held Dawn's horses." One woman that is clearly overlooked in this poem is Eurycleia, simply because she bares the title of being a servant for Odysseus and Penelope's family. Although she was labeled a servant, Odysseus' family treated as if she was one of their own as she displayed qualities such as being a loyal, honest, and trustworthy person. An example of her loyalty is simply exhibited by the fact that she not cared for Odysseus as a child, but also his son, Telemachus. Her dedication and care for that family was well-appreciated as Penelope even said, "I have an ancient woman of an understanding heart, that diligently nursed and tended that hapless man my lord, she took him in her arms in the hour when his mother bare him." (Book XIX) It was as if she was Odysseus' and Telemachus's e cond mother in that she found out about Odysseus secret identity by the scar he had in his leg from when he was a child.
Her compassion allowed for others to confide in her being that around the palace she was well-respected by all. A pivotal character in the Odyssey that plays a significant role, to which one city's fate is in the hands of, is clearly Odysseus' wife, Penelope, a woman that spent a period of twenty years lying in her bed wondering when her husband was going to come back home from battle. In his absence, she is pressured daily by the suitors if the city of Ithaca to remarry so that the city can have a king that is present and there to control the people. True and faithful to her husband, Penelope withstands all the temptations from the suitors believing that one day her husband will return. Although she is emotionally unstable she continues to maintain her responsibilities at the palace. Her son, Telemachus comforts her and aids her from the suitors and the political activities.
This is were Homer reinforces the standard functions of women and men. As seen in books I and VI her son often discharges her from political meetings to tend to her household chores, this is a distinction of roles that is often referred to throughout the entire poem. Her strength and loyalty to her husband as well as being a loving mother to Telemachus are just a few the attributes that depict her as a good woman in this epic poem as well as the ideal Greek women of this time period. Calypso is one of the two female figures whose love becomes an obstacle for Odysseus' journey back home. Calypso is a beautiful woman who entices him with her beauty, sex, and immortality. She falls in love with him and traps him in the island of Ogy gia for seven years.
She has imprisoned him and it is not until Hermes arrives that Odysseus is released. Calypso's promiscuous actions lead to a final plea so that Odysseus may stay with her. She offers him what no other human in the poem has: immortality. .".. you'd stay right here, preside our house with me and be immortal" (Book V). But even with that offer, Odysseus had his mind set on going back home to be with his wife, Penelope and children.
It was Calypso's seductiveness and control that held Odysseus in the island for nearly seven years. The role of the seductress is one of the most prominent roles in the poem. The seductress is always looked upon as harmful and dangerous to men. In this poem, another example of a seductress is Circe. Odysseus lands on the island of Aerea, which is the home of Circe, a beautiful witch goddess. Once on the island, Circe changes Odysseus' men into pigs by drugging them, Hermes comes to the rescue and gives Odysseus a remedy to overpower Circe and her manipulative ways.
Odysseus is able to get his men back, in addition to making Circe his lover. It is through Circe's persuasion and seductiveness that she able to stay with Odysseus for an entire year as lovers. .".. let us two go up into my bed of love, we may then have faith and trust in each other" (Book X). In this line, one can clearly see the overpower ment that Circe has on Odysseus. It is also through the luxuries provided by Circe, such as living in her fine home, eating lavish dinners, and being taken care of her servants, that he engages in the prolong ment of the relationship with her.
As Odysseus and his men prepared to set sail once again, Circe had a large feast for them while she instructed them on what would happen in the future as they crossed the straits. Once they set sail, Odysseus remembered the persuasive words of Circe, which dealt with the crossing of the island of the Sirens. The Sirens, in the Odyssey, created beautiful seductive sounds that captured every man and ship that listened to them. The Sirens "were enchanters of all mankind... and that man who unsuspecting approaches them, and listens... will have no prospect of coming home and delighting his wife and little children...
." (Book XII). The Sirens are an ideal example of the role of women as seductresses in this epic poem. Anyone who would approach them to listen would be taken back enough not to go back home. Odysseus could surpass the island of the Sirens only by placing sweet wax of honey in his ears, but even then the joyous sounds of the Sirens so powerful that Odysseus' men had to "bind him hand and foot in the fast ship (Book XII). The Sirens symbolize this role of being seductive using their songs to seduce anyone listening to them, even to the point of death. Together all the women depicted in this epic poem played a significant role in being both the good and seductive women using their characteristics to manipulate the outcome of many events is something I believe to be highly overlooked by the reader..