Women were very important to the Greeks, and they showed this value in many ways. In The Odyssey Homer shows us the different ways women were looked upon through female characters, such as Penelope, Naussica, and Anticlia. With Penelope, a faithful and loving wife to Odysseus, Homer reveals to us how the Greeks believed wives should act. She was loyal to Odysseus the entire time he was away on his journey, and even when it appeared as if he had passed on she still had faith that he would return.
She resisted the suitors on the sole basis that she loved Odysseus and could not see herself with another man when he could still be alive. She was smart, and cunning. She shows us this in Book II when we learn she has avoided having to choose a husband by telling the suitors she would choose one of them once she finished the garment she was weaving. She would work all day, and remove the stitches by candlelight while the suitors slept. Odysseus was “blessed in the possession of a wife endowed with such rare excellence of understanding, and so faithful to her wedded lord” (p. 6).
Penelope was the picture of a perfect, devoted Greek wife. Homer also portrayed the loyal daughter type using Naussica, the young princess of Scheria and daughter of King Alcinous. Like most daughters from the Greek civilization, she thought the world of her parents, and they thought the world of her as well. We see that she thinks highly of her father because she refers to him as her “excellent father” and tells Odysseus about everything her father can give to him. Her father seems to be wrapped around her finger.
I got this impression because when she asked if she could use a big wagon, her father immediately replied “You shall have the mules, my love, and whatever else you have a mind for. ” (p. 60) She does almost anything her parents ask of her, without question. Alcinous offered Odysseus her hand in marriage without consulting with her first and Naussica had no problem with this. It is what was expected of her. The duty of a Greek daughter is to obey her father and mother no matter what.
In The Odyssey, through Naussica, Homer illustrates this quite well. The suffering mother in The Odyssey is Anticlia, Odysseus’ mother. During his journey to Hades, he talks with his mother only after she drinks out of the pool of blood. When he left for the war she was alive, and while he visits with her she tells him she has died from the “longing to know what you were doing and the force of my affection for you” (p. 116) She dies of a broken heart, and still seems to be suffering from it while she is in Hades.
She knows it is an unpleasant place for the living to visit, and Homer makes it easy to detect the sorrow she feels. Odysseus is unable to embrace her, and is distressed by this. She tells him about his wife, and his father, who “has no comfortable bed nor bedding, …and…grieves continuously. ” (p. 116) She seems very sad, but she is wise and acts motherly by telling him he should go back to the light of day as soon as he can. Even though she is deceased, she still depicts the caring mother that is so highly regarded by the Greeks.
In the epic The Odyssey we see how the Greeks looked upon different sorts of women. Wives and daughters were to be loyal, and mothers sometimes suffered. Greek women didn’t have much freedom, or choice in their lives, and Homer shows this to us well. The Greeks had many different views of women. The one that sticks out in my mind though, is the view that women are to obey. Though these three characters, Homer illustrates that view, and other views as well.