The Distaff Side: Representing the Female in Homer's Odyssey

By Beth Cohen | Go to book overview
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definite attractions, they were all, if in different degrees, sinister and destructive.

Contrast these with the Greek women, either wives or maidens before marriage. Penelope obviously stands alone, but at the ideal Greek colony of the Phaeacians we find the distinguished queen Arete, whom the castaway Odysseus is advised to supplicate, and the ideal of an unmarried maiden, Nausikaa. These are the women that Greeks of the eighth century thought of as appropriate wives and partners in a Greek community. I would be the first to admit that this argument is impressionistic, but I would still maintain that the Odyssey here faithfully reflects a view of women that makes it impossible to imagine that Greek colonists would expect to establish a new Greek community in which the women were not Greek.

The very extensive bibliography on this subject can be reached by consulting recent works with very full lists, e.g. Morris, 1986, 130-38; Raaflaub, 1991, 252-56. I therefore confine my bibliographical references to either those strictly pertinent or representative selections.
See, e.g., Heubeck, West, and Hainsworth, 1988, 6-7.
Cf., e.g., Murray, 1980, 54 and 120.
See, e.g., Raaflaub, 1991, 225-30; Wees, 1988 (from whom I borrow the terms "orthodox" and "unorthodox") 1-2.
In establishing the unorthodox interpretation Latacz, 1977, has been very influential, but his arguments from Homer's words for military formations were already shown to be uncertain by Leimbach, 1980, in his review. The authority of Pritchett, 1985, 1-33, also added weight to the unorthodox interpretation, but his reliance on analogies often very distant in place and time (e.g., the Battle of Agincourt!) and on an inaccurate classification of Homer's many fights between individuals as formal monomachiai indicates the weakness of his case. The very full, detailed, and convincing analysis by Wees, 1988, may be seen, positively, as an excellent description of Homeric battle tactics and, negatively, as a complete rebuttal of the unorthodox interpretation.
More recently, Archaeologia Homerica, founded by F. Matz and H.-G. Buchholz, 1967-, has been covering more comprehensively similar (but more extensive) ground to Lorimer's.
Lorimer, 1950, 462-64.
Burkert, 1976.
For a full account of Egypt under the Twenty-fifth Dynasty, see James, 1991, esp. 677-708. I am grateful to David O'Connor for advice on this subject. On Homer and Egypt, see Braun, 1982, 32-35.
Kirk, 1968, 95; Janko, 1992, 8-9.


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The Distaff Side: Representing the Female in Homer's Odyssey


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