solane perpetua maerens carpere iuuenta?
Eurycleia and Eurynome each act as Penelope's confidante one time in the Odyssey: Eurycleia, when Penelope is distraught over her son's absence and the suitors' plan to murder him (4.716–58); Eurynome, when her mistress is inspired by Athena to show herself to the suitors (18.158–86).1 Both scenes are part of larger events in the narrative,2 but by themselves the tableaux suggest a deeper significance in light of other literary instances of a noble woman confiding in a close female companion. Time and again, a heroine of Greek tragedy or later epic bares her soul to either her nurse or her sister and receives contrary advice that leads to disaster, or, if she rejects it and sticks to her own plan, she enjoys the glory of a nobility sustained.3 Penelope's choices, to reject Eurynome's counsel but to listen to Eurycleia's, demonstrate her prudence—as we expect, since Homer is not creating a tragic heroine. Nevertheless, the confidential scenes between Penelope and her servants have much in common with, and are in a sense prototypes of, the later, highly dramatized encounters. The purpose of this essay is to examine these Odyssean scenes as a way to begin answering the question of why a heroine's closest female companion is so often her worst counsellor.