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Homer: The Odyssey

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Homer: The Odyssey. Women in the Odyssey. Russell McNeil, PhD. Malaspina Great Books Lecture Series. Malaspina Great Books 2006.

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Homer: The Odyssey

Women in the Odyssey

Russell McNeil, PhD

Malaspina Great Books Lecture Series

Malaspina Great Books 2006


For from her is the race of women and female kind: of her is the deadly race and tribe of women who live amongst mortal men to their great trouble, no helpmeets in hateful poverty, but only in wealth...

Zeus who thunders on high made women to be an evil to mortal men, with a nature to do evil.

And he gave them a second evil to be the price for the good they had: whoever avoids marriage and the sorrows that women cause, and will not wed, reaches deadly old age without anyone to tend his years... Hesiod Theogony

what should we scan for
What should we scan for?
  • Sexuality
  • Emotional quality
  • Intellect
  • Drive for power
  • Need for Control
  • Capacity for Labour

Possible Conclusions

  • Women are different but equal in nature
  • Women are different and unequal in nature
  • Men are dumb about women

Agamemnon Mask

16th c. BCE

[Clytemnestra will give] “… an evil reputation to all women, even on one who does good…"

Odyssey p. 201-2

slide13 mother is like that, perverse for all her cleverness: she'd entertain some riff-raff, and turn out a solid man...

Telemaklos on his mother (p. 379)


“… no grace or wisdom fails in her; indeed just men in quarrels come to her for equity. Suppose, then, she looks upon you kindly, the chances are that you shall see your friends under your own roof, in your father's country…” Athena to Odysseus p. 112


“...[she] defiled herself and all her sex, all women yet to come, even those few who may be virtuous…” Shade of Agamemnon to Odysseus


“...indulge a woman never, and never tell her all you know. Some things a man may tell, some he should cover up…”

Agamemnon to Odysseus