Penelope, daughter of Ikarios, whose name is called Penelopeia in Homeric epics, and wife of Odysseus, is one of the most famous figures of Greek mythos. During the twenty or thirty years she was separated from her husband, her resistance to avoid reaching another husband and her loyalty to Odysseus made her a symbol of loyalty and love in marriage. The cloth, which he weaved during the day and ripped at night for years, was as legendary as his name.
While Odysseus was going to suit Tyndareos’ daughter Helene, he gave up on her and married his relative Penelope (Odysseus). This happy couple has a child named Telemachus, but when Telemachus was a baby in swaddling, his father had to go to the Trojan War. That’s when Penelopeia’s ordeal begins. We hear this from the mouth of her mother-in-law Antikleia (Od. XI, ISI et al.):
Your wife is waiting for you with great patience
it consumes itself crying during the day
spend a night so that the enemy does not press..
When the Odyssey epic begins, we see that the Import palace is full of suitors for Penelope, the notables of the island and neighboring countries always want to take the beautiful woman who is left without a husband, or rather, their aim is to seize the kingdom of Odysseus, which is full of possessions and rich with herds. Moreover, because the palace was left unclaimed, Laertes grew old and Telemachus was a child, they could not resist, so the suitors settled in the palace, exploiting and consuming everything Odysseus has. There has been a discussion between them and Telemachus, the suitors want Penelopeia to choose a husband after all these years, for this to happen, to be given back to her father with her dowry, and for her father to choose a husband whom his father will approve, for his daughter. Telemachus protects his mother, he does not want to leave his house. Just as she distracts the suitors, Penelopeia often appears before the suitors, deceiving them with sweet hopes. Penelope explains this matter to Odysseus, who came to the Ithaca palace in the guise of a beggar (Od. XIX, 137 ff.): ‘
God I thought of the code to weave a cloth
I built a huge bench
in my room,
I was weaving a rag of cloth,
I was talking to the suitors like this
once in a while:
“Boys, if you’re divine
I will reach one of you helplessly,
but please wait one more piece,
Let this weaving end, don’t let it go to waste
so many threads,
I’m weaving a shroud for the valiant Laertes,
If the day comes when death knocks him down
What would the Achaean women say to me then?
That’s what I used to say, these words would bleed
Whereas I, which I weave during the day
I used to remove it in front of a lamp at night.
I tricked them like this for three years,
but when the fourth year started
a servant, a disrespectful dog,
announces it to them,
They came and caught me, they shouted
Penelope is as cunning and deceitful as Odysseus. As a last resort, he thinks of putting the suitors in a competition: He informs Odysseus of his decision to have Odysseus’s big bow brought and reach whoever manages to draw him back and shoot an arrow. Thus she thinks of the remedy that leads to the final scene of the Odyssey, the murder of the suitors.
Odysseus has a hard time introducing himself to Penelope after getting revenge on the suitors. She doesn’t believe that this man is her husband, Odysseus, and tries to test him all the time. So much so that even Telemachus resents his mother’s attitude with the following words (Od. XXIII, 97 ff.):
Mother, bad mother, mother with a heart of stone!
Why do you stay away like that?
from my father,
why doesn’t he sit next to you and talk,
don’t you ask questions?
Who can stand but you, which
from her husband who returned to her father’s land
to stay away like this,
Returning to the beggar after twenty years
from her husband?
I’ve been, I know it’s possible stone solid
your heart is yours.
However, these words are very pleasing to Odysseus, and he realizes how skeptical and clever his wife is. Their meeting will be just as sweet (Od. XXIII, 209 ff.).