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Penelope. 1608: Roman copy of Greek work from 5th century BC. Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen.

"Wife, one thing is certain—not all our soldiers will return from Troy unhurt … So I cannot say whether the gods will let me come back or whether I shall fall on Trojan soil. But I leave everything here in your charge. Look after my father and mother in the house as you do now … And when you see a beard on our boy's chin, marry whomsoever you fancy and leave your home." (Odysseus to Penelope, Homer, Odyssey 18.260).

"… In that catastrophe no one was dealt a heavier blow than I, who pass my days in mourning for the best of husbands …" (Penelope to the minstrel Phemius 2, Homer, Odyssey 1.340).

"Penelope must beware of trying our young men's patience much further and counting too much on the matchless gifts that she owes to Athena, her skill in fine handicraft, her excellent brain, and that genius she has for getting her way. In that respect, I grant, she has no equal, not even in story." (The Suitor Antinous 2 to Telemachus. Homer, Odyssey 2.115).

"Penelope is meaner to look upon than you in comeliness and in stature, for she is a mortal, while you are immortal and ageless. But even so I wish and long day by day to reach my home, and to see the day of my return." (Odysseus to Calypso 3. Homer, Odyssey 5.215).

Penelope waited two decades for her husband Odysseus to return to Ithaca from the Trojan War, not knowing whether he was dead or alive. In this long and painful wait her sole relief was to weep and sigh all day long, and to lie in what she called her "bed of sorrows" which she watered with tears until she fell asleep. In the meantime, she was compelled to promise the scoundrels that called themselves her SUITORS and who were at the same time the pick of the Ithacan nobility, that she would wed one of them when the shroud of Laertes was finished. She wove it for three years, weaving it by day and undoing it by night. But her trick was discovered and her life became even more difficult.

Her husband was one of the SUITORS OF HELEN

Odysseus was among those who came to Sparta in order to compete for the hand of Helen, that jewel of Hellas who was afterwards called "Lady of Sorrows" because so many a man lost his life fighting for her sake in the plains of Troy . And yet, some say, this was the will of the gods. Helen's beauty was such that her earthly father Tyndareus (for the heavenly was Zeus) feared that war would break up among the many princes who had come from the whole of Hellas hoping to marry her.

The Oath of Tyndareus

It was then that Odysseus told King Tyndareus to exact an oath from all the SUITORS OF HELEN that they would defend the favored bridegroom against any wrong that might be done against him in respect of his marriage. Tyndareus did as Odysseus advised, and having thus united the contenders by forcing them to leave their honour as a pledge, he, in exchange for Odysseus' invaluable service, helped him to win the hand of Tyndareus' niece Penelope.

Some consequences of the oath

This is what is called The Oath of Tyndareus. Thanks to this oath peace was preserved among the SUITORS OF HELEN, when Helen was given to Menelaus, and thanks to it Odysseus married Penelope. But later, on account of the same oath, all princes of Hellas had to go to war against Troy, where Helen was kept, now married to the seducer Paris, who had come to Sparta and abducted her. And the same oath by which Odysseus won his wife, forced him later to part from his prize for twenty years, and live, against his will, the life of a soldier and adventurer.

Does not wish to leave kingdom and queen

Now, Odysseus, who was the king of beautiful isles and the husband of a loving queen, not wishing to waste his life in wars and fights, decided to feign madness instead of honouring The Oath of Tyndareus, and thereby join the alliance that was determined to sail against Troy in order to demand, either by persuasion or by force, the restoration of Helen and the property.

Palamedes destroys Odysseus' home life

And so, playing the fool, Odysseus put on a cap and yoked a horse and an ox to the plow. But Palamedes, who had come to Ithaca with Nestor and Menelaus in order to remind the king of his oath, snatched little Telemachus from Penelope's bosom, or as others say, from the cradle, and put him in front of the plow, forcing Odysseus to give up his pretense. Others have said that Palamedes threatened the child with his own sword, but in any case Odysseus was outwitted and had to join the alliance. However, clever Palamedes later paid with his own death for having spoiled Odysseus' sweet home life.

Odysseus won Penelope in a foot-race

Others affirm that Odysseus won Penelope in a foot-race for her wooers, organized by Icarius 1. And they say that when he gave his daughter in marriage to Odysseus, he tried to make him settle in Lacedaemon. However, Odysseus refused, and he could not persuade Penelope either. So when the newly-weds set forth to Ithaca, the king followed the chariot begging her to stay. After some time, they say, Odysseus, not being able to endure any longer this expression of fatherly love and devotion, bade Penelope either to come with him willingly, or else go back with her father to Lacedaemon, if she preferred to do so. They say that Penelope did not reply, but instead covered her face with a veil, and by that sign they both understood that she wished to depart with her husband.

Queen of Ithaca, Cephallenia and other islands

This is how Penelope came to Ithaca where she became queen of that island as well as others that are in the Ionian Sea off the coast of Acarnania, among which is the larger island Cephallenia, called after Cephalus 1, father by Procris 2 of Arcisius, father of Laertes, father of Odysseus. Cephalus 1 was an Athenian, but he came to that region when he assisted Amphitryon in his campaign against the islands that were ruled from Taphos.


Penelope and Odysseus had spent together about a decade when the Trojan War broke up and Odysseus left. The war itself lasted ten years, but when it was over and nothing was known of him, a group of scoundrels known as the SUITORS OF PENELOPE came to the palace wishing to marry the queen.

The Shroud of Laertes (Penelope's web)

Penelope fooled them several years, declaring that she would marry one of them once she had completed the shroud of Laertes, for as she said:

"When he succumbs to the dread hand of Death that stretches all men out at last, I must not risk the scandal there would be among my countrywomen here if one who had amassed such wealth were put to rest without a shroud." (Penelope to the SUITORS. Homer, Odyssey 2.100).

However, Penelope had no intention of ever finishing her work, and so what she wove during the day, she unravelled by night.

The SUITORS' pleasant life

But when one of Penelope's maids gave her mistress away, the SUITORS, having caught the queen destroying her work, forced her to complete it. And so, realising that they had been fooled by her in the course of several years, the SUITORS decided that for as long as she maintained her attitude, they would continue to feast in the palace at the palace's expenses. Otherwise they used to amuse themselves in a free and easy way outside the palace with quoits and javelin-throwing, a nice and entertaining activity which they could consent to interrupt when supper was ready. Their banquets were prepared by slaughtering sheep, goats, hogs, and heifers from Odysseus' herd. And since banquets and music go together, there was always someone playing the lyre. Such was the pleasant life, free of charge, that the SUITORS led at Odysseus' palace.

Plot against Penelope's son

Penelope. 4910: Jens Adolph Jerichaü 1816-1883: Penelope 1843. Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen.

This was the situation when Penelope's son Telemachus sailed to Pylos and Sparta in order to meet Nestor and Menelaus, with the hope of having news of his father. But when the SUITORS learned that the lad had determination enough to launch a ship and choose the best men in the land for the crew without saying a word to them, they, fearing that Telemachus would become their bane, planned to slay him on his homeward way.

Herald overhears the SUITORS

When Penelope learned about the conspiracy through the herald Medon 5, who overheard the SUITORS, she could not stop lamenting, seeing that the loss of her child was about to be added to the loss of her husband. And so she lay in her chamber, touching no food, and pondering whether her son would escape death, or be slain by the SUITORS.

Penelope's sister appears in her dreams

And nothing could soothe her but Sleep. For sometimes gods talk to mortals during sleep, clear visions coming in the darkness of Night, and Sleep himself being a god. So Athena fashioned a phantom of Penelope's sister Iphthime 1, and sent it to talk to her at the gates of dreams, and bid her cease from weeping and lamentation; for Telemachus, said the phantom, was led by Athena herself. Penelope's sister Iphthime 1 married Eumelus 1, who led the Pheraeans against Troy and was the son of Admetus 1 and Alcestis, the woman who died for love in her husband's place.

Harsh rebuke against the suitor Antinous 2

In fact Telemachus escaped the SUITORS' plot, and when Penelope learned what had happened, she harshly rebuked the main instigator Antinous 2:

"I denounce you for the double-dealing ruffian that you are. Madman! How dare you plot against Telemachus' life." (Penelope to Antinous 2. Homer, Odyssey 16.419).

Penelope then reproached Antinous 2, reminding him how his father had been once saved from an angry mob by Odysseus, at whose expense he was now living free of charge, whose wife he was courting, and whose son he proposed to kill, disregarding the grief he may cause to herself.

Condemns their style

And on a later occasion, she told the SUITORS that even if the day approached when she would have to remarry, she nevertheless condemned the way in which they conducted their suit, saying:

"Surely it is usual for the SUITORS to bring in their own cattle and sheep to make a banquet for the lady's friends, and also to give her valuable presents, but not to enjoy free meals at someone else's expense." (Penelope to the SUITORS. Homer, Odyssey 18.275).

But the SUITORS, not trusting her words after what had happened with the shroud of Laertes, would not leave the palace nor abstain from conducting the suit with such a remarkable style.

Without defence

For, as Penelope herself pointed out, there was no chieftain from the surrounding islands and from Ithaca itself that was not forcing himself into her house, plundering it. And that is why Penelope could not feel but despair and neglect, passing her days in sobs and tears for having lost her husband and the protection of the household.

The Cat and the Mice

This invasion of Odysseus' home, which, like a revolution, tended to seize all instruments for the control of riches and power, came to an end when the master of the house returned. For, as even children know, the mice can only play while the cat is away. On his arrival to Ithaca, Athena disguised Odysseus as a stranger and a beggar, withering his limbs, robbing his head of hair, and covering his body with the wrinkles of Old Age. He then came to Eumaeus 1, his former servant and swineherd, and learned from him the state of affairs in his home. And having met Telemachus in the hut of Eumaeus 1, he made a plan together with him.

Odysseus in the palace

Still looking as a distressful beggar, limping along with the aid of his staff, Odysseus came to the palace, where only his old dog recognized him, dying immediately after having seen his master in the twentieth year. There he came into conflict with Antinous 2, who was irritated at the beggar, and dealt him a blow.

Penelope talks to the stranger

But Penelope sent for the beggar; for such a stranger who seemed to have traveled far, she thought, might have heard of her husband. And not recognizing Odysseus, but being impressed by the stranger, she told him the whole story of her misery, how she had fooled the SUITORS with the web, how they loaded her with reproaches on discovering her trick, and how now she would be forced by time and circumstances to take the sad step of marrying one of the scoundrels.

The stranger's prophecy

When the turn came to Odysseus-the-beggar to tell his own story to the lady of the house, he, not wishing her to know his identity yet, fabricated a tale about how he had met Odysseus, giving proof, through many details, of his truthfulness. For he could describe Odysseus' cloak and the golden broch that it displayed along with other details. But seeing that his descriptions made Penelope even more disposed to weep, he said:

"… Dry your tears now and hear what I have to say … I have news of Odysseus' return, that he is alive and near …" (Odysseus to Penelope. Homer, Odyssey 19.269).

And after inventing other details which made the story credible he finally declared:

"So you see that he is safe and will soon be back. Indeed he is very close … I swear first by Zeus, the best and greatest of the gods, and then by the good Odysseus' hearth which I have come to, that everything will happen as I foretell. This very year Odysseus will be here, between the waning of the old moon and the waxing of the new." (Odysseus to Penelope. Homer, Odyssey 19.300).

Penelope enchanted

Even if Penelope, having deep despair in her soul, could not believe in such prophecies, she was enchanted by the stranger, and ordered the maids to wash the visitor's feet, spread a bed for him, and the next morning give him a bath and rub him with oil, so that he would be ready to eat breakfast with Telemachus in the palace's hall.

Eumaeus, Odysseus and the dog Argos | od339gen: "A hound that lay there raised his head and pricked up his ears, Argos, the hound of Odysseus, of the steadfast heart, whom of old he had himself bred." (Hom.Od.17.290). Bonaventura Genelli (1798 – 1868).

Euryclia recognizes Odysseus

It was then that Euryclia, the servant whom Laertes had procured for the price of twenty oxen, and who had been the nurse of both Odysseus and Telemachus, was appointed to wash the visitor's feet. Now Odysseus had an old scar just above the knee, and when the old woman passed her hands over the scar, she recognized the feel of it at once, and knew that this stranger was indeed Odysseus. However, he ordered her to keep silent.

Aspects of recognition

After Odysseus bathed his feet, Penelope addressed him once more, still without recognizing him, which may seem an amazing circumstance. For, despite the fact that Athena had changed his appearance, some may ask why it should be easier to identify a scar rather than a face, or the eyes in that face, or a familiar voice. But these things, being matter of opinion, may cause endless debate, as if one were to wonder why Penelope, being herself what is called "a myth," quotes freely from other "myths" in her conversation.

Tells her dream to the stranger

Penelope then, addressed Odysseus once more after Euryclia had bathed his feet. And as if she wished to make intimate acquaintance with him, she asked him to interpret a dream of hers in which she had seen herself keeping a flock of twenty geese. And while she was with the geese, she saw an eagle swoop down from the hills and break their necks. Then, Penelope said, she wept and cried aloud. But the eagle came back calling itself Penelope's husband; and comparing the geese to the SUITORS, the eagle told her to take heart, for they would be punished at Odysseus' soon homecoming.

What Penelope knows about dreams

And here again some could ask what need did Penelope have of hearing the stranger's interpretation of such an obvious dream, on which, as Odysseus himself points out, no other meaning could be forced different from the one expressed by the eagle in the dream itself. But Penelope knew better. For she explained to Odysseus the true nature of dreams, and how there are two gates through which dreams reach mortals; and one, she said, is made of horn and the other of ivory. And the dreams that come through the ivory gate cheat us with empty promises, whereas those that pass through the gate of horn tell the dreamer the truth of what will happen. Yet she could not tell from which source her dream took wing.

Penelope comments practical issues

Having shared with the stranger these ideas, showing to him her open disposition—for dreams are not usually told to those who do not seem to deserve confidence—Penelope commented practical issues. She said that her son Telemachus actually desired her to remarry, for otherwise the SUITORS would eat up his estate, and that she now was about to propose a trial of strength, and that she was prepared to marry whichever among the SUITORS proved the best at stringing the bow and shooting an arrow.

The SUITORS suddenly shot

So it was done. Penelope delivered to her SUITORS the bow of Odysseus, saying that she would marry him who bent the bow. And when none of them could bend it, Odysseus took it and shot down the SUITORS during a great battle in the hall of the palace. This is how the husband, who had been absent nineteen years, won his wife for a second time while she slept in her chamber upstairs.

Penelope wakes up to a new world

When the massacre was completed, Euryclia, following Odysseus' instructions, woke up Penelope with incredible words:

"Wake up, Penelope, dear child, and see a sight you have longed for all these many days. Odysseus has come home … and he has killed the rogues who turned his whole house inside out, ate up his wealth, and oppressed his son." (Euryclia to Penelope. Homer, Odyssey 23.5).

Penelope, thus taken out of her sleep, thought that her old servant had lost her brains, or that some god had performed the killing. But Euryclia told her about the scar, and nothing else could Penelope do but go downstairs and see with her own eyes what had happened by meeting her son Telemachus, the dead SUITORS, and the man who had killed them. Now she wondered: Should she remain aloof while talking to the stranger, said to be her husband, or should she go straight up to him and kiss him? Instead she came and sat silent on the opposite side to Odysseus, not knowing whether to rest her eyes on his face, or to look at the stranger's ragged clothes.

Telemachus' reproaches

This was not what Telemachus had expected. For he had imagined that his mother would sit at his father's side, asking questions and talking. For after all, he reasoned, here was the absent husband back, and there was so much to say and to know. And that is why he reproached his mother, telling her that her heart was harder than flint. But Penelope replied:

"My child, the heart in my breast is lost in wonder … I cannot find a word to say to him; I cannot ask him anything at all; I cannot even look him in the face. But if it really is Odysseus home again, we two shall surely recognize each other, and in an even better way; for there are tokens between us which only we two know and no one else has heard of." (Penelope to Telemachus. Homer, Odyssey 23.105).

Extraordinary bed

Such a token was their own bed, which Odysseus himself had constructed, a detail only known by them. And now he described how he had built it, bringing to memory the olive tree, thick as a pillar, which grew inside the court. For round this tree he built the room, and lopping all the twigs off, he trimmed the stem and used it as a basis for the bed itself. Then he finished it off with an inlay of gold, silver and ivory, and fixed a set of purple ox-hide straps across the frame.

3627: Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein, 1751-1829: Odysseus und Penelope, 1802. Landesmuseum Oldenburg, Das Schloß.

The common secret

When Odysseus had described all these details for Penelope, he said:

"There is our secret, and I have shown you that I know it." (Odysseus to Penelope. Homer, Odyssey 23.202).

It was then that Penelope, seeing the complete fidelity of the description, burst into tears, and running up to Odysseus, threw her arms round his neck and kissed him.

Recognition of love

This is how Penelope and Odysseus met and recognized each other after two decades of separation. Now there may be those that again will find it strange that such a recognition does not occur directly, but instead must pass through an extraordinary bed. And having these people in mind, some have said that the only true recognition between Odysseus and Penelope is the recognition of love. For it is plain that neither beds, nor clothes, nor bows, nor tokens of whatever kind would have any meaning without love, no matter how true they might be:

"The queen knew that the stranger was the king when she saw herself reflected in his eyes, when she felt that her love encountered Odysseus' love." (J. L. Borges, Un escolio).

Others have thought differently

But either because this story was found to pour sentimentality in excess, or because there have been those who never believed in Penelope's fidelity, or for other reasons, it has also been said that Penelope was seduced by Antinous 2, the greatest scoundrel among the SUITORS. However, there have also been those who have affirmed that Penelope was not seduced by Antinous 2, but instead by the more gentle suitor Amphinomus 2, who was known to enjoy Penelope's special approval for being an intelligent man and behaving correctly. In fact Odysseus himself singled him out:

"Amphinomus, you seem to me to be a thoroughly decent fellow …" (Odysseus to Amphinomus 2. Homer, Odyssey 18.125).

With this gentle suitor, they say, Penelope had a love affair, and for that reason, they add, she was killed by her own husband. Yet others have said that Odysseus, having learned that Penelope had slept with the great scoundrel Antinous 2, sent her back to her father Icarius 1 in Lacedaemon. Later, they affirm, she came to Mantinea in Arcadia, and there she bore Pan to Hermes, which is even more incredible. And as things became more and more entangled, some have asserted, fearing that things would fall out of proportion, that this Pan is not Pan the god, but a man called after the god. Odysseus, some say, died of old age as Tiresias had told him, but others have insisted in saying that he was accidentally killed by Telegonus 3, his own son by the witch Circe. They also affirm that after Odysseus' death, Penelope was made immortal by Circe and sent to the Islands of the Blest together with Telegonus 3.






Icarius 1 & Periboea 3

Icarius 1 & Polycaste 1

This is how the genealogy of Icarius 1 looks like:
He is said to be son either of Perieres 1 and Gorgophone 2, or of Oebalus 1 and Batia 2.
Perieres 1 is son either of Aeolus 1 and Enarete, or of Cynortes. Cynortes is son of Amyclas 1, son of Lacedaemon, son of Zeus and the Pleiad Taygete. Gorgophone 2 is daughter of Perseus 1 and Andromeda.
Oebalus 1 is said to be either son of Perieres 1, or of Cynortes. Batia 2 was a naiad. Oebalus 1 also married Gorgophone 2, and this woman is said to have been the first to marry a second time.
Icarius 1 and his brother Tyndareus, father of Helen, were expelled from Lacedaemon by Hippocoon 2, who became king of the Lacedaemonians. They went to King Thestius 1 of Pleuron, and allied themselves with him in the war that he waged against his neighbors. Later Heracles 1 killed Hippocoon 2, and Tyndareus, having married Leda, returned to Lacedaemon. Some say that Icarius 1 stayed in the north, keeping a portion of Acarnania, which was later ruled by his sons Alyzeus and Leucadius.
Icarius 1 had many children either by the naiad Periboea 3, or by Polycaste 1. These were: Thoas 1, Damasippus, Imeusimus, Aletes 3, Perileos, Iphthime, Alyzeus, Leucadius, and Penelope.
Polycaste 1 was daughter of Lygaeus, otherwise unknown.





See Odysseus.




Telegonus 3


Telegonus 3 is son of Odysseus by either Circe or Calypso 3. Telegonus 3 learned from Circe that he was a son of Odysseus, and then he sailed in search of his father. His quest brought him to Ithaca where he drove away some of the cattle. Odysseus came to defended them, but Telegonus 3 wounded him with the spear he had in his hands, which was barbed with the spine of a stingray, and Odysseus died of the wound. When Telegonus 3 recognized him, he bitterly lamented what he had done.

Italus became king of Italy, and was later succeeded by Morges. Italus called the country after himself, and having married Leucaria, a daughter of Latinus 1, had children by her: Roma 2, Sicelus 2, and Romus.

Antinous 2


The greatest scoundrel among the SUITORS OF PENELOPE.

Genealogical Charts

Names in this chart; Acusilaus, Admetus 1, Aeolus 1, Alcestis, Amphithea 3, Amyclas 1, Anticlia 1, Apollo, Arcisius, Atlas, Autolycus 1, Batia 2, Cleocharia, Cretheus 1, Creusa 3, Cynortes, Diomede 2, Eumelus 1, Eurotas, Gaia, Icarius 1, Iphthime 1, Lacedaemon, Laertes, Lapithus 1, Lelex 2, Myles, Odysseus, Oebalus 1, Pelias 1, Penelope, Peneus, Periboea 3, Perieres 1, Pheres 1, Pleione, Poliporthes, Sparta, Stilbe, Taygete, Telemachus, Zeus.

Related sections Mentor 4, Odysseus, SUITORS OF PENELOPE 

Apd.3.10.6; Apd.Ep.7.3.7, 32-39; Hdt.2.145.4, 2.146.1; Hom.Od.passim; Hyg.Fab.125, 126, 127; Nonn.14.93; Pau.3.20.10; 8.12.6; RET.4; Strab.10.2.24; TEL.1-2.