The Odyssey

The Bed and the Scepter - The Odyssey and The Iliad in a Nutshell

In his epic poems, Homer often chooses commonplace objects to symbolically encompass many themes of the story. In The Iliad, a golden nail-studded scepter embodies the major themes of the epic, and the marriage bed of Odysseus and Penelope serves the same role in The Odyssey. Through close examination, it is apparent that the themes of both the epic poems are reflected by their respective symbolic objects.

In book XXIII of The Odyssey, Penelope tricks Odysseus into describing their unique marriage bed. This is a wise ploy because only Odysseus would know the particulars of their bed since he personally built it ("I myself, no other man, made it" Line 189).

The bed is unique in construction; one of the posts is the trunk of an olive tree, thus making the bed immovable. The bed's permanence is a shadow of Odysseus' greatness. The bed has stayed in its place for 20 years, and while Odysseus has been gone for 20 years, he never relinquished his control over his estate and has now come to re-establish himself as the rightful ruler.

Additionally, the bed's construction from an olive tree conjures images of home and contentment; olive trees are native to Greece and oftentimes symbolize peace in Greek mythology....

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