The Odyssey

Dishonor Equals Death: The Peculiar Case of Odysseus's Maids College

The portrayal of women in classical Greek literature is varied but points towards underlying attitudes regarding their status. Within The Odyssey there are countless representations of women with different motives and personalities, but these female characters are always subverted by men. Perhaps the most vivid instance of this inequality is the case of Odysseus’s maids, who are ordered to be executed for their involvement with the suitors. Their grim fate illustrates the pervasive attitude of distrust and disgust directed at women within classical Greek storylines. Most significantly, the execution of the maids points toward the fact that women’s honor both in and out of classical Greek literature is directly correlated with sex and their physical bodies.

The execution of the female servants is ordered by Odysseus when Eurykleia informs him that they have dishonored his household by having sexual relations with the suitors. The nature of these sexual relations is not made explicit and merits attention when considering that it earned the maids their death. From the beginning of the epic, the suitor’s behavior is described as unacceptable and disrespectful. Telemachus remarks early on that the suitors behave as if their house is...

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