In Homer's Odyssey, Penelope (pronounced /pəˈnɛləpiː/ pə-NEL-ə-pee; Greek: Πηνελόπεια, Pēnelopeia, or Πηνελόπη, Pēnelopē) is the faithful wife of Odysseus, who keeps her suitors at bay in his long absence and is eventually reunited with him.
Her name has traditionally been associated with faithfulness, and so it was with the Greeks and Romans, but some recent feminist readings offer a more ambiguous interpretation.
The origin of her name is believed by some like Robert S. P. Beekes to be Pre-Greek and related to pēnelops (πηνέλοψ) or *pēnelōps (*πηνέλωψ), glossed by Hesychius as "some kind of bird" (today arbitrarily identified with the Eurasian Wigeon, to which Linnaeus gave the binomial Anas penelope), where -elōps (-έλωψ) is a common pre-Greek suffix for predatory animals; however, the semantic relation between the proper name and the gloss is not clear. Pēnelopē (Πηνελόπη) is usually understood to combine the Greek word pēnē (πήνη), "weft", and ōps (ὤψ), "face", which is considered the most appropriate for a cunning weaver whose motivation is hard to decipher. Alternatively, the derivation pēnē and lepō (λέπω), "peel", because of the shroud-unweaving mytheme, has been suggested.
Role in the Odyssey
Penelope is the wife of the main character, the king of Ithaca, Odysseus (Ulysses in Roman mythology), and daughter of Icarius and his wife Periboea. She only has one son by Odysseus, Telemachus, who was born just before Odysseus was called to fight in the Trojan War. She waits twenty years for the final return of her husband, during which she has a hard time snubbing marriage proposals from 108 odious suitors (led by Antinous and including Agelaus, Amphinomus, Ctessippus, Demoptolemus, Elatus, Euryades, Eurymachus and Peisandros).
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