role in the Trojan War, were immortalized by the poet Homer in The Odyssey.
He was ruler of an island nation called Ithaca in the eighth century BC. Sharing his household were his wife Penelope and his son Telemachus, The faithfulness of Penelope in remaining true to her husband during his twenty years absence has set the bar pretty high for fidelity. I don't think too many romances could touch that, certainly not in modern times.
Are Odysseus and Penelope real or are they legend? It's
up for debate. A team of modern day Greek archaeologists believe they have unearthed his Ithacan household. The complex they have discovered dates back to the appropriate time - the eighth century BC and they claim it matches the
descriptions laid down for Ithaca. As is always the case in archaeological digs, others dispute this. Only time will pass judgment on the meaning of the findings.
Odysseus was urged to join with the Greek warriors who
were set to battle Troy to rescue the hostage Helen and return her to Menelaus. Odysseus had no wish to join this battle and used cunning methods to try to back off, apparently even feigning lunacy. Eventually he joined them and was instrumental in the defeat of Troy after a ten year long battle. Legend has it that the idea of the Trojan Horse came from Odysseus. When the battle was over he began his journey home, but another ten years passed before he was able to return to Ithaca.
Homer wrote of his exploits on the journey home. This
part of the story of Odysseus is obviously legend as Homer has him being blown off course by bad winds released from a sealed box by his fellow sailors and journeying to the underworld. He also wrote of visiting Lotus Eaters who were apparently an early version of stoners, and cannibals, and fighting seduction by the witch-goddess Circe.
During his twenty year absence, Penelope was besieged by
108 suitors who were assuming Odysseus was dead.. I'm sure this was mainly political because, no matter how beautiful she was, that many suitors seems a little extreme, especially as they all hung around the castle. They made
themselves a bit of a nuisance and when rejection didn't work she tried prevarication. She told them she would choose a suitor when a piece of needlework was done but, since she unraveled every night the preceding day's work, the suitors became restless. Next she told the suitors she would choose the one who could string Odysseus' bow and shoot through twelve axe shafts, a feat she believed to be
Odysseus meanwhile had landed in Ithaca and, disguised as
a beggar, set out to find just how bad things had become while he was gone. Returning to his home still in disguise, he took up the challenge set by Penelope, and successfully completed the task. He was now able to prove to
Penelope who he was and reclaim her, after permanently deleting the suitors. She had proven to be a faithful wife for the twenty years of his absence.
I think I prefer to believe that Odysseus and Penelope
are legendary rather than historical. I don't know about you, but I think she sets the fidelity bar too high for mortal womankind. Twenty years! Still, she makes quite a role