The Odyssey: Book 1 lines 365-367

In this quick portion, the suitors raise a din in response to Telemachus‘ bold declaration. Were that not enough, they presume to try to go up with him into the women’s quarters where Telemachus’ mother Penelope has sent for him.

Altes Museum - Antikensammlung 085

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At this point, the reader unacquainted with ancient Greek social mores should be wondering why the bold and cunning woman Penelope has so far chosen to stay upstairs in the quarters reserved for women only. The obvious answer is that the suitors cannot go there. Only male family can enter the women’s quarters at all, and then only when they are sent for. The master of the house, i.e., Odysseus in this case, can take some liberties with that but absolutely no one else can. Indeed, under normal circumstances, an unauthorized male found in the women’s quarters could be killed out of hand. Thus the presumption of the suitors is fairly gross.

Yet at the same time, what Telemachus proposes to do is a direct challenge to them and so they do not want him to discuss matters in private with his mother. This section introduces the speech by Telemachus to follow, and we are about to see how much of his parents’ cunning Telemachus has inherited. Of course, even Odysseus did not always get things entirely his own way.

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