Penelope | Wife of Odysseus

Penelope Greek Mythology

Penelope (Greek: Πηνελόπη, transl.: Pēnelópē), in Greek mythology, is the wife of Ulysses, daughter of Icharius and Periboea.

For ten years, Penelope waited for her husband's return from the Trojan War. The long journey of Ulysses' return is the theme of Homer's Odyssey.

Her father, a champion runner would not allow anyone to marry his daughter unless they could beat him in a race. Ulysses did so and married Penelope. After they were married, Icarius tried to convince Ulysses to stay in Sparta. He left with Penelope, but Icharius followed them, begging his daughter to stay.

Ulysses said she should choose whether she wished to stay with her father or her husband. Penelope didn't answer, but modestly covered her face with a veil. Ichronius correctly understood that this was a sign of her willingness to leave with Odysseus, let them go, and erected a statue of Aidos (modesty) on the spot.

She had only one child with Odysseus, Telemachus, who was born shortly before her husband was called to fight in the Trojan War.

The years went by and there was no news of Ulysses, nor whether he was alive or dead. So Penelope's father suggested that his daughter marry again. Penelope, faithful to her husband, refused, saying she would wait for his return.

Faced with her father's insistence and in order not to displease him, she decided to accept the courting of the suitors for her hand, setting the condition that the new marriage would only take place after she finished weaving a shroud for Laertes, Ulysses' father. With this stratagem, she hoped to postpone the event as long as possible.

During the day, in the eyes of all, Penelope would weave, and at night, secretly, she would undo all the work. And that was until one of her servants discovered the ruse and told the whole truth.

She then proposed another condition to her father. Knowing how hard Ulysses' bow was, she said she would marry the man who could string it. Among all the suitors, only one humble peasant managed to accomplish the feat. This peasant immediately revealed himself to be Ulysses, disguised after his return.