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The Wine Red Sea:  Journeys of Odysseus
© Copyright 2014 - 2018 by Peter J Ponzio

Among the Dead, Book XI

Once Anticlea departs from Odysseus, Persephone sent a a series of noble women to talk to Odysseus (XI, 257-358).  The series follows a format which is repeated throughout the Iliad and the Odyssey, where the poet provides a long list, such as the naming of ships and their host cities in the Iliad, or the warriors fallen in a particular battle. The women who appear to Odysseus, and their significance are listed below: o Tyro, who consorted with Poseidon o Antiope who conceived children with Zeus o Alcmena, who bore Heracles after consorting with Zeus o Megara, first wife of Heracles who was killed, along with her children, when Hera drove the hero mad This first grouping of women all consorted with gods and met with ill fortune because of their trysts.  The second grouping of women all bore famous sons, and include: o Epicaste, mother of Oedipus o Chloris, mother to Nestor, King of Pylos o Leda, mother to Helen and the Dioscuri by Zeus o Iphimedia, who bore two sons, Otus and Ephialtes, to Poseidon The next two women that Odysseus meets are Phaedra and Procris, both of whom were involved in the murder of their lovers.  These two women serve as a warning about Clytemnestra and Agamemnon, since their stories parallel the story of Agamemnon’s death in some ways. Odysseus them meets Ariadne, who helped Theseus kill the Minotaur, was accepted by the her as a consort, and then was abandoned when Theseus met Medea.  According to some legends, Ariadne later married Dionysus. Clymene and Maera are mentioned next, but no context is provided for their inclusion in the story.  The Clymene mentioned in the poem is most likely the mother of Phaeton, the boy who begged his father, Helios to ride the chariot that pulled the sun across the sky.  Maera is more difficult to identify, but might be the Maera who was the daughter of Atlas. The final women seen by Odysseus was Eriphyle, the wife of Amphiarus who participated in the battle of the Seven against Thebes.  Eriphyle betrayed Amphiarus for a golden necklace and was killed by her son, Alcmaeon to avenge his father’s death.  The parallel between the story of Amphiarus/Eriphyle and Agamemnon/Clytemnestra is obvious. At first glance, it would appear that while there is some theme that binds some of these groups of women together, there is no single theme that binds them all together.  Looked at another way, each one of these groupings, with the exception of Clymene and Maera, involve some treachery done to or by these women.  Later, when Odysseus meets Agamemnon, this notion of treachery becomes more clear, when Agamemnon tells Odysseus:   I tell you this-bear it in mind, you must- when you reach your homeland steer your ship into port in secret, never out in the open. . . the time for trusting to women’s gone forever! (XI, 515-518)