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Eurycleia and Her Impact on Greek Art and Culture

Eurycleia was the nurse both of Odysseus and his son Telemachus. Homer says of her: "...with him went trusty Eurycleia, and bare for him torches burning. She was the daughter of Ops, son of Peisenor, and Laertes bought her on a time with his wealth, while as yet she was in her first youth, and gave for her the worth of twenty oxen. And he honoured her even as he honoured his dear wife in the halls, but he never lay with her, for he shunned the wrath of his lady. She went with Telemachus and bare for him the burning torches: and of all the women of the household she loved him most, and she had nursed him when a little one. Then he opened the doors of the well-builded chamber and sat him on the bed and took off his soft doublet, and put it in the wise old woman's hands. So she folded the doublet and smoothed it, and hung it on a pin by the jointed bedstead, and went forth on her way from the room, and pulled to the door with the silver handle, and drew home the bar with the thong." (Odyssey Book I)

Later Homer says: "but he stepped down into the vaulted treasure-chamber of his father, a spacious room, where gold and bronze lay piled, and raiment in coffers, and fragrant olive oil in plenty. And there stood casks of sweet wine and old, full of the unmixed drink divine, all orderly ranged by the wall, ready if ever Odysseus should come home, albeit after travail and much pain. And the close-fitted doors, the folding doors, were shut, and night and day there abode within a dame in charge, who guarded all in the fulness of her wisdom, Eurycleia, daughter of Ops son of Peisenor." (Odyssey Book II)

Penelope says of Eurycleia: "I have an ancient woman of an understanding heart, that diligently nursed and tended that hapless man my lord, she took him in her arms in the hour when his mother bare him." (Odyssey Book XIX)

Later Homer says: "and Telemachus obeyed his dear father, and smote at the door, and spake to the nurse Eurycleia: 'Up now, aged wife, that overlookest all the women servants in our halls,..." (Odyssey Book XXII)

What then is the eurycleia archetype? She is a trusted slave who was treated like one of the family. Odysseus is dependent upon a number of loyal servants. In fact one has to figure out how, in general, to do this. Life is pretty miserable if you cannot trust the people around you.

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All the information about Eurycleia is contained in the Odyssey of Homer.


To ask a question about this topic note the topic (Eurycleia) and Click here


Eurycleia and Her Impact on Greek Art and Culture

Questions and Answers

Question: What was Eurycleia role in the odyssey of homer.

Answer: She was the loyal nurse of Odysseus and his son Telemachus. She was able to recognize Odysseus quite easily because she knew his scars.

Question: Are there any paintings, pictures, vases etc. made of Eurycleia?

Answer: The best I can find is a picture of a nurse: Click Here

Question: who did she marry?

Answer: Probably no one. She probably was a slave and slaves were not allowed to marry. If you had a slave in your household that someone wanted to marry then that person would have to buy the slave to marry her.

Question: was she a god or goddess

Answer: No. She was a mortal.

Question: Why was she so expensive if her master didn't intend to make her his bedmate?

Answer: A master usually needed a number of loyal slaves. Loyalty is very difficult to buy and must be cultivated with good treatment. Such a slave might be offered a retirement or eventual freedom for loyalty.

Question: What did Eurycleia wear?

Answer: What they thought in classical Greece: Click here

What she probably looked like: Click here

Question: did eurycliea have eny family?

Answer: Of course she had a mother and father. But her enslavement separated her from her family. She was fortunatel that her owners treated her like family.

Question: what were her personality traits? was she related to penelope?does she had family?did it make any contributions to Ancient greek society?did she have a career?does she have any associations?

Answer: You can read about her personality in the Odyssey. She was not related to Penelope. She was a gift from her in-laws. Her contribution was as a nurse but slaves have no careers.

Question: why was odysseus worried abou the coming battle?

Answer: There were many wooers and only one of him.

Question: why did oddyseus store away the arms?

Answer: To keep them from being used by the wooers against him.

Question: Do you think Eurycleia was a better mother to Telemachus and Odysseus than their own mothers. Why or why not?

Answer: Eurycleia was not a better mother but she helped a lot. She could not bear them nor could she nurse them. There is no reason to believe that either mother was inadequate.

Question: The Persians by Aeschylus line 243 states of Athens:

"Of no man are they called the slaves or vassals." Surely Eurycleia was a slave. Consider this passage from the Odyssey, bk 1, line 428:

"...and with him, bearing blazing torches, went true-hearted Eurycleia, daughter of Ops, son of Peisenor. [430] Her long ago Laertes had bought with his wealth, when she was in her first youth, and gave for her the price of twenty oxen; and he honored her even as he honored his faithful wife in his halls, but he never lay with her in love, for he shunned the wrath of his wife."

A number of conclusions can be drawn from this passage:

  1. Eurycleia was a very valuable slave.
  2. She received honor and respect in the house of Laertes.
  3. She was very loyal to the family of Laertes.
  4. Anticlea, the wife of Laertes, was a fearsome woman.

Slavery was a fact in those days, even in Athens. The Athenians were considerate of their slaves more than most, yet there must have been plenty of female slaves who could not resist their masters. Many female slaves were fortunate because the functions of the culture were divided on gender lines so the female slaves were under control of the women of the house. Even so the women slaves were commonly humiliated by being given base tasks. The Athenians and other Greeks who read Homer probably admired the fact that Eurycleia was a trusted slave who was very loyal to her family. This was a very rare situation which would have been especially poignant to the Athenians who were so proud of their democracy.

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