The omen and the dream: Helen's and Penelope's visions of the eagle and the geese in Homer, Odyssey 15.160–178 and 19.535–555

Elizabeth Stockdale

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In the Odyssey, Helen and Penelope experience similar portents in their respective omen and dream episodes. Both involve the actions of an eagle and a goose/geese. What the interpretations of these visions also have in common is the entrenched epic's thematic focus on Odysseus's pending homecoming and the restoration of his οἶκος. Recent scholarship on Helen has commented that Od. 15.172–178 is evidence of her divine nature (Blondell 2013 and Clader 1976) and her uncanny sixth sense (Suzuki 1989). In contrast, in the dream episode, Penelope does not believe what is said to her in the dream, nor her disguised husband's exact same interpretation. Russo (1982) has argued that there is ambivalence in Penelope's complex state of mind, while Austin (1994) and Bolmarcich (2001) have focused on the intense mental harmony and ὁμοφροσύνη between Penelope and Odysseus. Amory (1966), Rozokoki (2001), and Haller (2009) discuss the dream, and Penelope and Odysseus's relationship delving into the symbolic significance of the Gates of Horn and Ivory. This paper will argue that Helen's interpretation of the omen is supportive of the Homeric οἶκος, specifically Odysseus's οἶκος. Helen's interpretation also states that Odysseus will wreak vengeance on the suitors for their breach of ξενία. While Penelope's character is the loyal, supportive, long-suffering wife, it is actually Helen, traditionally seen as the antithesis of Penelope's qualities, who interprets the shared visions of the eagle and the goose/geese in favor of Odysseus. She 'divinely' interprets Odysseus's homecoming, the cleaning of his οἶκος, and his restoration with Penelope reclaiming his rulership of Ithaca.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Homeric epic
  • Homeric studies
  • gender studies
  • classical philology
  • Literary Studies


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