1. Education

Famous Ancient Mothers


1 of 11

Penelope and Telemachus
Penelope and Ulysses

Penelope|Medea| Cybele|Veturia|Cornelia|Galla Placidia|Pulcheria|Julia Domna|Julia Soaemias

A figure in Greek mythology, Penelope is known best as a model of marital fidelity, but she was also a courageous mother whose story is told in the Odyssey.

Wife and presumed widow of King Odysseus of Ithaca, Penelope appeals to obnoxious, greedy area men. Fighting them off was proving to be a full-time occupation, but Penelope managed to keep the suitors at bay until her son, Telemachus, was fully grown. When Odysseus left for the Trojan War, his son was a baby.

The Trojan war lasted a decade and Odysseus' return lasted another decade. That's 20 years Penelope spent faithful to her husband and keeping her son's property safe.

Penelope didn't want to marry any of the suitors, so when she was pressed to choose among them, she said she would do so after she had finished weaving the shroud of her father-in-law. That seemed reasonable enough, respectful and pious, but each day she wove and each night she undid her day's work. In this way, she would have kept the suitors at bay (albeit eating her out of house and home), had it not been for one of her serving women who told one of the suitors about Penelope's ruse.

Read about Wily Penelope

  1. Penelope
  2. Medea
  3. Cybele
  4. Veturia
  5. Cornelia
  6. Agrippina
  7. Helena
  8. Galla Placidia
  9. Pulcheria
  10. Julia Domna
  11. Julia Soaemias

Picture: Woodcut illustration of Odysseus's return to Penelope, hand-colored in red, green, and yellow, from an incunable German translation by Heinrich Steinhöwel of Giovanni Boccaccio's De mulieribus claris, printed by Johannes Zainer at Ulm ca. 1474.
CC Flickr User kladcat

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.