Thomas J. Nelson deposited Penelopean Simaetha: A Flawed Paradigm of Femininity in Theocritus’ Second Idyll on Humanities Commons 5 months ago
Scholars have long noted the deeply intertextual features of Simaetha’s monologue in Idyll 2, including its Homeric, Sapphic and tragic resonances. In this contribution, however, I focus on an underexplored connection between Theocritus’ speaker and the Odyssean Penelope. I first highlight the Idyll’s pervasive engagement with heroic epic, dwelling especially on parallels with Callimachus’ Hecale and Homer’s Odyssey, before turning to investigate Simaetha’s attempts to fashion herself on the paradigm of Odysseus’ faithful wife. Through a series of verbal and situational parallels, I argue that she articulates an idealised vision of herself as the perfect match for the Odyssean Delphis. But as her narrative goes on to show, both she and her lover ultimately fail to live up to this Homeric model. In reality, she is merely one stop-off on Delphis’ merry rounds of love, more like the Odyssean witch Circe than Odysseus’ loyal and loving spouse.