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While women play a circumscribed role in ancient epic, Homer's Odyssey depicts both Helen and Penelope as undergoing their own forms of homecoming, or nostos, after the Trojan War: Helen returns to her husband Menelaus after experiencing the war firsthand at Troy and a ten-year separation; Penelope stays home, but Odysseus' return is in many ways as much a challenge for her as it is for him and the Odyssey portrays her domestic ordeal as a form of heroic nostos. In this essay, I explore female ways of homecoming in the Odyssey and draw connections between Homeric heroines and members of "Team Lioness" returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq in the twenty-first century. The 2008 documentary Lioness gives voice to some of these women, the country's first generation of female combat veterans, as they struggle to reconcile their experience of war in Iraq with their lives at home. While the ancient Greeks could not have conceived of women experiencing battle in the way the members of Team Lioness did, Helen's and Penelope's marginalized roles in the Odyssey open a window into the contemporary experience of women soldiers and veterans and provide ways of understanding the challenges of the trauma of war and female homecoming in the twenty-first century.


Peter Meineck & David Konstan


Palgrave Macmillan


New York



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Combat Trauma and the Ancient Greeks

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