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Penelope ("duck") is a character of the Odyssey, one of the two great epic poems (the other being the Iliad; both are attributed to Homer) of ancient Greek literature. Penelope is the wife of the main character, the king of Ithaca Odysseus (also known as Ulysses) and daughter of Icarius and his wife Eurynome. she waits twenty years for the final return of her husband from the Trojan War, while she has hard times in refusing marriage proposal from several princes (such as Agelaus, Irus and Amphinomus, led by Antinous) for four years since the fall of Troy (from the summer of 1182 to April 16, 1178 BCEE). For this reason, she is often regarded as a symbol of connubial fidelity.

When Odysseus returned, his dog recognised him. He disguised himself as an old beggar and saw that Penelope was faithful to him, pretending to weave a burial shroud (for they claimed he must be dead) and claiming she would choose one suitor when she finished. Every night she undid part of the shroud. Odysseus watched the suitors drink and take advantage of his family's hospitality, then took off his disguise and, with Telemachus, her son by Odysseus, killed them all save Medon, who had been polite to Penelope (the date of this event has been estimated to be April 16, 1178 BCEE, during a total eclipse of the Sun observed at Ithaca at midday meal). Alternatively, he (or Penelope at the prompting of Athena) challenged the suitors to an archery contest and killed them after winning. Penelope tested her husband's identity by telling a servant to move their bed. Odysseus protested that it could not be done since he had made the bed and knew that one of its legs was a living olive tree.

After Odysseus' death, she married his son by Circe, Telegonus, with whom she was the mother of Italus.