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The Odyssey

by Homer

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Who is the head of Alcinous' palace in the Odyssey?

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In Homer's Odyssey, the de facto head of the palace of Alcinous is the king's wife, Queen Arete. Alcinous is the technical ruler of the kingdom, but it is Arete who has the true power, because of how loved and respected she is by her husband, children, and the Phaeacians.

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In the seventh book of Homer's Odyssey, the titular character continues his epic journey and is in search of the palace of Alcinous. Alcinous is the king of the Phaeacians. Although the kingdom is his and the royal palace is named for him, it is his wife, Arete, who has the true ruling power.

Athena, disguised as a female child, guides Odysseus to the palace of Alcinous. She advises him to win the favor of the queen, Arete, whose opinions are highly valued throughout the kingdom.

Arete, like her husband, is a descendant of Poseidon. Her name comes from the Greek word for "excellence," and given Homer's description of her in the Odyssey, her name befits her. She is intelligent, as well as kind. She is not only deeply loved and respected by Alcinous and their children, but also revered by the people of the kingdom and regarded as a goddess. She is fair-minded and enjoys helping others. She frequently helps her friends settle their disagreements.

It is for these reasons Athena instructs Odysseus to win over the queen. Alcinous is technically the ruler of the kingdom, but it is his wife who truly rules, as her judgements carry a great deal of weight and value among the people.

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