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In Greek mythology, Anticleia, (Αντίκλεια), was the daughter of Autolycus and Amphithea, and mother of Odysseus by Laertes (though some say by Sisyphus). She is also the granddaughter of the trickster god Hermes (who was the father of her father, Autolycus).

Anticlea in the Odyssey

In Book XI of the Odyssey, Odysseus makes a trip to the underworld, seeking the advice of the dead prophet Teiresias. Here, he encounters many spirits, including that of his mother, Anticlea. Initially, he rebuffs her, since he is waiting for the prophet to approach. After speaking with Teiresias, however, Odysseus allows his mother to come near and lets her speak. She asks him why he is in the underworld while alive, and he tells her about his various troubles and futile attempts to get home. Then he asks her how she died, and enqires about his family remaining at home. She tells him that she died of grief, longing for him as he was at war. Anticlea also says that Laërtes (Odysseus' father) "grieves continually" for Odysseus, and lives in a hovel in the countryside, sleeping on the floor and constantly clad in rags. Anticlea further describes the condition of Odysseus' wife (Penelope) and son (Telemachus); Penelope has not yet remarried, but is overwhelmed with sadness and longing for her husband, while Telemachus acts as magistrate for Odysseus' properties. Odysseus attempts to embrace his mother three times, but discovers that she is incorporeal and his arms simply pass through her. She explains that this is how all ghosts are, and he expresses great sorrow.

Anticlea and Sisyphus

According to some later sources, Odysseus was the child of Anticlea by Sisyphus, not Laërtes. In this version of the story, Autolycus, an infamous trickster, stole Sisyphus' cattle. At some point, Sisyphus recognized his cattle while on a visit to Autolycus, and subsequently seduced (or, in some versions, raped) Anticlea, Autolycus' daughter. Odysseus was the result of this union, which took place before Anticlea's marriage to Laërtes.

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