In India it is a commonplace that the great epic, the Mahābhārata, is a dharma or legal text. It can also be demonstrated not only that there are explicit references to ritual in the epic narrative, but that the narrative sometimes covertly encodes ritual, allowing the audience to experience the narrative on several levels at once. I will suggest that it is possible to read the Odyssey both as a legal and a ritual text and that explicit reference to the rich legal, ritual, and epic materials of ancient India clarifies much that is murky in the Odyssey, given the Indo-European heritage that they both share. The paper focuses on three issues: (1) A legal point: the legal status of Penelope, particularly with regard to her remarriage. Should she remarry, and if so, who has the authority to arrange such a marriage? Both legal and epic materials in Sanskrit treat in detail the situation of a woman whose husband has gone abroad and disappeared. (2) A legal institution: the marital self-choice (svayamvara in Sanskrit) and its relevance to Penelope and the suitors. The self-choice is a common type of marriage for kings' daughters in Sanskrit, in which the princess "chooses" a husband from a group of assembled suitors. Often the "choice" is governed by an act of strength and skill, just as Penelope's marriage contest was. (3) A ritual: the consecration of the king (Rājasūya in Sanskrit) and its relevance to Odysseus' return. Odysseus' return to Ithaka can be read as a covert encoding of a royal consecration ritual similar to the Sanskrit Rājasūya. In particular, the theme of the bow, the importance accorded to Eumaios' pigs, and the narrative of the boar hunt all find their counterparts in the Sanskrit ritual.
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