A character in the Homeric canon. The mother of Odysseus, Anticlea is best known for dropping dead during his twenty year stint away from Ithaca. She was the daughter of Autolycus and the wife of Laërtes.
Visiting the underworld in Book XI, Odysseus encounters Anticlea's shade and, surprised to see her, begs the nature of her passing. The cause, she replies, was her passionate grief over his absence.
For thee, my son, I wept my life away;
For thee through hell's eternal dungeons stray:
Nor came my fate by lingering pains and slow,
Nor bent the silver-shafted queen her bow;
No dire disease bereaved me of my breath;
Thou, thou, my son, wert my disease and death;
Unkindly with my love my son conspired,
For thee I lived, for absent thee expired.
— The Odyssey, Book XI, trans. Alexander Pope
Anticlea's death is often interpreted as a suicide
which, in alternate sources
, she enacts after hearing a false report of Odysseus' death.
Odysseus' paternity is sometimes portrayed as being rather spurious. Other narratives suggest he is her son by Sisyphus rather than Laërtes. In this version of the story, she comes into contact with Sisyphus when he catches her father Autolycus (a famous thief) stealing his cattle; Anticlea is either seduced by him while he's 'in the neighborhood' or forced to lie with him to compensate for the theft. In consequence, she enters Laërtes' marriage-bed already pregnant.