In the Odyssey, Penelope is courted by 108 suitors, who camp out in her house/royal court indefinitely, behaving badly, while she delays them. I'm having trouble understanding the historical and cultural context here. Is enough known about the culture of Homeric Greece to definitively explain what's going on, or is it subject to interpretation? It seems clear that the suitors have an understandable motive (to take over the kingdom of Ithaca). It's less clear to me whether their behavior is meant to be seen as a total violation of cultural norms, or what norms might be violated. Features of the story such as the great length of time and the large number of suitors seem like exaggerations for effect, but are the aberrations meant to excite horror in the listener, or are they just exaggerated versions of plausible events when a queen was widowed?
The suitors end up getting killed, which is seen as just. In this culture, do they deserve death simply because they persistently courted Penelope, or because they abused her hospitality, or because of their separate misdeeds, such as the plot led by Antinous to murder Telemachus?
Does Penelope fail to eject them because she lacks the physical power, because she lacks the legal and political authority, or because she's behaving as an exaggerated model of hospitality?
Hospitality is a virtue that was much admired in the ancient world and is modeled by Telemachus in his interaction with Athena. If great hospitality is seen as an obligation of a rich noblewoman, then is she enhancing her legitimacy by showing such extreme hospitality?
If her problem is lack of physical power, does this imply that the entire kingdom of Ithaca is completely undefended simply because one man, the king, is dead or absent? Wouldn't Odysseus have made provisions for the security of his kingdom, court, and family before leaving for Troy? If Penelope wanted to kick the suitors out, could she appeal to her slaves to help her with physical force, or would that be out of the question culturally (cf. Confederate horror at freedmen fighting for the Union)? Would the suitors have weapons, armor, and training that would make it difficult for non-nobles to eject them by force?