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In The Odyssey, everyone in Ithaca - except Penelope - assumes that since most surviving Greeks returned home shortly after the end of the Trojan War, Odysseus is dead. This legitimises a group of men, the suitors, to court Penelope and claim his kingdom.

War, as is the case with Odysseus, was not the only opportunity for someone to go missing for an extended period of time in ancient Greece. I wonder how long the Greeks would wait before declaring them dead in absentia. How long - for example - a real-life parallel to Penelope would have to wait before remarrying?

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    I'm not privy with the answer but I'd expect this very much depends on the situation. If you're in absentia after a battle it's reasonably safe to assume you're dead -- or that you've deserted and aren't coming back any time soon. Whereas if you just disappear overnight out of nowhere, it might be you just went off for a lengthy trip or something. – Denis de Bernardy May 1 at 19:29
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    In a city state I expect it would be up to the king to decide. When it's the king who is missing anything goes. Presumably the loyalty of Penelope, Telemachus and Mentor led to the throne remaining vacant. – AllInOne May 1 at 21:53

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