Women of the Iliad

:: 1 Works Cited
Length: 1237 words (3.5 double-spaced pages)
Rating: Excellent
Open Document

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Text Preview

More ↓

Continue reading...

Open Document

Women of the Iliad

In the Iliad we saw women as items of exchange and as markers of status for the men who possessed them (Chryseis and
Briseis, whom Agame mnon and Achilles argue over in Book I). We saw them in their normal social roles as mothers and wives
(Hecuba, Andromache in Book VI). We saw stereotypical characterizations of them as fickle (Helen in Book VI), seductive,
and deceitful (Hera in Book XIV). We see them as an obstacle that the male hero has to overcome or resist to fulfill his heroic
destiny (Andromache's entreaties to Hector in Book VI).

In all, the few times women show up in what is basically a story told in the male sphere, the story is nothing that subverts or calls
into question the structure of the society that is being portrayed... or is there?

To the extent that the Iliad has a moral lesson to impart to its readers, part of it would have to be that the behavior of Agam
emnon and Achilles in the first book (and beyond) is excessive. Both men are so fixated on their own images as heroic warriors
that they end up bringing woe upon themselves and the rest of the Greeks. Part of that behavior is the way they treat the wome
n not as human beings but as emblems of their own status and martial prowess. Look carefully at what Agamemnon says to the
prophet who declared that he had to give back Chryseis (Page 62):

Now once more you make divination to the Dana ans, argue

forth your reason why he who strikes from afar afflicts them,

because I for the sake of the girl Chryseis would not take

the shining ransom; and indeed I wish greatly to have her

in my own house; since I like her be tter than Klytaimestra

my own wife, for in truth she is no way inferior

To those who already knew the stories of the Trojan War heroes (which all of the original Greek audience of the epic would),
these words would be ominous ones. They would know that Agamemnon had angered hi s wife Klytaimestra (Clytemnestra),

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Women of the Iliad." 123HelpMe.com. 22 Feb 2018
Title Length Color Rating  
Essay on Women of the Iliad - Women of the Iliad In the Iliad we saw women as items of exchange and as markers of status for the men who possessed them (Chryseis and Briseis, whom Agame mnon and Achilles argue over in Book I). We saw them in their normal social roles as mothers and wives (Hecuba, Andromache in Book VI). We saw stereotypical characterizations of them as fickle (Helen in Book VI), seductive, and deceitful (Hera in Book XIV). We see them as an obstacle that the male hero has to overcome or resist to fulfill his heroic destiny (Andromache's entreaties to Hector in Book VI)....   [tags: Homer Women Iliad]
:: 1 Works Cited
1237 words
(3.5 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
The Role of Women in Homer’s Iliad Essay - The Role of Women in Homer’s Iliad Homer’s Iliad is undoubtedly focused on its male characters: Achilles, primarily, but also Hector and Agamemnon. Nevertheless, it seems that the most crucial characters in the epic are female. Homer uses the characters of Thetis, Andromache, and Helen as a basis for comparison to the male characters. Homer wants his audience to see and understand the folly of his male characters in choosing war over peace, aggression over kindness, and honor over family. While the behavior of these characters clearly speaks for itself, the contrasting attitudes and behaviors of the female characters proffer an alternative; in comparison, the reader can hardly fail to conc...   [tags: Iliad Thetis Andromache Helen]
:: 1 Works Cited
791 words
(2.3 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
The Impact of Women in The Iliad Essays - Women have always been recognized for their strong influence on the actions of men. Because of his love for Delia, Samson told his secret of his power and ended up losing it. In Shakespeare's Macbeth, Lady Macbeth urged Macbeth to commit murder. More recently, Eleanor Roosevelt strongly influenced the decisions that Franklin D. Roosevelt made. Women of Homer's epic, The Iliad, were considered primary instigators of the Trojan war. The characteristics attributed to women in ancient Greek mythology may have been key to the outbreak of the war....   [tags: Role of Women in the Trojan War] 582 words
(1.7 pages)
Good Essays [preview]
Women in the Iliad Essay - Critical Review Essay Women In the Iliad The role of women in the Iliad is a subject that remains open to debate. Lefkowitz, in her article The Heroic Women of Greek Epic, argues that without the role of women in the Iliad the story would not have occurred (504 ). Lefkowitz points out that the Iliad opens with a description of a plague that was caused as the result of the capture of Chrysies by Agamemnon (504). Chryseis is the daughter of a priest named Chryses. Chryses wants his daughter back, so he offers a ransom to Agamemnon to try to get him to return his daughter....   [tags: World Literature] 601 words
(1.7 pages)
Good Essays [preview]
The Portrayal of Women in the Iliad Essay - "So please go home and tend to your own tasks, / the distaff and the loom, and keep the women / working hard as well" (6.585-587). From this we see Hector's view of women, which is a theme that is echoed throughout the rest of the Iliad. Women are mentioned relatively few times in the Iliad in comparison with the books devoted solely to the men. Nevertheless, there is clear evidence that the role of women in this society was that of a servile follower. The first example of women being treated as property is found at the very beginning of the poem, when Agamemnon agrees to give Chryseis back to Calchas....   [tags: European Literature] 559 words
(1.6 pages)
Good Essays [preview]
Essay on Women in Iliad, Odyssey, and the Bible - Role of Women in Iliad, Odyssey, and the Bible Much is known of men in ancient civilizations, from the famous philosophers and mathematicians of Greece to the patriarchs and subsequent kings of the nation of Israel. It would seem, however, that history has forgotten the women of these times. What of the famous female thinkers of Ancient Greece, the distinguished stateswomen of Rome. What power did they hold. What was their position in societies of the distant past. A glimpse into the roles and influence of women in antiquity can be discovered in such ancient masterpieces as the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Hebrew Bible....   [tags: comparison compare contrast essays]
:: 2 Works Cited
1539 words
(4.4 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Essay on A Comparison of the Role of Women in Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad - The Role of Women in Odyssey and The Iliad The Iliad and Odyssey present different ideals of women, and the goddesses, who are presented as ideal women, differ between the two epics. The difference in roles is largely dependent on power, and relations to men, as well as sexual desirability and activity. The goddesses have a major role in both epics as Helpers of men. They have varied reasons for this.  One is a maternal instinct. This is displayed in the literal mother-son relationships of Aphrodite and Aeneas, Thetis and Achilles, and the protective instinct that Athene displays in Book 3 of the Iliad when Pandarus arrow shot an arrow at Menelaus and she "took her stand in front and ward...   [tags: comparison compare contrast essays]
:: 3 Works Cited
3364 words
(9.6 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Iliad and Oedipus Essay - Iliad and Oedipus The role of women in society has been a matter of much debate and while the gender equal world of our time stresses upon equality for men and women, this was not the case in earlier ages. From Classical Antiquity to the early years of the 20th century, women were marginalized and treated as inferior to men, and their life was regulated by laws and norms and conventions stipulated by men. The works of Classical Greek philosophers and dramatists is testimony to the subjugation of women in those periods too, but it is also worth noting that women were integral to the action in Greek drama and thought, although they did not occupy as relevant a position in real society....   [tags: role of women in Greek drama & epic poetry]
:: 3 Works Cited
899 words
(2.6 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
Femininity in Homer’s Iliad Essay - Femininity in Homer’s Iliad In Homer’s Iliad, predominant feminine presence inspires the events of the poem and the destinies of the men involved. This feminine presence is not a product of the actions and decisions of the women in the poem, but rather a conceptual, creative feminine force without which the poem and even human life would not exist. Homer personifies this presence in nature and maintains it through the voice of the Muse, his inspiration. There is a deeper essence of a feminine presence in the poem, however, which lies in the characteristics of life itself....   [tags: Iliad essays]
:: 1 Works Cited
1888 words
(5.4 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Essay on The Iliad's Ending - Homer's Iliad is commonly understood as an epic about the Trojan War, but its meaning goes deeper than that. The Iliad is not only a story of the evolution of Achilleus' persona, but at times it is an anti-war epic as well. The final book proposes many questions to the reader. Why not end with the killing of Hektor. Most stories of war conclude with the triumphant victory of good over evil, but in the Iliad, the final thoughts are inclined to the mourning of the defeated Hektor, which accentuates the fact that good has not triumphed over evil, but simply Achilleus triumphed over Hektor....   [tags: Homer Iliad Analysis] 908 words
(2.6 pages)
Better Essays [preview]

Related Searches

by sacrificing their daughter to obtain favorable winds for the expedition. They would also know that when Agamemnon arrived
home victorious after the war with Troy, concubine (Cassandra, not Chryseis) in tow, Clytemnestra would murder him.
Agamemnon is already being characterized here as a person whose arrogant, insensitive and cavalier treatment of the women in
his life brings him grief and destruction.

C ontrast also Agamemnon's callousness, and what results from it, with the more gentle attitude of Hektor toward his mother
and wife in Book VI, and it's easy to see that the poet is capable of imagining a very different sort of attitude toward women.
Noti ce also the care that the poet takes in giving us a sensitive portrayal of Andromache, a portrayal that makes it hard to think
of any of the women in the story as mere objects that men can accumulate like gold cups or fat heifers. Here is a part of Andro
mache's address to Hektor that makes us realize how little separates this princess from the girls that Agamemnon and Achilles
consider to be their prizes (p. 164)

And they who were my seven brothers in the great house all went

up on a single day down into the house of the death god,

for swift-footed Achilleus slaughtered all of them

as they were tending their white sheep and their lumbering oxen;

and when he had led my mother, who was queen under wooded Plako s,

here, along with all his other possessions, Achilleus

released her again, accepting ransom beyond count, but Artemis

of the showering arrows struck her down in the halls of her father.

Hektor, thus you are father to me, and my honoured mother,

you are my brother, and you it is who are my young husband.

Please take pity on me then, stay here on the rampart

And here is another passage (one that is NOT in your packet) where the poet brutally drives home the impact of the war on the
women, in this case on Briseis herself, who had previously appeared as a mute object handed back and forth between Achilles
and Agamemnon. In this passage, Achilles' friend Patroklos has been killed by Hektor. This is what makes Achilles put aside
his anger at Agamemnon and rejoin the battle. As a reward for rejoining, Agamemnon has given Briseis back to Achilles, and
here she mourns Patroklos when his body is being brought back to Achilles' camp. She is in such a helpless and desperate
situation that the death of one of her captors -- the kindest one of her captors -- is an occasion for massive grief, and her best
hope is that her future life is as the wife of the man who killed her family rather than one o f his house slaves or concubines:

And now, in the likeness of golden Aphrodite, Briseis

when she saw Patroklos lying torn with sharp bronze, folding

him in her arms cried shrilly above him and with her hands tore

a t her breasts and her soft throat and her beautiful forehead.

The woman like the immortals mourning for him spoke to him:

'Patroklos, far most pleasing to my heart in its sorrows,

I left you here alive when I went away from the shelte r,

but now I come back, lord of the people, to find you have fallen.

So evil in my life takes over from evil forever.

The husband on whom my father and honoured mother bestowed me

I saw before my city lying torn with the sharp bronze,

and my three brothers, whom a single mother bore with me

and who were close to me, all went on one day to destruction.

And yet you would not let me, when swift Achilles had cut down

my husband, and sacked the city of go dlike Mynes, you would not

let me sorrow, but said you would make me godlike Achilleus'

wedded lawful wife, that you would take me back in the ships

to Phthia, and formalize my marriage among the Myrmidons.

Therefore I weep y our death without ceasing. You were kind always.'

So she spoke, lamenting, and the women sorrowed around her

grieving openly for Patroklos, but for her own sorrows


So, one could make an argument that the poet of the Iliad does portray women as objects which men use to jockey for
position with one another. He portrays them in stereotypical roles and with stereotypical characteristics. He portrays them as
totally impotent outside the protection of their ma le guardians. But he does all this in a way that doesn't seek to support or
justify that system. Instead, he presents it with such honesty and clarity that it makes the injustices of the society clear. This does
not make him a revolutionary,

a reformer or a proto-feminist. There is no reason to think that he wanted to, or thought that he could, change society in any
way. From his point of view he may have simply been telling it like it is. But it does show a capacity in a Greek male writer to
look upon the situation of women with some sensitivity and compassion.

Work Cited

Homer, Iliad, trans. Richard Lattimore New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1965.

Return to 123HelpMe.com