Homer's Women

Homer's Women

Question. Discuss the status of women characters in the Iliad.

The Greek classical epic titled ‘The Iliad’ comprising of twenty-four books was written by Homer in the 12th century B.C. The book deals with the Trojan War and celebrates heroism in war but the plot is a diversion from the war scene. Homer’s poetry marked the culmination of the tradition of oral recital. It was also brought into the written form as it was the most popular at that time. It meets the traditional expectation of an epic poetry and goes beyond it. As is the norm in most classical epics, Homer begins his epic from the middle of the war in its most crucial point. The society Homer talks about is highly patriarchal and hence provides the women passive roles; they are seen but not heard. All this can be traced back to the ancient view of women being the ones who induce the temptation of sex in men, which is shown to be a common theme in the ancient world, especially in the Old and New Testaments.

The ancient Greeks were the first to protest the subjection of women. Plato fought for the emancipation of women while Aristophanes ridiculed the idea of women’s rights. The women in this age were subordinated to men. The family system was patriarchal and it was the duty of the male head to protect the female and children against all ills and possible dangers. Prior to the time of Homer, the matriarchal system was in practice and the mother of the family was in charge of the family and house-hold matters. In many cases, fatherhood was unknown. In Iliad we see Achilles always turning to his mother in his times of grief.

The interpersonal relationships of men and women in the Iliad reflect many of the perceptions men had of women in ancient Greece narrowing them to passive roles in the society with the sole purpose of bearing children and taking care of the domestic sphere. Women’s roles in ‘The Iliad’ are understood by men to be mere sexual manipulators or timé, in the case of both human...

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