Type: Exploratory
Pages: 7 | Words: 2059
Reading Time: 9 Minutes

The Ancient Greeks treated their women practically as chattels. Only men were allowed to be citizens and have any participation in Greek political life. In fact, because some Greeks extolled homosexual relations as superior to heterosexual ones it would appear that women were being relegated to the role of simply birthing the next generation. This poor treatment was a far cry from the Judeo-Christian tradition that women were supposed to be the co-equal half of their men. However, this may not be the complete view. A better view would be that women were important to society but not in the same manner as men were. The author believes that Women were important prime movers in Greek society as reflected in the stories of Homer. This is so because the Trojan war itself revolved upon women and their incredible influence on men, the thesis is also upheld in the Odyssey because the main character strove to come home primarily to return to his wife and his exile was caused by the anger of another woman.

The existence of Homer himself is subject to much debate. It is not certain if there really was a Homer or if the name was pseudonym used by one or more persons. Even the date in which he existed is subject to much debate. Herodotus said that Homer lived 400 years before his own time, which would place him at around 850 BC (Graziosi 99). While others believed that he existed closer to the estimated time of the Trojan war which was supposed to have occurred during 1194-1184 BC. Whether or not he existed for real, his epics the Iliad and Odyssey are his legacies as masterpieces of Greek genius. In both epics it is shown that even if the Greeks treated their women like second class citizens, Women were valuable members of society and much that was tragic and great in Greek mythology was inspired by women.

The importance of Women to the Greeks is affirmed from the onset by the Trojan War. In the Judgment of Paris (The Heroes of the Greeks 312), the prelude to the war itself, the goddess of discord, Eris, threw a golden apple into a feast of the gods marked “for the fairest one” (Apollodorus E 3.2). As a result the three most powerful goddesses vied for the title to the fairest and because Zeus wisely did not want to get involved told them to seek Paris of Troy and let him judge who among them was the fairest. Thus, Hera, Athena and Aphrodite came to Paris not asking him to judge their beauty but offering him bribes. Hera offered to make him Lord of all Europe and Asia, Athena offered to make him a mighty warlord, and the goddess of love offered him the love of the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen of Sparta. As fate would have it, Paris chose love over power or glory. Thus, it can be seen that this early on, Women were behind one of the most tragic and glorious events in Greek history, or at least what they believed to be their history. A goddess, Eris, threw the apple of discord among the gods, the vanity of three goddess sent them to Paris for judgment, and lust for a beautiful woman made Paris judge in favor of Aphrodite inspiring the hatred and jealousy of the two other goddesses.

The face that launched a thousand ships, such is said about the beauty of Helen. Woe unto the man who laid eyes upon such beauty that none might posses. Her father wisely made all the kings of Greece sign a pact that they would ally with whomever he chose to be her husband. The lucky man was Menaleus King of Sparta and brother to Agamemnon. Thus when the faithless woman ran off with Paris to Troy, Menaleus and his brother could summon nary all of Greece’s kings to make epic war upon the unconquerable Ilium and the miserable Trojans harboring the adulteress. Such was the beauty of Helen that the kings of Greece signed a pact to ally with whomever became her husband to become eligible to be chosen as such. Such was the beauty of Helen that she became Paris’ prize for choosing Aphrodite, Such was the beauty of Helen that when she ran-off with Paris a thousand ships bearing all the warlords and champions of Greece sailed to Troy and waged ten brutal years of war for her recovery.

As if the short-sighted judgment of Paris that caused the doom of his city was not enough, even his eventual death can be credited to a woman. Towards the end of the Trojan war Paris is said to have killed Achilles with an arrow guided by Apollo himself and in his turn was mortally wounded by an arrow fired by Philoctetes from the bow of Achilles. He would have survived if Oenone, his former lover and a nymph of some power, had not hardened her heart for his betrayal and refused to heal him. Ironically it was Helen of Troy who came to Oenone to ask her to heal him and even though she still loved Paris, enough to commit suicide at his funeral pyre, she would not heal him out of bitterness and jealousy for his choosing Helen over herself.

The Greek invaders themselves were plagued with problems caused by women. In book one of the Iliad, the Greeks are shown to be suffering at the hands of the Trojan because of the absence of their champion, Achilles, from the battlefield. The goddess sings of the wrath of Achilles son of Peleus (Homer bk 1). But he is nowhere to be found on the battlefield. Without him, the Greeks are at the mercy of Hector and the Trojans. In fact, they are so hard pressed that in book 1 the Greeks were beaten back all the way to their ships and many of them talk of going home abandoning the mad quest to recover the faithless Helen from Paris.

It is a fascinating drama, that again involves women, explains why he is not present. Achilles receives Breiseis as his war-bride as a prize for his valor and exploits. Agamemnon, King of the Greeks, receives in his turn Chryseis as his war-bride. But she is the daughter of a priest of Apollo Chryses who begs Agamemnon for her. When the priest is denied he prays to Apollo who sends a dark plague upon the Greeks. Still Agamemnon remained unmoved until his greatest warrior Achilles intervenes and asks that he honor the gods and return his war-bride. However, to compensate him for his loss he orders Breiseis be taken away from Achilles and transferred to his tent (Fagles 334). Achilles, proud and haughty, will not stand for this and he stays in his tent with his potent Myrmidons refusing to fight any further for the man who so blatantly dishonored him. Achilles is bull headed in this matter, not even wise old Nestor and the crafty Odysseus are able to convince him otherwise. Only after Patroclus was killed by Hector did Achilles finally rouse himself from his stupor and continue to fight for the Greeks. Hence it can be seen in this sorry episode that it was lustful strife over their women that the Greeks suffered great harm and were well nigh brought to the brink of defeat. As it would be seen later on Achilles’ wrath is indeed so great that the gods had to descend from mountOlympus just to stay him and prevent him from sacking Troy itself on his own. One can not help but imaging how swiftly the war would have ended if Agamemnon had not robbed him of Breiseis and Achilles had continued to bear down on the Trojans.

Women were not always the cause of woe in the Iliad. Towards the end one woman Cassandra, could very well have saved Troy if she was not cursed with the gift of prophecy with the caveat that no one would believe her. When the famed Trojan horse lay before the city Cassandra was the only one who warned the people of the danger that the horse presented, the only person who agreed with her was murdered by the gods. At this point in the war, the Greeks had all but given up on Troy but for this final ploy. Had the Trojans listened to her, Troy could have been saved. Alas, they did not and this is the source of the warning, beware of Greeks baring gifts.

The sack of Troy brought another tragedy caused by a Woman to the Greeks. After the Trojan horse had been brought to the city, and the Greeks had succeeded in their plot to open the gates while the Trojans lay in a celebration induced stupor some Greeks were ignorant enough to despoil the temple of Athena. Woe unto those who attract the anger of Athena one of the mightiest goddesses. Victorious and hope for a safe trip home, the Greeks find themselves swept by storm of Poseidon’s doing at Athena’s instigation for the slight against her. Many warriors, Ajax among them, died in the storm while Odysseus would be lost at sea for ten years.

The Odyssey is its own Greek Tragedy. Thanks to the disrespect that the Greeks showed to Athena, the Greeks were swept by a storm at the end of the Iliad. Many suffered, but Odysseus suffered worst of all. He endured a ten year Odyssey before he could return to his beloved Penelope. His own story is plagued with the caprices of women who visit tragedy after tragedy upon him. For example, Circe a minor goddess turns his men into animals as was her whim upon any unwary traveler who came to her island. The Siren’s would have caused his death were he not forewarned of the danger they presented. Calypso herself kept him a captive for seven long years refusing to return him to his wife.

But the Odyssey is not all about how women plagued the main character. It was with the aide of Athena that he was able to return home and eventually visit revenge upon the suitors who tried to force Penelope to marry one of them. It was also the crafty Penelope herself who was able to concoct and excuse to avoid marrying any of the suitors. It was also Penelope and the memory of her that inspired Odysseus to solider on during the darkest days of his odyssey remembering that his beautiful wife awaited him in Ithaca.

As an aside another related Greek tragedy emphasizes the role women played in Greek society. The tragedies of the house Atreus, from which Agamemnon and Meleus descend tells of how Agamemnon returned home a victorious king bearing Cassandra the prophetess as his war-prize. Clytemnestra his erstwhile wife never forgave him for sacrificing Iphigenia to the gods to hasten their way to war with the Trojans. She had also taken another to be her husband in his absence. His return with the young and beautiful Cassandra was the last straw. Clytemnestra murdered him and his paramour almost as soon as he arrived at the palace. Of course, Agamemnon was warned by Cassandra of his impending doom but, like all her prophecies, he ignored her. Clytemnestra is a capricious woman who justifies her act as the will of the gods and justifies her own infidelity by saying her husband did it first. In the end she dies also. This part of the tragedies of the House Atreus reveals how the jealousy and cunning of one woman turned what should have been a triumphant homecoming for one of the most powerful conquerors in all of Greece into a bloody double murder.

In conclusion, the fates of Greek men are inevitably tied to their women. The greatest narratives of their time the Iliad and Odyssey speak of the many tragedies and woes that visit themselves upon the Greeks thanks to their dealing with women. But in as much as they speak of woes suffered by men thanks to their women, they also tell of the honor and glory won by men for the sake of these women. For what would classic Greek literature be like if there was no Helen and no face to launch the thousand ships?

Copy-pasting equals plagiarizing!

Mind that anyone can use our samples, which may result in plagiarism. Want to maintain academic integrity? Order a tailored paper from our experts.

Get my custom paper
3 hours
the shortest deadline
original, no AI
300 words
1 page = 300 words
This is a sample essay that should not be submitted as an actual assignment
Need an essay with no plagiarism?
Grab your 15% discount
with code: writers15
Related essays
1 (888) 456 - 4855