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How are the women portrayed in the Iliad of Homer?

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lehcir | Student | Valedictorian

Posted March 24, 2013 at 9:53 PM via iOS

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How are the women portrayed in the Iliad of Homer?

Tagged with gender roles, homer, iliad

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readerofbooks | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 28, 2013 at 6:28 PM (Answer #1)

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This is an excellent question that is complex on many levels. Homer does not give one picture of women in the Iliad. Women come in all “shapes and sizes” as it were. Here is a list of the various women in the epic poem.

First, some women are nothing more than objects or war prizes. This can be seen clearly in the characters, Chryseis and Briseis. They have no voice and are in reality the spoils of war. This shows that Homer is writing in a man's world. 

Second, some are idealized, in the Greek sense of being dutiful wives. The most dutiful wife is undoubtedly Andromache, the wife of Hector. In some ways, we can also put in queen Hecuba as well.

Third, there is Helen. She stands alone as she, in a way, is the cause of the Trojan War. From this perspective, she takes on a negative characteristic. We can say that she is not an example of the dutiful Greek wife like Andromache.

Fourth, there are the goddesses in the poem. Hera is portrayed as strong and dominant, and she even tries to trick Zeus. Athena is awe-inspiring and gives heart to the Greeks.

Just from this list alone, it is clear that Homer’s depiction of women is not one-sided. 

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