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The Portrayal of Women in the Iliad Essay

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"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. "But fetch me another prize, and straight off too, / else I alone of the Argives go without honor. / That would be a disgrace. You are all witness, / look--my prize is snatched away" (1.38-41)! The women are described as prizes, on par with weaponry, gold, and other honors of war. In fact, Achilles gives other women away as prizes during the funeral games for Patroclus. "For the winner a large tripod made to stride a fire / and worth a dozen oxen, so the soldiers reckoned. / For the loser he led a woman through their midst, / worth four, they thought, and skilled in many crafts (23.782-785). Not only was she a prize in a contest, she was a prize for the runner up. This is a very demeaning and degrading position.

Women were also portrayed as weaker than men in several scenes, in both the physical and the mental sense. The opening quote can be used as evidence for this, when Hector tells the women of Troy to go back to doing the projects of women, such as working on the loom and the distaff. In other words, Hector is saying that this is the only work women are suited for, certainly not the works of war which occupy men. It do...


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...nce we see women in the Iliad being referred to by both themselves and others, as liars and bitches who twist the desires of men to suit their own purpose, such as when Helen tries to persuade Hector to rest with her in book six. "My dear brother, / dear to me, bitch that I am, vicious, scheming-- / horror to freeze the heart" (6.407-409)! Here we even see a women debasing her own character.

One does not need to go into deep, critical analysis to see that women are portrayed as very weak and servile in the Iliad. We have seen them being humiliated by their husbands, brothers, and even owners. They are often charged with tasks others would find demeaning if left to someone else. The chauvinism is everywhere and it is very clear that the role of women in the Iliad was that of a woman who needs a man to take care of her and keep her lying, twisted heart in check.



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