Treatment of Women in Ancient Literature

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Women are constantly portrayed as tempting men by using their sexual charms. And so women who remained chaste were held in a higher esteem than those who highlighted their sexuality. Walcot writes, “The Greeks believed women to be incapable of not exercising their sexual charms and that the results were catastrophic, irrespective of whether or not women set out to cause trouble deliberately or acted in a blissful ignorance of what they were doing” (39). In Homeric tales we see the character Odysseus being held by Calypso and Circe due to their sexual appeal despite him journeying home to be reunited with his wife Penelope after twenty years. However, Penelope is portrayed as being chaste while she waits for her husband to return. This is the most honor a woman is given despite her husband participating in extra marital affairs. Walcot continues and writes, “Thus Greek wives were required to be totally faithful, whereas husbands might amuse them-selves outside the home with those other than their wives. The same double standard of morality applied in heaven, Hera remaining chaste if not absolutely devoid of sexual guilt, however many the liaisons of her husband Zeus, and so the pattern of human behavior was validated and sanctioned by the actions of the deities” (39). This pattern was first sealed in mythology and so was accepted by the mortals—and still is. Penelope is considered a good woman because she waits for her man, and does not give into temptation like her Eve counterpart; neither does she question Odysseus’ fidelity. As previously mentioned, there are many contrasts to this “good” woman who waits, maintains chastity, and is silent. Euripides’ Medea is a character that does not follow the norm of the female rol... ... middle of paper ... ...sioni per L'analisi Dei Testi Classici (Memory, Allusion, Intertextuality) 39 (1997): 123-49. JSTOR. Fabrizio Serra Editore. Web. Schaps, David M. “For All That A Woman: Medea 1250.” The Classical Quarterly 56.02 (2006): 590. Print Scott, Micheal. “The Rise of Women in Ancient Greece.” History Today 59.11 (2009). History Today. 2009. Web. 09 Jan. 2014. Tertullian. “Chapter1. Modesty in Apparel Becoming to Women, in Memory of the Introduction of Sin into the World Through a Woman.” On the Apparel of Women. Trans. S. Thelwall. Ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. Vol. 4. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature, 1885. Print. Walcot, P. “Greek Attitudes towards Women: The Mythological Evidence.” Greece & Rome 2nd ser. 31.1 (Apr., 1984): 37-47. Cambridge University Press on Behalf of The Classical Association Article Stable. Web.
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