Treatment of Women in Ancient Literature

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Women were often subjects of intense focus in ancient literary works. In Sarah Pomeroy’s introduction of her text Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves, she writes, “Women pervade nearly every genre of classical literature, yet often the bias of the author distorts the information” (x). It is evident in literature that the social roles of women were more restricted than the roles of men. And since the majority of early literature was written by men, misogyny tends to taint much of it. The female characters are usually given negative traits of deception, temptation, selfishness, and seduction. Women were controlled, contained, and exploited. In early literature, women are seen as objects of possession, forces deadly to men, cunning, passive, shameful, and often less honorable than men. Literature reflects the societal beliefs and attitudes of an era and the consistency of these beliefs and attitudes toward women and the roles women play has endured through the centuries in literature. Women begin at a disadvantage according to these societal definitions. In a world run by competing men, women were viewed as property—prizes of contests, booty of battle and the more power men had over these possessions the more prestigious the man. When reading ancient literature one finds that women are often not only prizes, but they were responsible for luring or seducing men into damnation by using their feminine traits. Ancient literature often is used as a lesson for future behaviors as it is filled with moral lessons. The Bible has been a source for definitions of gender and morality for centuries. In the Holy Bible: New International Version, the book of Genesis does a good job of showing how history told by men writing history ca... ... middle of paper ... ...iii. 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. Lawall, Sarah N. “Medea.” The Norton Anthology of Western Literature. 8th ed. Vol. 1. New York: W.W. Norton, 2006. 690-720. Print. Schaps, David M. “For All That A Woman: Medea 1250.” The Classical Quarterly 56.02 (2006): 590. Print

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