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Women vs. Pericles’ Ideal of Athenian Womanhood

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Throughout history, men have traditionally been perceived as superior and prevailing over women. Although women have held many different roles in society, women had always been considered inferior both physically and intellectually. Pericles, a general of Athens, gives his opinion of women’s role in society in his famous funeral speech. He first shows that he views women to be the weaker sex by stating, “…to those of you who will now be in widowhood, it will be all comprised in this brief exhortation. Great will be your glory in not falling short of your natural character”. He believes that naturally women are weak and vulnerable and that they must never be nothing more than that. He continues to give his opinion on women by lastly saying “…greatest will be hers who is least talked of among the men, whether for good or for bad.” He clearly lets us know that women are not to be seen, heard or talked about no matter what they have done or who they are. Pericles tries to make us understand that a woman that is nonexistent is the one who deserves the most glory. Pericles’ ideal of Athenian womanhood brings us to understand that in his opinion women were weak, nonexistent and vulnerable people in a society greatly guided by men’s wisdom. Even though many women did act just as Pericles described them to be, others refused to let men oppress or control them. Hera, Jocasta and Antigone are perfect examples of women that contradicted Pericles’ ideals of Athenian womanhood.
In the Iliad one of Homers’ greatest works women are often depicted not only as inferior to men but as objects of possession. The story begins with a dispute over Chryseis a daughter of a follower of Apollo who has been taken captive by Agamemnon as a war trophy. Agamemn...

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...to attack the king but without success he turns and kills himself saddened by the loss of his love Antigone. Haemon’s death shows Antigone’s control over the men around her.
Throughout Greek literature it is strongly apparent how women are inferior to men but through Hera, Jocasta, and Antigone it is shown how women can have their own character development and be strong enough to try to defy their own fate. All three of these women showed defiance to powers supposedly greater to their own whether it be a king, a prophecy, or even the leader of the gods Zeus himself. The stories even go as far as to show how much everything falls apart once they are gone as in the case of Jocasta and Antigone. This goes to show that women not only can be seen as a driving force in their society but can even lead to the destruction of the people around them if they were to disappear.
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