Gender Roles in Ancient Greek Society Essay

Gender Roles in Ancient Greek Society Essay

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Gender Roles in Ancient Greek Society

Throughout history, the roles of women and men have always differed to some degree. In ancient Greece, the traditional roles were clear-cut and defined. Women stayed home to care for children and do housework while men left to work. This system of society was not too far off the hunter gatherer concept where women cared for the house and the men hunted. Intriguingly enough, despite the customary submissive role, women had a more multifaceted role and image in society as juxtaposed with the rather simple role men played. Morals for the two were also different. Men obviously had the upper hand with women being the traditional passive.

For an example, it was quite acceptable for a man to commit adultery- however a woman was to remain chaste. The only exception to this was if the lover in question was a god. For some odd reason, it seemed that men were allowed to be philanderers while their wives stayed at home. This is evidenced in the Odyssey quite well- Odysseus the ?hero? is free to sample all the pretty ladies he cares to, whereareas Penelope his wife is expected to fend off all the suitors at home. Predictably, Penelope melts into his arms when she realizes it is her long lost husband without pausing to consider what he has done in his absence. This reaction portrays the unequal morals of Greek society regarding gender. Euripides?s Medea portrays women who are not quite as lucky as Penelope:

?Oh, unfortunate one, Oh cruel!
Where will you turn?
Who will help you?
What house or what land to preserve you from ill can you find?
Medea, a god has thrown suffering upon you in waves of despair.?

In this play, Medea?s husband Jason has left her and their children to fend fo...

... middle of paper ... his daughter is excusable.
Men and women lived in completely dissimilar spheres, until the time of marriage. Even after marriage, they still retained strong ties to their own spheres by Achilles and Patrocleus. This is aspect of young life is depicted by Sappho in her poems. Apparently alternative lifestyles were commonly accepted in youth and continued throughout adulthood. This passive encouragement of homosexuality further strengthened ties between the separate genders and emphasizing the differences.

Human society does not really change. The roles each gender plays in society has not changed drastically since the time of the ancient Greeks, and this goes to suggest that these roles are deeply rooted and possibly genetic. However chauvinistic Greek myths are telling the truth, which explains why they have influenced modern culture to the extent it has.

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