Role of Women in Greek Mythology
Role of Women in Greek Mythology
The story of the Judgment of Paris is another example of the constant squabbling and dissonance of the Goddesses in Mount Olympus. Filled with jealousy and hatred to one another, Eris, the goddess of discord, starts the contest by fueling the goddesses’ enviousness with the apple. Aphrodite (Venus), Athena (Minerva), and Hera (Juno) conceiving that they are better than one another fights for the possession of the apple and the battle ended when Paris Alexandros gave the apple to Aphrodite in exchange for a prize. From the beginning of the story, the women’s role has been viewed negatively.
Aphrodite, Athena and Hera although has commanding and authoritative divine functions, they are depicted as covetous women who would fight over who is the “fairest of them all. ” The goddesses are portrayed as vain and narcissistic. And to put icing on the cake, a man (Paris Alexandros) is described by Ovid, Heroides 16. 51 ff is given the task “thou art the arbiter of beauty; put an end to the strivings of the goddesses; pronounce which one deserves for her beauty to vanquish the other. ” The goddesses, with all their power and might are subjected to a male mortal’s ability to mediate.
Stasinus of Cyprus or Hegesias of Aegina, Cypria Fragment 1 (as summarized in Proclus, Chrestomathia) (trans. Eveyltn-white) 9greek epic C7th or 6th B. C. ) describes Aphrodite upon presenting herself to Paris as a sensuous temptress laughter-loving resembling a giggling school-girl festooned with flowers as garlands and smelling sweet and delicious. All throughout the epic, the traditional role of a women is depicted as of that – a temptress who’s main function is the lure the men to do their will through sex and other means.
According to Hesiod’s Theogeny, Aphrodite is merely a flirtatious girl, and a fitting companion to her lover, Ares who is athletic but not excessively bright (Harris, 197). Women are treated as nothing but an object for pleasure and a prize to be won in wars and games as is the case with Chryseis and Briseis. Both were captured and sexually enslaved by Agamemnon and Achilles. Helen was regarded by Menelaus as an ornamental property who offended him when she followed Paris to Troy which subsequently lead to the infamous Trojan war.
Just like Menelaus, Agamemnon’s sacrifice of his daughter, Iphigenia to appease the goddess Artemis, is another example of the authors representation of women’s miserable role in the Greek history. Women, divine or mortal otherwise, were constantly subjected to Zeus’ seduction and deceitfulness. According to Hesiod, Zeus’ sexual adventures not only enriched the human gene pool with heroic stock but also populate the cosmos with beings who represent the highest values to civilization and that without Zeus’ virile generosity in siring these children, the universe would be no better than it was under the generally uncivilized Titans (Harris, 175).
This virile generosity as Hesiod simply described has accounted for numerous brutal rapes and trickery of women by Zeus in the form of a bull, swan, serpent or eagle. While Zeus’ adventures were considered comical, Aphrodite’s on the other hand was considered as a wanton flirt, an adulterous mistress or lover, or as a whore. Furthermore, women are described as domesticated like a pet of some sort.
Women are to stay home while the men fight wars which are a contradiction to a number of goddesses such as Artemis (Diana) who is portrayed as terrifying, even deadly to men who find themselves drawn to her physical allure (Harris, 191) and Athene (Minerva), the goddess of wisdom and victory in war. In many ways, the epic’s description of the role of women is still found even today and we have been fighting against it as early as in the 18th century.