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Role Of Women In Ancient Greek Mythology

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George Orsaris

on 6 May 2014

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Transcript of Role Of Women In Ancient Greek Mythology

The role of women in ancient Greek life, was considered to be insignificant compared to that of Greek men. And yet, in tragedies, women were often written as major characters, revealing insights on how women were treated and thought of in society. Many well-known Greek plays contain several well-written, complex, female characters. Each female character takes upon herself, the role of villain, the role of victim, and the role of heroine. Which then allows us to question if they were really insignificant. Because if they were why would they be playing such well written complex roles?
The question is if females played an important role in Greek mythology and it is almost indefinite that they did. There is a long list of females who played roles in tragedies but some of the very famous ones are Clytemnestra, Cassandra, Antigone, Medea, Helen, etc. (Aside from the existing goddesses in Greek mythology.) There have been many tragedies that use women as main characters or have a lot of detail revolving around them. For example Helen, she was taken from her husband and a whole war was waged known as the Trojan War. Granted the whole tragedy was not based on Helen but more on the war between the Greeks and Troy. But this leads us to question why they were so important since in actual Greek history women were inferior to men.
Important Figures
What was the main role of women?
George Orsaris & Nikki Persaud
Role Of Women In Ancient Greek Mythology
Dionysus surrounded by women worshipers preparing offerings.
One of the most recognizable female characters in history, Clytmenestra, is also one of its most noted villainesses. This is due to her partaking in the murder of her husband Agamemnon and his female consort. It is in the play Agamemnon that Clytemnestra is first seen and her crime committed. She is depicted as a brutal, treacherous woman, "a woman with a man's heart" (Ferguson 76). Ferguson states Clytemnestra to be portrayed as a female with a mans heart which begins to shows us that females took on the same roles as men in tragedies thus allowing us to continue believe that they were very significant.
Helen & Paris
If Clytmnestra is the most notable Greek villainess and Cassandra the most sympathy-worthy victim, Antigone is the greatest heroine. The play opens with Antigone and her sister Ismene learning of their brothers' deaths in battle, and the decree that one brother is to be given a ritual burial and the other left unburied. Antigone takes it upon herself to bury her brother, committing "a holy crime." Her sister declines involvement in the "crime" by citing," We who are women should not contend with men; we who are weak are ruled by the stronger. . . Pardon me if I obey our rulers since I must" (Sophocles lines 61-66). Antigone is one of few women who openly rebelled against her fixed position in life. Throughout the play, Antigone remains true to a heroines' qualifications by:

It is now where we begin to see and completely understand the specific role that women played in Greek tragedies. From this example we see that Isemene believes and understands she is a woman and she is inferior to man. Regardless of the fact that many females characters played important roles in the plays, they were still inferior to men.
Antigone & Ismene
Artemis was a very important figure in mythology. Most commonly known for being the Goddess of Hunt. But also was the Goddess of chastity, virginity, the moon and natural environment. She was the daughter of Zeus and Leto and had a lot of responsibility to handle.
Life vs. Myth
There was a big difference between the roles of Ancient Greek Goddess and of Ancient Greek Women. As you can see women were looked at as low in society but oddly enough the same people that gave them that role of insignificance created very powerful Goddess in mythology.
Athena was the Greek Goddess of many things. She was the Goddess of art, literature, reason and intelligent activity. Daughter of Zeus, she was born fully grown fully in armor, she was a warrior. She took on a lot of responsibility including agriculture and handicrafts. She created things like the bridle, the chariot, a few instruments and many other helpful items that were of very use.
Goddess of Earth
A interesting fact was that the first Greek God was actually a Goddess. Which was Gaia, who came from Chaos. Women in mythology typical were very powerful and important.
All life sprang from Gaia, she constantly striving to maintain a sense of harmony and balance in the environment. Its also her duty to heal and nurture the life of everything around her.
Overall, you can see that regular mortal women of Ancient Greece were nothing special, really. They were looked at to cook, clean, take care of the children, and cater to their husbands. Greek Mythology, however, had a totally different take on women. Women weren't ordinary, they were Goddesses with great responsibility. Often looked up to and known not to be messed with.
But what is confusing is the fact that women in ancient Greece were considered to be of lower stature to men, just as in many other ancient cultures. Just as a mother nurses a child, the society of ancient Greece, 400 B.C., nurtured and cultivated its demeaning role of women. In ancient Greece, women endured many difficulties and hardships especially in three main areas. The problems women encountered in this era occurred within marriage, inheritance and social life. All three elements shaped and formed the mold of the submissive female.
Women were restricted from participating in outside events in which men were involved. Females were occupied with nurturing their children and carrying out household duties. The house was considered a secure place; however, inside the home, women were often raped by their own husbands. A social life for a female was only achieved in boundaries “within her husband’s house and the domain of his power” (Lacey, p. 153). This indicated that a woman was permitted to socialize outside her home if her husband granted her permission and if her husband held a high position or authority in society. While men were outside the house, trading, hunting and working the fields, “women remained in their houses” (Lacey, p. 168). The majority of activities girls were involved in were “basically domestic” (Demand, p. 10).
Karl Kerenyi, 1951. The Gods of the Greeks
"Gaia" http://www.theoi.com/Protogenos/Gaia.html
"Athena" http://www.greekmythology.com/Olympians/Athena/athena.html
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