Iliad: The treatment of mortal and immortal women | Academics 2016

Note: Here's the final draft of the essay I shared a few days ago.  I don't take full ownership of this essay, as this was a group project. The reason why I said the first one draft is mine was because I composed that by myself, and then submitted it to rest of group and provide the essay's base. From then onward, it's a group project.  I have permission from my group mates to share this here on my blog and ask for feedback. This is also our first academic paper and I know we do have a lot of room for improvement. Our range is also only from Book 1 to 11, which explains any questions you have about not mentioning other scenes Book 12 and onwards.

In Ancient Greece, women were believed to be intellectually weak and inferior because of their strong emotions. It is because of this discussion that free women were regarded as second-rate citizens who had no influence on politics, economics, or culture. We, humans, have come a long way from how women are treated in society. Some still view women as the lesser sex, insisting on their dominance and authority. There are of course, men who see women as equals, with the same power and capabilities they have. Taking this into consideration, we, as a group, have decided to take a closer look at how Homer depicted ways that mortal and immortal men treated women—native and foreign—in the Iliad.

Homer's interpretations of Iliad generally was a male-dominated society which focuses centrally on the rage between men, however were most of the time initiated, affected and inspired by females, whether mortal or immortal. Throughout the book, they were powerful influences and forces of Homer's interpretations because goddesses' decisions and their control over mortals and the domestic affairs of the characters sometimes change the course of both immortals and mortals treatment for females and conflict.

The Iliad starts out with a fight between Achilles and Agamemnon over a girl, which leads to a break in their friendship and Achilles's desertion of the Greeks. Throughout the Iliad, the male and female interaction are few, but notable. In Book 1, we see how the captured women are treated -- as nothing more but prizes that can be traded or passed between two masters. Chryseis, being the daughter of a priest, was only saved this fate by having Apollo on her father's side. When Agamemnon refused the riches offered as a ransom for her freedom, it was Apollo's wrath and his peers better judgement who made him reluctantly return the girl. In return, we witnessed Briseis taking her place as Agamemnon's war prize. Do take note of how Achilles reacts to this as well; although he is unwilling, he gives up Briseis, not because he wanted to protect her or because he values her, but because it would be a blow to his ego to surrender her and pay for a sin he didn't commit. It definitely shows the men's pride and honor much more valued than the women's fate. In the same book, we also see the relationship of male immortals with female immortals, particularly Zeus and Hera. While it is not blatantly mentioned, we can deduce that they are, in a way, husband and wife. This is supported by the other gods and goddesses referring to them and father and mother. Their relationship seems to be rocky at most, with Hera being a jealous and suspicious woman, quoted, "Who is it this time, schemer, who has your ear? How fond you are of secret plans, of taling decisions privately! You could not bring yourself, could you, to favor me with any word of your new plot? ". Zeus responds by being dismissive and dominating. It comes to a point that Zeus had to threaten Hera and remind him of how much greater his power is over her. The said claim is supported by Hephaestus's statement too.

Going into Book 3, we encounter Menelaus, Helen and Paris. Menelaus, King of Sparta and rightful husband to Helen, goes to war against Troy, a city that has taken the Greek nearly ten years to subdue. The war is to recover Helen from Paris who has stolen her from Sparta. We come to this conclusion as Helen's reaction was full of longing and tears when she saw Menelaus, and it can be felt from her words as well that she views herself somewhat unworthy of this war. It shows that even women themselves see their sex as umiportant. This is also where we are shown either men's attitude towards Helen, their beloved. Menelaus steps up to fight for her, while Paris retreats in fear of Menelaus' righteous wrath. A good question to ask here is this; does Helen's Greek citizenship and bloodline determine who fights for her? Menelaus being Greek as well, is all out with the effort to recover her while Paris of Troy shows doubt and willingness to even face the opposing man for her. Is this a pattern we shall begin to see all throughout the poem? Protect our women and possessions at all costs while leave the enemies' women out in the open, treat them as slaves, as things? Either way, we can all agree that Helen will be claimed by whoever wins the war, whether she likes it or not.

We also see a bit of Zeus' affection for Hera and Aphrodite, when we see Paris' escape with the help of latter. Zeus sends Athena to start the war again, because Hera will not settle for a mere truce. Hera wants Troy burned to the ground and Zeus, in a way grants her request, while letting Aphrodite do what she wants. In the next books the war continues to gather intensity, so much so that the gods interfere and even take part in the war. Particularly in Book 5, we see a father-daughter relationship between Zeus, Athena and Aphrodite when the latter is wounded as reported by Athena, who says, "Oh father will you be annoyed if I make a small comment? Aphrodite likes to beguile the women of Akhaia to elope with trojans, whom she adores now. Fondling some Akhaian girl, I fear she scratched her slim white hand on a golden pin.". Zeus then warns Aphrodite not to engage in warfare as she is for the marriage bed, unlike Ares and Athena who are warrior gods.

Book 6 features one of the fiercest Trojan heroes, Hector in a completely different light away from the war scene. He turns into an affectionate husband and father, meeting his wife and son, Andromakhe and Astyanax on top on the Scaean Gates. Judging from his wife's reaction with his insistence of returning to war, we can glimpse and perhaps assume that they have a mutual loving relationship. The setting of their meeting also gives us a minute hint of how important this relationship is. The Scaean Gates is the entrance of Troy, overlooking the carnage. Andromakhe requests that Hector retreat from battle and just live peacefully as a family, but Hector declines the request, saying, "Unquiet soul do not be too distressed. By thoughts of me. You know no man dispatches me into the undergloom about my fate. No mortal either can escape his fate coward or brave man, once he comes to be.". The said lines causes Andromakhe to mourn for a death yet to happen.

The next installment introduces us to the desperation of both parties to end the war, with the Trojans proposing to the Greeks; an offer that ultimately, shows Helen not as a person but as a commodity that can be traded or replaced with war prizes. This further supports the idea that the enemies' women are not people -- rather, they are possessions that can be pawned, raped or maybe even murdered.
In Book 8, we are privileged enough to be shown how soft a goddess' heart can be, and how fierce a god's warning is. Hera and Athena want to aid the Greeks, but unlike previous occasions, Zeus does not permit them to interfere. We can interpret this an Zeus being a god, and not as a partner or father. With Zeus's ultimatum as well, it supports Zeus' shift of roles -- he is showing Hera and Athena that although we have a relationship, I am still your master. The two goddesses silent agreement seals the deal even more.

With these details, I believe I can safely deduce that the treatment of women, whether by mortal or immortal men will greatly depend on which side the woman is on. Be on the same side and I will treat you as my equal, or if not, provide you protection and have a care for you. Be on the opposing side and you are no more than a prize, something I can show and throw away if I tire of you.

So, what do you think? Do tell me in comments below. If there are any weak points or points we can improve on, feedback will be very welcome.

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