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The women in The Iliad had roles that were some what unclear to readers as of the start. We see women in one perspective being respected loved and even wars fought over, then there is the view where women use their sexuality to get what they want. Women take different forms for different reasons during Homer's work but which role is the real role of women in this poem.

One of the reasons readers have found The Iliad so interesting for lengthy period of time it has been out is because much of the culture, religion and mythology of the ancient Greeks can be understood from it. An vital part of the mythology in The Iliad is that which suggests the nature of the relationships between the gods as well as the relationships of the humans. These relationships can help uncover what the what the overall view of the gods may have been, and some of the attitudes towards human gender roles in the 8th century. The interpersonal relationships of men and women reflect many of the perceptions men had of women in ancient Greece. When Zeus realizes he has been seduced in order for Hera to turn the Trojan war in favor of the Greeks he says :

"I will remind you of all this, so you will give up
your deceptions, see if your love-making in bed will help you,
that way you lay with me apart from the gods, and deceived me."
(Book l. 31-33)

As shown to readers by Hera, women in the ancient Greek world were sometimes manipulative and deceitful who would do anything to get what they wanted, specifically by using a man's weakness to their sexuality . Zeus portrays men as being at the mercy of their desires, not being able to turn down women that pursue them in hopes of seducing them. He tells of the many women he has been with before besides Hera as she is seducing him, but she keeps going along with it because getting what she wants is more so the priority now. This depicts women as being extremely tolerant of their husbands' infidelity, or callous to it, when in reality, they probably had no choice but to accept, regardless if they liked it or not . Aphrodite, the goddess of love, also plays a part in exploiting the view of women as primarily sexually dominant in almost every scene she is in. She assists Hera in her seduction of him by giving her a magical article of clothing, before Hera approaches Zeus (p.300). Aphrodite uses her arts to initially cause the Trojan war by promising Helen to Paris, even though she was married to Menelaos already. She also rescues Paris from battle with Menelaos, and deposits him clean and bathed in Helen's bedroom, where she watches them engage in sexual tension. This can be seen also as a metaphor for a man being controlled by his desire such that he flees his manly duty on the battlefield for the comfort of a women. Even through all sexual attempts that women make to manipulate men in The Iliad women were respected to a certain amount. The women were shown in some light as great value at sometimes. Women in The Iliad were married to men in a era where women were respected and honored in the home and worth fighting for. These women were mothers and wives of kings and warriors. Respect and love for women is the motive that actually fuels the action in The Iliad. Menelaos had his wife Helen taken and Achilles had Briseis taken from him also which is there reasons for going to battle. So women were manipulative and deceitful but also shown respect from a certain angle also.

All this can be related to the ancient view of women being the ones who induce the temptation of sex in men, which is shown to be a common thing in the ancient world; However, a very different relationship between men and women is deprived from the human characters in The Iliad. Here we see a look into how men actually treated women, as opposed to how they view them. Rather than as political and social persons to be one and community with, women are merely the pawns and prizes to be won by men, and yet are important enough to start wars. This action bestowed upon the women with wealth, beauty, position of power. Still, the woman's role as a status symbol is dependent on her existence as her seen by the hero. Helen is important because of her position , as is Briseis. Although, as part of the honor code, the Greek warrior is willing to kill and alienate everyone he loves for his woman, the lengths he goes to in order to get her back depend on the amount of desirability he has for her. Menelaos starts a war to retrieve Helen, who has been taken by Paris. The "anger of Peleus' son Achilles" who initially stole Briseis in a town raid for being desirable , is evoked when she is again taken for her desirability by Agamemnon. With her being taken, Achilles' honor as a warrior is also broken and taken.

Women's roles are clearly seen by the men in The Iliad to be merely sexual manipulators or something worth claiming, which is seemingly right of both the immortal goddesses and the human women. With the possible exception of Hera's attempt to the help turn the battle in favor of the greeks, an effort that has shown to be ineffective, women are not given extremely important roles in their own being. The role of women in The Iliad are only significant to the story or plot because of the severity to which they help or hinder the men that rule in their personal worlds. It can thereby be inferred that the ancient Greek society contemporary to the writing of The Iliad had similar conceptions about women and women's roles in society.

Works Cited
The Iliad: by Homer, Translated by Richmond Lattimore, (University of Chicago Press June 1961)

Women in The Iliad

Sha'ron Young
HU 111 Reading in Context
Sis. Mary Faith Dargan