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The Role of Women in Homer's The Iliad

The Role of Women in Homer's The Iliad

Thesis: Women in The Iliad serve as helpless pawns but also as a moral voice in the poem.

A. Homeric poems may contain several layers due to revisions throughout history.

B. The Iliad is an epic poem about the manly heroic ideal.

II. Women in The Iliad serve as pawns in the Trojan War.

A. Helen is a pawn in the Trojan War.

B. All humans in the poem serve as pawns to the gods.

C. Aphrodite uses Helen as a pawn toward her own quest for power.

III. Women also serve as the moral center of The Iliad.

A. Helen recognizes her role in the Trojan War.

B. Andromakke reminds Hector of his obligations to his household.

C. Women have a voice through laments and dirges.

The Role of Women in Homer's The Iliad

In Feminism in Greek Literature, F. A. Wright argues that Homeric poems were not written to suit the old Mediterranean people, whose rather low code of sexual morality inclined them to regard women as mere instruments of pleasure (7). Instead, the epic in its original shape was composed for the people who came down into Greece from central Europe and, therefore, recognized a much stricter code of sexual conduct (7). Wright believes that the apparently differing layers of the Homeric poems was caused by the constant revision of the poems as the ruling classes of Greece changed (8). This theory would help to explain the apparently contradictory conclusion of this study, that is, that women in Homer's The Iliad serve simultaneously as helpless pawns in the men's quest for the heroic ideal through war and also as the strong moral voice in the poem.

In The Western Canon, Harold Bloom states that The Iliad "teaches the surpassing glory of armed victory" (29). The poem does so by exploring the heroic ideal and its contradictions. It begins with the quarrel between Agamemnon and Akhilleus over the body of two women, Khryseis and Briseis. Agamemnon must g...

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