Women play a significant role in the society and still struggle to establish a meaningful status in the society. In the epic poem The Iliad by Homer, men played a dominant role, while female characters played a subservient role. In the novel, goddesses had an upstanding role for their powers and mortals played an ineffective role. Although Athena, the goddess of war and wisdom, and Hera, Husband of Zeus played a powerful and influential role, mortal women like Chryseis was viewed as property and was valued only for appearance. The major conflict of the book one arose because of the mortals Chryseis. She was considered as the ” War Prize” of Agamemnon and he desired to keep her as she does not mean anything more than a reward to him.
” but I want to keep her myself, and take her home! Why, I like her better than my own wife Clytemnestra, she is just as good in face or figure, brain or fingers. Never mind, I will give her back if that is better” (17). Agamemnon demands to have Chryseis despite being married to Clytemnestra. His extent of insult towards his wife shows the status women had during the period. He ignores the fact of Chryseis being a daughter of a father and view her as his possession. Homer viewed mortal women as objects rather than human beings. Also, women like Chryseis lost the power to speak up for themselves because their self-esteem was lowered by the dominant male characters. In ancient Greece, mortals were valued for their wealth and beauty.
Despite the fact of mortals being wealthy, Homer presented goddesses as the most influential women in the poetry. Athena, the goddess of war and wisdom was seen to have influenced the trojan battle heavily by guiding mortal men.” I know you, divine daughter of Zeus Almighty! So I will tell you the truth with all my heart. I am not afraid, I shrink from nothing, but I still remember your commands. (73). Here Athena is seen helping Diomedes fight, Ares.
Also, Diomedes is seen following the commands of the goddess Athena for her ability to foresight. She interacts with mortal men guiding their movements against their enemies. Not only mortal men, Athena overpowered other male gods, such as Ares, the god of war. Athena appears as one of the courageous and fierce women in The Iliad.
This shows how goddesses had efficacy in the society being women. Unlike mortal women, the goddess are valued and respected for her beauty along with her potentiality. In addition, the alluring goddess Hera is seen influencing the battle greatly. “Have your way now, Poseidon. Help Danaas, give them victory just for little, while Zeus is still asleep! I have drowned him in soft slumber myself- Hera has enticed him to bed with her!”(170). The goddess Hera is shown as cunning and intelligent women by Homer. Although she is a woman she is not powerless because she was capable of persuading both Aphrodite and Zeus to help her.
Hera acts as a dominant female character in the novel. This once again proves how the goddesses influenced the battle being women. Throughout the epic woman’s identity was reduced to show the significance of men. In The Iliad, Homer categorized women into two groups: Goddesses and mortal women.
While some goddesses were valued for their abilities, mortal women played a subservient role for their appearance and wealth. Whether it was submissive or dominant, there is a line between men and women. Homer had a unique way of displaying the status of women. The position of women is constantly changing and Homer’s way of viewing women would be considered substandard in today’s society.