November 9th, 2012
The Double Standards of Homeric Greek Women
Odysseus was considered to be the epitome of what a Greek man should strive to be. He was a courageous and clever warrior who earned arête through his feats during the Trojan War. The ancient Achaean male modeled themselves after great men like Odysseus, but the real question is who do Greek woman model themselves after. Clytemnestra’s plight and eventual death is a perfect example of how married women were expected act compared to married men. Also, women like Penelope in The Odyssey were criticized for being untruthful, but men like Odysseus were praised for exceptional cunning in the same epic poem. Calypso is a goddess who is aware of these double standards and makes an eloquent plea to the gods of Olympus, but her speech falls on deaf ears. Essentially Ancient Greek culture had staggering gender inequalities that led to females being confined to the whims of males. Many tales demonstrate how differently married women were expected to act compared to men. When King Agamemnon departed from Mycenae to siege Troy he tricked his wife, Clytemnestra, into sacrificing their daughter to the gods. During the ten years Agamemnon was gone Clytemnestra plotted with her lover, Aegisthus, revenge. Once King Agamemnon returned, he was murdered by the duo, but the gods deemed this act unacceptable. If Clytemnestra were a man the tale would have most likely ended here. But Apollo and Athena hid Orestes until he was of age and convinced that he should follow with the worst crime any Greek could ever commit, matricide. After the murdering his mother, Orestes was haunted by the Furies (who were known for pursuing particularly heinous criminals and exacting revenge, Chiekova, 10/23) until nearly succumbing to madness. Eventually Orestes was given trial, and Athena’s deciding vote expunged his horrible deed. A woman taking a lover was disgraceful in Achaean culture, and a women killing...