Women in the Iliad and the Odyssey

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The Iliad and the Odyssey depict the events surrounding the Trojan War. The events in the Iliad take place towards the end of the Trojan War. The Odyssey, on the other hand, takes place 10 years after the Trojan War when Odysseus returns home. Both epic poems share similarities in that they have a pervasive male presence: the hero is male and the majority of the characters are also male. However, in the midst of this apparent male dominance in both of these stories, women play various and important roles in the movement of the story. The roles that are attributed to the women in the Odyssey are varied and numerous, and are deeply intertwined in the lives of the male characters. These roles range from the goddess and nurturing figure to the hostile monster figure. Women in the Iliad demonstrate the importance of women in the lives of the ancient Greeks because they are so prominent in male-dominated military affairs. Homer’s women have great influence on men throughout the story and reflect the various roles of women in the ordinary life of Greek society. Such women are invaluable assets for many of the male heroes and such an example is illustrated in the Iliad. Iphigenia, the eldest daughter of Agamemnon, leader of the Greek forces at Troy, was sacrificed by her father and uncle to win the favor of the gods to help them win the battle for Troy. This point is also seen in the Odyssey, when Nausicaa, a princess, rescues Odysseus after a shipwreck and convinces her parents to give him a room to rest and a ship so that he may continue on with his journey. In addition, there are categories of good versus evil among these female characters that allow for a better understanding of their impact on plot and male-hero character development.
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