Women in the Illiad and the Odyssey

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Sarah Kirkus
ENG 2423 8A

March 21, 2013

Roles of Women in The Iliad and The Odyssey
Homer wrote two epic poems, The Iliad and The Odyssey. The Iliad is a tragedy that tells about the battles of the Trojan War. The Odyssey is somewhat of a sequel, the story of Odysseus's travels home after the Trojan War. An article found in “The American Scholar” states, “ One might begin by asking what both epics, The Iliad and The Odyssey, would be like if there were no women in them. The Trojan war would not have been fought, and Odysseus (assuming he had gone to Troy in the first place) would not have bothered to return home.” (Lefkowitz. 504) This statement alone illustrates the importance of the women portrayed in these two epics. Homer portrayed women in many different roles while telling these two stories. Some of these roles included war prizes, advisers, seductresses, motherly housewives, and servants. All women were considered inferior to men; however, they all seemed to serve very important roles in the plots of these poems. Basically, without the women, then men would have been nothing. Each female character served a significant purpose to the outcome to at least one, if not more, of the male characters.

In The Iliad, Briseis and Chryseis are considered “war prizes”. Neither woman had any power; however, they kept the men fighting over them. It is quiet amazing that theses women possessed so much control, but yet in still they had no control. They were captured and had little control over their own destinies. Their sole purpose was to be at the convenience of their owners. These two woman played key roles in the dramatic plot of this poem.

In both poems, Helen and Athena filled the role of advisers or counselors. Athena was the daughter of Zeus and the goddess of wisdom. She served as a great assistance and leader to Odysseus, in The Odyssey, by helping him throughout his journey and finally safely to his long lost home. It was...
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