Gender Roles in The Odyssey

Topics: Odyssey, Homer, Odysseus Pages: 3 (999 words) Published: March 20, 2014
Eng. 221
5 February 2014

The Powerful Role of Women in Ancient Greek Society

Although The Odyssey, written by the Greek poet Homer, is an epic tale of a man’s quest for home, women also play a large role. The role of each gender within The Odyssey is made extremely evident, and on multiple occasions Homer makes reference to the expectations of each sex. Throughout the epic, presentations of women are somewhat limited, unless they appear as mothers, servants, deities, seductresses, or a combination of these. Although women occupied an entirely different position in Ancient Greek society than men, they too held a certain amount of power and influence in society; they merely exerted it in ways that were distinctive from men’s tactics.

“… Historians have taken a fresh look at women in Ancient Greece. The result has been a change in the depth and nature of our understanding of them. The range of female influence and experience has slowly been brought to the fore: from the divine power of the female goddesses to the model women of Homer, from women who were the power behind the throne to those who wore the crown themselves” (Scott 34). Women are extremely important figures in The Odyssey, and one of the most important roles they fill is that of seductresses. On multiple occasions, Homer uses women as an irresistible allure to lead men astray. Most women in this epic use this power for their own benefit, to get what they want. For example, the Sirens enchant Odysseus with their songs to attempt to lead him off-course and savor him for themselves alone. He is able to resist their tempting songs, only because he was warned in advance by Kirke. Another example of the power of seduction occurs when Odysseus and his crew enter the hall of Kirke, an enchantress who uses drugs and herbs to manipulate men. When Odysseus' crew arrives on Kirke's island, they are attracted to Kirke's house because of the alluring voice of the beautiful yet monstrous goddess. The men's...

Cited: Homer. The Odyssey.The Bedford Anthology of World Literature. Eighth Century B.C.E.
Translated by Robert Fitzgerald. Print.
Scott, Michael. “The Rise of Women in Ancient Greece.” History Today. Cambridge: History
Today Ltd., 2009. 34-40. Web.
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