The Role of Women in the Iliad

Topics: Iliad, Trojan War, Greek mythology Pages: 2 (738 words) Published: October 6, 2008
Thesis Statement: Women play a major role in the Iliad.
Examining the impact of female characters in an epic dominated by war and the men who fought it. Major female characters include Helen, Briseis, Athena, Aphrodite, Hera , Thetis and Chrysies.

The Iliad is first and foremost an epic poem about a war waged by men. Even though there are no female warriors , apart from the goddesses, women play a major role in defining the course of it. The roots of the war can be traced back to the beauty contest between Athena , Aphrodite and Hera which Paris is chosen to judge. Each Goddess offers Paris a bribe in return for favoring them, but in the end Paris chooses Aphrodite’s gift of the most beautiful woman in the world ; Helen. Throughout the epic Helen is rarely mentioned yet her return is the reason the Greeks invade Troy. Christopher Marlowe described it best when he used these words that describe her impact on the Trojan war: “Was this the face that launch'd a thousand ships / And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?” Helen is aware of the misery she has caused to the Trojans, evident in her conversation with Hector when she says : “ You are the one hit hardest by the fighting , Hector, / you more than all -and all for me, slut that I am , and this blind mad Paris”(VI:287-289).Homer uses Helen to reveal the cowardly underside of Paris's character. Women , especially young beautiful women, were considered nothing but spoils of war, to be distributed amongst the army once they have invaded a kingdom. Chryseis and Briseis were two such ‘prizes’ who were given to Agamemnon and Achilles respectively, but they too were the cause of heavy casualties suffered by the Greek army. Agamemnon’s failure to return Chryseis to her father caused them to incur the wrath of Apollo who reigned down his arrows from Mount Olympus and: “he cut them down in droves- / and the copse-fires burned on, night and day, no end in sight” (I:59-60). Eventually Agamemnon...
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