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Women in Homer’s World

The society in Homer’s world is patriarchal. The men are the ones who rule. However, the women do appear and they can be categorized into three groups. The first group is that of the women who serve the male heroes, or are sacrificed for the sake of the men. These include Iphigenia, Artemis, Chrysies and Nausicaa. The first three women are used as sacrifices or as prizes by the men to serve their own ends..

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The second group of women in the society created by Homer in the Iliad and Aeschylus Agamemnon is the one that is symbolic of feminine virtues. These are the women who serve as perfect wives and mothers. These include Penelope who waits for her husband for more than twenty five years and manages to keep all the suitors who come to woo her in the absence of her husband at bay (Homer, 1985). The other woman who falls in this group is Andromache, who is one of the female heroes in this book.

The third category of women is those who have been labeled by critics as the evil women. They include Clytemnestra, who used to be a perfect wife to king Agamemnon. She later murders him after he returns from Greece, in retaliation after he had sacrificed Iphigenia. The other woman who epitomizes evil in these Greek plays is Calypso who is one of the most deceitful, inhuman and vengeful characters in the society

In most parts of Homers works, women are depicted as people who do not have much control on their lives. They are also depicted as people who are not able to control their destinies. They have to rely on men to make decisions and the influence of men in their lives is immense. However, there are some women whose role is very important in Homer’s world. One of the heroes, Achilles refuses to fight for the people when a woman called Briseis is captured by Agamemnon. This illustrates the influence that Briseis had on the life of this Greek hero. Achilles rejoins the battle after Briseis is returned by king Agamemnon and the return of Achilles helps the Greeks to assault the Trojan defenses. If Briseis had not been returned, the Greeks would have been defeated by the Trojans very early in the war.

The role of women in the Trojan War cannot be exhausted without any reference to Helen of Troy. She is the most outstanding woman in Homer’s works. Initially, she was the wife of Menelaus, whom she did not serve dutifully (Milch,1999). However, in the Iliad, she is the perfect wife to Paris. The battle of Troy revolves around her. This means that she is such a prized possession that the nearly the entire Greece could go to war because of her.

In the entire Homer’s work, critics assert that the Trojan War could not have taken place without the influence of Helen of Troy. The feeling is that had Paris not married Helen, the battle of Troy would not have taken place. This means that Helen is held totally responsible for the Trojan war because if was fought in her name.

Clytemnestra and Andromache are two contrasting characters in this work. They epitomize bad and good wives respectively. The former was a good wife initially but makes an about turn and becomes a vile one (Bloom 1988). To start with, she involves herself in extra marital affairs in the absence of her husband and later kills him upon his return. She is also quick to take matters in her own hand which makes her kill many more men in addition to her husband. On the other hand, Andromache is depicted as a good wife and one of the heroic figures in the Trojan War. When Astynax is being taken away, she makes a very intelligent move. She does not struggle with the abductors in order to save him.

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She gives a very soothing speech that makes Talthybius to release Astynax (Virgil & Hardie, 1994). This reaction is different from her previous reactions where she crumbles upon learning about the demise of her husband. She was a loving and supportive wife to her husband and his death shakes her up. However, it can be deduced that it is the death of her husband that gave the confident to act the way she acted during the Trojan War where she emerges as of the female heroines in the battle. It is her mythical perseverance despite the troubles she faces that makes her the strongest feminine character in the entire play.

In conclusion, though the Homer’s world is patriarchal, there are some outstanding women like Andromache, Helen and Briseis who play very vital roles in the play. Without the contribution of these women, the play would not have taken the direction it took and it is their efforts that shape the outcome of the two Greek mythologies in question.


Bloom, H. (1988). Aeschylus’s the Oresteia. Michigan: Chelsea House.

Homer, D. (1985). The Iliad. WA: Clarendon Press.

Milch, R. (1999). Aeschylus’ Agamemnon: Nebraska: Lincoln.

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StudyCorgi. "Women in Homer’s World." December 30, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Women in Homer’s World." December 30, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Women in Homer’s World'. 30 December.

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