Gender Roles in The Iliad

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: The Role of Women in The Iliad

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:04 The Iliad Background
  • 0:37 Gender Roles and Women
  • 2:51 Gender Roles and Men
  • 4:50 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Speed Speed
Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Summer Stewart

Summer has taught creative writing and sciences at the college level. She holds an MFA in Creative writing and a B.A.S. in English and Nutrition

One of the things that keeps folks interested in Homer's ''The Iliad'', an epic poem written thousands of years ago, is the wealth of information it provides about ancient Greek society. In this lesson, we look at how gender roles are constructed for both men and women in the ''The Iliad.''

The Iliad Background

How were men and women expected to behave back in ancient Greece? Homer's epic poem The Iliad, which showcases the last years of the Trojan War, sheds light on gender roles in this society. Through the conflicts between men and the tales supporting female characters, we catch a glimpse of the roles men and women were expected to fill, also known simply as gender roles.

In The Iliad, men are depicted as in charge and higher up on the social ladder than women. Women are viewed as either objects or as manipulative creatures set on ruining a man's purpose.

Gender Roles and Women

Let's look at the different gender roles present in The Iliad and how they affect and are affected by the women in the story.

1. Women as Objects

The women of The Iliad are often treated as objects to be traded or stolen from the men in the story. The very first woman to be depicted this way is Helen, who is the cause of the entire Trojan War. Paris, a Trojan prince, steals Helen from Menelaus, a king in Sparta. The Spartans go to war against the Trojans in hopes of winning Helen back.

In the Spartan camp, Briseis and Chryseis also become objects to be gifted as war prizes or traded among the men. Both women are captured as spoils of war, with Briseis going to the warrior Achilles, and Chryseis given to Agamemnon, the leader of the Spartan army.

Unfortunately, Agamemnon is forced to give Chryseis up to appease the god Apollo, and he isn't happy about it at all. Agamemnon declares: ''Find me then some prize that shall be my own, lest I only among the Argives go without, since that were unfitting.'' In exchange for giving up Chryseis, Agamemnon is given Briseis, who 'belongs' to Achilles.

Both Briseis and Chryseis, and even Helen to an extent, are discussed as prizes, not people. This type of discussion shows women as lacking the same rights as men in this culture. Women were taught to obey men, who held power over them even to the point of being able to trade them like cattle.

2. Women Using Sex to Manipulate Men

Oh, the age-old notion that women are sexual manipulators! In The Iliad, women are presented as manipulators and liars who use sex to get what they want. For example, the goddess Hera seduces her husband, the god Zeus, in an attempt to get the Trojan War to go in her favor.

When Zeus finds out about the reason behind the seduction, he calls Hera a ''mischief-making trickster.'' Furthermore, he says, ''I would remind you of this that you may learn to leave off being so deceitful, and discover how much you are likely to gain by the embraces out of which you have come here to trick me.''

Here, Zeus is lashing out at Hera for being able to seduce him to get what she wants. Through the relationship between Zeus and Hera, we see that men and women fit into stereotypical roles, with the woman being seen as deceptive and seductive, and the man being viewed as helpless to a woman's sexual tricks.

Gender Roles and Men

Now let's take a closer look at how gender roles affect and are affected by the men in The Iliad.

1. Condoning Male Promiscuity

Zeus is depicted as the stereotypical male. He uses physical force to get what he wants, and he sleeps with many women. In the scene where Hera seduces him, he lists off all the women that he has had an affair with, yet he also makes sure to tell Hera that she is the only one he truly loves. He says:

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account
Support