Feminism and the power struggle of women in Ancient Greece
Women are a very prominent part of the Greek society. Their role has influenced and shaped the Greek society to a very large extent. Women have been shown in many different lights in the Greek works of Odyssey and Iliad which we have covered in our class. The works that I will be citing in this essay, namely Homer’s poems Odyssey and Iliad talk about many prominent women such as Helen of Troy, Penelope and also many other Goddesses. Homer’s poems talk about the various traits of Greek women and portray their characteristics by describing their traits and the events they were involved in. Through this essay, I would like to illustrate how women were treated as objects of desire for the males in Greek history as well as not being able to fully utilize their power. I will be using specific quotes from “The Odyssey”, related to Penelope, Helen of Troy as well as Nausicaa. I will also support my argument against Odysseus by using quotes of his travels from “The Odyssey”.
Moving on, I will now like to talk about the story of Odysseus’s faithful wife, Penelope. Penelope was famous for her faithfulness to her husband Odysseus, who was away fighting in the Trojan War for over 10 years. Penelope was an attractive woman and was also known for her intelligence, apart from her loyalty. When Odysseus was away, Penelope received a lot of marriage proposals from her suitors. In spite of being away from Odysseus for so long, Penelope never gave in to any temptations or weaknesses that she might have had. She very trickily and cleverly led her suitors on but never gave in to their marriage proposals.
Homer writes about one such incident that Penelope tried in order to ward off her suitors. This is illustrated in the quote, "She does not often appear when those men are present; she keeps clear of them and goes on with her weaving in her own rooms" (p. 179, The Odyssey: The Story of Odysseus). Penelope is informed by the Queen of Ithaca that she has to weave a shroud for her dead husband before she remarries. In order to escape remarrying, Penelope cleverly kept weaving the same shroud that she weaved during the day, at night as well, which made the weaving of the shroud a never-ending activity.
Another such incident penned by Homer, is the famous bow-stringing incident. Penelope’s husband Odysseus had a unique way of stringing his bow. When Penelope was swarmed by suitors, she tested each one of them by asking them to string the bow the same way her husband would. She was very confident that no one would be able to do that and believed in her husband’s unique ability.
I personally feel that Penelope’s story is a great example of what kind of loyalty and faithfulness a woman should have towards her husband. Human beings are social animals, and we all have weaknesses; but overcoming these weaknesses is what makes our character stronger, and this is the point of Penelope that I admire the most.