misogyny and the figure and role of women in ancient literature problem discussion

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Misogynistic actions and expressions are intended to convey disdain, bigotry, and hate towards the female gender. It is the source of controversy in today's culture, which has accepted women's rights and granted women equal privileges to their male counterparts. Belittling women, abuse, objectification, social isolation, and male supremacy are all examples of inequality. Its roots can be traced back to ancient times, when misogynistic authors published their distorted views on women in their literature.
At the start of the plot, Apollo's army is sent to Greece to liberate the daughter of the country's priest, who has been taken as a concubine by Agamemnon. According to the Greek leader, he held on to Chryseis for the reason that she was “in no way inferior to my wife Clytaemestra in build or stature or intelligence or accomplishment” (Homer & Richard Whitaker pg. 55). Notably, women were enslaved as concubines, and their desirability was to glorify the men. Remarkably, the woman’s will and opinion were not considered whatsoever. The people in Apollo did not question whether or not Chryseis loved Agamemnon and wished to stay as his concubine. In the list of the reasons that Agamemnon gave for his unwillingness to let go of the enslaved concubine, none related to Chryseis personal interests. Her feelings were irrelevant as long as the man’s ego was not ruined. The two groups merely fought for her custody, not realizing that the woman was not a commodity.


While Odysseus was away at war for years, his wife Penelope was lured by many suitors. In addition, they would urge her son Telemachus to pressure her to marry one of them for the fact that her “skill in handicrafts, intelligence… none of the heroines of the past could match Penelope” (Homer pg. 354). Notably, the role of the woman as a wife and a mother is highlighted in Penelope’s unique abilities. For instance, she was a crafty sewer and her skills not only kept the family members and slaves warm, but it also brought in some extra income. However, the suitors’ abilities and contributions are not being highlighted as a qualification. The woman is also painted as an obstacle that a man has to overcome. For example, Odysseus manages to resist goddess Calypso’s offer to stay with her lustfully and goes back to his wife.

The Bible

In the Bible, Noah was married with three sons namely Ham, Shem, and Japheth. Their sons were married as well and got into the ark. However, the book neither mentions the name of Noah’s nor their sons’ wives. The women’s roles are highlighted as wives, and their names are not even worth mentioning, for instance, “his wife and his sons’ wives” (Genesis 8:18). That is a demonstration of the little importance that was given by the writers of ancient literature including the bible. Similarly, one of the commandments given to Moses discourages individuals from coveting other people’s wives. The misogyny is evident in the way the scriptures portrays women as objects that can be desired. A different me if the writers would have mentioned both wives and husbands in the coveting caution.

The Oresteia

The writer claims that women should be under the authority of men and demonstrates that in the play where Clytemnestra murders her husband Agamemnon for another lover. He paints a misogyny approach that females do not deserve to take up leadership positions in society. When Orestes is put on trial for the crime of murdering his mother, he argues that his fathers’ death as being more severe than that of the mother. The statement that the mother is the “host for the male seed” illustrates the outlook of women by ancient writers. It views the woman as the object that the man uses to conceive and birth his offspring (Goldhill pg. 658). Unfortunately, the vice thrives at the end of the play as it is ruled that male should hold authority. The earlier generations had a twisted perception of justice that gave men supremacy over women as opposed to according them equal abilities.


Gyges explains to Kandaule the reason why he does not want to see his wife naked saying “woman with her clothes puts off her bashfulness” (Herodotus pg. 6). The men of ancient times felt that female nakedness was a disgrace. The characters in the book failed to see the beauty in a woman’s body and chose to perceive it as embarrassing. Confidence that females need to have about their sexuality was killed by the opinion of insecure and selfish men. Notably, Persians believe that it is immoral for women to be raped. However, they thought that it was role of foolish men to take advantage of women in captivity. On top of women being captured during war, people would brush it off whenever the captives are raped. They would cover it up by underestimating the perpetrators as stupid and not consider how the slave women felt.

The History of the Peloponnesian War

Women in the literature had been traditionally viewed as commodity whose value is conditional on material stuff and current conditions. Their position in society was determined by the status of the men that married them. A rich man gave more money in dowry and lavished them with expensive clothes and perfumes, whereas an impoverished man gives little. Her status did not come from the hard work she put herself, which made the females insignificant. In addition, when the men were unsuccessful in war, women suffered consequently. They were taken into captivity where they had to work as slaves and be used to satisfy the sexual needs of the men in the rival country. The writer ridicules the place of women when he states that the females had embarked on fighting with “tumult beyond their sex” (Thucydides pg. 118) He did not realize that they were doing it because they knew that the consequences of a loss in war majorly affected them.

An analysis of ancient literature indicates a profoundly misogynistic society since writers’ inspirations sprout from their experiences and current circumstances. The feelings of girls in relationships were irrelevant because the man’s desires were prioritized. Women were traded like merchandise and always became victims during tragic situations like war. A man’s triumph was judged on his ability to overcome a woman’s advances. Her sexuality was considered shameful, and people who took advantage of her were merely tagged as fools. Her economic status was determined by her husband’s status but not her efforts. The bible writings expressed a similar prejudice in some writers who only named the male characters. Objectification is evident in the cautions placed on coveting of women and not men.

Works cited

Homer & Richard Whitaker. The Iliad of Homer: A Southern African Translation. New Voices, 2012.

Homer. The odyssey. Vol. 28. Collector's Library, 2011.

Bible, Holy. The Holy Bible: King James Version. Christian Cassette Library, 1974.

Goldhill, Simon. Aeschylus: The Oresteia. Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Herodotus. Histories. VOL. 234. Wordsworth Editions, 1996.

Thucydides. History of the Peloponnesian War. Jones and Company, 1831.

September 21, 2021

Women's Rights

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Society Prejudice Misogyny

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