The Role of Women in Antigone and the Iliad
The role of women in Antigone and The Iliad were completely opposite each other. Women during the time period of The Iliad weren’t as independent as the women during the time period of Antigone. Women during the period of The Iliad were portrayed as objects; they were portrayed as not being equal to the role of a man in the household; not even if they were in some form of royalty. In Antigone women had a little bit more independency and a little bit more equality. In The Iliad, a woman’s role depended on her rank in society and her beauty.
If a woman was married to a prince or a king, she was somewhat praised almost to the extent of a goddess. Her beauty was described in detail. Though most women were held in high ranks, they were demeaned if taken by a man who had little respect for her homeland. An example of this is when Chryses approached Agamemnon and Menelaus and begged for the return of his daughter in lines 13-36 on page 120. “Yes, Chryses approached the Achaeans’ fast ships to win his daughter back, bringing a priceless ransom and bearing high in hand, wound on a golden staff, the wreaths of the god, the distant deadly Archer.
He begged the whole Achaean army but most of all the two supreme commanders, Atreus’ two sons, ? Agamemnon, Menelaus ? all Argives geared for war! May the gods who hold the halls of Olympus give you Priam’s city to plunder, then safe passage home. Just my daughter free, my dear one? here, accept these gifts, this ransom. Honor the god who strikes from worlds away ? the son of Zeus, Apollo! ‘ And all ranks of Achaeans cried out their assent: “Respect the priest, accept the shining ransom! ” But it brought no joy to the heart of Agamemnon.
The king dismissed the priest with a brutal order ringing in his ears: “Never again, old man, let me catch sight of you by the hollow ships! Not loitering now, not slinking back tomorrow. The staff and the wreaths of god will never save you then. The girl ? I won’t give up the girl. Long before that, old age will overtake her in my house, in Argos, far from her fatherland, slaving back and forth at the loom, forced to share my bed! ‘” This shows that women during this time were objects of entertainment, possessions, and so on.
Though a ransom was offered by her father, Agamemnon only kept her just to show how powerful he was. And he proved his point by saying that she would be forced to share his bed and be a slave to him. In Antigone, women’s roles began to change and become more independent. This is evident in the act of disobedience displayed by Antigone when she buried her brother Polynices. Her uncle Creon instituted a law that forbade anyone to weep for or bury her slain brother. Antigone felt that this was wrong and asked her sister Ismene for assistance in their brother’s burial.
Ismene did not want to help because she feared what would happen if they disobeyed the law. During this conversation, Antigone told Ismene, “I won’t insist, no, even if you should have a change of heart, I’d never welcome you in the labor, not with me. So, do as you like, whatever suits you best ? I will bury him myself (lines 82-85 pg. 660)”. This one statement shows that at this point and time women had began to become more independent because though faced with the threats of cruel punishment, women would break a law and defy power to fight what they believe in.
Antigone buried her brother even though she knew it would mean death to her if she was found guilty of the act against her uncle’s crown. In conclusion, the role of women during Antigone and The Iliad differed mainly because of a woman’s independence. The role of a woman in Antigone showed more independence than the role of a woman in The Iliad. Women in The Iliad were more submissive than those in Antigone and were even treated as objects as opposed to their treatment in Antigone.