Gender and Sexuality In Ancient Greece
Through exploring my chosen ancient source; ‘Sexuality in Greek and Roman Society and Literature’, I will draw upon and assess the implications of divine gender and sexuality in order to help better the understanding of the concepts of gender and sexuality, within the Ancient Greek world. The contemporary understanding of gender and sexuality in Ancient Greece is that of one which portrays the existence of these two matters in a very patriarchal society, even amongst the Gods. However sources have presented evidence that suggests that it was in fact women (in some cases) who held more influence when gender and sexuality was concerned; I will present this through my chosen source. Marguerite Johnson and Terry Ryan in their ‘Sexuality in Greek and Roman Society and Literature’ infer the strength of women’s sway over man; immortal and mortal, through the powers of seduction. The chosen extract from this book that I have used details the exploit of Hera in which she plans to lure her husband and king of the Gods; Zeus, into a trap of deceptive sexual intimacy. This alluring act has been created in order to veer Zeus’ attention away from the Trojan and Greek battle at Troy. How this explains the implications of gender and sexuality in Ancient Greece where divinity is concerned; is that it portrays the invisible dominance of the female immortals in the form of Eros.
Consequently it represents the repercussion it could have on the rest of the world if women wished to undergo an unjust act. Hera’s actions portrayed that the thought process which exists within women can in some cases far surpass that of men. This can be seen through her initial plans on how to distract Zeus and thus achieve her goal directed at the Trojan battle taking place. In order to get Zeus’ full attention, Hera requested the help of Aphrodite who is in herself; love and seduction personified. As it is listed in the Theognidea 1386-89 of this book: ‘You overwhelm the high-mindedness of mankind and there is no one in existence who has the strength or wisdom enough to elude you’. From this we see that Aphrodite alone is potentially more powerful than any man, even the immortal men. On the other hand, women can be perceived as nothing more than the host of the destined child of a man. Apollo in the Eumenides whilst defending Aeschylus’ matricide further notes the usefulness of women as being only the vessel in which children are carried. According to Apollo they have no further use, even amongst the Gods. So it is arguable to say how much power Hera has over Zeus, who in fact uses her for his own personal gain as well. Ancient Greek marriages in Greece were vastly different to the marriages of today. This wasn’t subjective to only the obvious visual dynamics of the ancient marriages. It was mainly the political/religious and social security factors that were involved with Ancient Greek marriages which are differ greatly to contemporary marriages. Gaining sufficient evidence on the abuse of women in terms of marriage in Ancient Greek times is difficult as there is a lack of female scholarship which in turn would help avoid a biased approach in sources. However there are some female sources which hold sufficient and reliable information in which it entails the hardships of women; during their times of growing up to the time of their marriage. Such sources include the works of Sappho, and in one of her poems it is analysed that women are expected to lose everything they hold dear to them when they marry, least among the list of things they must lose is their own virginity. From this passage in Sappho’s poem: ‘Virginity, virginity, where have you gone? Have you abandoned me? I will never come to you again, I will never come again’. The utter desperation displayed by a woman before marriage at the inevitability of losing their virginity signifies the lack of control a woman has over their marriage life in Ancient Greece....
Johnson, M. & Ryan, T., Sexuality in Greek and Roman Society and Literature, Routledge (2005)
Holmes, Brooke, (2009) “The Nature of Gender, The Gender of Nature” from Holmes, Brooke, Gender, Antiquity and its Legacy, pp. 14-75
[ 1 ]. Holmes, Brooke, (2009) “The Nature of Gender, The Gender of Nature” from Holmes, Brooke, Gender, Antiquity and its Legacy, pp. 58
[ 2 ]. Holmes, Brooke, (2009) “The Nature of Gender, The Gender of Nature” from Holmes, Brooke, Gender, Antiquity and its Legacy, pp. 18
[ 3 ]. Holmes, Brooke, (2009) “The Nature of Gender, The Gender of Nature” from Holmes, Brooke, Gender, Antiquity and its Legacy, pp. 23
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