Writing Sappho, Aeschylus and Homer are Greek authors that discuss the role of women in Greek Society. Women hold traditional Greek roles in society taking on the role as wife and mother. These roles are generally viewed as subordinate roles to men in Greek times. This can be seen through the poetry of Sappho. It can be argued that women also hold very powerful negative or positive roles in Greek society. This can be seen in the works of Aeychlus and Homer.
Sappho is a poet who portrays the women as having traditioal roles in Greek society where women are regarded as subordinates to men. Women are described as beautiful and sweet, however Sappho implies that this is their role in society, to look pretty for their husband. The audience can see this in her poem titled We Drink Your Health We Drink Your Health Lucky Bridegroom! Now the wedding you Asked for is over And your wife is the Girl You Asked For; She's a bride who is Charming to look at, With eyes as soft as honey and a face That love has lighted With his own beauty Aphrodite has surely outdone herself in
Doing honor to you. (Barnard 30) In another poem by Sappho, entitled Sleep Darling she portrays women as mothers. Sleep, Darling I have a small Daughter called Cleis, who is? Like a Golden Flower I Wouldn't Take all Croesus' Kingdom with love Thrown in for her. (Barnard 17) Along with being a wife it is the womens job to take care of her children. The men are traditionally out fighting wars as seen in Homer's Odyssey. In this poem Sappho refers to her daughter as a 'Golden Flower'. , which shows the deeply personl love she has for her daughter. Sappho Says 'I wouldn't take all od Croseus kingdom with love thrown in for her. She implies that there is no amount of love, even a kingdom that can match her love for her daughter Cleis. Sappho portrays the women as the wife and the mother which are both traditional roles in Greek Society. In the play Agamemmon of The Orestia Aeschylus portrays women in a very different light. Aeschylus portrays women as powerful and authoritative through the character Clymenestra. Clymenestra holds a position that is not common in greek society. She is strong willed and dominant. Clytemnestra plays the protagonist in this play. Her role is very important to the plot of this play.
Clytemnestra is portrayed as a strong authoritative woman as she has ruled Argos in her husband’s absence. This role is not traditional in greek society as we have seen through the poetry of Sappho. Clymenestrea is even described in one passage as 'manuevering like a man'( Fagles 103). This implies that Clymenestra has male strength of heart. She has lacked to conform to the expected dispostion of women in a male dominated society. In this play Clymenestra murders her husband in order to avenge her daughter Iphigenia. She commits this hanus act with no regret. The audience can sense that it took her inner strength to commit this act.
She does not want to be thought of as a weak woman with little intelligence. This can be seen in her response to the Chrous after she murders her husand. The chorus is dumbfounded that a woman could commit such an act. ' (Chorus): 'We marvel at your tongue, at your bold mouth in vaunting such words over your husband. ' Clytemnestra): 'You test me like a witless woman, but I speak with a fearless heart to those who know; and whether you yourself wish to approve or to blame me, it's all the same! This is Agamemnon, my husband, but a corpse, the work of my right hand here, a just architect. This is how things are. (Fagles 1399-1406) Clymentra claims to be fearless and even boasts about the murder she committed. She beleives that Agamemmon got what he deserved. Although Clymenestra is portrayed in The Oretesia as strong and authoritative, in Homers Odyssey she is portrayed as crazy and irrational. In Homers Odyssey, Clymenestra is portrayed very differently than in The Oretesia. Clytemnestra is viewed as corrupt. She is portrayed very negatively yet still having power. She is described in one passage as a 'whore'(Fagles 492) by her husband in the underworld. She is described as 'heartless' and 'hell bent'. (Fagles 492).
She is practically described as the devil. Agamemmon goes on to say that his wife gives shame to all of womenkind 'but she--the--queen hell-bent on outrage--bathes in shame not only herself but the whole breed of women kind, even the honest ones to come, forever down the years! '(Fagles 492). This statement is pretty powerful. It exemplifies her power but describes her so crazy that she represents all of women kind. Clymenestra has a much smaller role in the Odyssey in comparison to her role in The Orestesia. Aeschylus, Sappho and Plutarch all succeed in portraying the women of Greek Literature as supreme and sovereign.
Homer portrays the woman as subordinate to the man. From both of these viewpoints we can take either position on the role of women in Greek society and relate it to the literary works of the modern day. We can then start to pull apart the specific characteristics of the women in Greek times that created our feminist society of today.
Aeschylus, Robert Fagles, and William Bedell. Stanford. The Oresteia. New York, NY: Penguin, 1984. Print.
Homer, and Robert Fagles. The Odyssey. New York: Penguin, 1997. Print.
Sappho, and Mary Barnard. Sappho: A New Translation. Berkeley, CA: University of California, 1986. Print.