Role Women Play in Iliad


In the Iliad by Homer, Greeks faced Trojans in the city of Troy. Besides the army soldiers and their leaders, a number of gods and goddesses are involved in the war, some taking sides and other remaining neutral. A number of women in this war played a significant role in the instigation of the way by either helping the warriors directly or disclosing information that was intended to harm the enemies. Most of the women were goddesses; others started as just normal women but acquired the goddess' powers later.

For the shaping of the war and the end of it, the women in this Iliad and the goddesses play a significant role in the development of the war and the extension of it over the years. Homer display the role of women as a solely to instigate the war by making unwise decisions, betraying their husbands and convincing soldiers to take action against enemies. Most of this was accomplished by disguise to personalities that the enemies would trust. A number of cases where trickery was used are signs that showing that the women had an upper hand in promoting feuds between the enemies.


Helen of Sparta

The most beautiful woman in the world was a question of contest among many suitors and also the root start of the war. At the wedding of Thetis to Peleus, Eris the goddess of discord threw a golden apple upon which the inscription 'To the Fairest' led to a contest among three women; Hera, Athena and Aphrodite, for determining who would take the golden apple. Paris having been appointed by Zeus, the most powerful god, decided the case on favor of Aphrodite who had promised to marry him to Helen of Sparta.

On the other hand, Helen of Sparta had numerous of suitors who made it uneasy for her to choose who she wanted to marry. At an oath that all suitors had to swear to defend the interests of whomever Helen chose to marry. Helen upon choosing Menelaus settled the contest of who would marry her. Paris left his wife Oenone and travelled from Mount Ida where he lived with his wife to Sparta to pay a visit to Menelaus and Helen. Upon reaching Sparta, Aphrodite as had promised Paris made Helen fall in love with him. This led to Paris and Helen fleeing together to Troy when Menelaus was away attending his grandfather's funeral.

When Menelaus learnt about the elopement of Helen and Paris to Troy, he gathered former suitors of Helen to help him get back his wife Helen. This was the dawn of the war; the former suitors gathered chariots, ships and weaponry in preparation for attack of Tray in attempt to retrieve Helen. From the time of Thetis and Peleus wedding to the preparation of a war, it is solely the involvement of women that lead to the actual war.

Goddess of discord, Eris could not stand the sight of Thetis being married to Peleus; she decides not to attend the wedding due to jealous. A contested golden apple from Eris leads to Aphrodite making a demanding promise to the judge, Paris. Helen, the gift Paris was promised is married to another man but under Eris's influence she falls in love and elopes with Paris. The events take shape with women holding the entire master piece in instigating the war. Menelaus was provoked by the action of Helen and former suitors bound by the oath they swore offered to help launch war on Troy's soil.

Thetis: The Sea Goddess

With the war taking shape and fighting involving Trojans and the Greeks, Thetis, mother of Achilles, great solder on the Trojan side and leader of Myrmidons, got involved in the war as she was offended by the fact that Agamemnon, the commander-in-chief of the Trojans, had insulted Achilles by taking his concubine for his own decided to heed his son's request in helping the Trojans suffer at the hands of the Trojan. Thetis went o the Zeus, most powerful of all gods, and requested Greeks to be made to suffer as vengeance for Agamemnon insult to Achilles. Zeus agreed to heed the request upon which it was made to weaken the Trojan side. Earlier before this, Achilles had pulled his Myrmidons group of warrior out of the Trojan side.

To add salt to the wound, warrior leaders who were facing a potential and harmful enemy turned against among themselves due to the involvement of women. The concubine who Agamemnon took from Achilles led to the decision of pulling off warriors by Achilles that weaken the side. The pulling saw the Greeks losing immensely to the Trojans. Upon Achilles opting to involve his mother, Thetis, led to further weakening of the Greek side. With the Greeks getting weaker and weaker, the Greeks on the other hand took the advantage of the situation.

Athena: Daughter of Zeus

Athena was a biased character whom took sides whenever the chances of someone she liked came up. Athena and her mother Hera, played a significant role in that they would trade classified information to the Greeks; thus making the position of the Trojans vulnerable to defeat at the advances of their enemies. When Hector killed Patroclus, friend of Achilles, Achilles sore to avenge the death of his friend, this led to Athena taking the side of the Greeks in favor of Achilles. A time came when Hector sent women with gifts to go and try to apiece Athena but she turned down their efforts. When it came that Achilles was chasing Hector, Athena appeared to Hector as his brother, Deiphobus, and convinced him to confront Achilles. Falling for the bait, Hector obliged thinking that his brother was on his side. This led to the killing of Hector, by that time who was leader of the Greeks. (Homer 1886: 103)

Athena influenced the war by giving protection to Achilles and encouraging Hector to face each other hence leading to the death of Hector. The death of Hector led to other more deaths before the Greeks drew back from the walls of troy. The role of Athena was to give courage, provoke and even to strike directly at enemies of the sides she chose to favor. Among other roles she was the lead cause of the breaking of the peace Greeks and Trojans had resolved to assume after Helen was handed over.  Disguised Laodocus, She tricked Pandarus to attempt and kill Menelaus, the fired arrow grazed Menelaus and led to the belief that the peace was broken. This started the war a fresh under the influence of Zeus using his daughter Athena.

Artemis: Goddess of hunting

Angered that Agamemnon hadn't honored her as he was sacrificing for the gods, Artemis resolved to disrupt their attempts in war by causing violent winds that drove the fleets back to Greece. When doing this the war was held up and could not happen until Artemis was appeased with Agamemnon's daughter, Iphigenia. Until then the Greek side kept losing and being disrupted by winds upon its advances to the battlefront.

Cassandra, the seer, and Oenone, Paris' wife

Cassandra being a seer warned her brother against going to Sparta for his journey would lead to war. Towards the end of the Iliad, Cassandra was raped by Ajax which forced the wrath of goddess Athena to decent upon him hence killing himself.

Oenone on the other hand could not convince his husband otherwise and promised to heal him incase anything happened to him; she wished he would come back to her.  She refused to heal Paris when he was injured oat war by Philoctetes's arrow thus leading to his death. The impact of this refusal impacted the fate of Trojans in that they lost their leader and the fall of Troy had dawned.