Women In Ancient Greece: Hesiod And Semonides Essays Example
The ancient world was undeniably dominated by men. The separation of the roles of the sexes and discrimination against the sexes can be observed almost everywhere including today. However, the ancient times were the cruelest for women to live in. Several literary works by ancient poets may have different views about women, but two of the most famous and misogynistic poets are Hesiod and Semonides. Misogynism came from the Greek words misos, which means ‘hatred’, and gyne, which means ‘woman’. This kind of view against women can be concluded from the works of Hesiod – the Theogeny and Works and Days – and Semonides (“Introduction to Hesiod”, nd. para. 1).
For example, the belief on the origin of women was different from that of men. From the Theogeny of Hesiod, the creation of a woman was incidental. In this poem, men have existed alongside the Gods, while the women only appeared as a punishment of Zeus to Prometheus’ actions. In the text, Prometheus angered Zeus by playing a trick on him, thus, Zeus forbade humans from any contact with fire. However, Prometheus disobeyed Zeus by sneaking fire to humans. Zeus ordered the creation of a woman, dubbed as a “lovely evil” that devours and consumes the good from men, and heterosexual reproduction was considered the price humans pay (“Introduction to Hesiod”, nd.para. 6). In addition, in the Works and Days, this woman had a name, Pandora, and it was her who brought all gifts to mankind, as well as all the sufferings brought by the coming of women (Fowler, nd. para. 1).
In the works of Hesiod, it can be seen that the women were created to bring suffering to men. It may be because of this that men saw themselves as superior not only as an individual, but to roles relevant to societies such as politics, economics, academics, military and athletics. Moreover, the roles of women in ancient Greece were limited to households and religious activities. Not only their actions were limited, but women must show respect to men. Thus, men were to rule while women should be ruled (Thompson, 2010a, np).
However, it should be noted that the views on women differed slightly in Sparta. Although women’s actions and participation to the society is very restricted, they were well respected in Sparta. They can participate in certain activities that were usually not permitted in other regions of Greece. Their main role is to keep the children well-disciplined and physically fit. However, although they may have more freedom in Sparta, women are still seen inferior to men (Thompson, 2010b, np).
According to Semonides, women can be described with attributes similar to women. In his poems, there were several kinds of women and each were comparable to a certain animal. Therefore, in the poems, there is a fox-woman, a dog-woman, a monkey-woman, a donkey-woman and more others, all of which are “poisonous” and “dangerous” to men except the bee-woman. The bee-woman was considered every woman should be but most of them are not. However, although a man sees his wife as a bee-woman, most men usually agrees that she is not (Fowler, nd, para. 2).
The comparison of women to several animals in the poems of Semonides can be considered a degradation of women. However, in ancient Greece, the comparison were widely accepted to be true. Even women acknowledges that there are imperfections about them, and that the society sees them as a “lovely evil”. In an account by Euripides, she said that the world hates them. She also stated that the venom the women carries can never be cured and that they are a curse to mankind (Thompson, 2010a, np). Needless to say, the misogynistic views of the poems of Hesiod and Semonides can be seen regularly on societies.
Fowler, R. L. “Semonides on Women: Beauty and the Beast?.” Web. 11 February 2015. From <http://uwlabyrinth.uwaterloo.ca/labyrinth_archives/semonides_on_women_beauty_and_the_beast.pdf>
“INTRODUCTION TO HESIOD.” UMich. Web. 11 February 2015. From <https://www.press.umich.edu/pdf/9780472099320-intro.pdf>
Thompson, James. “What Athenian Men Said about Women.” WomenInTheAncientWorld.com. Last revised July, 2010. Web. 11 February 2015. From <http://www.womenintheancientworld.com/whatathenianmensaid.htm>
Thompson, James. “Women in Sparta.” WomenInTheAncientWorld.com. Last revised July, 2010. Web. 11 February 2015. From < http://www.womenintheancientworld.com/spartanwomen.htm>