Role of Women in Hesiod’s Theogony and Works and Days Essay

In most Greek mythology there is a general hostility towards the female sex, which relays that most poets and writers themselves were sexist. Throughout Hesiod’s Theogony and Works and Days, women are portrayed in a very subservient manner, placing them far below men and are almost despised. However, in more than one instance, manipulation, women’s true power, is shown. They are constantly described as beautiful temptresses, which could be thought of as the weakness of many men.

When Theogony and Works and Days are looked at as a whole it is obvious that Hesiod’s opinion of women, most likely shared by the Greeks themselves, is that they are inferior and subordinate to men.

While some goddesses are credited for having strength, both mental and physical, and having strong manipulative powers over men, many more are held as mere vessels for carrying the kin of the gods. While Hesiod is describing Zeus’ wives, mistresses and children, it seems that he continues to impregnate numerous goddesses as though he is searching for the perfect genes to make the perfect child, or merely to populate the heavens with his children, all of whom have a different purpose or power.

The majority of the text relays the feeling of women being inferior to men; however, their power is still recognized and almost feared. Women’s power is portrayed in several ways throughout Theogony. One example is the goddess Hecate. It is said that, “she has a share of the privileges of all the gods that were ever born of Earth and Heaven (144).” While she does have an insane amount of power, it was Zeus who deemed her worthy of this power, which implies that he could take it away whenever he feels necessary, still giving him the ultimate power. In another instance, Eros, one of the first gods, also known as desire, has a different type of power. As Hesiod states, “and Eros, loveliest of all the Immortals, who makes their bodies (and men’s bodies) go limp, mastering their minds and subduing their wills. (135).”

This power of beauty and sexuality over men is reoccurring in Greek mythology and is the only real supremacy that goddesses have over the gods or women over men in Hesiod’s eyes. Not only do his works exemplify goddesses as subordinate and inferior, but mortal women as well. The story of Pandora best exemplifies how the early Greeks viewed mortal women. The mere creation of women on earth was a punishment to man because of the devious Prometheus’ decision to steal fire and give it to mankind. As Hesiod describes it, “That’s just how Zeus, the high lord of thunder, made women as a curse for mortal men, Evil conspirators (148).” This alone sends the message that Hesiod believed women to be evil. She is created as a beautiful temptress, just as many of the goddesses are described.

They are described as the evil to offset the good of mankind, an eternal punishment. Pandora, given a “bitchy mind and cheating heart” (163) by the quicksilver messenger, Hermes, was the start of the “deadly race” or “great infestation among mortal men”. The power that women have in these texts differs from the power and superiority that gods and men possess drastically in several ways. It seems as though men are portrayed as the dominant beings that keep the universe going. Man’s or male’s raw power is exemplified in the stories of Zeus, the king of the eternal god’s. Zeus is the all-powerful male in Theogony and Works and Days and women are always nuisances or causes of distress to him.

While Zeus’ and all of the males’ power lies in brute force and strength, which they use to acquire more power, women’s power derives from deception and temptation. Throughout Theogony and Works and Days Hesiod’s along with the early Greek’s misogynistic views are very apparent. These sexist views are best revealed in the story of Pandora in which Zeus creates mortal women as an eternal punishment for men on earth. Women are consistently portrayed as inferior to men, having limited power or control. While limited or inferior, the power that females do possess, especially goddesses, is still very relevant. Many women are described as beautiful temptresses and throughout Greek mythology this quality is used to betray men.

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