Cultural Portrayal of Women in Ancient Greek Mythology
According to the American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, mythology is defined as “the body of myths belonging to a culture” or “a set of stories, traditions, or beliefs associated with a meticulous group or the history of an event, arising naturally or intentionally fostered.” Both of these definitions point out a vital component of mythology: the impact cultural history had on its inception. There is a clear connection between culture and fable; fables reflect society and, in turn, perpetuated societal relationships evident within the mythology. The links between mythological portrayals of human characters mirrored the patriarchal society, to which the myths belonged, maintaining gender relationships already imbedded in the cultures that created them. Gendered associations as portrayed in myth would not be have been effectual if they were not also a fact of life.
In ancient Greece, the portrayal of women in mythology as dishonest, manipulative, and the downfall of men corresponded with repressive treatment and required privacy, which mirrored Greek patriarchal society. Through a discussion of three case studies, the myths of Pandora, Aphrodite, and Helen of Troy, this paper argues that the description of women in Greek mythology perpetuated their handling in society as elite men used these folklore as directives detailing the correct way to deal with their female counterparts. Women were viewed by men as examples of what would happen if an elite woman was given even just a scrap of independence.
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