MARRIAGE IN GREEK MYTHOLOGY: ANALYSIS AND ARGUMENTATIVE ESSAY
The Greeks were once the most powerful community, leading almost all forms of art and lifestyle. They set the standard of what is beautiful and what is righteous. Their legacy as a nation and race became the standard and foundation of many disciplines particularly literature, history, art and many others. The contributions of the Greek to the amelioration of the world and its beginnings are incalculable. But like any other king or emperor who rose to power, the Hellenic civilization also had its downfall. However, what differentiates the Greek civilization from others is its ephemeral effect on the succeeding generations, how its teachings, beliefs and traditions were adopted, accepted and carried on to various eras in almost all countries in the world.
One of the richest and most significant aspect of Greek civilization is its mythology. While all countries have their respective myths, Greek is something unique and outstanding among all. We can say that it is through the beauty of language caught by Greek poets or the substantial thoughts contained in every line that made a lustrous and lasting effect that has infected almost every reader, writer and audience. Greek Mythology is a prime subject of literature and history. It is regarded as one of the most important aspects of literature because of its determining influence to the standard of language and style with respect to prose and poetry.
Greek literature is basically Greek mythology; the heart and soul of Greek art can be found in its mythology as it exposes how the Greeks live and die. As a highly patriotic society, there were very slim rooms for acknowledgment of women in the society. In fact, the female members of the Greek society, despite their age and status were not regarded as citizens. There was an exclusivity of privilege and rights for men. From the counsel of elders to the Olympics, there were no venues for women. The only place where they were expected to present is at the homes where they are tasked to bear children and raise them. That and nothing else was the sole role of women in Ancient Greek Society.
Marriage as it was presented in the stories in Greek myth was varied in symbolism and meaning. There were many stories in Greek mythology that tells us of endless tales of love and passion, courage and boldness, pain and suffering. Marriage is just one aspect of life, yet it is a very fertile ground for evaluation.
The Theogony is usually considered as a summarized account of the ancestry of the gods. It is often used as reference as to who is related to who and who came from which family tree, however the Theogony is more than just a piece of ancestral document. It holds in it the value of a history beautifully crafted and delivered to preserve the beginnings of a civilization. It talks about the colorful traditions of the Hellenic society which continues to evolve and develop as time passes by. Moreso, it illustrates the beauty of language and the obsession of Greeks for beauty and refinement.
Marriage was a tradition, it did not concern much love or affection as it is in the current generation. The gods marry for reasons that were practical. The way marriage was presented in the Theogony was very direct and simple. There was really very limited romance with respect to how the gods decided to marry.
Coming from a contemporary perspective, I would say that I respect the tradition of Greeks. The way they view women were different from how we view them today. Whether there is were intentions to use this mythological stories to oppress or insult women is not really the case because they were living in a time and era different from what we have today. It is difficult to judge whether marriage were tools or avenues to heighten oppression among the female species because there was a certain standard and way of living which was considered correct and upright. The only sad part is that women were not given as much rights and importance as men were.
Marriage is more of a female thing. In a nuptial, it is the bride who is affirmed and applauded. Therefore, marriage is a ceremony to celebrate the worth of a woman, that there is a man who loves her badly that he is willing to give her his name and entrust his future children to her. Again, coming from a contemporary point of view, the Theogony did not place much importance as to why two entities would marriage. This contradicted the way people of today’s generation put so much weight on the romance and story behind the marriage.
However, I would say that the marriage illustrated and discussed in the Theogony were not negative for women. We have to remember that there was a different standard that governs their lives back then, and it is so far from how we view life now. I believe that the fact that marriage was something that needed the consent and approval of the goddess was enough to say that it was the beginning of respect for the female gender. There were also significant characters in Greek mythology in general, that illustrated the emerging role of women. The likes of Rhea, Athena and Aphordite were all very significant starts for women acknowledgment in the Greek society.
The Hymn to Demeter:
The Hymn to Demeter is a mother’s lamentation because of a daughter whom she lost through abduction. Perephone, Demeter’s daughter and a lesser goddess was forcefully taken to the underworld by Hades to be his wife. Since Demeter and Persephone were so attached to each other, Demeter abandoned her duty of nourishing the earth to look forth for her lost daughter.
Again, coming from a contemporary perspective there is truly no marriage in this story. Persephone was taken to the underworld against her will and it is a crime to begin with. Since Persephone ate from the table in the Kingdom of Hades she became his Queen. But there is too much injustice in this because first of all, Persephone did not want to leave her mother and go to the Underworld with Hades. She was abducted and she did not possess the physical strength to counter the force that hades possess both physically and powerfully. Next, Persephone was clueless that if she eats anything from Hades, she becomes forever trapped in the underworld.
If the marriage between Persephone and Hades is through the goddess’ innocent intake of food from the Underworld then this is clearly implying negativity for women. Clearly, she was aggravate and taken advantage of. This is a case of abuse and injustice because Persephone was never really asked or considered what she felt. She was rather left with no choice.
Marriage in this scene is something to the disadvantage of women. It is sad to note that women were considered objects, as possessions and appendages that will beautify the reputation or improve the social status of men. Actually, to this date there are cases where women are bought, not literally but figuratively. A beautiful woman is most often the most useful accessory to a man because it affirms his masculinity. It tells that if he is able to get a beautiful woman for a wife, he is victorious. And he is capable of acquiring many other things and being triumphant in future battles be it personal or social.
I quote from Longfellow, “Sorrow and Silence are strong and patient endurance is god-like” I cannot think of any other woman in literature and history who fought for her love like Penelope. In fact, I think the Odyssey is the first piece of Greek Literature which treated women with respect and justice.
When Odysseus left to fight, Penelope was left alone with their son Telemachus. The journey of Odysseus was long and almost endless. Even Odysseus himself and his men almost forgo of the possibility of ever coming home. Consider, therefore, the pain and suffering that Penelope faced and endured during the time of her waiting. She was uncertain of her husband’s arrival, or shall I say, if she is waiting for anything. The heroes of Odyssey were bored and tired of their journey, how much more the wife who is waiting home?
Waiting is not a sacrifice, it is in itself an agony.
Penelope was courted by men of various talents and wealth. Yet her heart remained to be reserved to Odysseus. While all people are encouraging her to end her waiting, she begged to differ. She knew hat she wanted and that was to fight for the love she and Odysseus have, more so to give their son Telemachus a family and home.
Marriage in the Odyssey is something which is most acceptable to the current society. I would say that since I myself is a hopeless romantic, I find this story affirmative of women’s right. As I’ve said, I see this story as an equal journey of Penelope and Odysseus as they both have their own struggles to win. Odysseus needed to battle against giants and Penelope needed to battle with despair and loneliness. The thing is, they both won and this tells us of the power within a woman.
Though the story tends to focus much on the adventures, I see Penelope as a heroine which rivals the courage and conquests of her husband. The marriage in this part is not the mere ceremony but the continuous and steadfast effort of both Penelope and Odysseus to fight for their love. That I believe is something which really elevates this story from the first two I analyzed; it delves on the more important aspects of married life… that the husband and wife needs to both take responsibility to make the marriage work.
Gender-wise, I would say that this is something positive for women. They were finally included in the story as a character and not as a mere appendage or accessory to further glamorize the sheer of the men’s courage, valor and victories. Penelope, had her own conquests and she had her own way of dealing it. For the first time, a human, a mortal in the persona of Penelope had something to fight for and to die for. Her personal struggle, though not as adventurous as that of her husband speaks greatly of what a woman can do and how she is able to achieve.
The marriage of Penelope and Odysseus is something that is inspiring, it tells a tale of a couple who did everything to fight for their love and whatever happiness they ended up having, they deserve it because they fought for it. Penelope did not pass all the responsibility to her husband, she acted and she did her part and that what makes this story different. There is a woman and there is a man united by the same feelings for each other, and determine to fight for it; that is marriage.
The stories of Greek mythology were generally not affirmative of women acknowledgment and participation. This is because they were living in an extremely chauvinist society which restricted women from coming out of their shells. The public sphere was exclusive for men and the private sphere was for women. As this bias limit the growth of women both individually and socially, the community grew to accept it. It is sad, but that was the reality.
However, later on sprang stories that were paving the way for women to be welcomed. While it is not the women empowerment we know today, it is enough that there was a beginning.
The Greeks were advocates of Traditional Feminism. They tend to focus more on the natural traits attributed to women to heighten their role and specify their power. While the women empowerment we know today is the equal opportunity provider type, the Greeks were not ready to embrace it at that time because it would be a leap too big for them. They were essentially traditionalists and the best way for a woman to be acknowledged or welcomed to the Hellenic society is through her natural traits, this is where the Traditional Feminism comes in.
Note that in all stories beauty and grace were the most common characteristics of women. All of them possess enchanting beauty that even the most powerful god of Olympus was mesmerized (the Muses), even the god of the underworld left his kingdom to lay eyes on her (Persephone) and all men far and wide, ranging from soldier, to priest, to poet were dying to have her hand (Penelope).
Note also that these women were mothers and daughters or wives. Their significance in the Greek mythology is determined highly by their traits as mothers or daughters and wives. And we remember them as good ones.
Greek Mythology, Edith Hamilton
Mythology of the World, JT Houston
Ancient Civilizations, Martin Cloudstorm
Literature of the West, Maria Smith
The World before Us, Gustav Allasico
Originally posted 2017-11-23 22:10:45.