Power Relations in Greco-Roman Myth Essay

September 29, 2020 by Essay Writer

Several literatures available describe the position men and women occupied in the Greco-Roman mythology, with the most interesting consideration being on the position of the women in the Greek and Roman societies.

In these societal settings, women were no better than slaves who often had no power, thus they had to be submissive to their masters. There was much discrimination against women in these societies, with women being subjected to some restricted form of life. They were denied permission to argue publicly to over any issue and they had to be submissive to the men’s directives.

Men only turn to obtain support from women when they were faced with certain difficulties. Frequent suppression of mortal women by mortal men is depicted in the Greek and Roman mythologies. Women’s uprising against societal expectation is the most significant aspect of power structure to be considered in this paper. Women attempt to use their power of love to outdo the men’s authority. However, such powers do not last long, and after some time, men assume the authority.

Thesis Statement

In The Epic of Gilgamesh, a promiscuous woman was used to illuminate on the position given to the women in the society. In this context, women in the society are depicted as tools that become useful to men only when the men are faced with difficult situations. Through their sexual attraction, men use women to lure strong male opponents who are threats in the world of the living.

In providing this service, the women are not to exercise their individual powers. They have to go by the directives of the males. After defeating such key opponents, their power and role seem to have been brought to an end (Assyrian International News Agency, n.d).

Women’s position in society as seen in the Greco-Roman mythology

In the Greco-Roman mythology, mortal women are seen to be powerless in the society, as compared to their immortal counterparts. The latter are portrayed to have some powers, and men seek their advice and intervention in times of difficulties. In the world, women only have the power of love to win the hearts of men. In The Epic of Gilgamesh, the tale unfolds with the people’s lamentation of the deeds of Gilgamesh, the fifth king of Uruk after the flood and the son of Ninsun, a goddess.

They wonder if these are the right deeds required of the shepherd of the city (The Epic of Gilgamesh, n.d, p.3). Gilgamesh had other powers and new all that was taking place everywhere in the country. The people lament to the gods that Gilgamesh is taking away sons daughters of men and no one is strong enough to stand before him.

They plead that gods create another strong man that can match his strength and might, so that peace could be restored in the lad of Uruk. The gods understand their plea and Aruru, the goddess of creation, creates another man Enkidu. However, Enkidu takes to the wilderness, lives, and is associated with wild beasts. It is at this point that a trapper encounters Enkidu in the wilderness. He (Enkidu) loosens all the traps laid by the trapper; he fills the pits drug by the trapper and frees the wild animals caught in the trap.

To this state, there are problems that need a solution. Firstly, Enkidu was in the wilderness yet he was to use his might to counteract that of Gilgamesh. It is necessary that he be lured to come to the land of cultivation. Secondly, Enkidu is strong and mighty and the trapper cannot face him. When he reports to his father about the strong man in the wilderness, the father suggests that he visits Gilgamesh to seek information on the source of Enkidu’s powers.

The father also suggests that a promiscuous woman be brought from the Temple of love to overpower the man from the wilderness through her love (The Epic of Gilgamesh, n.d, p.5). The trapper follows all the directives and succeeds in managing the wild man. The woman goes ahead to convince Enkidu to live the wilderness and come to the land of cultivation, where he would latter meet Gilgamesh and become his servant and co-warrior.

The position of women in the Greek and Roman mythologies is revealed in how the harlot was used to tame Enkidu and make the wild beasts run away from him. The women have to be submissive to the directives of the men. ‘There he is. Now, woman, make your breasts bare, have no shame, do not delay, but welcome his love.

Let him see you naked; let him possess your body. When he comes near uncover yourself and lie with him’ (The Epic of Gilgamesh, n.d, p.5). These were the directives of the trapper to the promiscuous woman as Enkidu approached the drinking hole with the other wild animals. There is no objection given by the woman in relation to the statements. She is seen to be obedient to all the directives and makes love with Enkidu. The women are seen as tools to obtain the solution to problems that face men.

Having obtained the solution, the role of the woman seems to diminish and she goes underground. This is evident when the harlot manages to help the trapper in the hands of Enkidu. After succeeding in taming Enkidu and making the wild beasts reject him, the trapper appears to have no more business with the harlot. Similarly, after introducing Enkidu to the palace where Gilgamesh stays, the role of the harlot seems to diminish and the tale takes a different direction.

The fate of the daughters of men in the in the ancient society was also determined by their fathers. The father would arrange for the marriage of her daughter in some manner accepted by the laws of the society. This was at times ignored, and a father would force her daughter to marry a man of his choice and the daughter did not have to compromise.

This is seen in the Hymn to Demeter where a father arranges for her daughter to be abducted. Zeus, the ruler of the upper world, arranges for the marriage of Persephone, her daughter, to Hades, the king of the underworld (Anonymous, 2002, p.33). Contrary to the people’s expectations that a man arranges for the formal marriage of his daughter, Zeus takes part in the arrangements to abduct Persephone when she is in the playgrounds, away from Demeter, her mother (Anonymous, 2002, p.33).

Some versions of the myth even claim that the father also took part in the abduction. The daughter cries for help and seeks support from her father, who has distanced himself from the scenario and is thus not available for the support. Zeus planning for the informal marriage of her daughter without the knowledge of his wife brings the picture of what men think of the women in these societies.

Another legend that depicts the position of the women in the ancient Greek and Roman societies is that of King Oedipus of Thebes as illustrated by Sigmund Freud. Having killed his father who was the Theban king unknowingly, and having solved a riddle, the Thebans makes him their king.

As reward, he is given Jocarta, the former king’s wife, and who is his biological mother, to be his wife (Freud, n.d, p.70). Again, women are portrayed here as powerless individuals and the men can dictate the different aspects of their lives. Their sexual charm can be used to reward other men who have been of significance to the society.


The struggle by women to struggle to obtain power in the society faces such problems. It is the belief of the men that the women have to obey the orders provided by the men. There are beliefs that even if women were to be given the power to exercise their authority over men, they would not have the ability to do so.

The power to rule would naturally be relinquished to the men. The quest of the women to seek and obtain power in the society is also impeded by a belief in some of the women. Some of the women are depicted to have surrendered the authority to the men and are not attempting to make their individual discretions. The promiscuous woman who follows the directives by the trapper shows the proportion of women who do not have their fundamental principles, or if they do have, then the principles are inferior to the men’s principles.


Anonymous. (2002). The Homeric Hymn to Demeter. (Attached material). Assyrian International News Agency. (N.d). The Epic of Gilgamesh. (Attached material).

Freud, S. (N.d). The Oedipus Complex. (Attached material).

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