The focal point of this paper has been the narrative aspects of the Iliad. First, it delved deep into the portrayal of the goddesses in the Iliad. As well as how their actions influence the behavior of certain mortals. Lastly, one discovers that Aphrodite’s actions, in particular, have a significant impact on the fate of the mortal Helen of Troy. Before discussing the issues mentioned above, a brief explanation of women’s role in Ancient Greek society will be provided.
In the first chapter, one discovered that Ancient Greek society was a male-dominated one. Some philosophers argued that men were meant to be rulers and women ruled. Others even went as far as to claim that women were no more than a ‘benefit’ to men. Additionally, one finds that mortal ladies should mirror four distinct roles of their divine counterparts. These roles are the virgin as depicted by Athena while Aphrodite represents the temptress, and finally the wife as portrayed by Hera.
In the examination of the representation of the goddesses within the Iliad, one finds that each of the three ladies carves out a place for themselves in this patriarchy. Here is the Queen of Olympus and mythically she is connected to the creation of new life. Although this may be true, her later union with the mighty Zeus strips her of all her former glory. In the Iliad, her mythic history is alluded to after Zeus and herself have had a heated argument. In the Iliad, the ‘ox-eyed’ Hera is more concerned with the sanctity of marriage for mortals and therefore becomes much more than a mere personification of mother earth. As a wife, she may be in high regard, but as a mother, she is certainly not. The reason for this less favorable depiction comes back to her allegedly throwing her youngest son off Mount Olympus, and this is not the first time she is incredibly murderous toward her offspring. Throughout her lengthy mythical history, there have been several cases of her brutality towards her offspring, the most notorious is that of the twelve labors of Heracles. Hera is not the only immensely powerful goddess one encounter in Homer’s magnum opus. Next, one has Aphrodite who is a mighty ancient deity associated with the waters of life and even warfare. Therefore, one may find her union with Ares intriguing since it is a manifestation of the dynamic of love and war. Whenever Aphrodite wishes to get something, she much like Helen uses her beauty and desire to her advantage. As a divine being, experts associate her with her Semitic counterpart Ishtar. This association is based on several factors, and the most significant one is that their association with war and compassion. Lastly, there is the ‘grey-eyed’ Athena who is the incantation of the wisdom of the Great Goddess since allegedly she was born from Zeus’ head. The way in which she was conceived makes her the perfect combination of male attributes, such as strategic know-how and the softness of the female. In the Iliad, she is one of the most influential war goddesses, second only to Zeus herself. Thereby, placing herself way above her brother Ares, who is her male equivalent.
In the discussion of Helen's fate, one learns that the origin of this myth originated at the wedding of Thetis and Peleus, where every god and goddess was invited to this celebration except Eris, the goddess of strife, discord, and chaos. Her exclusion enraged her very much and thus she concocted this scheme of pitting Athena, Aphrodite, and Hera against one another. Taken from her home and family, and put under a trance by the wicked Aphrodite. On the other hand, one can even go as far as to argue that Helen paints herself as the villain. The village elders exchanging views on Helen’s beauty seem not only to justify the outbreak of war but also that Helen does not have a choice she will forever be chained. Couple this with her representation as nothing more than a spoil of war, and this treatment of Helen eliminate her ability to choose entirely. Moreover, these seemingly conflicting ideas also call her role in abduction into question. On the contrary, one may explore the notion that Helen’s beauty and lust may accidentally cause conflict. Many authors, including Apollodorus, proclaim that when Aphrodite gives Helen away to Paris, she offers more than just beauty. Countless authors go as far as to claim that she offers desire more than anything. Aphrodite may offer desire but as Sappho so wonderfully points out the relationship between love and war is inherently intriguing. The reason why Sappho’s connection between love and war is so intriguing may go back to Aphrodite’s problem with moving from being an ancient goddess of war to being reduced to the goddess of love.