The Eumenides

Gender Ideology in Myth: The Place of the Female Within Male Order

In numerous instances of mythology, an initial, primordial female power is supplanted or in some way altered by a male figure. In Hesiod's Theogony, Gaea's original supremacy is eventually usurped by Zeus, while in Aeschylus' Eumenides, the primal power of the Furies is supplanted by the rationality of male law and order. While this subordination of the female reflects the inherently patriarchal nature of ancient Greek and Roman society, it is interesting to note that the primal female nature can never be completely destroyed by the male, but is instead always incorporated into the new world order. In both the Theogony and the Eumenides, an original, ancient female power provides the foundation for male reason and institutions.

According to Hesiod's account of creation, Gaea was the first being to arise from Chaos. The mother of all things, Gaea initially occupied the center of Greek mythology as she populated the universe with her asexually- and sexually-produced offspring. As Gaea's male children and grandchildren began to vie for power, however, male-dominated succession myths instead of female creation stories became increasingly central. Cronus overthrows his father Uranus, and in turn Zeus defeats...

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