A Woman’s Touch: Femininity, Craft, and Warfare in the Iliad College

Essentially a tale of warfare, Homer’s Iliad presents the Trojan War as a traditionally male-focused conflict. However, embedded in the story is the inevitably female-centered core of the battle. While not fully explored in the frame of the epic’s narrative, the cause of the war itself is wholly feminine, with its origins in the jealousy and rivalry of the goddesses as well as the destructive beauty of the mortal Helen. Men are the heroes and overseers of the battlefield, but the women of the Iliad acquire - in their own varying degrees - involvement and influence over the ongoing action. This influence is represented by the poet through key objects associated with the primary female figures under discussion: Athene’s aegis, Aphrodite’s zone, and the robe that Helen weaves. Each object enables its owner to either directly or indirectly control the flow of the war, empowering each woman to - in both the literal and figurative sense - weave and construct the events that unfold in the story.

In the character of Athene, the poet creates an interesting dichotomy between Greek concepts of masculinity and femininity. As the goddess of warfare and the primary female deity who actively participates in the war, she plays a crucial role...

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