In The Epic of Gilgamesh, the harlot plays a major role. Gilgamesh realizes that, in order to break Enkidu’s power over the animals, he must get him to admit his desire for a woman, the harlot. The aspect of the girl being a prostitute wouldn t be so bad in itself, as it was her chosen profession, if it weren t for the way the harlot was treated. The trapper, who takes her into the wood, merely orders her to do her job: 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; teach him, the savage man, your woman’s art (pg 64) The manner in which he commands her is a clear representation of how men treated women. He orders her around like an object he owns. Another main point of this passage is the fact that he tells her to do her woman’s art, or in other words, do what you do best. Mesopotamian men, as well as in other ancient cultures, thought of womens a sexual toy; something to tak and play with as one desires and to be put back on the shelf when finished with. Even worse, the harlot accepts this with a smile! By taking orders with a smile, she willfully accepts her position in society as being a sexual object and nothing more.
In ancient Mesopotamian cultures, women’s rights were not equal to those often. However, in early periods women were free to go out to the marketplaces, buy and sell, attend to legal matters for their absent men, own their own property, borrow and lend, and engage in business for themselves. In Gilgamesh, though, the harlot doesn have as much power as most Mesopotamian wives. However, in her own right, she holds much power over Enkidu, as she was the cause of his loss of control over the animals.
We see through their interactions and all other interactions between males and females, that women’s roles in this society are limited and their restraints are many, but they do have a certain unique power over the opposite sex. In The Iliad, one of the most important female figures in the play is Hector’s wife, Andromache. One of the most important issues about Greek women is the fact that each woman is identified by their relation to a man. For example Andromache is referred to numerous time in the text as Andromache, wife of Hector. This implies that women are nothing without men. Andromache is the embodiment of all ideals that make a good wife.
Her love for Hector is absolute, she bears and takes care of his child, and she willfully obeys her husband. In a passage in Book VI of The Iliad, we learn of her love and obedience to Hector… and for me it would be far better to sink into the earth when I have lost you, for there is no other consolation for me after you have gone to your destiny-only grief; since I have no father, no honoured mother. (pg 164) Her plea to convince Hector to fight from the walls of Troy illustrates her total loyalty and submission to her husband. She is saying I m nothing without you, which, once again, is the basis for which women think of themselves. Unlike the harlot, Andromache has no profession, which was overly common among Greek women. Their husbands would provide for them, if need be, but women’s place was not in a profession. Greek women’s place in the world was to bear children not make money.
Another Greek work with one of the strongest female roles ever, is Antigone. Antigone is portrayed as a female true to herself… She stands up for what she believes is right and is not phased by severe punishment; even death as long as she supports whats he is dying for. This is shown when she buries her slain brother Polynices. She buries him because she thinks that he deserves a respectable burial like the one Eteocles received. She does this even under the threat of death, which shows just how much she is willing to sacrifice for what, in her opinion, is right.
This behavior was almost unthinkable in that period, because women were still inferior, and they were never thought of as being capable to think for themselves. They were expected to follow along with the male role (in this case, Creon) and do everything he says. However, in doing what she believed to be the right thing, Antigone does the one thing that is forbidden. Creon cannot let her live because she is a woman, so he decides she will be put to death. In one point, Creon says that a woman’s proper place in society is locked up. At another point, he says that women lure men by sex.
This is the general conception of women-good wives and lovers, but they need to keep to their own business. Women in this society had very little power. They couldn t leave their houses-their husbands feared they would commit adultery, they couldn t voice their opinions freely; they were simply under their husbands total control. Women in ancient times were dominated by men in every aspect. In all societies, especially Mesopotamian, Greek, and Roman, women were treated like property. The attitude of men toward women was rooted in the desire to control human reproduction, nothing more.
They were expected to raise the children, supervise the preservation and preparation of food, weave cloth to make clothing, direct the work of the household slaves, and nurse their husbands when they were ill. Women didn t realize that this was unfair, so they accepted it and became used to it, and therefore, that is why this system existed.