It can be questioned whether the Greek and Roman people ever believed in their own gods. However, even such questioning cannot undermine the didactic value of their religion. Greek and Roman mythology thrived on storytelling; bards assumed the role of primitive priests, teaching moral reasoning to those who listened. The poets, the playwrights, and the satirists provided the ruling class with a never-ending flow of excuses for the decisions of their courts and forums. Greek and Roman leaders fought hard to sustain a patriarchal system, and it is no accident that women in these myths were either completely docile or utterly brash. They were examples from the government to the Greek and Roman women of proper behavior, of legal behavior, and of the consequences of defiance. Women listened, for these examples, shrouded in religious connotations, transformed disobedience into sin.
[...] Hermes reminds him of his destiny, and unlike the desperate queen, he abides by duty over wantonness of the spirit. you think you could slip away from this land of mine and say nothing? Does our love have no claim on you? Or the prospect of Dido dying a cruel death?” Dido spits in Aeneas' face, all too aware of his intention to resume his journey (Virgil 4.305 -310). Her childish guilt trips quickly turn to pleas, and she begs him to stay in honor of the oath that only she honors. [...]
[...] A similar situation of woman seducing man is evident in the meeting between Odysseus and Calypso. He washes up at the foot of her caves, and her caves are all he sees for seven long years. Calypso, the “bewitching nymph, the lustrous goddess, [who holds] him back, deep in her arching caverns, craving him for a husband” rapes him every night, ignoring his pleas, promising him the world and immortality (Homer 1.16 -18). Like Circe, she is isolated from men, and she exhibits no respect when one arrives by process of unholy providence. [...]
[...] He makes her a man, transforms Caenis to Caeneus, gives a woman disgusted by her weak body and sex the invincible body and mind of a man. A striking contrast she was to Camilla who knew enough not to deny her femininity, her birthright of weakness. The story of Neptune's gift follows the young man wherever he roams, a joke on the lips of each creature he kills. “Caeneus—or Caenis, for you were a girl and still are the girl the god of the sea put it to on the beach, as I will do here again, to show you up! [...]
[...] The deal is struck and her mind expands, but she “yield[s] then at the climax [she] recoil[s]—deceive[s] Apollo” (Aeschylus 1213- 1214). “Once [she] betray[s] him [she can] never be believed,” and she is forced to watch her beloved Troy fall even as she speaks the words of their redemption, words that fall on distrusting ears (1216). Ajax rapes her, Agamemnon captures her, Clytemnestra kills her, and Aegisthus slaughters her children. The punishment for female abstention is of blinding clarity. The need for a woman to prevent her own rape can be empathized, but the brashness of a woman who rapes a man instead deserves no sympathy in the ancient world. [...]
[...] Considering the circumstances, and the necessity of Penelope's lie to Homer's plot, it can be understood why she acts the way she acts; yet it can also be speculated that Odysseus may have returned to an unharmed palace had Penelope refrained from enticing the rage of the suitors. While Homer pities Penelope in his Odyssey and grants her a freedom that most Greek women never experienced, his successors are far from lenient when it comes to women who shed the confinement of the domestic sphere. [...]
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