Purpose of Mother Figure in Greek Myth Thesis

Pages: 5 (1630 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 8  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Mythology

¶ … Female Role Depicted in Greek Mythology

In various Greek mythologies, women are portrayed as fertility figures. The idea of giving birth was esoteric and divine, leading to the act of worshipping Goddess in the ancient world. There are examples of strong and feminine women all throughout the annals of mythology, despite how our culture tends to associate women in mythological times with demure qualities. Gaea, the mother of creation, is one such example. She is not meek and even lashes out at her husband in a moment of fury. Homer's Andromache is another woman that did not go with the proverbial flow when it came to women, war, and their husbands. She used reason to make her husband think twice about abandoning her and her child. Demeter is another woman in mythology that deserves attention because she stepped out of the traditional role as woman and goddess and took part in human affairs. She invested herself in the mortals in a way that is nurturing but she did not allow anyone to escape her wrath, either. Throughout the centuries, there have been many females roles in Greek mythology. These roles have not remained constant but have instead changed and evolved over a period of time.

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Gaea, the first of all female roles in mythology, represents creation and the earth itself. She is divine and from her, all things have evolved. She was born from Chaos, a testament to her power as well as to the state of affairs before her arrival. In Hesiod's Theogony, she is depicted as divine and worth sacrificial offerings. She is responsible for feeding all creatures on earth and blesses the earth with the gift of the bounty harvest. She is therefore perceived as powerful and worthy of praise and recognition. Gaea is also linked with fertility and all things good. In Hesiod's Theogony, we read that Gaea is "wide-bosomed" and the "ever-sure foundation of all the deathless ones."

In addition, we read that she is "fairest among the deathless gods, who unnerves the limbs and overcomes the mind and wise counsels of all gods and all men within them."

TOPIC: Thesis on Purpose of Mother Figure in Greek Myth Assignment

Here we see the female so closely regarded to life that she is actually responsible for it. Gaea, as the symbol of motherhood and fertility, gives birth to many characters. While she birthed Uranus, she also had children with him. These children include the Titans and Cyclopes. Uranus hated his children, and as a form of punishment, hid them within the bowels of the earth. Gaea, in revenge and from deep sorrow, fashioned a sickle and instructed her son, Cronos, and his brothers to use the sickle to castrate Uranus. This act allows us to see the fury of the woman who was not intimidated by men nor was she reluctant to enlist the help of her children to carry out her desire. These are not the actions of a meek and subservient woman. They are actions worthy of a man and, as such, worthy of recognition.

Andromache, from Homer's Iliad, is another mythological woman that deserves our attention because she was a not a typical woman; she was a faithful wife but a prudent one as well. She attempts to talk Hektor out of going to war by appealing to his loyalty to his family. She tells him his "fiery courage will destroy you! Have you not pity for him, our helpless son? Or me, and the destiny that weighs me down, your widow, now or soon?"

She even tries to make him see that because she has no family left, he is her father, mother, and brothers. Foley maintains, "among all of tragedy's noble concubines, however, the heroine of Eeripides' Andromache plays the most complex role. As the protagonist of a nostos (return-to-home) drama, Andromache borrows her characters both from her own epic role as virtuous wife in the Iliad and from that of the writing Penelope attempting to preserve her single son from disaster in the absense of her husband . . . through greater rhetorical skill, her longer speeches, and her traditional female virtues."

Mary Lefkowitz also states that by making her remind Hektor of "the dangers involved in following his code of honor and having her point out a reasonable alternative course, Homer again shows that women not only understand what is happening in the male world of war but are, as the continuing victims of war, perhaps better able to judge its consequences."

This is true. What we see in this woman is an act of self-preservation. She is not concerned about her country; instead, she is being completely selfish and makes a move toward protecting what is hers and is most important to her. She is not weak and she will not simply allow her husband to walk away from her without a fight.

Demeter is similar to Gaea in that she is noted to be the goddess of the harvest and she was particularly helpful in teaching mankind to grow and harvest grain. The mortals believed her to be solely responsible for the fertility of the land and it is easy to see why this attribute was afforded her. She gives mortals knowledge on how to care for the earth, she makes the earth agreeable with mankind, and she teaches man how to cultivate land and grow grain. These are female characteristics in that they are linked with security and nurturing. It is worth nothing that Demeter was also known for her direct interaction with the mortals. She was the only Greek Goddess that undertook this task and enjoy it. From this perspective, we can easily label Demeter the nurture of mankind. Because of her experiences with mankind, she could relate to them in ways that no other gods and goddesses could. We read:

Thereafter, for nine days did the Lady Demeter

Wander all over the earth, holding torches ablaze in her hands.

Not once did she take of ambrosia and nectar, sweet to drink,

In her grief, nor did she bathe her skin in water. (Homer 47-50)

Here we see that Demeter was compassionate in a way that is compelling, even for a goddess. In her grief, she decided to live on earth disguised as an old woman and interacted with mortals. She nursed Demophoon, a child that was not hers. Demeter, too, had a side that was not so positive. She could be angered like Gaea and became furious with her brother for abducting her daughter, Persephone. She was a woman consumed by grief and this grief resulted in the "most dreadful and cruel."

year on earth that mankind had ever experienced. Evslin maintains that her feud with her brother would swell in the springtime, "sending floods to her fields."

on earth. Here we see a woman compelled to seek revenge. Demeter was one of the most caring goddesses because she cared enough about mankind to actually get involved but this did not prevent her from emotions of revenge nor did it prevent her from taking that revenge out on the earth she so nurtured.

The role of the mother figure has changed over time. What we learn from examining the mythological archetype, we see that the role of the female was as complex hundreds of centuries ago as it is now. With the primordial Gaea, we see a providing and sustaining mother that can and will be provoked to anger. She is not only provoked, she feels compelled to act on this anger. She does so that is cruel and satisfactory. Andromache, a mortal, fulfills the role of devoted wife and mother to her own family. She might seem to be doing something that is typical but speaking out against her husband going to war was not popular. Her husband was a tremendous… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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