Lack of female companions for the Greeks at Troy

In the Iliad, we don’t hear much about the common soldiers. But there is an exception. This is when Thersites complains in the assembly about the uneven distribution of the spoils of war. This is a bit of the Iliad that has always disturbed me a bit. Thersites is the ugliest of all those who went to Troy with bandy legs and a misshapen head. His complaint seems to be justified but he is made a figure of fun. He complains about what Agamemnon gets through other’s efforts.

ἦ ἔτι καὶ χρυσοῦ ἐπιδεύεαι, ὅν κέ τις οἴσει
Τρώων ἱπποδάμων ἐξ Ἰλίου υἷος ἄποινα,
ὅν κεν ἐγὼ δήσας ἀγάγω ἢ ἄλλος Ἀχαιῶν,
ἠὲ γυναῖκα νέην, ἵνα μίσγεαι ἐν φιλότητι,
ἥν τ᾽ αὐτὸς ἀπονόσφι κατίσχεαι;
Hom. Il. 2.229

Do you still want gold which some Trojan will bring you from Ilium as ransom for his son whom I or some other Achaean have tied up and brought here – or a young woman so you can make love to her and you can keep somewhere private.

It does seem that the lack of women was a sore point among the Greeks because After Odysseus has humiliated Thersites by striking him across the back and making him cry, Nestor encourages the Greeks with the promise of women when Troy is captured

τὼ μή τις πρὶν ἐπειγέσθω οἶκον δὲ νέεσθαι
πρίν τινα πὰρ Τρώων ἀλόχῳ κατακοιμηθῆναι,
τίσασθαι δ᾽ Ἑλένης ὁρμήματά τε στοναχάς τε.
Hom. Il. 2.354

Don’t let anyone be in a hurry to go home before he has slept next to a Trojan wife and got recompense for all his efforts and troubles for the sake of Helen.

However the Greeks in the meantime were not totally deprived of the joys of sex as this extract from Eubulus in Athenaeus makes clear.

ἀλλ᾽ οὐδὲ μίαν ἀλλ᾽ ἑταίραν εἶδέ τις
αὐτῶν, ἑαυτοὺς δ᾽ ἔδεφον ἐνιαυτοὺς δέκα.
πικρὰν στρατείαν δ᾽ εἶδον, οἵτινες πόλιν
μίαν λαβόντες εὐρυπρωκτότεροι πολὺ
τῆς πόλεος ἀπεχώρησαν ἧς εἷλον τότε.
Athenaeus 1.46

Neither did they see a single woman companion but for ten years they satisfied themselves. They had a bitter campaign who when they had taken the city returned home with far wider openings than the city they had taken

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s