In a recent post on Homer and violence, I speculated on one of the reasons why Homer’s Iliad should be banned namely for extreme and graphic violence.
Another reason is his attitude to women. For the most part women are just objects. It is true that there are powerful goddesses. But these are not real women. There are also some strong characters such as Helen and Andromache but these are hardly feminist icons and their parts are relatively minor. There is no implicit or explicit disapproval of the treatment of women. You would not want young minds to be introduced to a view of the world where women were either sex slaves or valued on their ability to do housework such as working the loom.
(I am not altogether serious on this. These are the attitudes in Homer but the reader of the Iliad does not have to hold these views himself or get his moral ideas from Homer. I hope I haven’t).
To take a couple of examples. This is what Agamemnon promised his troops if they captured Troy – basically this is rape.
τὼ μή τις πρὶν ἐπειγέσθω οἶκον δὲ νέεσθαι
πρίν τινα πὰρ Τρώων ἀλόχῳ κατακοιμηθῆναι,
τίσασθαι δ᾽ Ἑλένης ὁρμήματά τε στοναχάς τε.
So let none of you be eager to go home before you have slept with a Trojan wife and got requital for your efforts and hardships over Helen.
And Achilles who got so annoyed when Briseis was taken from him soon found solace in another captured woman.
αὐτὰρ Ἀχιλλεὺς εὗδε μυχῷ κλισίης εὐπήκτου:
τῷ δ᾽ ἄρα παρκατέλεκτο γυνή, τὴν Λεσβόθεν ἦγε,
Φόρβαντος θυγάτηρ Διομήδη καλλιπάρῃος.
Πάτροκλος δ᾽ ἑτέρωθεν ἐλέξατο: πὰρ δ᾽ ἄρα καὶ τῷ
Ἶφις ἐΰζωνος, τήν οἱ πόρε δῖος Ἀχιλλεὺς
Σκῦρον ἑλὼν αἰπεῖαν Ἐνυῆος πτολίεθρον.
But Achilles slept in the corner of his hut and beside him slept a woman he had brought from Lesbos, Diomede with beautiful cheeks the daughter of Phorbas. Patroclus slept on the other side and next to home was Iphis with the beautiful girdle whom Achilles had given to him when he had taken Skyros the steep citadel of Enyeus.