Under Sufferance

There is a terrible and nasty thread that runs throughout the history of the world—the “rape” of women and girls. Rape is in quotations as there are various definitions of the word:

• The offence of forcing a person, especially a woman, to submit to sexual intercourse against that person’s will;
• The act of despoiling a country in warfare;
• Any violation or abuse—i.e. the rape of justice;
Collins Dictionary

With regards to war, whether thousands or years ago or even today’s so called “enlightened” period, the above definition stands to be true. Women are the “spoils of war”, the male need to dominate, possess and demonstrate power runs in the face of human decency. The Trojan women did try and fight but many were resigned to their fate, raped and abducted, taken to Greece as concubines and slaves. Sadly many were killed. At a recent dig at the site of Troy, a young adolescent girl’s bones have been found, buried in a shallow grave. Evidence of the bones showed trauma and suggests the girl was killed during the siege. For Hektor’s wife, Andromache, a tragic figure in the Iliad with many personal losses, managed to survive the war.

Andromache mourns Hector's death Jacques-Louis David (1783) Wikipedia
Andromache mourns Hector’s death
Jacques-Louis David (1783)

Andromache, loyal and devoted to her husband was the epitome of a wife. She was the antithesis of Helen, the one who “left” her husband and child to be with another man. Homer characterises Andromache to be the ideal wife, demonstrating how to act and what to say. Even though Homer describes her to be the perfect wife, her role in the story is one of heartbreak. There is a very long scene in Book 6 between Hektor and Andromache, where she tries to encourage him to stop fighting. Hektor’s response is prophetic and spouts duty bound by responsibility to his father and the city of Troy.

‘…deep in my heart I know well the day is coming when sacred Ilium will be destroyed, together with the people of Priam and Priam himself…
…but much more the thought of you, when you are dragged off in tears by some bronze-armoured Greek, your freedom gone.’
Lines 448-456

He also predicts his own death. What a terrible conversation to have. Of course it was Zeus, the puppet-master who dictated the outcome of Hektor’s final days. Andromache does not only witness the horrible death of her husband at the hands of the crazed Akhilleus but also her son Astyanax. The toddler was thrown over the great walls of Troy by the Akhaians in order to destroy Priam’s bloodline.

She was given to Neoptolemos/Pyrrhos, Akhilleus’ son as a concubine along with her brother-in-law Helenos. She lived with him in Epiros, Greece where Pyrrhos ruled and had a son or a few depending on the sources. When Pyrrhos died, she married Helenos, and they had a son. Helenos ruled Epiros and when he died, Andromache left for Pergamum and lived there till her death.

Captive Andromache Fredric Leighton (1886-8) Manchester City Art Gallery Wikipedia
Captive Andromache
Fredric Leighton (1886-8)
Manchester City Art Gallery

Was it Homer’s intention to illustrate the plight of women in the story or their role in a world dictated by men? I believe it’s both. Females were a commodity and Homer, in his narration, showed how women were treated and where they stood in society.

What are your thoughts about the role of women in Homer’s story? Love to hear from you.
Thank you for visiting and reading.

Further reading:
Andromache, Greek Mythology Link 
Andromache, Mortal women of the Trojan War
Hector and Andromache by Stephen Pressfield

Accursed Women
Available in paperback and ebook
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Add Yours
  1. jameswhoddinott

    Myths, legends as well as writings of Plato, Socrates and many stories are written to teach us and have us reflect on society. Greek Mythology itself is amazing as the teachings are still relevant to us today. The plight or social situation of woman continues to be a struggle for as you indicate the rape, slavery and abuse of woman is still far to common.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Aquileana

    Hello dear Luciana…

    A great post on Andromache… I really liked how yous began teh post making reference to women as the “spoils of war”…

    I am of course thinking of Helen of Troy right now, but she is not the only one… Even after the war women might be evil… Clytemnestra is a good example of this stereotype

    I agree with you in that point and as regard to how The Trojan women were tried after the greek wooden horse came into their city … (raped and abducted, taken to Greece as concubines and slaves)

    Which made me think in Cassandra, AKA king Agamemnon of Mycenae and brother of Menelaus’ lover… Homer says she was one of the only trojan women that survived…

    As to you last question… I think Homer ‘s intention was to describe women the way they were seen in those days… Which was not obviously the very best one

    Thanks for sharing, cara Luciana…

    Best wishes, Aquileana 😀


    • cav12

      Cara amica Aquileana

      Thank you for your comment. It’s saddens me that the ‘rape’ of women still happens and in enlightened world it allowed to continue. I hope one day it changes and women are treated with respect and honour they deserve.

      Grazie tante
      Luciana 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Christy Birmingham

    I found this one hard to read but got through it and now am thinking about the many ways that writers can educate readers about the hardships of women,, from mythology to non-fiction to works and so much in between. I dislike how women are still abused on so many levels in places around the world and my heart breaks so often thinking about it. Sending hugs to you for this post xo


    • cav12

      It’s extraordinary how this is still happening today and like you, find it difficult to reconcile such atrocities. It goes to show the more things ‘change’ the more things stay the same.
      Thank you for the wonderful comment Christy. We just need to keep the message out there and hopefully one day we’ll see it change 😀 x


  4. courseofmirrors

    ‘Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned
    Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.’

    A line from ‘The Mourning Bride’ by the playwright William Congreve (24 January 1670 – 19 January 1729)

    In the context of my work as a therapist, this line always struck me as the other side to a vicious repeating circle. I’m thinking of patriarchy, and women/mothers, whose only power for centuries (by some counts dating back to 4000 BCE) was defined to the home … her duty is to order her house, and keep what is indoors, and obey her husband …

    It’s not surprising that women too learned to abuse power, often unconsciously, in subtle ways, in the home.
    The destructive, blaming and resentful dynamics are still active in … both sexes.

    At least women are now allowed and encouraged to SPEAK OUT, and what was silenced and kept in dark for so many centuries can hopefully be examined and stop growing and festering.


    • cav12

      That is an apt quote!
      You would see a lot as a therapist, the good and the bad and the effects of abuse in many forms. It still astonishes me how this cycle of ‘power’ over women continues in many societies, even the ‘enlightened’ ones. It has been a very slow change in attitudes, yet women are finding a voice to as you stated ‘speak out’. Support and encouragement is the key and of course empowerment. More education in empowering women is a step towards being free from abuse and repression.
      Thank you so much! I do enjoy reading your wonderful comments.

      Liked by 1 person

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