Equal treatment amongst men and women was
adamantly non-existent in the patriarchal society that ancient Greeks lived in
centuries ago. Unlike the changing times today, women were set to a lower
standard than men and societies’ expectations of women were concrete. The sexes
were held to certain responsibilities and if one could not do so, there was
punishment. Antigone shows an explicit gap between the roles of men and women
in ancient Greco-Roman culture.
Men were superior in Greco-Roman culture.
They were dominant in home, political and social life. In the case of the Sophocles
Antigone, Creon stood for superiority of men over
women in a universe governed by gender differences
and professed his power by showing that he is the law (Tiefenbrun, 41). As being newly stated King, the drive
to show the people his power was strong. When he realized that one had defied
his policies, he orders them to be summoned for punishment immediately. With no
intention of the suspect being female, he argued, “What? What man alive would
dare.” (Sophocles, Antigone line 280)
Not one citizen questioned a female to be the suspect of disobeying the King of
Thebes. Creon’s manhood was personally attacked by a woman who was not afraid
of his sovereignty and caused him to lash out on those close to Antigone. In
Creon’s case, it was highly unlikely to think that a woman, who should be
following their duty to worship men, was capable of going against a someone
with such high power’s authority. Women in Greco-Roman times were viewed as
secondary citizens. Being a female meant having a low status of being confined
to a home, carrying out daily chores and subjecting to men. “Women did not
operate in the public and political spheres in the way that men did”. (Cohen, 4)
To do the unthinkable such as Antigone had done by disobeying the law and not
acting as a ‘true” woman was opposed by her sister Ismene, who could not dare
to do such unlikely crime and veer away from the expectations of society. “I’m
forced, I have no choice- I must obey the ones who stand in power” (Sophocles, Antigone lines 79-80). Although the two
were sisters, they are two completely different people with distinct
personalities. Ismene could be thought of as a model of the typical woman in
ancient Greco-Roman times who knew right from wrong, differing from Antigone
who was not held back by societies’ boundaries. It was undeniable that women
had no voice in the political scene such as how Ismene demonstrated through her
knowledge of obeying to powerful men.
Men who subject to women lose their sense of
masculinity. Haemon broke the honor of the gods by siding with his lover, soon
to be wife, Antigone. He puts aside societies views of how women should be
treated and makes efforts to rescue her but Creon is quick to accuse Haemon of
being a degenerate for choosing a woman’s side. Haemon was not labeled as a
“true” man after this try for justice. Women were frowned upon for taking
political stances and to have a man allow that was unacceptable. “The ‘rules’ of ancient masculinity
dictate that a man is ‘manly’ when he exerts control over himself and others,
but ‘unmanly’ when he loses self-control or falls under the control of others.”
(Wilson, 371) In Sophocles Antigone, it is made clear that the siding with a
woman is disapproved in society.
The relationship of men and women in
ancient Greco-Roman times were opposed and unchangeable. Feminism was
nonexistent in ancient times. The female body was to fade into the surroundings
of a society that solely revolved around men but if a man chose to show siding
with a woman, or lose focus due to love, they were highly frowned upon. They
had the duty to obtain superiority as a man. In Sophocles Antigone, the gender relationships showed one-sided dominance and
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David. “Seclusion, Separation, and the Status of Women in Classical
Athens.”Seclusion, Separation, and the Status of Women in Classical Athens
(n.d.): 1-14. JSTOR JSTOR. Web.
Translated by R. Fagles. 1984. New York: Penguin Classics.
Tiefenbrun, Susan W.
“On Civil Disobedience, Jurisprudence, Feminism and the Law in the
Ant.” JSTOR. N.p., 1999. Web.
Brittany E. “The Blinding of Paul and the Power of God: Masculinity,
Sight, and Self-Control in Acts 9.” JSTOR. N.p., n.d. Web.