Position of Women in Society 

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The ancient world and classical world both have a different weltanschauung when it comes to the role of women in society. In different periods of time throughout history, the way women were viewed varied by culture. Gilgamesh- A Verse Narrative was written depicting the period of the ancient world. Antigone, written by Sophocles was based in the classical world time period. Both texts display a world where women were inferior to men. Despite the fact women were considered inferior to men, the women in both texts display a sense of importance and purpose.

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Throughout history, women were typically viewed less significant to men. In Antigone, Ancient Greece was a male dominant society. The women in Antigone were always expected to obey the laws of man. Men in this time established authority over women. Men were associated with other men and women were viewed as having no place when it came to men and their decisions. The women’s role in society was very limited in both social and family life. Creon, the king of Thebes speaks out proclaiming “And you made free to overstep my law?” (Sophocles 17). Creon also speaks to Antigone in a conversation stating, “No women, while I live, shall order me.” (20). As you can see, Ancient Greece was a very male dominant society. Women were expected to obey men and treat them as their superiors.

In the ancient world, which is depicted in the narrative of Gilgamesh, the role of a woman is less than that of a man. Gilgamesh revolves around a society of brotherhood and masculinity. In the period of Mesopotamia, women did not have the same power, strength, or wisdom as men. Despite being second to men, women did possess certain traits or powers that made them equal and possibly more powerful than men at times. Male dominance is present in the narrative of Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh, the king of Uruk, was a tyrant to his people. He disregarded the feelings of women as he demanded the privilege of sleeping with brides before their husbands were permitted (Mason 15). Men had little respect for woman, and they were treated merely as objects.

The texts of Antigone and Gilgamesh both depict strong females in a male dominant world. In Antigone, the women express capabilities of power. These women possess unique characteristics, and each have their own specific role. Two of the main characters in Antigone are Ismene and Antigone.

Antigone is portrayed as being fearless and courageous. In the story, Antigone commits acts of civil disobedience. She rebels against Creon’s laws and is very bold and strong in her actions and opinions. Antigone sees herself as equal or even superior to men. She follows her heart and not the rules of Creon. She does what she feels is right, even if it means defying the men who make the rules. She has the heart set to sacrifice all she has regardless of the punishment that may come. Antigone is the typical rebel among women. She goes against the typical rules of society displaying bravery, passion, and fury. The actions of Antigone upset gender roles and hierarchy. Ismene on the other hand displays the typical Greek woman.

Ismene is the sister of Antigone. She portrays characteristics of women in the ancient Greece society. She is the reputation of how women were viewed by men. She understands that certain activities were meant for man only and respects that.

Ismene is very wise and cautious with her decisions and actions. Ismene understands the importance of following the rules of man and respecting them. She is aware of the repercussions that can come about if they are not followed. This is portrayed in a conversation with Antigone and Ismene where Antigone is asking for Ismene’s help to bury her brother and Ismene responds “What would you bury him? Against the proclamation? You are mad! When Creon has forbidden it?” (Sophocles 2).

In Gilgamesh, as discussed above, during the period of the ancient world, women were treated and inferior to men. They served less importance and were often disregarded as being worthless. They were often left home to complete typical skills such as cooking, cleaning, sewing, and housework. The story of Gilgamesh depicts several different women each with different roles. These women seem to either be something to be objectified sexually or maternal figures. These women were often assaulted by Gilgamesh.

Shamhat, one of the first women introduced in the narrative is a prostitute who is sent to influence a man named Enkidu. She is portrayed as a sex goddess however she also is looked at as a maternal figure. She took care of Enkidu while she was spending time with him in the wilderness before bringing him to the village. Enkidu questions Shamhat at one point regarding the king and his actions of sleeping with virgin brides. “He asked the prostitute, why this should be his birthright. She answered: He is king” (Mason 21). This conversation between Shamhat and Enkidu gives great insight as to how women during this period are perceived and treated.

The next woman depicted in the narrative is Ninsun. Ninsun is the mother of Gilgamesh and a goddess herself. Ninsun is the only person Gilgamesh will talk to openly about his feelings. Ninsun uses her influence over men in the story. She interprets her sons dreams and he puts all his trust into her. She is also portrayed as a very calming influence on him. Ninsun is used to represent a mother figure. She is a caring, mothering character which helps us understand the role of gender in the story.

Ishtar is considered the daughter of a god. She plays the role of a temptress. She was created in this story to tempt Gilgamesh after his journey. When she was denied, she turns on him and tries to slay him with the Bull of Heaven. This gives an example of how Gilgamesh uses his power over women.

Siduri is one of the later female characters introduced in the story. She has the purpose of informing Gilgamesh of doubts he should have regarding his adventure. Despite women being inferior to men, you can see they play important roles in men’s lives.

During the period of ancient time, women were used as sex objects. At times some were considered goddesses, however they were still inferior to men. They were used to complete jobs undesirable to men. They had fewer rights, little respect, and were viewed very low in society.

When it comes to comparing the weltanschauung of the roles of women in society in the stories of Gilgamesh and Antigone, many similarities and differences arise as discussed above. Women in both stories, which were set in different times periods, were both viewed as being inferior to men. Women were often given jobs that men did want or seen as undesirable. The women depicted in both stores were given little respect. Despite the societal view of these women, both stories portrayed ladies who served a greater purpose then what society believed. Despite a women’s position in society, their importance and purpose often differ from how they are viewed.

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Position Of Women In Society . (2021, Jul 28). Retrieved July 2, 2022 , from
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