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by Archaeology Newsroom

Archetypes of women in Ancient Greek myths

The patriarchal concept sentenced the overwhelming majority of women of ancient Greece to silence and obscurity, as becomes apparent from Pericles’ Epitaphios, which was delivered by the Athenian leader in honour of those who fell in battle during the first year of the Peloponnesian War. This conspiracy of silence, which almost obliterated Greek women from the proscenium of History, is brought up in an impressive way in those myths, which have created some of the most sensational female figures known to humanity.

However, before one deals with the women of mythology, or rather with aspects of women recorded in myth, the term in itself should be elucidated. Myth, which in antiquity served as the almost exclusive source of inspiration for poetry and representational arts, is nothing more than a system of communication, a complex and intricate “language”, which treasures and transmits information and in no way remains unaltered or unconcerned by historical evolution.As a matter of fact, in the Greeks’ case , who were not bound by dogma, holy books or canons as regards their dedication to a certain notion, myth was continuously changing in time and place.

Through the study of heroines-models who convey the notion of woman in Greek myth, as they occur in the texts and artistic representation, one can reach certain general conclusions, which, although seemingly unexpected, are confirmed by all testimonies. The archetypes, around which the characters of the mythical heroines are woven -as if on canvas- and which are more or less personified by them, are those of love, sacrifice, strength and knowledge.