menelaus_confronts_Helen.jpg
Menelaus confronts Helen in the Battle for Troy.
keep a man interested
1. What does the relationship between Zeus and Athena reveal about marriage -- or about what the Greeks thought about marriage?
For Greek gods, I think marriage is like an ornament that adorns their social positions. Even though Zeus, the head of the gods, is married to Hera, he often falls in love with other goddesses and nymphs behind Hera's attention. He actually does not love his wife from bottom of his heart. The husband-wife relationship between Zeus Hera can be continued because they are in the highest position among Greek gods(Caitlin Yoon).
Caitlin, do you mean that their marriage "can be continued" or "must be continued?" Do you think Zeus and Hera must remain married in the same way that Menelaus and Helen must remain married? (Mr. Lindstrom)
I carefully considered about your question. I think it is more appropriate to say the marriage between Zeus and Hera must be continued rather than to say it can be continued because of their social positions as the king and the queen of Greek gods. Every Greek citizen as well as Greek gods always look at Zeus and Hera, so they have a responsibility to act as an ideal couple. If they divorce, every social order in ancient Greek collapses. (Caitlin Yoon)

2. What does the relationship between Menelaus and Helen reveal about marriage? Consider the "theft of Helen" model. Or did she go willingly with Paris?
I think that Menelaus and Helen reveal that there are struggles in any relationship but in the end you are always there for the other. Even though there is contravercy about whether or not Helne willingly went with Paris, Menelaus went after her because he really loved her. He could have gone sfter her because he was humiliated that his wife ran away but I do think that love played a big role in his decission. Love makes you do stupid things, he put a lot of people at risk to get his wife back. (Nikki Casper)

3. Menelaus' brother, Agamemnon, also seems to be unlucky in his marriage to Clytemnestra. What does their relationship reveal?
I think that because Clytemnestra kills Agamemnon, it shows that women did have power back then. Though because of the Greeks opposition towards women's power, this shows us that these types of stories may be warning Greek men about the power of 'their' women. Basically Clytemnestra was so mad that he killed their daughter and that anger provoked his murder. Women are kind and sensitive when they want to be, but they can also be very stealthy and dangerous. I think it was all Agamemnon's fault and if he hadn't underestimated her then their marraige could have turned out better! (Lily Sollberger)
http://www.europeanpaintings.com/img/gallery/215.jpg
http://www.europeanpaintings.com/img/gallery/215.jpg

I think this painting shows Clytemnestra, a woman more brave than the man behind her. Thoughts on this?

4. The Cyclops Polyphemos is famous as a loner. There is no wife. Is being in a marriage preferable to the Greeks than being a loner?
I think it is better for ancient Greeks to be in a marriage rather than to be a loner. Marrying to someone, people can rely on their spouses when they are in trouble and need someone to believe and talk. It will be ideal if people marry someone whom they love sincerely as Penelope and Odysseus love each other. While Odysseus is in a journey, Penelope misses him every single day. On the other hand, there are some cases in which ancient Greeks marry someone whom they do not love. For example, Zeus does not love Hera sincerely. Consequently, he often falls in love with other goddesses and nymphs after his marriage. Even though their husband-wife relationship is not continuous and peaceful, it is still better than being a loner; people can always rely on their wives or husbands who will be great support for them. (Caitlin Yoon)
I agree with Caitlin and I also think that if you are not married in a greek society, you are classified as a loner. You could either be one or the other; married or a loner. Being a good Greek citizen, for men, entitled you to be a husband and being a soldier. So being a non married person, or a loner, you are not fully carrying out your duties of being a citizen. (Nikki Casper)

5. Does the episode of the Sirens say anything about marriage?
I think that the Sirens show that even though there are many temptations throughout married life, men always try to stay faithful to their wife. Also it think it shows how in ancient Greek times, men believed that women were full of traps, and like what Aggamemon said to Odysseus in the underworld, women can not be trusted.
In the book, Odysseus had to be tied up to his boat in order not to fall into the Sirens' trap. It shows how much power the Sirens had over Odysseus and men in generall. (Nikki Casper)
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this picture is of Odysseus and the Sirens. He is tied up on his ship while they fly over him and his men.
John William Waterhouse, ''Ulysses and the Sirens'' (1891).

6. Do you believe Odysseus is or becomes a good husband to Penelope?
I think Odysseus is on his way of becoming a good husband to Penelope. Being away from her, he misses her and realizes how important and precious she was for him. In Book 5, Odysseus misses home and Penelope in the island of Calypso.
- In the nights, true,
He'd sleep with her in the arching cave- he had no choice-
unwilling lover alongside lover all too willing...
But all his days he'd sit on the rocks and beaches,
wrenching his heart with sobs and groans and anguish,
gazing out over the barren sea through blinding tears.
pg 157, line 170-175 (Caitlin Yoon)

7. Going back to Helen, what do you make of their marriage after she is rescued by Menelaus and brought home to Sparta?
I think that Helen doesn't love Menelaus and never did love him. I believe she pretends to love him and suck up to him so she will have certain advantages, i.e. wealthy, queen, powerful. If she did not then I think there would be a very good possibility that she would be killed. I think Menelaus is aware of what she is doing, but to keep his honor as a king and to have a beautiful wife, he tolerates this. This becomes evident in chapter 4 of the Odyssey when she says: " When all you Acheans fought at Troy, launching your headlong battles just for my sake, shameless whore that I was." (Lily Sollberger)

8. Can you use any of the information you have learned from Western Civ that addresses marriage in ancient Greece?
If so, how do those marriages compare with modern marriages?
In western civ. we learned that there was a standard for men and women to hold in marriages. The men are supposed to go to war while the women stay home with the children and have to wait for the men to come home, if at all. Women loved their husbands no matter what, even if the husband finds another woman, like in the play Medea. In Medea, she devotes her life to her husband and is loyal to him but he ends up finding another woman. Today, the double standard in marriage is pretty much gone. Women do not only stay at home and take care of the children, they have jobs and have many other obligations than to stay at home all day. Now some men stay at home and take the role of a stereotypical wife. (Nikki Casper)

9. I keep stressing that the marriage of Odysseus and Penelope is a model of a great marriage. What makes it great?
I agree to this statement. However, Penelope is a better example of a great wife rather than Odysseus. While Odysseus is on his journey and spends about 8 years with Calypso and Circe, Penelope refuses all proposals from the suitors in Ithaca. She even tricks them, saying she will choose one of them when she finishes weaving a burial shroud for her father-in-law. She is absolutely wise and faithful to her husband.
The marriage of Odysseus and Penelope is a model of a great marriage because they believe each other and share something special between them. I believe the most important role in a marriage is to believe one's spouse. For instance, Penelope strongly believes Odysseus will come back despite of the suitors' cursing toward him. In addition, at the end of the epic when Penelope and Odysseus meet in 20 years, they still remember the secret about their marriage bed- no one can move it except Odysseus. Both of them appreciate their husband-wife relationship and believe each other. (Caitlin Yoon)

10. That picture at the top of the page is inspired by the scene in The Iliad when Menelaus and Helen meet. It is a tense moment. Should he embrace her, or kill her? See if you can find that scene in The Iliad. Or see if you can explain what he would gain by killing her - or by bringing her home and restoring her as his bride.
11. Can you find representations of marriage in ancient Greek art?

12. King Priam of Troy had 50 sons. He has 19 sons, in his words, "all out of one belly, others born from attendant women." Agamemnon also takes an attendant woman captive at Troy. He even introduces her, Clytemnestra, to his wife when he returns home. Can you find anything in Western Civ to explain this conduct? Were the Greeks monogamous?

I don't think that Odysseus is being a faithful husband. I don't think he's faithful because, at first, he HAD to sleep with Circe but we later find out that after that the spell wears off. So we know that Odysseus willingly stayed with Circe for a year. The same with Calypso, he always had the option to go home but he just didn't have the resources. I feel that everyone has the choice whether or not you want to sleep with them. But then again, he could be doing these unfaithful actions out of his longing for Penelope. (Nikki Casper)



In my opinion greek marriage was a very confusing thing. Often times one's spouse would cheat on them and then other times one's spouse would kill them. Their is no evidence of a healthy marriage in the Odyssey. Odysseus seems to love his wife, Penelope, but continues to cheat on her with many goddesses. Agamemnon not only cheats on his wife but is also killed by her, and Helen jumps from man to man without any mercy. So, is marriage really based off of love?
-Margaret Sanderson
I don't think that Greek marriage was based on love the majority of the time. Yes, there were certain situations where there would be love in a relationship, but most of the time it seemed to be based on other things. For example, how wealthy a man or woman were, and beautiful women were often forced to marry wealthy men. Land, and fighting skills were also valuable traits. Look at Helen and Menelaus, I wouldn't exactly say they were in love. The two were brought together by power and beauty. (Lily Sollberger)

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This is a picture of Odysseus and Penelope