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The Furies and Gender Inequality – Alli Alberti

Gender is an important topic that comes up constantly in The Furies. To begin with, in general the time period in which this piece takes place (the Archaic period)  did not favor women or their opinions. Government was not meant to include women or slaves opinions, ideas, and feelings about any topic. Women were unable to vote, inherit fortune, own land, etc., and in general their main purpose was solely to take care of the home and the family, as is prevalent in many generations to follow. Discussing a specific example of gender inequality and how women were considered to be less valuable than man that occurs in The Furies is the sacrifice of Iphigenia. Agamemnon has upset Poseidon, whose assistance is needed in the commencement of the war. Because of this, Agamemmnon is required to sacrifice his daughter. This sacrifice explores the idea of gender inequality because of the sole fact that it was Iphigenia that was the one chosen to be sacrificed. After some deeper research about Greek Mythology and Iphigenia’s family, I found that she had a brother named Oreste. This means that Agamemnon had a daughter and a son. Ultimately, either one of his children could have been chosen to be sacrificed; but of course, the female was chosen. This is most likely because of how women were thought to be of lesser superiority and value than men were, so Iphigenia being sacrificed would be less drastic to society than Oreste.

2 thoughts on “The Furies and Gender Inequality – Alli Alberti”

  1. An interesting take. I am uncertain if Iphigenia being sacrificed is a symbol of women being of lesser worth to society. Across all civilizations of which I am aware, if a sacrifice was to please the gods, it had to be a sacrifice of that which was of MOST worth. This is true of Judeo/Christian cultures, Hindu cultures, Islamic cultures, Native American cultures, and was certainly true of the Greco-Roman world. The fattest best cuts of meat were those which were reserved for sacrifices. The first drops of wine at feasts were reserved for the sacrifice to the Gods. Following these universal standards of sacrifice, it would seem that the sacrifice of the daughter is a symbol of her surpassing worth, rather than the converse.
    In terms of gender equality I think it is also notable that the high arbiter of the dispute and very symbol of the city is Athena, a goddess, and also famously an unwed virgin standing apart from any male figure.


    1. I’d add to the above that Iphigenia’s gender probably does have a lot to do with the fact that she’s sacrificed; Nick is right to note that the fact that she’s picked speaks to her “value,” but the kind of value she has to the family and the city is very different from the kind to which her brother Orestes can lay claim. So that’s worth keeping in mind. We’ll talk more in class today about the authority of women – perhaps not in ancient Athenian society writ large so much, but more specifically in terms of how female authority gets explored in the text of Aeschylus’s play. Those Furies have rights, and they are very vocal about claiming them. Lots to say on that subject.


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