Throughout the Iliad women are treated as objects. They are mere tools in the games that the men play with each other. They are used as prizes, means to improve status, and symbols of wealth and prosperity. The opinions, thoughts and feelings of women are completely disregarded throughout the epic. Women serve one primary function in the Iliad. Their function is to provide the men with more glory. They serve the men, bear their children and are raped simply because the men so desperately want to achieve kleos. They are also used as tools by men to seek revenge from other men. Men hold them in high regard when they are trying to better their status, but as soon as the woman wants or needs something, she is ignored.
Women are also used as tools to seek vengeance on other men. Even though the warriors have wives, and children waiting for them at home, the men find it necessary to exert their power over the wives of their enemies.
Nestor says, "No man should be in a hurry to go home/Until he has spent the night with some Trojan's wife."ÃÂ (Lombardo, Book 2, ll 383-384) Power over the women means having power over the women's husbands too. Husbands, as heads or the households are obliged by honor to protect their wives and children. If they fail in defending them, then they are not really men in the eyes of the world. By desecrating the women of the fallen warriors men can befoul their memories as well. In a way, the warriors have feminized the men by killing them. Throughout the epic, women are being dominated by men, and warriors are killing other warriors by penetrating them with spears. The men then become helpless objects, in the same way that women are helpless objects. Not only does this action of rape show how women are abused and used throughout the Iliad, but it also symbolizes the desecration of Troy as a city. The men are symbolically women, the women have been violated and turned into objects, and Troy has been destroyed both symbolically and literally. Not only are women used as tools, but they are also viewed by men as prizes. Throughout the epic, women are referred to as prizes that the men get for taking over cities or killing people. Nestor says, "Agamemnon, for all your nobility, don't take his girl/leave her be: the army originally gave her to him as a prize."ÃÂ (Lombardo, Book 1, ll 290-292) This quote exemplifies how much the men viewed the women as only objects. The men had no feelings for the women. They only viewed them as something that would raise their status in the Greek community. While a huge part of this war was fought over Helen of Troy, it was not her fault. The men only wanted her and fought over her because if they had the most beautiful woman it would mean that they would have a higher social standing. Helen did not ask to be saved, and she did not start the war. It was man's need for glory and or prizes that killed thousands and thousands of people.
One of the key ways that one can tell that women are not viewed with any importance in the Iliad is by looking at the individual characters and seeing what role they play in the epic. The women's characters in this epic consist of waiting on their husband hand and foot. They don't have their own social lives or events to attend. The role that they play in the Iliad is simply that of a supporting cast. While women are approached with reverence and respect, they have no actual role in what happens in their lives, the lives of their children and that of their husbands. Andromache says to Hector ""ÃÂ¦show some pity and stay here by the tower,/Don't make your child an orphan, your wife a widow.(Lombardo, Book 6,ll 453-454) In the end Hector does die. This further shows that women's comments and pleas in this epic mean nothing to the men who are in charge. The men view their comments as superfluous and thus they don't listen even when they know that they should.
By women acting as such minor characters in this epic they contribute to the overall greatness of the men by making them stand out. It is shown in the Iliad that the men have the great and exciting life and the women's lives aren't even worth mentioning. To gain kleos it is necessary to be remembered throughout all ages. The easiest way to do this is by killing as many people as possible. By killing a multitude of people, the men gain status, glory, prizes in the form of women, and eventually they obtain kleos. Women are mere pawns in the fight to be remembered for all ages and as a result they are only seen as shadows behind many great men.