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Author Topic: Rape in Greek Mythology  (Read 61611 times)
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« Reply #12: March 30, 2011, 03:00:14 am »

Ultimately, rape is about consent and who possesses the power to override it. In ancient Greek society women of rank were not considered at any age to be capable of any type of consent; neither were slaves; that consent legally lay with their guardians (usually father or husband) or owner. Women in concubinage were treated similarly to wives; consent lay with the men. Prostitutes were the only women who had any sort of control over their bodies in a sexual sense, and over sometimes sizable amounts of money as well.

In plays and stories, if a woman was to be depicted as respectable and sympathetic to the audience, the *only* way she could have sex is through seduction or rape, which is why you have depictions where true love, happy endings and rape are intermingled in ways abhorrent to modern audiences. (Its also worthy to note that the heroines of the plays were as different from the average woman and heroes were from the average man.) Seduction (with its implication of lasting influence on a woman's mind/actions) was actually considered a far worse crime under Athenian law than rape (which may have led to women declaring rape to save their lovers from more severe punishments).

As it is today, we know rape was common in the ancient Greek world; there are extensive codices of laws outlining the monetary fines. So it really isn't a surprise that rape would be depicted in mythological realms as well. And in regards to reconciling mythological actions to the modern mind, there is the added question of whether or not a mortal is even capable of granting true consent given the drastic power imbalance between divine and mortal - seduction blurs the line between persuasion and coercion at the best of times even among mortals; is a mortal pursued by a divinity ever capable of true consent? Given the myths revolving around ideas of divinities having to hide or suppress their true nature lest their lovers be consumed in a literal blaze of glory, I'm thinking the answer is no.


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