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Cities and their stance towards woman

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2.2 Cities and their stance towards woman

Gemmell’s work is typical for a wide variety of locations used during the course of every book. First significant location used in the series is Mykene (Which doesn’t use English translation as Mycenae, but rather Greek Mykēnē), which is a military city-state under a strong despotic rule of a main antagonist of Trojan War Agamemnon, son of Atreus, who is several times referred to as “the Lion” or “Battle King”. Mykene is the only city in the series without a single named female character. Due to the fact that seemingly the only respected role of a man in the city is a soldier females are considered to be good only to procreate or for pleasure and their role in politics is non-existent. Warriors of Mykene also refer to themselves as lions or wolves that are destined to rule over sheep from other cities and force over them their superior culture which leads to politics of zero tolerance towards other cultures. Although there are exceptions, the best example of Mykene’s look on women comes from warrior Glaukos who states that woman who is not receiving pleasure only from her husband should be ‘sealed alive in weighted boxes and hurled into the sea.’ (Lord of the Silver Bow, 184). This was said after he learns out that Andromache was priestess on Thera, a sacred island which is forbidden to males and it is common for woman to have another priestess as a lover and partner. Because Thera does not have any natural population growth and simultaneously needs new priestesses, royal families are requested to send princesses to be trained there. According to the book it is also highly unusual to be released from the duty on the sacred island but since the temple on Thera depends on gifts from royalty, with biggest donations from the city of Troy, it cannot afford to ignore requests from people like King Priam. Even though Thera is considered to be politically independent with highest priestess as main authority, it is indirectly still under the influence of men. Both of released priestess, Hekabe, around thirty or forty years prior the events of the first book, and Andromache were sent to the city of Troy to wed and later become queens. Troy is overall not only the most important city-state in the trilogy but it is also the only multicultural place that is used by the author. Being an important trade business hub between Europe (Sparta, Mykene, Ithaka, Rome, etc.), Asia (Hittite Empire) and Africa (Egypt) Troy allows existence of different religious cults such as Jewish (although the word Judaism or Jew is never used in any of the books name Jehovah (Lord of the Silver Bow, 239) is mentioned as a God of desert dwellers of Egypt in both Lord of the Silver Bow and in Shield of the Thunder) or polytheism of Greece (Artemis, Aphrodite, Ares, Hades and other gods of Greek pantheon are mentioned more than once), does not have existing slave market (unlike Kypros or Mykene) and is highly tolerant towards sexual orientation and cultural background of its inhabitants and visitors of the city. Active trade with other cities connected with taxes helped Troy to become the richest of the named cities. Because of that woman in Troy are richer, wearing different dresses and they are not pursued because of their sexual orientation or personal beliefs. Rest of the places used in the story, including Dardania, Mediterranean Sea, Kypros, Ithaca, Lykia and Thrakia, are either not connected with any female character or don’t have any impact on their actions.

Same as Homer in his Iliad (Blundell, Women in Ancient Greece, 47) Gemmell closely connected his Troy and other cities to Homeric age. Cultural differences between places often lead to clash of the cultures with different tolerance towards the culture of others. This is also reflected on how woman are perceived and what attitude towards men is expected from them with different level of submissiveness and allowance of having own independent view on politics or life in general. The least tolerant towards women is with no doubt Mykene with Thera beings its complete contrast.

2.3 Society and it’s gender discrimination

Almost any woman in Gemmell’s Troy play an important role and on the first glance it might look like that their social stance is comparable to the one of man because characters with deeper attributes are mostly not only strong but also able to oppose men in their opinions and willing to stand for themselves, but the truth for the rest of the society is a bit different. Beside genetically predestined roles, woman is by most of the men seen as the weaker gender which has to be protected and is generally perceived to be below them in intellect and strength, both physical and psychical. This leads to unwillingness to accept a woman with the same ease as a man in the same role. King is by default received as an authority, right after he accepts an imaginary crown, head of finances of the city state and highest authority in military affairs while woman has to prove herself to be a strong ruler for her acceptance and even after that she is never accepted in other roles because of her gender. Finances are always in the hand of a man and it is unthinkable for woman to understand strategy or play any role connected with the army. Although it would be unfair to mark the whole society as misogyny there are undoubtedly elements of it, especially in Mykene whose warriors are looking at women as something just a bit little more than mere objects of their desire.

Another example of how the society works is the distribution of the work. In the whole trilogy, jobs women have can be divided into five categories – work with children, full time nobility, prostitutes, priestesses and slaves. Work with children includes mostly woman who previously had their own children, have husbands in king’s army or are past sixty and as such unfit to work manually according to their employers. Their job is to take care of children of royal family and to teach them until they are old enough for private teachers of history, geography, reading or writing while the nobility is enjoying them and takes part in political affairs. There are several examples of these maids, with most prominent being Axa, Andromache’s personal maid who later takes simultaneous care of both her babies and the son of Andromache, and two elderly nurses Myrine (Gemmell, Shield of Thunder, 518) and ‘Grey One’ (Lord of the Silver Bow, 613), who has her nickname given by prince Dexios and real name is never mentioned. As a payment for this service they are allowed to live in a palace while being fed and dressed by their employers. Because of their connection to royalty these maidens are considered to have relatively high social status and the safety of having both roof above their heads and food every day, makes life for them relatively easy compared to rest of the society. While the maidens are taking care about education of future generations of princesses and princes, their mothers are situated in a role of guarantee of political alliance. Since young age, every girl from royal family knows that one day she will have husband picked by her father or a brother for them. They are educated in geography, etiquette and about relationships between royal families of different states and city states. Their marriage always depends on actual political situations and need for allies against other monarchs or they are married for economic reasons. If the family has more daughters, their age is taken into account but doesn’t play decisive role and younger sisters can get married before the older ones. Dowry is then given by the family of groom to the family of bride and depends on both the riches of the groom’s family and mutual agreement. This is illustrated best by the dialogue between Andromache and Odysseus, where Andromache states that ‘I am a whore, for my body is being offered to a man I do not love for riches and security.’ (Lord of the Silver Bow, 162) On that, Odysseus simply stated that the difference is only the price. Ordinary prostitutes are then present as common part of the society and their role inherent. Priestesses of Aphrodite, Aphrodite’s Maidens, prostitutes or discourteously whores are just few of the names used by the author for the next job. Since these women are earning money for physical pleasure they are directly paid by their customers based on their own prices which are often reflected by economic situation of the city they work in, their age and appearance. For example it is said that in Miletos sailor is able to ‘buy’ a woman for a copper ring while at the same time in Troy, the same price wouldn’t buy him a cup of water (Lord of the Silver Bow, 19), which is later illustrated by prostitute Big Red who carries silver rings from her customers in Troy (Shield of Thunder, 327). What is also worth mentioning is that these women are accepted as a part of the society by everyone, equally man and woman, despite the location, they are often able to live a luxurious life. For example one of them, Phaedra, is able to earn enough to live in a villa and have her own servants. It is also mentioned that later in life, usually in late thirties or early forties, they often marry one of their customers to settle down. Priestesses of Aphrodite is just a name for them to illustrate they serve to the goddess of love and pleasure, but besides the name they have nothing to do with other priestesses. Priestesses of the Minotaur from Thera, whose job is to serve a chained god on the sacred island, Dionysus, god harvest connected with debauched usage of alcohol and drugs, or Athene, goddess of wisdom, are one of the highest authorities in the trilogy. Because the secular and spiritual power over people is divided the clergy has prominent role in the society. Depending on the god priests Gemmell used are either only males (Priests of Ares) or only females (Priestesses of Athene) but this seems to be unimportant because they are accepted in the same way. Unlike other classes slaves are used only marginally and hence unimportant for the thesis.

Other jobs might also be possible but are not mentioned by the author. This strict distribution of work is widely accepted by most the males and females and besides Andromache, whose stance will be mentioned in chapter about her, there does not seems to be any effort to change it.

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