Perhaps here we can append Iliona, one of the lesser-known daughters of Priam and Hecuba who, hyginus tells us, killed herself on account of the misfortunes of her parents. Shame a sense of shame was a powerful motivator in the ancient world, moving people to internalize social expectations. 17 It is also a concept connected with 'who one is' and consequently is frequently associated with people who have strong feelings. A sense of shame can be distinguished from feelings of guilt,. E., a bad conscience, which are more connected with 'what one does' and which is frequently associated with strong thinking types. Though typically and traditionally women are considered to value 'feelings' over 'thinking in the ancient world shame far outweighs guilt in self-killing 18 in both male and females. Rape The frequency of stories of rape in classical mythology suggests an underlying ambivalence in the ancient mind toward sexuality. 19 In a culture where female protection under a kyrios, a male protector, signifies female qua property, one would expect rape to be a means of attack of one male on another via his property/woman.
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Callirrhoe, after having helped diomedes avoid being sacrificed to Ares, was abandoned by him. Fearing the possibility of reprisal by her father, she hanged herself. Dido, abandoned by aeneas, grieved not only for her lost love, but also for her lost sense of honor in respect to her first husband and her city. Thisbe, forbidden lover of Pyramus, stabbed herself after finding Pyramus dead by suicide. Scylla, betraying her father because of her love for Minos, was rejected by minos and threw herself into the sea. In each of these cases, the women's betrayal of home or country and the shame that results combines with the grief felt by abandonment. Even immortals feel the pain of unrequited love and abandonment and we are told that Calypso killed herself out of love for Odysseus. Another little known lover of Heracles, xenodoce, felt such longing and desire for him during his absence that she died. Here we may add Polyxena, who according to one source, killed herself on the grave of her lover, Achilles, and Phyllis who hanged herself believing she had been abandoned by her lover Demophon. Mixed with fear Grief mixed with fear is another incentive for seeking self-imposed death. Laodoce felt such grief at the possibility of becoming a trojan slave to the Greeks prayed for the earth to receive her and the gods complied with her request.letter
Abandonment A related phenomenon occurs when women are abandoned by their lovers. Not presentation only are they left pseudo-widowed, but they may also have to face (or believe they have to face) the censure of their societies. Alcinoe, ariadne, callirrhoe, thisbe, scylla and Dido fall into this category though each story deserves special attention. Alcinoe, though married with children, in a state of madness caused by Athena fell in love with a visitor. When the samian left, she abandoned her home in pursuit. Coming to her senses on board, she repented and leapt to her drowning. Ariadne, having betrayed her country to help Theseus, was subsequently left behind on Naxos, where, according to one source, she killed herself.
Here we may add Amata who hanged herself when Turnus, her would-be son-in-law was killed. Sometimes mothers lose multiple offspring. Niobe is the quintessential mother in Greek mythology, so proud of her 14 offspring that she challenges the worship of Leto. After her 7 sons' and 7 daughters' deaths, she leaps to her own. Eurydice finds the death of her youngest son, haemon, the final pain she can bear, having previously lost her other sons. Themisto, in a devious plot to kill her rival Ino's children, instead causes her own children to be killed and then kills herself. Sisters may commit suicide upon the loss of their fathers or brothers. Erigone, sister of Orestes and Erigone, daughter of Icarius, hang themselves after the important males in their lives die, and even a dog, maera, can feel the loss of a master (Icarius) and commit suicide by leaping into a well. Antigone, daughter of Oedipus, is a special case who having lost her entire family succumbs to grief and in staying true to her convictions hangs herself.
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The spectrum of emotions associated with grief and the liminality of being neither in the world of singles nor of married people leads many to suicide. The second most common source of grief for women is the loss of their offspring. According to jane littlewood, 15 'the loss of a flood child is a uniquely devastating experience for the child's parents. In contemporary western societies such deaths are almost always viewed as untimely because they conflict with people's taken-for-granted assumptions and life-cycle expectations.' Thucydides expresses this same sentiment in Pericles' funeral Speech when he laments that in times of war parents bury their children instead. The unnaturalness of the child predeceasing the parent is the most disturbing aspect and, as Cline has suggested, the bereavement and expression of grief of mothers differs from that expressed by fathers because 'the biological experience of childbirth combined with the social role of motherhood. Many bereaved mothers may learn to restructure their lives around the loss, but many are unable to and so kill themselves. The mythological stories of mothers who commit suicide at the loss of children deal almost exclusively with the loss of famous (or infamous) sons, though niobe loses sons and daughters and sometimes the gender of the children is unspecified.
Aethra, theseus's mother, Arethusa, corax's mother, perdix, mother of Talos, Anticleia, mother of Odysseus and Althaea, mother of Meleager kill themselves. In the case of Arethusa and Perdix, we know nothing about their husbands and the women's only significant role is that of mothers. However, their sons were notable. Corax upon his death received the honor of having a place named after him and Talos, talented like his uncle daedalus, invented the saw, the potter's wheel, the chisel and the compass, and at daedalus' attempted murder of him was metamorphosed into a partridge. Aethra's history is complex and important, as is her son's, but the story of her suicide is probably a late spurious one, as perhaps is the case with the story of Anticleia's self-hanging. Althaea's relationship to her son is complicated by her apparent control of his fate, and the story of her sacrificing her son's life because he has taken her brother's hints at an element in Greek culture that values natal family over conjugal family.
The sanskrit vidh means destitute or lacking. These connotations appear in Greek as well where cheroo means to make desolate and occurs concerning women in Homer, and the Greek chereuo means to lack or, in oratory of a woman, to live in widowhood. These notions of being made empty or lacking imply that marriage allows a woman to fulfill herself with, as it were, a dual personality that, at the loss of the male, becomes half. Shipley in The dictionary of Word Origins 11 points out 'since marriage has made two of one, a widow is a woman that has been emptied of herself.' Clearly, based on Greek vocabulary and the gender asymmetry inherent in it, these implications are not similarly. At least from the female perspective, 12 ancient Greek society was 'couple-oriented.' In couple-oriented, patriarchal societies, the widow is one often viewed as being unavailable, uninteresting, and being either sexually uninviting or conversely a predator.
13 legal mechanisms existed in the ancient world that provided for the transfer of a widow from one kyrios (male protector) to another. In a culture where a significant age difference between husband and wife was the norm, we might expect the number of widows to exceed the number of widowers (though, of course, childbirth was a dangerous period for women). Nevertheless, mythological stories of 'wicked step-mothers' 14 remind us that the legal mechanisms did not necessarily address the emotional and psychological displacement caused by widowhood and remarriage. The stories from mythology provide another resource for uncovering culturally imbedded fears and concerns. However, both legal mechanisms and mythological tales show that there are normative patterns to widowhood (remarriage) and behavioral expectations that if denied can lead to suicide. In a death-defying and couple-based culture, there is a certain stigma to being widowed, which is amplified by the fact that it is a status typically occupied by females. Few married women escape the status. In the general pattern of older males marrying younger females, not only is greater male power in the relationship asserted, but also it is guaranteed that generally the woman must cope with the dying and death of the spouse.
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Alcyone, cleite, cleopatra, deianeira, evadne, hylonome, laeodamea, marpessa, oenone, polydora and Polymede are all wives who killed themselves upon the death of revelation their husbands. As we can deduce from the many representations on Greek vases of women mourning that it is a female duty; committing suicide takes that duty one further, final step. Antigone (wife of Peleus fearing she had lost her husband to another woman, took her own life. Stricken by grief, these women all found death at their own hands preferable to life without their husbands. Sally Cline 9 observes how the stigma of being a widow derives from the fact that it is a status typically occupied by females. According to a norc general Social Surveys report, women are more than three times as likely as men to be widowed. 10 Though such statistics are not available from the ancient Greek world, an examination of the Greek words for widow and widowhood are telling. In Homer, the tragedians and orators a female who has lost her husband is called a chera, but the masculine form, cheros, does not appear until Aristotle who uses it in the context of birds. The Old English widewe originated in the Indo-european root widh meaning to be empty or separated.
7 Grief, grief is an emotional human response of postpartum deep and painful distress to bereavement or loss. Grief may be the response to one's feelings of loss of control over life situations and emotions combined with loss of hope for the future. Such poignant distress often leads to a narrower view of the world to such an extent that reality becomes distorted, and death seems the only answer to life crises. Loss of Kin, the primary goal in a young female's life is to marry because, in baldest terms, in ancient society a female necessarily was predominantly in the control of a male. 8 before marriage, that control was held by her father, but at marriage she was physically, economically and psychologically transferred to a new kyrios, her husband. The physical and psychological dependence of females on males was so socially ingrained that the female personality and social function was only complete in its relationship to the male. It logically follows, then, that upon the loss of the male authority, females may no longer perceive a societal role, and it is under such circumstances that suicide may occur. By far the most common motivation for females to commit suicide in classical mythology is because of the loss of a male kin, most frequently the husband.
motivations and will examine the methods they use, asking whether or not the methods chosen are predictable or prescribed according to one's status as virgin, wife, mother. Close attention will be paid to the general character traits given to the suicidal females and the thematic characteristics in the stories. The purpose of this article is to address these questions systematically and, though confined to the language and symbols of mythology, to generalize cautiously about ancient cultural attitudes toward women and self-destruction. In order to understand better the mythological suicides and their motivations, i have organized them in the broad categories of grief, shame, madness, self-sacrifice, fear and frustration. 6 Interestingly, anger is never a motivation to suicide among mythological females. With all schematizations there is a tendency to over-simplify and clearly the categories are sometimes interchangeable. However, i have attempted to group the suicides by the most powerful motivating factor that can be gleaned from the ancient accounts of the deaths.
Yet I place myself among those who contend that the stories, however exaggerated, encode in them something of fuller cultural significance, which can be uncovered through careful analysis and constant vigilance to the multifunctionalism and the polarization of reality represented in the myths. Equally important is the fact that many of the issues raised in myths elicit reactions so strongly rooted in our own culture that it is sometimes nearly impossible to be flexible in our interpretations. Issues like murder, cannibalism, matricide, patricide, fratricide, infanticide, rape and suicide, to name only some, pervade mythology. When for example medea murders her children, how can modern interpreters react in any way but with repugnance? However, when one sets aside the modern cultural bias and examines Medea in the context of the ancient world's cultural assumptions, as Easterling and Knox 3 have so persuasively done, then some aspect of the ancient world is revealed to us that is different from. Suicide is a prime example of this phenomenon. 4 This study of suicidal females in Classical Mythology will raise several questions. Under what circumstances is death preferable to life?
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Diotima, suicide in Classical Mythology: An Essay. Garrison, texas a m university, college Station,. October 2000, part I: suicidal Females, classical Mythology plan is a broad term that encompasses several cultures and an enormous chronological span. 'Classical' typically refers to the Greek and Roman sources which provide the corpus of classical mythology, yet many mythological characters hail from lands far distant from Greece and Rome, like colchis and Troy to name but two. Chronologically, the sources range from prehistory to the byzantine age, leaving would-be interpreters a plethora of possible contexts in which to work. Were one to ignore the geographical and chronological dimensions of myth, the interpreter is still faced with the polysemic essence 1 of myth and its multifunctionalism, including cognitive, emotional, psychological and especially didactic facets, 2 understanding of which becomes even more difficult given the chronological. In addition, one must realize that myths often set up a polarization of reality, black and white situations that give way to the grayness of reality. Obviously, myths are 'good stories and in order to be a good story, problems and their solutions are exaggerated.