An Overview of Ancient Greek Social Mores

Warning: This post discusses non-PC topics related to human biology.  Do not read if you prefer to avoid controversy.

Greek mythology buffs probably know the story of Cassandra, a Trojan princess who had the ability to see the future but whose prophecies were ignored by everyone around her. The myths surrounding Cassandra provide interesting clues about the nature of ancient Greek society.

The story begins in a patriarchal society where men try to win the affection of women by showering them with gifts: the Greek deity Apollo tries to seduce Cassandra by giving her the gift of prophecy, and curses her when she refuses his advances. Interbreeding between humans and deities, something that would shock modern Judeo-Christian audiences, was not seen as unusual by Graeco-Roman polytheists.

Cassandra is able to foresee the fall of Troy, but no one in the kingdom listens to her due to Apollo’s curse. This reflects a tendency in many patriarchal societies where women who do not conform to the society’s views of acceptable behavior are ostracized and their contributions ignored.

The sytem decribed in this myth proves to be unsustainable, and like all unsustainable systems, it collapses. The way in which it collapses is noteworthy, since it involved the breaking of Greek cultural taboos.
Troy is sacked by the Greeks, and Cassandra is violated in a temple by the Greek warrior Ajax the Lesser.

Temples were viewed by Graeco-Roman polytheists as sanctuaries where people could take shelter from persecution, and raping a person who was sheltering in one would have been seen as a form of radical feminsim. The story of Cassandra is a classic example of a pattern seen throughout the world: societies that are typically patriarchal go through phases of collapse where established social norms are lost and give way to anarchy.

Sources: http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/g_l/jeffers/classical.htm
http://faculty.gvsu.edu/websterm/gods&men.htm

Advertisements