Both Homeric Hymn to Demeter and Hymn to Aphrodite expose the outlook of ancient Greek on religious and psychological world of women, as well as on their attitude to marriage. To be more exact, Hymn to Demeter reflects the crisis of marital relations and their impact on complex interactions between mother and daughter.
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Hence, marriage is represented through the prism of female experience in surviving the transition from an independent woman to a wife. In contrast, Hymn to Aphrodite focuses on marriage as relationships forced by patriarchal pressure with respect to female sexuality.
One way or another, both outlooks on marriage represent women as destructive power corrupting the concept of marriage and representing it as a constant confrontation between females and males.
Both Hymns start with the representation of bride’s readiness for sexual relationship as soon as they had to enter marriage. Hence, although Persephone’s is forced to marry Hades, she still envisions marriage as a cruel and deceptive trick aimed to destroy bonds with her mother Demeter.
Hymn, therefore, refers to marriage as a representation of sexual violence. Similar to Persephone, Aphrodite embodies the sexual attraction both within the marriage and beyond it.
Thus, the Hymn narrates, “…seeing him, laughter-loving Aphrodite was struck with love, and astounding desire seized her heart” (Hymn for Aphrodite 129). The emphasis on the nature of Aphrodite’s intention toward mortal males is placed to accentuate her sexual power and her attitude to marriage as means of exercising sexuality.
The theme of abduction is also brightly represented in the context of marital relations as represented in the Hymns. In Hymns to Demeter, the abduction of Persephone is a normal ritual accepted during marriage and, therefore, no consent is required on the part of Demeter’s daughter.
The forced marriage, therefore, is also represented as a finale compromise between Hades and Persephone, and a tool for establishing peaceful relationships: “he found the lord inside his house sitting on a bed wit his shy wife very reluctant in her longing for her mother” (Hymn to Demeter 51).
Similar situation is observed in representing marriage in Hymn to Aphrodite as Zeus’s will. In particular, encounter of immortal goddess and a mortal man embodies a sort of abduction of immortal sexual power exposed by Aphrodite and inability of the mortal Anchises to resist this destructive influence. As a result, the marriage bears an ambivalent nature.
On the one hand, Aphrodite represents as a ‘love-smiling’ goddess who perpetuates the core symbols of love, marriage, and sexuality. On the other hand, the goddess’s vision on marriage contradicts the perceptions accepted in Greek society.
In conclusion, both Hymn to Demeter and Hymn to Aphrodite introduce a sophisticated outlook on the concept of marriage in ancient Greece. Mythological explorations focus on marriage as a tool for women to expose their sexuality and resist the violent nature of males. At the same time, marriage also reflects its abdicative nature in terms of eternal confrontation between males and females.
What is more important is that both mythological narrations refer to marital relations as to an encounter between mortal and immortal powers, one more proof of divine dominance over humans. Finally, patriarchal restrictions play an important role in marital situations, as it is represented in both Hymns. In particular, both texts focus on Zeus’s desire to force goddess’s will.
“Hymn to Aphrodite”. The Homeric Hymns. Ed. Susan Chadwick Shelmerdine. US: Focus Information Group. 1995. 126-139. Print.
“Hymn to Demeter”. The Homeric Hymns. Ed. Susan Chadwick Shelmerdine. US: Focus Information Group. 1995. 33-58. Print.