Zeus the Wife-Beater

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David M. Schaps


Wife-beating differs in numerous aspects from violence between men. The altercation between Zeus and Hera in Iliad 1.533-611 shows all the characteristics of modern domestic violence, both in the behavior of the principals and in the reaction of the observers. The accurate portrayal of the situation here, reiterated and developed in two later scenes, indicates that wife-beating was a known and apparently accepted situation in Homer's Greece, though uncomfortable for the observers and always in danger of reaching a level that even Homer's gods would consider abusive.

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