Long-ignored figures from Ancient Greece will be given a voice.
Odysseus, Achilles, Jason, Hercules. The men of Greek myths have had their stories told far and wide in the original tales and newer adaptations, and often in a flattering manner.
But the women of ancient times have not been so lucky. They’re either villainised, like the snake-hired Medusa, who could turn people to stone if they looked at her, or made into pawns for the benefit of men, like Iphigenia, whose father Agamemnon sacrificed her so he could get the calm seas he needed to sail to Troy. Alternatively, they’re shoved into the position of love interest and nothing more, like Briseis, who became the subject of a tug of war between Agamemnon and Achilles during the battle for Troy.
The tide is slowly changing, with books like Madeline Miller’s Circe and Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls, which have both been longlisted for the 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction. In Circe Miller fleshes out the life of the witch, who is most famous for falling in love with Odysseus and turning his men into pigs. The book shows her as an independent woman who thrived despite the efforts of men including her father and her loves to diminish her.
The Silence of the Girls tells the story of the Trojan War - a story often centred on men - from the point of view of the Briseis, a queen who was enslaved by Achilles after he butchered her husband and brothers.
And now Nikita Gill, who has previously written a poem for Stylist, will centre the women of Ancient Greece (and beyond) in her forthcoming collection, Great Goddesses: Life Lessons from Myths and Monsters.
Inspired by Ancient Greek mythology, Gill will tell the “stories of the mothers, warriors, creators, survivors and destroyers that shook the world”, said her publisher, Ebury Press.
The collection will include hand-drawn illustrations and is being described as a “timely feminist inspiration for modern women”.
On Instagram Gill said the book would show different versions of Medusa, Nyx the primordial goddess of the night, and Gaia the earth mother, among others.
Gill is a British-Indian artist and writer, and the UK’s most-followed Instagram poet, with more than half a million followers. Like Rupi Kaur, her work often speaks about what it means to be a woman in the world today, addressing themes including sexual assault, ethnicity and feminism.
It’s not the first time Gill has given a voice to traditionally submissive or ignored female characters. In her last collection, Fierce Fairytales & Other Stories to Stir Your Soul, Gill overturned the gender stereotypes that often stifle women in fairytales.
Great Goddesses will be released in hardback on 5 September by Ebury Press, and we can’t wait to add it to our collection of books by and about brilliant women.
Images: Peace Ofuré / Nikita Gill