Let's talk about Ilithyia. I've recently been waxing poetic about how we got to see Ilithyia's evolution into a monster from season 1 to 2. I especially fascinated by how we got to see sexual abuse and exploitation through the eyes of the victimizer and what a revelation was it to see a woman as the abuser? (Ref: Ilithyia's involvement in Varro's rape and eventually murder.) What do you think about Ilithyia and her story?
YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS SOMEONE ASKED ME ABOUT ILITHYIA.
Here’s a not-so-secret about me; I will always, always, ALWAYS love lady characters that are labeled as “bitches” or “monsters.” It is science. Maybe I’m pre-dispositioned to love lady villains because I’m not a nice person myself, but I was not shocked when I loved Ilithyia from the very beginning. Her story arc throughout the series is probably my second favorite after Agron’s, and I have SO. MANY. FEELS. ABOUT. HER.
One thing that I absolutely love and ADORE about this show is how they introduce characters that seem minor in the beginning, but lay the groundwork for character evolution in said character’s debuting season so that when they appear in the following season, you are just GOBSMACKED at the character’s growth. Ilithyia is a perfect example of this.
She was very sheltered, very arrogant with a lust for power that she couldn’t quite recognize until she met Lucretia. In fact, it was Lucretia that really turned Ilithyia into a monster. As far as Ilithyia was concerned, she hadn’t done anything to slight Lucretia; she was acting as proper Roman women with standing would have acted with those beneath her station. And when Lucretia arranged for her to get it on with Spartacus instead of Crixus, that was the moment when Ilithyia snapped. The little girl was gone, and the monster was born.
Her behavior towards Varro, while abhorent, was very typical for the time. But really, it was Lucretia again that appealed to Ilithyia’s vanity and her lust for power and pushed her into her actions against Varro. I’m with you in that I LOVE how this show examines rape culture not only as a standard of the time, but how it affects everyone. As Aeternium stated in her wonderful post about the show’s treatment of rape culture, everyone is a victim, including the men. Ilithyia not only abused Varro, but also abused Numerius as well, although not to the same extent. It’s such an interesting statement, because as a woman Ilithyia herself held no power that wasn’t granted to her by her husband or father. I think she relished in having power over someone for the first time in her life, and unfortunately Varro paid the heaviest price for it.
But this limited sense of power isn’t enough for Ilithyia once she realizes that she cannot leave Glaber. And instead of indulging in this limited power she has, she uses her head instead of her body. This was a big theme for the women in season 2, exerting power through their actions vs. their body. Just as Mira and Chadara struggled with this concept, both Ilithyia, Lucretia, and Seppia struggled with the same thing. Which is why a part of me was hoping that Ilithyia and Seppia would maybe join with the rebels, as both of them would have finally achieved the freedom they both longed for.
So when it comes to Ilithyia, I concede that she is a terrible person. She is a monster, but she is a monster molded by the hands of the society she lives in, and even though she had to die, I still love her and I still adore her and I will continue to do so.