Life as a woman in Athens A historic view point by Cecil Fuson. Being a woman in Ancient Athens was not what the movies and Plays led me to believe. The Athenian Democracy was a democracy of the minority.
Every man, no matter their class had equal say in the ruling of the government. But Women, Slaves and Foreigners had zero civil rights and no influence on how things were done. Because the Athenian’s were a very exclusive society, they rarely allowed outsiders share in the privileges the citizens had. As Such, Female Children were raised to serve.
To produce new citizens for the polis. It was not uncommon for a young woman’s freedom to be restricted during their reproductive years. Or even to be married off to a family member. Doing so ensured that the financial resources were kept within the family. That leaves a very dark image of life for a woman in Athens. However this was not the way it was for all women.
There were the Mistress of upper class. They were trained in the general arts. Thus allowing them to participate in debates and other acts that most women were cut off from.However life was not all peaches and cream for the mistress. They paid for their freedom. They gave up all possibility of having kids as well as of ever having a normal home life.
Some believe that the Hetaera as they were called were borderline prostitutes. There was a big difference between the poor and wealthy families. Women from poor families, while not able to take part of normal society. They could go to work the fields they could go to work in the market..
. They could be on an equal level with poor men. Women of the upper and middle class had a very different situation.The empty life of the Greek woman of the upper or middle class, deprived of interest or gratifications, was not even repaid by the knowledge that her relationship with her husband was exclusive. This was not necessarily because he had a relationship with another man, though that happened often enough; quite frequently he had relationships with other women that were socially and even, in part, legally recognized. (Cantarella 1987, 46f.
) It might not have been such a bad thing to come from the poor families. Some have tried to tell a better story of the woman’s position in Athenian Society.Some distinctive characters are Antigone, Electra and Medea. All women of great Greek tragedies. However the Greek tragedies were not intended to portray everyday life. The Tragedies were just a way of indoctrinating the true social values.
The problem we have with getting a good idea of what life was like is that most of the sources are not intellectual true. Take the passage most from Pericles' funeral speech: Perhaps I should say a word or two on the duties of women to those among you who are now widowed. I can say all I have to say in a short word of advice.Your great glory is not to be inferior to what God made you, and the greatest glory of a woman is to be least talked about by men, whether they are praising you or criticizing you. Or the dialogue where Socrates describes a conversation with Ischomachus, Where Ischomachus tells how he has his wife take care of his estate. 'How, Socrates, he said, 'could she have known anything when I took her, since she came to me when she was not yet fifteen, and had lived previously under diligent supervision in order that she might see and hear as little as possible and ask the fewest possible questions?Doesn't it seem to you that one should be content if she came knowing only how to take the wool and make clothes, and had seen how the spinning work is distributed among the female attendants Or the writings of Aristotle, While Aristotle may not have been a citizen of Athens; He went into detail about the advantages of being a man and of not being a woman.
In his writings he said that women are deceitful; evasive and untrustworthy. Semonides, also had nothing good to say. Yet, this is the worst plague Zeus has made, and he has bound us to them with a fetter that cannot be broken.Because of this some have gone to Hades fighting for a woman. I think the woman he is talking about here is Helen, who was abducted by Paris of Troy.
Hesiod was just as bad with the Greek myth about the fall of mankind... It was, of course, about a woman named Pandora, and the box she was given by the gods and told to never open.
.. As time has passed there have been new studies that show a much more detailed picture. Like It has been pointed out that Pericles' speech has been misinterpreted. It should be judged on the basis that he is speaking to widows.
The importance of females to the polis is most often talked about in the social life, For the State, Women often performed important jobs. Like when they celebrated the Goddess Athena. Or, the fertility feast for Demeter, which was a very important festival. No men were involved. Some say it was the rules of the Polis and not men that made the role of the sexes. That the restrictions that were placed on a woman’s life were not a reflection of women being devalued.
That the good of the many outweigh the good of the few. It’s kind of funny that almost all sources of written history for the life of the Athens are written by men.So they could be jaded. Only more research will change the message of the past.
On a side note. I am part of X gen. I have never seen the type of repression that was spoken about. I cannot begin to grasp what life was like for the Athenian woman. Seems like it sucked to me. I just cannot understand why the women stood for it.
Was it the social upbringing that made them toe the line? Why did the women take it? I just don’t know and I may never know or understand how a people could live that way. I’m just glad that this is in the past. And not something my child will ever have to live through.