The Athenian Woman

H. D. F. Kitto

in Sex and Difference in Ancient Greece and Rome

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print July 2003 | ISBN: 9780748613199
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748651016 | DOI:
The Athenian Woman

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This chapter focuses on the position of women in Athens. It is the accepted view that the Athenian woman lived in an almost Oriental seclusion, regarded with indifference, even contempt. The evidence is partly the direct evidence of literature, partly the inferior legal status of women. Literature shows us a wholly masculine society: domestic life plays no part. It is orthodox to compare the repression of women in Athens with the freedom and respect that they enjoyed in Homeric society – and in historical Sparta. The evidence also includes a large number of painted vases (fifth century) that portray domestic scenes, including some funerary-urns representing a dead wife as living, and taking farewell of her husband, children and slaves. There are also sculptured tombstones – quite ordinary ones – showing similar scenes. Then there is Attic tragedy. One of its notable features is its splendid succession of tragic heroines: three Clytemnestras, four Electras, Tecmessa, Antigone, Ismene, Deianeira, Iocasta, Medea, Phaedra, Andromache, Hecuba, and Helen.

Keywords: Athens; women; Oriental seclusion; legal status; domestic life; repression; freedom; respect; Sparta; Attic tragedy

Chapter.  5934 words. 

Subjects: Classical History

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