Chapter

Women's Life in Oriental Seclusion? On the History and Use of a Topos<sup>†</sup>

S. Wagner-Hasel and Reyes Bertolín-Cebrián

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: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748613199.003.0012
Women's Life in Oriental Seclusion? On the History and Use of a Topos†

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A glance at the general handbooks of ancient history, even a glance at some recent studies of social history in antiquity, seems to confirm the impression that women have been neglected. Often, we encounter only the male actors of history: politicians, heroes, warriors, farmers and, sometimes also, the male victims – the slaves, the persecuted, the defeated. The impression, however, is misleading. The discourse about women's place is older than the silence in some works suggests. This chapter considers a topos: the assumption that women in ancient Greece, but especially in Athens, lived in Oriental seclusion. It treats the question of the separation of women from the public sphere and the amount of freedom of movement within it in this conceptual frame, which has given rise to an almost 200-year-old controversy. The debate is not only an attempt to reconstruct past conditions of life, but is also, at the same time, a discourse about the place of women in modern bourgeois society.

Keywords: Oriental seclusion; ancient Greece; women; public sphere; bourgeois society; history; Athens; freedom of movement

Chapter.  5110 words. 

Subjects: Classical History

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