The Attitudes of the Polis to Childbirth: Putting Women into the Grid<sup>†</sup>

Nancy Demand

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 Attitudes of the Polis to Childbirth: Putting Women into the Grid†

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One of the messages of the Thesmophoria was that the continuity of the polis depended upon the cycle of female life: after risking death in childbirth themselves, women must soon give up their daughters to a similar fate. Euripides' Medea and female characters in the comedies of Aristophanes complain about the lack of appreciation for their contribution of sons to the polis. In ancient Greece, there were tombstones commemorating men who died in battle. If the Greeks did equate death in childbirth with death in battle, we should be able to see similar iconographical signs on monuments for both types of deaths. This is not to deny that the Greeks saw a sort of similarity between these two types of deaths. But the funerary monuments locate this similarity in the Greek grid according to age and gender, making it iconographically clear that the women who are memorialised are passive and worthy of pity, whereas the men are active and heroic.

Keywords: Euripides; Medea; childbirth; death; women; comedies; Aristophanes; tombstones; funerary monuments; polis

Chapter.  5151 words. 

Subjects: Classical History

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