The feminine and the sacred

Pierre Brulé and Antonia Nevill

in Women of Ancient Greece

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print July 2003 | ISBN: 9780748616435
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748651023 | DOI:
The feminine and the sacred

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In the distribution of genders (and sexes) among the Greek immortals, the feminine position is by no means subordinate. Goddesses such as Demeter, Athena and Hera are not concerned with under-secretaryships of state for the affairs of Olympus. From the time that gods were recorded in Greece (the middle of the second millennium bc) up to the period which interests us, representation of the feminine in this pantheon showed a decline. Nevertheless, it still holds a record ‘feminization rate’ among religions. Goddesses are classed as women in a status whose definition is derived from the sexual, the biological and the social at the same time. This triple conjunction of conditions defines three of the greatest – Athena, Artemis and Hestia – as parthenoi (‘virgins’). Other goddesses who inhabit Olympus have a sexual life. These include the Muses, Nymphs and the Mother of the Gods. This chapter focuses on women and religion in ancient Greece, feminine in the divine, humans seeking the divine, maenadism, the origins of Greek misogyny, Hesiod and Pandora, and women and Pandora's snare.

Keywords: Demeter; Athena; Hera; ancient Greece; Olympus; goddesses; religion; women; Pandora; misogyny

Chapter.  15445 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Classical History

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