Ancient Greece has many enticing features that we can still remember today. It is the culture of elaborate mythology, involving gods, heroes, and various myths and legends, that enriches a large portion of literature and art.
Antiquity’s Greeks believed in the presence of multiple gods. They seemed to have a deity for each season and each character. They felt that the gods were still on their side during times of war or other calamity. The Greeks have been praised by subsequent cultures for their high degree of intellect and ingenuity in philosophy, architecture, and literature. They depended on their leaders who mostly were men and came up with great solutions and ideas .This led to exploitation and abuse of women hence making them feel very inferior to men.
The role of women in ancient Greek history has been a very broad subject that remains a mystery to many people. Our knowledge of the roles and lives of women only come from a variety of archaeological sources. There is no any survivor that can attest to these stories. The Greeks of antiquity gave very few rights to women compared to their male counterparts. Our knowledge of the ancient Athens can depict if the women were of high significance in the old ages or there was just a symbolic statue.(Kennedy & Rebecca page 103) The Athenian women of ancient Greek history were believed to be intellectually weak and had strong emotions hence they were considered inferior. Their main role was primarily those of a companion to their husband and a mother to the children she bore. They considered these beings as being so inferior to them that there was no respect for the man and woman. The woman had to always exalt the man to please him, or the man would abandon him and make her his slave
Legally the women’s rights were limited in society, but there was a surprisingly cast of female characters who were very respectable. This is a sculpture of Athena she was among the most respectable women in Athens. Athena who was the goddess of wisdom and also she was considered as being incharge of Athens stood out as a powerful figure that was honored. Also in ancient cultures, there was the female fertility goddess who was considered of great significance as agriculture was essential in the ancient society. Still in other male-dominated literature women were cast as troublemakers. They would employ their charms and seductiveness to the men and make them jealous. The women were mostly credited for the demise of many heroes. This brought rift among many men trying to claim the women for them ending up in a lot of polygamy marriages or concubines to please them before or after a war.
From their birth to their lives women were always at a higher risk of neglection or total restrictions of rights in the ancient Greek society. After birth, the female babies suffered a higher risk of being abandoned by their parents than the male offspring. The women felt like a disgrace to the society. The classical Athenian girls were never educated but they stayed home with their mothers who taught them only household skills. The girls married at a very young age, and they mostly married older men. After marriage the girl was considered only for bearing children and running the household.to some extent she was never allowed to interact or go out in public with other men. There was a very wide gap between the rich and the poor in that the children of the wealthy families attended schools where they learned to read and write. The male offspring are often after the basics they were trained in athletics or literature. The girls were involved in dancing and musical accomplishments which later on would be showcased in the musical competition and religious functions. The training and basic education of the girl were considered for bringing about her role in the family and not assisting in any intellectual development of the society.
Young women in the society were expected to be virgins at the time of their marriages. The girl did not choose the man she wanted to marry rather his father would organize the ceremony and choose the husband for him and accepted the dowry from him. The ancient Greek girl never met her husband until the dowry was paid and betrothal had been agreed. Before marriage, the women’s lives were controlled by their fathers, and after marriage, their spouse controlled every bit of their lives. This illustrates that in ancient history the girls were just used as tools for pleasing the man’s desire.
The painting clearly illustrates the girl was very small when she got married to a man who seems to be much older than she was .They were married at a very tender age of thirteen of fourteen years old. Marriage in Athenians was for living together and bearing offspring’s to continue both family bloodlines. The marriage between the two was never considered as based on love but a great friendship between the two families. The husband always sought for the love of desire with another different woman. All women in the society were expected to marry there were no conditions and no role in Greek society for any single women, incise a woman had no father then all her interests were catered for by a male relative.
Married women always were expected to bore children for the husband and be responsible for the household requirements like cooking for the man washing utensils and clothes. If the husband could manage or in the wealthy families the girl would be given a slave to assist her in her households .they were never allowed to go outside to the greater public and hence spent most of their times indoors mostly weaving and wool-working. They were only allowed to visit their relatives or go out in public religious festivals .still to date different scholars’ dispute on whatever the women were allowed to attend theatre performance. Women in the ancient society were expected to be faithful to their husbands. This only happened to the women but for men, they were allowed to please their sexual desires outside their marriages. The consequences for any woman who committed adultery were severe in that she was restricted to participate in public religious functions and also the man could divorce her and take her back to her parents. The marriage could always be terminated on three bases. The most common was the refusal by the husband this forced the woman’s family to return the dowry.. The second termination was when the daughter’s father asked for his daughter back since he had found someone who was offering a much attractive dowry more than the previous one he had been offered. The third cause was if the woman had committed adultery the husband had the right to return the woman home back to her parents. The husband would acquire all the rights of the children. If a woman were left a widow, she would not be allowed to stay single, and hence she would have to marry a family relative to protect properties of the family.
There were other women who did not receive as much respect as the citizen wives who included the slaves and the poor women. Women were also included in other various roles in the society.
The image portrays how slavery of women was taken to be a lifestyle in the ancient Athens. They were always harassed and beaten up in front of people. They were taken as slaves by men who could afford them or the wealthy families they used to perform all manner of duties and also worked in shops and bakeries .the poor women were also forced to take jobs in the marketplaces where they would be abused by the men in public or inns. They were never allowed to be prostitutes since they were considered unfit for the men.
The image depicts prostitution in the ancient Athens where it was acceptably legal and was also taxed The prostitutes were much less respected than the married and citizen wife’s but were considered significant in fulfilling the men’s desires. They were either found on the streets or the brothels which were owned by the state. The prostitutes were divided in that there were the brothel prostitutes and the higher prostitutes who would be dressed very smart her prostitutes who would be dressed very smartly to entertain the guest present in the celebrated symposium which was a drinking party for male guests only.
The women who were exceptional were the priestesses who were considered very significant in the society. They used to prepare the annual religious events that occurred in Athens. In religious matters, there was a bit of equality since the worshippers were allowed of both sex and only the rituals with restrictions could exclude any of the genders these women were considered very pure, and they would remain unmarried for the rest of their lives. Some scholars appreciate the priestess efforts up to date they believe without them most events would have fallen apart or would never come to being.
Women were allowed to take part in almost every religious festivals, but some events were restricted only to women they were also allowed to appear in the public sphere during weddings and funerals. The fertility ritual was the most respected rite to women and only observed by the noble women who were considered to have honoured their marriage (conelly & Joan B page 156). During the rites, the women stayed on the hills sanctuary for three days conducting their rituals and celebrating.
The image of the senate above is a clear indication that women were never allowed to take part in affairs of Athens state. They never took part in ant political participation and were never allowed to represent themselves in law (Roselli and David K page 204). They were also never allowed their democratic right to vote. They were restricted from conducting any economic transactions worth more than a certain amount, hence this made the women work as slaves and earn money .they were never allowed to own any property once they were married all the property that belonged to them transferred ownership to their husbands. They were also never allowed to other outdoor games since the participants participated while naked.
It is crystal clear that many people had very much different views and opinion of women in the ancient history. Some regarded them with very high respect as they were considered crucial people in passing on of legitimacy. They considered these beings as only necessary to produce children and were never again figure in the society. Married women were protected by their husbands and were limited in interacting with people especially other men.
This was a painting of ordinary women who were just taken as slaves for agricultural purposes. Many scenes which discovered on Greek pottery proved women were either prostitutes or slaves. This proved the little respect men had for these women as it seems they were just objects of fulfilling their desires. A particular pot was discovered which showed the goddess of Athena driving chariot.
The sculptures were made only for the goddess and for the ordinary women were just paintings. It proves that in the ancient’s history men were more into the goddess and felt she had a greater meaning rather than their women. We will never know how the women thought about their position in the society we do not know how they might have felt about the discrimination of their gender by the men.(James , Sharon & Sheila page 179) The Athenians culture was biased with men holding all the positions of power without any woman being involved in any decision making. The society in Athena was never considered to have gender equality, but we can attest to the subsequent generations that came after that civilization was influential for both men and women.
Connelly, Joan B. Portrait of a Priestess: Women and Ritual in Ancient Greece. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007.
James, Sharon L and Sheila Dillon. A Companion to Women in the Ancient World. 2015. Print.
Kennedy, Rebecca. Immigrant Women in Athens: Gender, Ethnicity, and Citizenship in the Classical City. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis, 2014. Internet resource.
Roselli, David K. Theater of the People: Spectators and Society in Ancient Athens.: University of texas Press, 2012. Print.