The Status Of Women In Ancient Athens

The Status Of Women In Ancient Athens

O’ Neal, William J. (Department of Classics and History, University of Toldeo)

International Social Science Review, Vol.68 (1993)


The roles of Athenian women in the fifth century B.C. were primarily those of wife and mother. The Athenians, in their patriarchal society, selected models for women based on the divine and heroic orders. The divine order subjected the female duties to their male counterparts. The heroic order depicted Penelope as the absolute role model for Greek-Athenian women. Other women of literature, like Clytemnestra and Medea, demonstrated the vices of women and what the Greek female should not be. In addition to the role models, good and bad, the Athenians even devised a certain training or regiment for the “perfect wife” of Hellas.

The Greeks of antiquity remain an enigma, despite the efforts of scholars who have tried to investigate every facet of their civilisation. Some scholars have condemned the inhabitants of Hellas because of their inability to unite while others, particularly the 19th century philhellenists, have glorified the Greeks and all things Greek because of their intelligence and because of their creativity in literature, philosophy, history and the architecture. But, in reality, the ancient Greeks also had special problems.

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