Essay: Lives of Women in Archaic Athens? Unheard

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¶ … lives of women in archaic Athens?

Unheard voices from Ancient Greece

Although there is much controversy regarding conditions in Ancient Greece due to the little information that was passed on through the centuries, it is generally accepted that women were largely discriminated at this location at the time. As society influence men in adopting discriminatory attitudes in regard to women in Ancient Greece, it was very difficult for them to consider living as equal members of their community. Things such as marriage, legacy, and social life inflicted a lot of stress on women, as they had little to no power over their lives in general. There is limited information about women living in Ancient Greece because even the well-educated men that have written accounts on it considered that women were inferior and that it was thus irrelevant to write about their personalities.

One of the most important differences between men and women in Ancient Greece was that one could rarely see a woman who knew how to read or write. As a consequence, most of the information that the contemporary society has on Ancient Greece is produced by male writers. These individuals practically filtered information and provided the modern world with their perspective in regard to the condition of women. Aristotle's "Politics" perfectly describes the situation by putting across the fact that men and women are not equal: "Again, the male is by nature superior, and the female inferior; and the one rules, and the other is ruled; this principle, of necessity, extends to all mankind" (Aristotle).

Families in Ancient Greece had a complex organization and the father was the master of the household. From this position, he was responsible for taking care of the family and for controlling family members with the purpose of having them achieve success in their endeavors. Men were considered fit to rule over a family because this was presumably their general role. The relationship between men and women was considered to be similar to the relationship between older individuals and young people, as society promoted the belief that it was perfectly normal for men to assume an authoritarian position when dealing with women. These women had no rights and their husbands were practically in charge of their lives. Men could control women through denying them access in particular locations and some were actually likely to disallow their wives to leave the household (Demosthenes).

One of the reasons for which women were not allowed to exit their houses was the fact that they were believed to be predisposed to falling victim to rapists. Even with this, their own husbands sometimes raped them in the presumed safety of their houses, highlighting the fact that they were the only ones who could control their fates (Women of Ancient Greece).

One can only speculate in regard to how women in Ancient Greece felt about their position in society. Most accounts relating to women from the period are mere interpretations, considering that it is virtually impossible to relate to a document that was actually written by a woman in Ancient Greece. Everything that has been written about women in Ancient Greece needs to be considered equivalent to secondary sources, as there are no first-person accounts involving women. It is surely sad that present-day scholars are unable to look at matters from the perspective of a typical woman living at the time.

The dreams of Ancient Greek women are inaccessible to today's public, just as their opinions concerning political matters, wars, and philosophy will never surface. Conditions were probably critical for them as they saw democracy flourish without actually being able to profit as a result of the concepts that it brought along. Even with this, it is difficult to determine whether women were simply locked away and denied access to education or if they were simply not allowed to speak freely. Although it is likely for Ancient Greece to have produced a number of educated women, it was impossible for them to express themselves in an environment that persecuted them and history was thus left with accounts written by men.

Hesiod's "Thegony" was an important document in Ancient Greece because it provided people with information concerning their gods and offered complex account relating to each deity. The Prometheus myth is one of the most important sections of "Thegony" because it describes the early ages of humanity and the reasons for which men can no longer live alongside of gods. Men apparently did not have to work and they spent most of their time experiencing a general feeling of relaxation at the moment when they were in peaceful relations with the gods. However, Prometheus' action angered the gods and influenced them in sending Pandora to the humans. This character was apparently created using a series of concepts present in the god world and largely explains the origin of women and the suffering that they presumably brought to humanity. Pandora was also considered to be responsible for the existence of women. She was presented to Epimetheous, Prometheus' naive brother, with the purpose of having him contribute to bringing women on earth. Hesiod himself took on a discriminatory nature through refraining from relating to the steps that take place between marriage and birth, this most probably being "a deliberate suppression of women's sexual and reproductive roles on the part of Hesiod, who argues that only men have any work to do, while women, the source of men's hard work, remain inside the house taking in all that men can produce" (King 24). The fact that Pandora is believed to have been provided by the Gods with the thinking of a bitch provides more information concerning attitudes concerning Ancient Greek women. This character's bitch mind is probably meant to stand as a reference to how women are fertile and to how they instill feelings of lust in men and make them lose understanding of their priorities. Pandora's box is often related to as being a jar, this meaning that the Ancient Greeks compared a woman's womb with a jar that contained a great deal of problems and that was responsible for most wrongdoings that were happening around the world. One can reach the conclusion that "in opening her jar herself, Pandora is performing an act 'equivalent to breaching her virginity', while closing it can represent the beginning of pregnancy" (King 26). It is very probable that women were considered responsible for most problems that the Ancient Greek society experienced and men were thus inclined to consider themselves responsible for controlling society in order to improve conditions.

From the beginning of time people have had the tendency to discriminate on account of gender, as "the sick role is feminised, while the doctor embodies what are considered to be the masculine virtues" (King 1). Men are thus influenced to assume protective roles and they gradually come to believe that they are superior both because of their education and because of their physical power. The world of medicine today is apparently celebrating conditions in ancient Greece through the fact that men are generally associated with the role of doctors while women are associated with the role of midwives and nurses. It was actually forbidden for women to assume doctor roles at the time, as it was believed that they were not capable to perform such a difficult task (Pomeroy 259).

The fact that Ancient Greek doctors were men had a negative effect on women, as these people were not well-acquainted with the female body and with how it works. Not only was this a problem when considering women who were sick, as they also depended on their husbands (kyrios) and on whether or not they were interested in providing doctors with the finances needed to cure their wives. "In ancient Greece, explanations for the woman's illness would thus have needed to convince the kyrios, rather than the patient, and may have been most successfully phrased in a way which reinforced his views of female nature" (King 22). People at the time had a poor understanding of female sexual organs, menstruation, or various diseases to which women were predisposed.

Homer also related to women's personalities through using the character of Agamemnon with the purpose of declaring that women are very similar to bitches. It is likely that the Greek scholar wanted to provide people with the notion that women were, like dogs, predatory animals taken under man's control and struggling between being wild and being domestic. Girls that were not married were generally considered as being wild while women who were married were believed to be tamed.

When considering the character of Pandora, one can have a complex understanding of how the Ancient Greeks perceived women. In comparison to men, the woman was considered to be "a late creation, a construct, an artifice and an illusion, containing a bitch-mind and a womb-jar" (King 27). The Ancient Greek society did not simply look at the difference between men and women as being solely related to their… [END OF PREVIEW]

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