Mourners on Greek Vases: Remarks on the Social History of Women

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In Christine Mitchell Havelock’s article, Mourners on Greek Vases: Remarks on the Social History of Women, Havelock describes the role of women in ancient Greece as being secondary, oppressed, restricted, disregarded and without identity. The question regarding women’s role in art within this time period is one that is new to us. Only recently has our focus been drawn toward the female gender and their role within these works.

With the use of ancient vases depicting funeral scenes as visual aids, Havelock interprets the settings and points out how the artists depicted the role of women through visual hierarchy and figure poses. Havelock continues to describe the role of women within this time period with the help of literary writings such as Medea and authors like Aristotle. Throughout ancient Greece there is an abundance of art and sculpture to study but what is lacking is the depiction of women in that art. Havelock refers to the temple of Zeus as to way to show cultural attitudes surrounding a woman role during ancient Greece. All through this temple, there are large amount of sculptures representing men. The men are usually shown in battle scenes depicting strength and honor where as women are rarely shown except when playing the victim. This representation of the sexes not only teaches us about the attitude towards the opposite sex at the time but also instilled to the young girls of Greece their role.

Havelock does not ignore depictions of strength in women as shown by her examples of the mighty Amazon women and the goddess Athena She does though point out that these characters were not ones that Greek women could connect with in any way. The Amazon women were women who attained power; they were looked at as women who exhibited manly vigor. With all of the power that these women held, their primary role in Greek art was to show men defeating them. The lesson of defeat by men was instilled through this story. Another example of a powerful woman was...
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