The conventionally accepted roles of both males and females in ancient Grecian society were well defined and manifested. Women were considered the weaker of the sexes and, thus, were expected to remain in the home and perform their domestic duties, while the men were to be rulers and bread-winners. The woman’s voice was not heard on any issues affecting the society as her opinions were thought unworthy of consideration. She was required merely to reproduce, to execute her domestic duties well and to submit incontestably to the authority of the men. In essence the Greeks valued their women almost as little as a common slave was valued.
These values and traits associated with femininity in ancient Grecian societies are demonstrated throughout Sophocles mythical account of a woman of Thebes named Anigone. He however recognized that these beliefs about women were not representative of how women of ancient Greece were and thus highlighted the strength and importance of the role of women in Grecian society through his epic poem, proving that despite popular ancient Grecian beliefs, women were as strong and courageous as men and were prepared to face the consequences of actions they believed to be honourable. All women were not foolish and blindly submissive. Though mythical, this traditional story provides some insight into the goings on of Grecian society as myths, as stated by Moya K. Mason, “often include some basic beliefs about life, society, and what roles men and women play in a culture.”
Generally, women in ancient Greece were deemed powerless, incompetent and possessors of insufficient intellect. According to James Thompson, B.A., M.Ed., women were thought to be the lesser important of the sexes and not much more intelligent than the average child. Many of the Greek writers of this time portrayed women as strong emotionally but mentally weak. Thus they were seen as unfit to be leaders and considered as candidates for constant protection from themselves and others were to be protected against them. A system knows as the Guardian was developed to manage this supposed negative quality in women (Thompson, par. 2).
The emotional nature of a woman was assumed to be an undesirable quality for leadership. Consequently, men had the upper hand in the affairs within the home and the community at large as their perceived impassive nature was thought to be an ideal quality of a leader. They were the ones who drafted laws and made decisions single-handedly, though these laws ultimately affected the entire population of that particular Grecian community. Even as children, females were less valued than their male counterparts and, therefore, were not allowed to attend school. Formal training was regarded as necessary for them since ultimately their contributions to society would only be domestic. Formal schooling was reserved for boys who would need to be educated and intelligent enough to make judicious decisions as future leaders.
Ironically, despite being thought of as ignorant and helpless, women were regarded as crafty and cunning, and able to contrive the evilest of deeds. It was thought that it was in the nature of a woman to be evil. A vengeful persona was considered an undesirable quality in women and was deeply unappreciated but was a glorified quality in men. Also it seemed that ancient Greek males were allowed to flirt and have several extramarital sexual affairs while, except for the goddesses, women were expected to remain chaste. A man was given right, by law to kill on the spot any man he found having sex with his wife or any other woman closely related to him (such as his mother or daughter). Under the aforementioned guardianship a man was thought to have ownership over his wife. As soon as she became his wife she was placed under his watch and control. Before her marriage, each woman living in ancient Greece was under the guardianship of her father or one of her close blood male relatives who...
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