Women in Classical Athens

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In Classical Greece (ca. 480-323 B.C) young girls were usually left to the care of a nurse, spending most of their time in the women’s quarters of the house which was often located on the upper floor, this was called the gynaikon. The gynaikon was where mothers would nurse their children and spin/weave thread. The picture to the right shows the art of working wool, this was one of the key responsibilities of the Greek women, along with childbearing, retrieving water and managing the household. The task of retrieving water was also a way for women to socialize with other women outside of the house. Another task that fell to women was to visit the tombs of family members; they would bring offerings and tie sashes around the grave. Women could attend public speeches and visit certain sanctuaries, such as those of Artemis at Brauron and the Sanctuary of the Nymph at the foot of the Akropolis. However during any occasion outside the house, a young woman was expected to be inconspicuous and be covered around the head to obscure most of her face and neck.

Women of all ages also took part in specific religious festivals. The festivals that included men were: the Panathenaia, in honour of the goddess Athena, the Eleusinian Mysteries honouring Demeter and Persephone and the Anthesteria honouring Dionysus. The other festivals were solely for women, such as the Thesmophorian, the Haloa and the Skira, all emphasizing the correlation of a woman’s general capabilities with the renewal of vegetation, securing survival for the society. Religious rituals that were reserved for young girls probably had the most important impact on young unmarried women. Young girls between the ages of 5 and puberty were chosen to serve the goddess Artemis in her sanctuary at Brauron. They were labelled as ‘little bears’ and they acted out the role of untamed animals that would eventually be domesticated by marriage. Ensuing the self-perception of a young girl in Classical Greece was...
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