His 126 The West and the WorldMr. Hall
The Women of Ancient Greece
Cheris Kramarae once said, “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people”. In today’s society marriage is a romanticized idea of living a life with the person you love, while in ancient Greece this was the last thing women were thinking about. In ancient vc cGreece women endured extremely difficult situation in many aspects of their lives. From marriage, to inheritance, to social life, lives of women were extremely difficult and these three elements combined created a civilization of submissive women.
Although in both today’s society and Ancient Greece a woman’s wedding day was a very important day in her life. Unlike today the women had absolutely no control over who she would marry. Marriages were arraigned by the bride and groom to be. Financial arraignments were made by both family parties in the form of a dowry. Young girls who could not be considered a woman in today’s society married very young, between the ages of 14 -18, while men married in there 20’s and sometimes even 30’s. For a women to be completely accepted into the grooms family, a child must have been conceived from the couples union. If a woman could not conceive a child, which we know in today’s society that any woman cannot, divorce was legally required. Marriage was seen as a business transaction between men ( the men of the families).
Very often the issue of property arose. A woman’s property always remained separate from her husband’s” if she had any at all. The husband took total control of the property and if something should happen to the husband control was passed to their children. Once again the male had total power and authority over the wife even if the property was hers. A woman could not engage in transactions involving property valued at over one bushel. This limit prevented women from gaining any influence or authority in “political and economic operations.
Additionally, young girls were restricted from getting married if they “had no dowry” (Lacey, p. 108). Dowry, a form of property or inheritance, was more or less seen as a necessity in order to be considered for marriage. As you can see, the circumstances of gaining inheritance were restricted and limited for women, and the laws were generally more favorable towards men. The inequality that existed between men and women within the society of ancient Greece exemplifies a period of great prejudice and discrimination against females. Along with the problematic issues of property, women came across many boundaries and obstacles relative to social life, maintaining the inferiority among females.
The social life of women in ancient Greece often mirrored the submissive female image. Women were restricted from participating in outside events in which men were involved. Since “working out of doors,” was perceived as a place for women to become “potential prey of rapists and seducers” (Pomeroy, p. 21), women were confined indoors. The house was considered a secure place; however, inside the home, women were often raped by their own husbands. A social life for a female was only achieved in boundaries “within her husband’s house and the domain of his power” (Lacey, p. 153). This indicated that a woman was permitted to socialize outside her home if her husband granted her permission and if her husband held a high position or authority in society. While men were outside the house, trading, hunting and working the fields, “women remained in their houses” (Lacey, p. 168). The majority of activities girls were involved in were “basically domestic” (Demand, p. 10).
Females were occupied with nurturing their children and carrying out household duties. Restricted and secluded within the household, women were compared to “mere adolescents” (Pomeroy, p. 21). Living and working in the home, various responsibilities were imposed on women: “the functions of wife and mother that women had always performed were now construed as a necessity and a duty” (Arthur, p. 85). The two primary functions for women of the 4th century, were child-bearer and housewife.
Bearing children, one of the main roles of women, was especially demanding and stressful. It was distressing because women were not given a choice about carrying on their family’s name. If a mother did not give birth to a male child, her daughter would be compelled to carry on the responsibility of producing a make heir: “When there is no son, a daughter can prevent the extinction of the oikos by producing a son” herself (Pomeroy, p. 25). Giving birth to a girl was seen as an embarrassment and disgrace. After giving birth to a daughter, a mother would “turn her head away” from her husband “in shame” (Demand, p. 6). A father would not even consider his own daughters as his children: “men often do not count daughters when asked how many children they have” (Demand, p. 6). Females were neglected and looked down upon starting the day they were born. The strain and pressure of carrying on the name of the oikos, a household, lead to the following several appalling situations.
Early marriages led to shocking and disturbing age gaps. It was seen as the norm for fourteen-year-old girls to marry men of the age of thirty. Because “the average age of death for men” was forty-five, many “fertile women without a husband” were left behind. As a result, many “children would be orphaned early in life” (Pomeroy, p. 27). Furthermore, early marriage and “childbearing” (Demand, p. 102) led to countless “death(s) of a young mother in childbirth” (Pomeroy, p. 27). To give an idea of the great number of deaths that occurred due to early childbearing, “the death rate of women during childbirth” can be “compared to the death rate of men during war” (Carlson). Before newborn babies could reach the age of one, “nearly fifty percent of all infants died” (Carlson). Additionally, all children the women gave birth to would “belong” to the husband’s family more so than to the wife’s side of the family (Thompson). Here, the children can be seen as an issue of property. Other than playing the role of the child bearer, females served as housewives.
In ancient Greece, wives were expected to stay in the house and fulfill domestic duties, such as cooking, cleaning, weaving, sewing and looking after the children. The society of ancient Greece enforced that a “woman’s job…was to supervise the household” (Arthur, p. 88). Moreover, in the household, the relationship between the wife and husband was “not equal in terms of power” (Pomeroy, p. 22). Females had a lower social status than males. In ancient Greece, women were mistreated, degraded and controlled.
Overall, the society of ancient Greece, especially in the period from 800 to 500 B.C. preserved the issues in marriage, inheritance and social life, fostering the debasing roles of women. The fact that men were denegation superior figures in this society, contributed entirely to the degrading of females. The issues and restrictions ancient Greek women tolerated, maintained the weak and subordinate view of females.