Xenophon and Aristophanes

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In Greek society women had little control over their lives. A husband wanted to be able to control his wife so she would run his household as he saw fit, so she did not damage his reputation, and so he knew the paternity of his children. A husband wanted the girl to be closely controlled by her father before she married for the same reasons. Aristophanes’ comedies and Xenophon’s Oeconomicus contain very different depictions of a Greek citizen woman’s life before she is married and during the time shortly after she is married. Both the comedies and Oeconomicus examine how girls were educated, how closely guarded they were in their father’s household, and their willingness to deceive their husbands. In Oeconomicus, Xenophon wrote about the ideal girl, but she was exaggerated in the direction of perfection. In the comedies, however, some the female characters were almost the exact opposite of the girl in Oeconomicus. Even though ideas about how girls were raised and how they behaved after they were married are very different in Oeconomicus and in Aristophanes’ comedies, both sets of ideas get at a husband’s desire for his wife to have been closely controlled by her father, and then by him. Aristophanes and Xenophon illustrate this desire by presenting the ideal characteristics of a wife and the characteristics men fear. They also use exaggeration to make the distinction between the good wife and the undesirable wife even clearer. Because husbands wanted their wives to be controlled first by their fathers, and then by them, women spent their entire lives under the control of men.

There was also a large difference between how closely guarded by her father Ischomachos’s wife was, compared to the girls in the comedies. Girls were not only guarded to keep them from learning too much, but they were also guarded to keep them away from men so they would not have sex with or be raped by them. Because if a girl was, and after marriage her husband found out, he would be

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