Women of Ancient Athens is a comprehensive study of the status and roles of
women in the Classical Age of the 5th and 4th century BCE when the democratic
Athens was the major city of the Western world. All the sources of information
are male. The primary sources used fictional forms of expression: Euripides and
Aristophanes the theater, Xenophon and Plato the dialogue very effectively. The
iconography of paintings on vases and sculptures in stone supports and confirms
the literary information.
Except for their maternal functions of producing and rearing children in their
homes, and the related funerary and religious functions, the Athenian women had
no other responsibilities and, as a result, no public rights and privileges.
In all things, men were expected to rule not only in the city but also in the
household. They were the guardians and the providers of their families while
their women were managing, educating, cooking and weaving in the home.
Nevertheless, in spite of their subservient roles, women had a fair measure of
personal freedom and private influence on the culture and even the politics of
ancient Athens. The ancient queen of Ithaca, Penelope, was the paragon of the
faithful and industrious wife and mother while her husband Odysseus was engaged
in the protracted Trojan War. The image of women painted by men was not
altogether so bright, as it showed a restricted contribution to the welfare of
the city and the culture of the time. It contributed to the ultimate defeat of
ancient Athens and thus can inspire our current efforts toward an equal and
distinct status and roles of men and women everywhere in the world.
This 436-page book rests on the firm ground of its ancient sources, identified in
some 1400 exact references and illustrated with two maps and ten figures from the
Harvard Museums of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of New York and the J. Paul Getty
Museum of Los Angeles. It is supported by a bibliography, a glossary and an
index. It is addressed not only to scholars and professors but also to students
and readers interested in the history of ancient Greece and of feminism. It
allows the readers to choose the parts of greater interest as introduction to the
general picture of the status and roles of women in Ancient Athens. The author
has made a valuable contribution to history thanks to his extensive knowledge of
the literature and of the Greek sites he visited many times since his first visit
A quiz, for no grade or credit, just for fun!
1. Who was first to say that men can't live with women, but cannot live without them? Answer: p. 285.
2. Who said that the credit we get for wisdom is measured by our success? Answer: p. 219.
3. What was the Greek name of the goddess "Peace"? Answer: P. 53 and 291.
4. Who commissioned an artist to make a mannequin of his deceased wife so he could lay in bed with it? Answer: p. 244.
5. For whom did goddess Athena hold night back and prevented Dawn to break the day? Answer: p. 355.
6. Who said that sad news about great men takes more than usual hold upon the heart? Answer: p. 219,
7. Who said: Rather would I have a virtuous friend of no great intellect than a knave of subtler wit? Answer: p. 220.
A little help. Apply each of the following random answers to the right question : --- Odysseus and Penelope --- A wise man quoted by Aristophanes --- Admetus, husband of Alcestis --- Theban woman --- Old nurse --- Eirene --- Women of Troezen.