Women in Athens, City-state of Ancient Greece and Cradle of Democracy

During the Mycenean period Athens was centered on a heavily fortified citadel on the site of the present Acropolis. A settlement spread out below it. During the Dark Age Athens continued to expand until it became the main city of Attica. In 480 BCE Athens was destroyed by the Persians, but it was quickly rebuilt to a remarkable state of grandure. At its height during the classical period the city had a population of about 400,000. In spite of its military loses it continued as educational capitol of the world until about 500 AD by which time the Christian Roman Emperors had destroyed all traces of pagan culture and the Western world sank into the Dark Ages. From about 500 BCE to about 125 AD Athens dominated the world of art and its output was much in demand and much copied. When the Renaissance flowered in Western Europe the light of Athens shined once again as the works of the ancient Greeks in Athens were highly sought after. Florence modeled itself on ancient Athens.  Life in Athens was family oriented. Each family had their own house or compound. Then men got up in the morning and went out to work in fields and factories. They returned home at noon and enjoyed a mid-day meal. They went out again in the afternoon for work. Young men went to school while women did weaving or house work. All returned at the end of the day to socialize and eat the evening meal. After the meal would be story telling, music and dancing. Then they retired for the night.  All the great dramatists of ancient Greece wrote for the theater in Athens.

The ancient dramatists wrote mostly about the time before the Trojan War. But they included facts which they must have gathered from around them. In the Suppliants by Euripides there are references to politics which would be hard to attribute to Theseus at the time of Theseus. The assumption is that they reflect the state of politics of Athens at the time of Euripides.

“THEBAN HERALD

Who is the despot of this land? To whom must I announce the message of Creon, who rules o’er the land of Cadmus, since Eteocles was slain by the hand of his brother Polyneices, at the sevenfold gates of Thebes?

THESEUS

Sir stranger, thou hast made a false beginning to thy speech, in seeking here a despot. For this city is not ruled by one man, but is free. The people rule in succession year by year, allowing no preference to wealth, but the poor man shares equally with the rich.

THEBAN HERALD

Thou givest me here an advantage, as it might be in a game of draughts; for the city, whence I come, is ruled by one man only, not by the mob; none there puffs up the citizens with specious words, and for his own advantage twists them this way or that,-one moment dear to them and lavish of his favours, the next a bane to all; and yet by fresh calumnies of others he hides his former failures and escapes punishment. Besides, how shall the people, if it cannot form true judgments, be able rightly to direct the state? Nay, ’tis time, not haste, that affords a better understanding. A poor hind, granted be he not all unschooled, would still be unable from his toil to give his mind to politics. Verily the better sort count it no healthy sign when the worthless man obtains a reputation by beguiling with words the populace, though aforetime he was naught.

THESEUS

This herald is a clever fellow, a dabbler in the art of talk. But since thou hast thus entered the lists with me, listen awhile, for ’twas thou didst challenge a discussion. Naught is more hostile to a city than a despot; where he is, there are first no laws common to all, but one man is tyrant, in whose keeping and in his alone the law resides, and in that case equality is at an end. But when the laws are written down, rich and poor alike have equal justice, and it is open to the weaker to use the same language to the prosperous when he is reviled by him, and the weaker prevails over the stronger if he have justice on his side. Freedom’s mark is also seen in this: “Who hath wholesome counsel to declare unto the state?” And he who chooses to do so gains renown, while he, who hath no wish, remains silent. What greater equality can there be in a city? Again, where the people are absolute rulers of the land, they rejoice in having reserve of youthful citizens, while a king counts this a hostile element, and strives to slay the leading men, all such as he deems discreet, for he feareth for his power. How then can a city remain stable, where one cuts short all enterprise and mows down the young like meadow-flowers in spring-time? What boots it to acquire wealth and livelihood for children, merely to add to the tyrant’s substance by one’s toil? Why train up virgin daughters virtuously in our homes to gratify a tyrant’s whim, whenso he will, and cause tears to those who rear them? May my life end if ever my children are to be wedded by violence! This bolt I launch in answer to thy words. Now say, why art thou come? what needest thou of this land? Had not thy city sent thee, to thy cost hadst thou come with thy outrageous utterances; for it is the herald’s duty to tell the message he is bidden and hie him back in haste. Henceforth let Creon send to my city some other messenger less talkative than thee.”

The Suppliants by Euripides Translated by E. P. Coleridge

This interchange involves a criticism and justification of democracy in Athens. But the action of the play is many centuries before the time of Classical Greece. The Persians by Aeschylus is the only one of the ancient Dramas that is historic, written within a few years of the time depicted in the play. This drama deals with the attact of Xerxes on Athens in 480 BCE. In it is a dialogue which deals with the strenght Athens and its pride in its democracy:

“Atossa

… Meanwhile, my friends, I would like to learn [230] where Athens is located.

Chorus

Far from here, to the west where the last rays of our Lord the Sun set.

Atossa

Can it then really be that my son had the keen desire to make this city his prey?

Chorus

Yes, for then all Hellas would be subject to the King.

Atossa

[235] Does their army have such a multitude of men?

Chorus

Yes, it is an army of such magnitude that it has caused great disaster for the Medes.

Atossa

And what else have they besides? Do they have sufficient wealth in their homes?

Chorus

Of silver they possess a veritable fountain, a treasure chest in their soil.

Atossa

Is the bow-stretching arrow particularly suited to their hands? [240]

Chorus

Far from it; they have lances for close fight and shields that serve them for armor.

Atossa

And who is set over them as shepherd and is master of their host?

Chorus

Of no man are they called the slaves or vassals.

Atossa

How then can they withstand the attack of an invading foe?

Chorus

So well as to have destroyed Darius’ great and courageous host.”

In the Eumenides by Aeschylus line 695 Athena states: “Neither anarchy nor tyranny—this I counsel my citizens to support and respect, and not to drive fear wholly out of the city. For who among mortals, if he fears nothing, is righteous? Stand in just awe of such majesty, [700] and you will have a defense for your land and salvation of your city, such as no man has, either among the Scythians or in Pelops’ realm. I establish this tribunal, untouched by greed, worthy of reverence, quick to anger, awake on behalf of those who sleep, a guardian of the land. [705]” This has to be one of the foundations of our freedom today ans a strong debt we owe to Athens.

In Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles line 914 Theseus states:

“You have come to a city that practices justice and sanctions nothing without law…”

In Ion by Euripides line 588 Ion states: “It is said that the famous Athenians are natives of the land, [590] not a foreign race,…

And at line 673 Ion states: “For one who bursts as a stranger into a city unmixed in race, even if he is called a citizen, [675] must keep a slavish mouth closed, and does not feel free to speak.

Some pictures of Athens follow:

Videos:

  • Great Cities of the Ancient World: Athens Ancient Greece, VHS
  • Athens: Triumph and Tragedy, VHS
  • Mystical Monuments of Ancient Greece, VHS

To ask a question about this topic note the topic (Athens)
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Questions and Answers

Question: How did athenian girls grow up?

Answer: They grew up within the confines of their home. Unlike the boys they were tutored at home. Not only were they tutored in women’s work by their mother, and other women of the household, but also they must have received much from their fathers or brothers, because there are so many that turned out to be
quite learned. When they were married it was expected that they would be further educated in their husband’s home by him. They were also able to experience firsthand the many religious festivals that women participated in.

Question: what it was like to be an Anthenien woman or girl?

Answer: A priestess had the best time because she participated in interesting festivals, wore fine clothes, and could move about the city. A wife stayed at home having babies and taking care of children, but she had slaves to do most of her work. Hetaerae could move about the city but they had to work hard and entertain the men. Sometimes they were forced to be involved in sex. Foreign
women had to work hard to earn their livelyhood, but they did not have to stay at home. Slaves had to do menial work. Some slaves were prostitutes.

Question: have a 2 to 3 page essay to do on ancient athens drama and i can’t find any information on it. can u send me somethin?

Answer: All the great dramas from Ancient Greece are Athenian Dramas.

Question: what was the everyday life of an Athenian girl preparing for marriage.I need information

Answer: There were two situations: betrothed and not. A betrothed girl would prepare for her wedding and pray she would become pregnant and bear healthy babies, particularly boys. Otherwise she might have to return to her parents. A girl who was not betrothed would be working on becoming betrothed. She would be
participating in festivals, and other events where she would be seen by the elligible men. She might be attending dance and music schools so she would be more graceful. And she would be attending to house-hold duties so she could be seen as a good home-maker. Girls were normally married in the age range 12 – 15 years.

Question: what was life like for athenian women?

Answer: Life was very exciting but full of work. Women had lots to do including cooking, weaving, and cleaning, but there were also festivals and celebrations. Art and music were everywhere.

Question: what is the difference between athenien and spartan life

Answer: Anthens was very democratic and Sparta was very martial.

Question: How were the the Women of Ancient Athens treated?

Answer: Most wives got what they wanted. The hetaerae were paid for doing what the wives would not do. Women slaves were forced to clean up after these.

Question: could i please have a picture of what women in ancient athens would have looked like?

Answer: Here is a stature of women from the Agora in Athens: <a
href=”http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/image?lookup=1990.15.0380″>Click
here. Artists in ancient Greece did not like to portray contempories, but rather preferred mythological subjects.

Question: how did athenian women illustrated in greek literature

Answer: See: Click
here
. Also see: Click
here
.

Question: how did Athens get its name

Answer: Athens means city of Athena. Apollodorus, Library and Epitome,
3.14.1: “XIV. Cecrops, a son of the soil, with a body compounded of man and serpent, was the first king of Attica, and the country which was formerly called Acte he named Cecropia after himself. In his time, they say, the gods resolved to take possession of [p. 79] cities in which each of them should receive his own peculiar worship. So Poseidon was the first that came to Attica, and with a blow of his trident on the middle of the acropolis, he produced a sea which they now call Erechtheis. After him came Athena, and, having called on Cecrops to witness her act of taking possession, she planted
an olive tree, which is still shown in the Pandrosium. But when the two strove for possession of the country, Zeus parted [p. 81] them and appointed arbiters, not, as some have affirmed, Cecrops and Cranaus, nor yet Erysichthon, but the twelve gods. And in accordance with their verdict the country was adjudged to
Athena, because Cecrops bore witness that she had been the first to plant the olive. Athena, therefore, called the city Athens after herself, and Poseidon in hot anger flooded the Thriasian plain and laid Attica under the sea.”

Question: Do you have any pictures of naked lesbian women?

Answer: Click on the menu directory below and click on love and sex.

Question: what was the climate and geography like in ancient greece?

Answer: It was a mild Mediterranean climate similar to what it has today.  There were more forests then, but not actually that many more. Wood was scarce even in classical times.

Question: Did women work out on the fields

Answer: No. For the most part they did not. It is possible that women slaves and poor women did this, but they were not supposed to. But there were some field tasks that the women had to do. Sees had to be sowed by women, for example.

Question: before the building of the acropolis how were the gods especially Athena and Zeus worshipped?

Answer: The Acropolis was a never-conquered, ancient Mycenaean citadel. At one point the entire city of Athens was located on the Acropolis. And it was the Mycenaean worhip which the classical Greeks practiced. The Acropolis was rebuilt after it was destroyed during the Persian wars but the method of worship did not change at that time.

Question: In the trojan war greek agreed to help in the war against troy?who was the greek ruler of Athens at that time?

Answer: Just before the Trojan war Theseus was ruler of Troy. He actually kidnapped Helen of Troy before she was ready to be married. Her brothers Castor and Pollux, recovered her, but this act did not endear Theseus to Meneleus or Helen’s father, Tyndareus. As a result Athens was left out of the Trojan war.  When Theseus had Helen he put her in the care of his mother Aethra. When Helen
was recaptured Aethra stayed with her and even was with her in Troy some thirty years later. But when Troy fell Aethra was recovered by Demophon and Acamas, the sons of Theseus. You might expect one of these sons to be the ruler of Athens.

But Homer does not agree. In the Iliad he says: “And they that
held the strong city of Athens, the people of great Erechtheus, who was born of the soil itself, but Jove’s daughter, Minerva, fostered him, and established him at Athens in her own rich sanctuary. There, year by year, the Athenian youths worship him with sacrifices of bulls and rams. These were commanded by Menestheus, son of Peteos. No man living could equal him in the marshalling of
chariots and foot soldiers. Nestor could alone rival him, for he was older.  With him there came fifty ships.”

Menetheus is also mentioned as following Theseus.

Question: In the mycenean period was there a palace for the ruler of Athens?If so what was it like?

Answer: During the Mycenaean period the Acropolis was occupied by the palace and the entire city of Athens. As the town expanded it spread out below the Acropolis and the acropolis was turned into an area of worship. This involved destruction of the palace and other Mycenaean structures and the building of temples. There are Mycenaean remains on the Acropolis but they are not that
significant. The remains at Pylos might be a better representative of what the palace at Athens was like.

Question: what was the ideal athens

Answer: Ideal Athens is the Athens of stories, perhaps the Athens of a Midsummer Night’s Dream of Shakespeare and many other authors. But Athens was a real city with real people who were born, lived and died. Many noble things happened in Athens, The Parthenon, Plato, and the great dramatists, but there were awful things as well.

Question: What architectual building was built to the goddess Athena and why?

Answer: The Persians attacked Greece and destroyed Athens in 480 BCE. But against overwhelming odds the Greek navy was able to defeat the Persians at the battle of Salamis in 479 BCE. At the battle of Platea the Persian general was killed and at the battle of Mycale the Persian army and navy was destroyed. The Greeks were grateful for the leadership of Athena in these battles against overwhelming odds. As a result at Athens a great temple to Athena was constructed, the Parthenon, and it was finished in 407 BCE.

Question: Where can I find a picture of Draco? I need it for a school report

Answer: I find no pictures of Draco, the Athenian lawgiver.

Question: Why are Athens and Democracy similar?

Answer: Athens had a democratic form of government.

Question: how is ancient athens goverment alike united states goverment

Answer: Both are representative.

Question: Could I get a picture of Democracy in ancient Athens(508 bce)

Answer: <a
href=”http://www.democracynature.org/dn/vol1/fotopoulos_athens.htm”>Direct and
Economic Democracy in Ancient Athens and its Significance Today

Question: When was Athens founded and who by?

Answer:”Athens has a long history. The slopes of the Acropolis were
settled in Neolithic times. A thriving city existed during the Mycenaean Age (about 1600 – 1000 B. C. E.). During the Dark Age (about 1000-800 B. C. E.) which followed the Mycenaean Age, the city of Athens with its stronghold on the Acropolis never fell to invaders like other cities around Greece. Pottery and trade redeveloped as Greece emerged from the Dark Age.Recorded history in Greece begins with the founding of the Olympic Games in 776 B. C. E.” <ahref=”http://tec.uno.edu/noctiite/greece/Athens.html”>Reference

Question: WHAT WAS THE LIFE, SOCIETY, POLITICS, AND CULTURE FOR AN ATHENIAN WOMAN?

Answer: This information is poorly documented because the women wrote down so little.

Life: A girl was raised and educated by her mother until she was married at about 13. She learned domestics, baking and weaving. Some girls were able to attend music schools and a few even studied with their brothers especially when the father did the educating. A married women went to live with her husband.  Families grouped together so close neighbors would have been wives of husband’s
brothers. Women stayed at home with daughters and women slaves to do domestic work, baking, and weaving. Women left the home for religious activities about once a week. Some women helped with the work of the husband especially if the work was in the home. This would be true with inns, eating places, dry goods shops, and even doctors.

Society: The social status of a woman was determined by the family of her husband and his position in that family. In a noble family the women would have many slaves to manage. Also unmarried relatives. One exception to this was the priestess. The priestess had high status and relative freedom. Most social activity for women centered on religious festivities with activities and processions organized on status lines.

Politics: Women were excluded from politics of the state but they were much involved with politics of the family. Most legal issues relating to women were settled by the family with the state regarding the women as property of the men.

Culture: Much of the art was religious oriented and the women participated heavily in the activities of religion. Athena, in particular, was an important goddess in Athens and she required women attendents. But the men had their dramas, symposiums, and athletics, from which the women were excluded. The question is whether they, in fact, participated in corresponding events from
which the men were excluded. There is good reason to believe that the women met in the courtyards during the day, for example. They also met at the well. But were there bards, music, and dancing, there is no record. The most likely events were holiday festivities of which there is record.

Question: What were goverment officials called?

Answer: Originally there was only a king (basileus), who ruled with a
council of elders, a boule, called the Areopagus. Later the basileus managed religious functions and the real authority was the archon. Still later there were nine archons. These archons had other titles such as polemarch for military matters, basileus for religious matters, and six thesmothetai interpreted the law. Later the Boule was created to manage the affairs of Athens. A jury of the people was called the Heliaia. The Ekklesia was a council formed of all male citizens of Attica. When Athens lost its democracy it was ruled by Thirty Tyrants. reference

Question:

Answer: Around 620 BC Draco, the lawgiver, wrote the first known written law of Ancient Greece. Later laws were written by another lawgiver named Solon. The laws were enforced by having the victim bring the aggressor to court who levied a fine. There were also family laws enforced by the head of the family. Women were exempt from most laws because they were under the supervision of a guardian, their father or husband. The only time they came to court was to evoke the pity of the jury. Later laws were decided by an elected assembly.

Question: How did city states come to be??

Answer: Probably the success of manufacturing and trade produced a strong middle class that valued their independence.

Question: What is the legacy of Sparta? Athens?

Answer: The United States of America is a considerable legacy of Sparta and Athens.

Question: Would the same structure succeed today? why/why not?

Answer: What do you mean by success? Do you think 2500 years hense anyone wil care about the events of 2002 the way we care about the Trojan war or Classical Greece? What would it take to bring about such a dramatic impact as the golden age of Greece had? Is modern Albania a success? What about Uraguay? Andorra? Afghanistan? I suppose such speculation is useful, but it is really
silly.

Question: There was one female navy officer, I think with the Athenians, I think at the Battle of Salamis. What was her name?

Answer: The female officer was Artemisia I who was princess of Caria and ruled over Halicarnassus, Cos, Nisyrus, and Calyndria. She fought on the side of the Persians and showed great bravery at the battle of Salamis.

Question: who made the cloths in ancient athens?

Answer: Wives and their women slaves.

Question: How did the Athenian democracy start and turn out?

Answer: “Democracy did not, of course, come as a gift sent from above. It was, among other things, a gradual result of trade relations which had put an end to both the isolation of the Greek communities and their static conditions. Through international commerce erstwhile paupers had turned into prosperous tradesmen who began to demand their share in the government. If the state expected this intermediate class to offer their newly won wealth for its defence, it would have to give them something in return.

On the threshold to the fifth century B.C., following internal troubles and a long power struggle, Athens extended the franchise to all free men, who were capable of bearing arms, even the poorest. The foot-soldiers were included as well as the rowers who manned the warships, but not, however, to women, inasmuch as the right to vote was a sort of reward for taking part in the national defence. <a
href=”http://www.cityuniv.se/kurs/europeanHouse/fls/401-7e/part1.htm”>Reference

“The rich never understood the complaints of the poor. The poor could not afford to adopt the prudence of the rich. Athens remained, despite its advanced democracy, an implacable class society. Hence the locked positions. In the long run the two parties could not communicate with each other, although both had good reasons for their standpoints. Whenever the will to understand the sincere grounds for the viewpoint of the opposition is lacking, as eventually
happened in Athens, then the principal idea of democracy, discussion, the peaceful resolution of conflicts, is in grave danger.”

Questions: economic activities

Answers:

Agriculture

  1. Olives and oil
  2. Grapes and wine
  3. Goats, Sheep, and Wool
  4. Fishing

Manufacture

  1. Ceramics
  2. Ship Building
  3. Cloth and Clothing
  4. Iron and Bronze work
  5. Coins and jewelry

Trade and Transportation

  1. Naval trade
  2. Mining
  3. Militarism

Question: culture

Answer:

  • Schools and advanced learning
  • Poetry and literature
  • Symposia
  • Drama and Comedies
  • Painting
  • Ceramics
  • Architecture
  • Sculpture
  • Festivals

Question: how did architecture of the Athenian agora develop in relation in the change from tyranny to democracy?

Answer: The tyrants were great patrons of the arts and architecture who built temples and sanctuaries.

Question: how many religious festivals were there in a year in Athens?

Answer: See: Erika Simon, Festivals of Attica, Wisconsin Studies in
Classics, April 2002, 176 pp., 62 b/w photos, 19 illus. ISBN 0-299-09184-8 I can list these: Anthesteria, Aphrodisia, Brauronia, Dionysia, Eleusinian Mysteries, Olympieia, Panathenaia, Theogamia, Thesmophoria.

Question: who had a higher position Athenian women or Spartan women and why?

Answer: Some say Spartan women were superior because they could own property and did not need to work. But Athenian women seemed to benefit from their exposure to knowledge and many more Athenian women are famous. Also Spartan women were ultimately blamed for the fall of Sparta.

Question: why did menic art use the serpent for divination?

Answer: I have no information on this.

Question: Did Athens have a true democracy?

Answer: No it did not. Only a minority of the men of the community qualified to be a citizen. To be a citizen and vote your father had to be a citizen and your mother had to be the daughter of a citizen. Athens was an international city with people living there who were born in many different countries. These people were merchants or craftsmen who payed taxes but had no voice in the government. There were also slaves who had no voice. Wives and other women
related to citizens had no voice either. In a a true democracy every rational citizen would have a vote.

Question: Why were Athenian women viewed by their society as only being able to bear and raise children?

Answer: Bearing and raising children was a pretty tough job. Birth was tough with a high mortality rate. But the main problem was genetic purity. A man wanted to make sure his wife bore his children. For this reason she was isolated in her home. Of course some men worked at home as well. These men did not excuse their wife from work but included them in their professions. So it is
not true that they were only able to bear and raise children. Rather their main responsibility was this task.

Question: What were the duties of children in Athens?

Answer: Athenians doted on their children until they were about six and old enough to send to school, then they were considered adults. They did not have any duties.

My question is more to do with Athenian law than politics…. Regarding how Solon’s laws regulated the lives of women in classical Athens? I am finding it difficult to come to much of a conclusion when there are so many opposing views. Was this truly done for the sake of the economy, guardianship and dowries to preserve the importance of the family farm, or was Athens just a boys’ club?
Any views would be much appreciated.

Answer: Laws were intended for events outside the home. Events inside the home were to be dealt with by the family. Since women remained inside the home their affairs were dealt with almost entirely by the family. When women left the home they left invariably for religious purposes. Their behavior would then
be subject to the religious aspect they pursued. The net result of this was that women’s behavior was driven more by custom than law. It is not correct that men controlled the women. More correct is the notion that each performed their own tasks. Apparently this separation of the sexes allowed many male concerns to be subverted and women in ancient Greece lived in freedom compared
to other ancient women. Women in many ancient and primitive societies were totally trapped by custom and taboo.

There are stories that suggest that women were literally the slaves of men. This seems extreme when you consider the concept of the graces or charities. It seems unlikely that women would be able to perform the role of spreaders of joy and enhancers of the joy of life, if they were in fact slaves. It is more likely that they controlled social situations and arranged them.

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