In what respects did the lifestyle of women in Athens differ from that of women elsewhere in Greece?
Athenian women have been traditionally seen as cloistered and secluded from the social, political and economic life of the polis. This essay explores the roles of women in Athens and their contributions to the polis. To assist with exploring the role of Athenian women, the lives of Spartan women and their rights and roles have been used in contrast. Finally there is a brief discussion of women famous or infamous enough to be acknowledged by ancient sources and their contributions to ancient society.
The Athenian woman was traditionally assigned the role of manager of the home and progeny. Whether Athenian women were secluded within their homes seems debatable. Other women in the Greek world appear to of had similar roles but with a greater degree of freedom and privilege then the average Athenian women. Spartan women participated in not only domestic roles but within the political and economic circles of the polis. Sappho in contrast to Athenian women was well educated and well travelled and Artemisia who commanded her own navy and ran her own country certainly had more freedom then the average Athenian woman.
The Athenian woman of the classical and archaic period have, traditionally been seen as the cloistered women of Greece, especially is contrast to the women of Sparta. However the ideology of what a woman was and the actual social practices of average citizens may of, varied greatly.
The use of Drama and poems as evidence of the ancient period is useful but problematic. Often plays are produced with a particular audience in mind, and reflect the author’s ability to manipulate the emotions of an audience for profit. While a play may reflect some practices of everyday Athenians, it is also more likely to exploit the fears and joys of a community for the purpose of entertainment.
Although Athenian women appear to of been virtually excluded from...