Women of Ancient Greece Essay
In ancient Greece, women endured many difficulties and hardships. They struggled to exist. It wasn’t just a struggle to be equal to men, but even to be seen was unheard of. Some women married, some had demeaning jobs, and others were slaves. Their role in society was essential, no matter how poorly they were treated. Females were given little voice, if any, in major decisions. Greek women had very limited freedom outside the home. Marriage was considered one of the most important decisions in a woman’s life, but she had no direct control over it.
They were denied the freedom to choose whom to marry; therefore she “did not marry; she was given in marriage” (Sealy, p. 25). A woman, such as Medea, often dreaded the day of her wedding rather than looking forward to it as one of the happiest and meaningful affairs in her life. The singles life wasn’t accepted for women. Marriage was arranged by the parents of the bride and groom. A financial contribution was made by the bride’s father. Marriage was seen as an exchange and another opportunity for men to maintain the superior position.
Marriage was seen as a “practical business arrangement, not a love match” (Demand, p. 1). Additionally, in marriage, the issue of property aroused much conflict, supporting inequality between male and female. Women married between the ages of 14-18 and were raised to obey their husbands. Weddings consisted of rituals, were not presided over by priests, and were completed in three parts; pre-wedding ceremonies, the wedding itself, and post wedding ceremonies. Wives weren’t fully accepted by their husband’s family until a child was conceived. If they had their husband’s permission, they could attend weddings, funerals, some religious festivals, and visit female neighbors for brief periods of time.
But without their husband’s permission, they could do none of these things. They could not leave the house, not even go to a temple to honor their gods. 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. Women in ancient Greece usually did not have jobs. If the woman was wealthy she would stay home and watch the slaves. If women were poor they would sew or weave and take them to the market to sell, but if the woman was poor enough she would go alone and try to sell food or spices. Others were slaves but most of them were prostitutes. The hetaeras were a step up from regular prostitutes as they were also trained in dance and conversation. While prostitution was the main occupation for women there were others as well.
Some of these occupations were dancer, poet, midwife, entertainer, and some women were able to become priestess to various gods and goddesses. The only time a woman in Ancient Greece was even slightly respected was if they were priestesses, and priestesses were highly regarded. The legal status of women in ancient Greece was practically non-existent. From the time they were born women were owned. They were owned first by their father and then by their husband. They were ruled by men. Even if she were a widow, a son or another male relative ruled her.
It was normal for Greek men to lock their wives in their homes while the husband was absent. Women were not allowed to learn to read or write. Respectable women were not allowed to walk the street alone but had to be attended by a slave. Women were not allowed to sue people, be in government, or even own houses. Women had no vote and little role in politics. Women were entirely dependent for men to perform these roles. Wives and courtesans were known to influence the course of the men’s political life. Courtesans were freer to move about in public life but their vocation was limited to entertaining men.
In religion, women were more important. Many of the religious rituals had to be performed by women and the women served as oracles. The oracles interpreted the will of the deities to men who had petitioned for solutions to critical problems (Politics and women in ancient Greece). Overall, the society of ancient Greece preserved the issues in marriage and social life, fostering the debasing roles of women. The fact that men were 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.
Work Cited Page
Arthur, Marylin. From Medusa to Cleopatra: Women in the Ancient World, in “Becoming Visible: Women in European History,” ed. Renate Bridenthal. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1987. Demand, Nancy. “Birth, Death and Motherhood in Classical Greece. ” Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 1994. Politics and women in ancient Greece. “Politics. N. p. , n. d. Web. 26 Oct. 2012. . Pomeroy, Sarah B. “Families in Classical and Hellenistic Greece. ” New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. Sealy, Raphael. “Women and Law in Classical Greece. ” North Carolina: The University of North Carolina Press, 1990.