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Athenian Women

Satisfactory Essays
ATHENIAN WOMEN
It is ridiculous to assume that the Athenian women of Ancient Greece were respected and revered by men. These women were not held in high regard. Men controlled all aspects of their lives, beginning with their fathers and continuing with their husbands once they married. Most girls were married in their very early teens to men that were usually much older (Xenophon’s Oeconomicus), sometimes as much as twice the age of their wives. The age difference was considered a moot point since women at that time often did not survive the rigors of repeated childbirth and died young. It was also generally believed that marrying a very young girl enabled the husbands to train her and mold her into a proper Athenian wife.
Athenian women had almost no influence or power in Greek society and were not highly regarded until they could produce a male child (Socrates). The common belief at that time (in most Western societies) was that women were necessary to produce children. Women existed for the sake of procreation, to bear sons in order to continue the family name (Aristotle states that the man supplies the substance, the soul, i.e. the form for children, the woman provides only the nourishment), (Source: Generation of Animals). In Athenian society, extramarital affairs by husbands with women (and men) was the norm, and it indeed contributed to the image of a man’s prosperity if he had a mistress. Did the males in this society consider their wives praiseworthy? In my opinion the answer is no, since a wife who was the husband’s property and could be disciplined if she did not conform to the Athenian standards of wife. Athenian wives were judged in society by their frugality, ability to raise sons, and their devotion and faithfulness to their husbands, (e.g., Penelope and Odysseus). A married woman caught in adultery would have been forced to abandon her home and children for the disgrace it would bring the family name, (Hunt, pg. 70). Men in ancient Athens (as in just about every Western civilization) had altered views of women. They saw women as being weak and dependent (Xenophon Oeconomicus), and because of the socioeconomic structure of the time, they were.
Women in this society could, to some degree, assert power and influence in the home. The everyday life of the “ideal” Greek woman included child bearing and rearing, cleaning, both weaving cloth and making clothes, cooking and supervising slaves and other domestic tasks, (Xenophon, On Household Management).
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