Role of Women During the Time of Lysistrata

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The True Role of Women During the Time of Lysistrata Aristophanes’ significant contributions in the development of the theater arts and his standing in the Athenian community are well documented. His hilarious comedy, Lysistrata, reflects the disgust with war prevalent at Athens after the disastrous expedition to Sicily. It is ripe with sexual innuendo and provides much insight into the timeliness of human sexuality, desire, and the war of the sexes, yet it was intended to make a political statement regarding the folly of Athenian military aggression. Aristophanes was not suggesting that a sex strike might be an effective means of ending the Peloponnesian War, more likely that the reasons for the war itself were suspect. Lysistrata’s scheme to force the men of Greece to the peace table could never have been successful. Property concerns, gender roles, and the sexuality of Athenian men prevented Athenian women from exerting the necessary political influence. Logistically, it would have been quite difficult for Lysistrata to enlist the aid of the women of Athens in her scheme. Greek society imposed standards of decorum that restricted a woman’s freedom of movement and required her to be escorted by a slave woman or an elderly relative when in public (Gulick 54). These restrictions were designed primarily to limit a wife or daughter’s contact with men outside her family and served men’s goal of avoiding uncertainty about the paternity of children, however they did allow women friends and relatives to socialize freely in each other’s homes. Even the scene of Lysistrata waiting to meet with Kalonike, Myrrhine, and Lampito doesn’t seem particularly out of the ordinary. Still, the coordination required would necessitate that Lysistrata be of substantial means. Only the wealthiest of women could successfully deploy couriers across battle lines, initiate a relationship with a Spartian woman of significant influence, and arrange for Lampito’s visit to Athens. Since, as Charles Gulick writes, "every woman of good family was under the guardianship of a man" (56), it seems unlikely that Lysistrata could managed such a feat. Wives, in ancient Greece, were strategically selected for the purpose of producing legitimate heirs and maintaining control of property (Gulick 57). They were typically not the objects of their husband’s sexual desire. "Marriage was a matter of good family, good dowry, and good health. Given the differences in ages, education and experience, there were no real grounds for companionship.

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