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Women In Athenian Culture

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Greece was the pinnacle of culture in the Ancient world. Its mythology is studied still today, continuously inspiring movies, novels, product branding, and music. Its architecture is still revered and its artwork beloved. But of all its great cities – Sparta, Knossos, Corinth – Athens was its crowning jewel. With such great minds as Socrates, Plato, Euripides, and Aristophanes, “[n]ever in history have so many great people been alive at the same time, let alone living in the same town” (Connolly and Dodge 1998, 9). Named after its patron goddess, Athena, Athens held her of the highest honor. One might expect the citizens of such a city, especially considering how civilized they were considered to be, to treat women with the utmost respect. Unfortunately this was not the case.
While a rich and cultured city, Athens of course had
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Fox-Genovese said it best:
“It is now at least acknowledged that while men were performing the feats, building the institutions, producing the goods and cultures, ruling the peoples, and generally busying themselves with those activities we are wont to call history, women were invariably doing something – if only bearing more men to make more history and more women to permit them to do so” (Fox-Genovese 1989, 6).
A woman in Classical Athens was more or less property that was passed back and forth from man to man for any reason. That reason, however, was more than likely to have to do with whether or not she had borne children.
So the question remains: how could such a misogynistic city as Athens worship, so fervently as to name itself after her, a goddess? Athena was the goddess of goodness, arts, and household affairs (Ann and Imel 1993), which are of course essential to what the average Athenian woman was expected to be. However, she was also the goddess of war and wisdom, which in the eyes of Athenian citizen, were exclusively of male
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