Thenceforth there were a gradual decline in the conception of woman’s capacities and a lessening of the demands for her emancipation. The philosopher does not seem to see the humor in his proposal to bring together contrary natures, nor the pain he would inflict on the parties most concerned. With him the interest of the State is supreme, and to that everything must yield. There is a noteworthy absence of it in the Homeric poems, though the Greek chieftains frequently had concubines, who were slaves captured in war. The causes of the extent of hetairism among the Greeks are to be found in their religious conceptions, their political institutions, and the innate sensualism of the Greek peoples. It was their habit after bathing to anoint themselves with perfume, pastes or liquids, pomades, and oils.

By conducting a close analysis of the ways in which women are represented in the various literary genres, however, it becomes clear that different genres portray women in different lights. Therefore, not only is it difficult to come to any conclusion regarding the portrayal of women in literature, it is an extremely challenging endeavor to determine how women were perceived at the time, or even the realities of their lives. Arsinoë was a woman of brilliant intellectual gifts, and the union between her and Philadelphus seems to have been of the intellectual and spiritual kind. She proved to be an able helper in all the affairs of government; she assisted him in the financial administration and particularly in foreign affairs; she encouraged him in his endeavor to make Alexandria the centre of letters and art, and her name is coupled with his in all the great events of this period. The marriage between brother and sister was quite in accord with Egyptian notions, and in the public records, for ages past, the queen had been called sister of the king, whether she was really so or not. The marriage was compared by court poets with that of Zeus and Hera; and the couple were frequently lauded by them for their many achievements and the splendor of their court.


Surely a touching portraiture of woman’s gentle ministry, and worthy to be compared with Scott’s famous lines! In spite of the numerous complaints against woman, the plays of the New Comedy usually ended in a happy marriage–the wild youth falls in love with the penniless maiden, reforms, discovers her to be wellborn, and wins over the angry parent; then follow joyous wedding festivities, and happiness ever afterward. Satirical reflections on woman, especially when made in poetry, must not be taken too seriously; and where romantic love is also the theme for song, we may be sure that woman, though much abused, is yet tenderly regarded and highly esteemed among men. Gnathæna, daughter of the panderess Sinope, was one of the most keen-witted and clever of Athenian hetæræ. She also devised a set of rules for the conduct of dinners and banquets, which lovers had to observe when they visited her or her daughter, Gnathænion. In this she imitated the most cultured hosts of Athens, and exhibited a regard for social forms which throws a commendable light on the deportment of the more cultivated hetæræ. Gnathænion, the daughter, was for some time the favorite of the comic poet Diphilus, and he had many a brilliant passage of repartee with the mother on the occasion of his visits to the daughter.

In the days of human sacrifices, it was the women who most thronged to the spectacles, who most eagerly fastened their eyes upon the expiring victims. In the gladiatorial combats, it was the women who greeted each mortal thrust with applause, and whose reversed thumbs won the majority for the signal of death to the vanquished. It matters not what accessories of existence fate may have to offer; this is the supreme meaning of life to woman, and it is here that she finds her true value in the world.

It is true that these tendencies do not always remain in the light; like rivers, they sometimes plunge underground and for a time find their paths in subterranean channels where they are lost to sight; but they always reëmerge, and at last they find their way to the central sea of the present. Future ages will doubtless mark the course of those tendencies not only up to but through our own age; for though I have spoken of a central sea, the simile is hardly correct, inasmuch as the true ocean which is the goal of these rivers is not yet in the sight of humanity.

Ancient Greek Women Who Changed History

Then began the long and bitter struggle for mastery between the new queen, Eurydice, and the old queen, Olympias, who took the part of Roxana and her son; and only the superior claims of Olympias, as the mother of Alexander, to the respect of the Macedonian soldiery led to her final victory over her gifted and powerful rival. These hostile factions in the royal party of Macedon were to lead to the extinction of all the legitimate heirs to the throne.

Whether this story be true or not, there is no doubt that Pythagoras had a large number of women among his disciples, and that the “Pythagorean Women” attained throughout the Greek world a great and enviable reputation. Pythagoras’s friendly attitude toward the sex was probably in part the result of his cordial relations with the Delphian priestess Aristoclea, renowned for her amiability and her wisdom, with whom he carried on a learned correspondence. The general results of his teachings upon woman were a high ideal of feminine morality, careful attention to household duties, and the elevation of the conception of motherhood, especially in the careful rearing of children. Homicides, courtesans, barbarians, all who had any stain upon their lives, were excluded from these rites; only Hellenes “of pure soul and pure hands” were eligible for initiation.

Inspiring Greek Women Writers and the Importance of their Translation

Great Code, Gortyn, a city on the island of Crete, allowed women to inherit and manage property, recognizing the value of women’s work as a generator and protector of wealth. In addition to managing their own assets, women could control the possessions of their children if the children’s male guardian was unfit.

Husbands, too, saw in these novel proceedings dangerous tendencies; for if their wives became emancipated, there would be a limit to their own pleasant indulgences. The status of woman at Athens was far from ideal, and the need tor reform was great; and if we endeavor to discover who was chiefly responsible for the agitation which had for its purpose the emancipation of woman from the thraldom in which she was held, we find that it was the wise and far-seeing Aspasia. They could not wed, for she was a foreigner, and their union in consequence lacked civil sanction; yet it was a real marriage in all but in name, based on the truest and tenderest affection, and dissolved only by death. Never was there a teacher more eager to possess her pupils’ love and confidence.

Music, mythology, religion, art, astronomy, philosophy, and history were all taught as segments of this level of education. Her early years were spent in the storm and turmoil of the conflict between her father Auletes and her sister Berenice.

This was an elaborate, very patterned cloth, the design of which traditionally included a battle between the gods and the giants. It took nine months to complete it, and many women participated in its creation. Athenian women and younger girls spent most of their time engaged in the activity of manufacturing textiles from raw materials, these materials were commonly wool. Ischomachos claimed to Socrates that he brought home his fourteen-year-old wife, she had great abilities to work with wool, make clothes and supervise the spinning performed by the women slaves. Many believe that her poetry is evidence of her homosexuality since some of her love poems are addressed to women.

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