The position of Attic women in democratic Athens

Pritchard, David (2010) The position of Attic women in democratic Athens. QHistory, 2010 16-29.

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Author Pritchard, David
Title The position of Attic women in democratic Athens
Journal name QHistory
ISSN 1834-5131
Publication date 2010
Sub-type Article (original research)
Volume 2010
Start page 16
End page 29
Total pages 14
Place of publication New Farm, Qld., Australia
Publisher Queensland History Teachers' Association
Collection year 2011
Language eng
Formatted abstract
The study of the women of classical Athens presents an evidentiary paradox.! Women and their pastimes happened to be prominent subjects for consideration in the city's surviving literature and in the imagery of its red-figure pottery, while Athenian comedies and tragedies regularly had articulate and forthright female characters.2 Howeverfirst impressions notwithstanding -none of these primary sources actually gives us reliable access to the ways in which women conceived of their own lives; for they were, as the late John Gould explained so well, 'the product of men and addressed to men in a male dominated world'.s What is more we lack any written texts from classical Athens by female writers to counter this persistently male perspective.4 Two further biases bedevil the study of women in classical Athens. What literary and visual evidence we have focuses almost without exception on the girls and wives of Athenian citizens and thus provides limited insight into the different circumstances of female slaves and resident aliens. Typically this evidence also presents the lifestyle of upper-class females as the norm for every Attic woman, hampering our ability to re-construct how exactly the daughters and wives of lower-class citizens lived their lives. To a large extent, fortunately, this second bias can be circumvented. This article will show how archaeological evidence confirms important similarities between the lives of rich and poor women. Moreover, while public speakers, comedians and tragedians belonged to the city's upper class, they faced adjud ication by massed audiences of lower-class citizens and so were compelled to tailor their offerings to the morality and points of view of the Athenian demos ('people'). We might call their speeches and plays, then, 'popular literature' and the non-elite point of view they articulate 'popular thinking' or 'popular culture'.s Therefore popular literature may focus on the pastimes of well-heeled Attic women, but its assumptions about the nature of females and what they should be doing are those of ordinary Athenian males.

Keyword Attic women
Ancient Athens
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2011 Collection
School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry
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Created: Wed, 23 Mar 2011, 19:19:32 EST by Dr David Pritchard on behalf of School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry