VCCS Litonline

Athenian Women
Home Up Athenian vs. Spartan Women in Antigone's Era

An Annotated Bibliography

What powers did women have politically in Athens, where the play was performed?


Cole, Susan. "Women and Politics in Democratic Athens: 2,500 Years of Democracy."
     History Today 03 1994: 44. :32- . Infotrac, Expanded Academic ASAP. J. Sargeant
     Reynolds Library. 11 Nov 2005. <>.


     This article shows more of the aspect that men in Athens depended on the females as the nurturer of life.  Male and female roles were both represented by the female goddesses Athena (male) and Demeter (female).  The article also explained why female children were less desirable that male children.  The birth of daughters stripped the oikos, or household, of dowry when they were married off unless a large dowry was available.  This meant the loss of land.  This was not a good move because Solonís system stated that the highest political, military, and religious authority went to the men whose families had the most land.  Women were restricted in their behavior in public, at festivals, funerals, visits to cemeteries, and during travel at night.  Men could be potentially ruined by women if the woman was caught with another man and the husband did not kill him or divorce the woman.  If the man stayed with an unfaithful wife, then he would loose his citizenship and be banned forever from the political community.  Women could not appear in court as witnesses or even if they were charged with a crime.  Their only link to the judicial system was through a male guardian.



Gaughan, Judy. "Women in Classical Athens and Sparta." Women in World History. Colorado
     State University. 11 Nov. 2005. <http://chnm.gmu/wwh/d/94/wwh.html>.


     This article is more of a teaching outline that suggests places where you could find example of the differences between the rights of Athenian and Spartan women.  The only really good point that this article makes is to mention that regardless of gender all Spartiates had an obligation to serve the militaristic end of Sparta.  Therefore, this facilitated greater freedom and financial independence in the women of Sparta.


Graham, Casey. "What Was the Role of Women in Athens?." Ancient Greek Women in Athens.
     11 Nov. 2005. <>.


     This webpage brought to light more of the regulations that denied woman of Athens power.  Fathers would marry off their young teenage daughter to men in their 30s. They were not allowed to meet their new groom until a contract had been agreed upon.  Even then, the bride would not become a full member of her new family until the first healthy child was born.  If the child survived mortality, the husband would decide if the baby would be kept.  If he accepted it, it would live, but if he refused it, it would die by placing the child in a clay pot outside the home or by the roadside.  The wifeís child would be denied if it were unhealthy or deformed or even of the wrong sex (females were often considered inferior to a male child).  Women could not divorce their husbands without providing an archon or public official with good reason to do so.  Husbands, however, could divorce a wife and send her home at any time.  They could, also, stop a woman from finding a public official by confining her to the home.  Athenian fathers could end a marriage up until the first child was born.  If the woman was successfully divorced, she would loose all rights to her children.  The article also stated that a woman was not suppose to be seen in public, had no rights to vote or take part in state operation, and could no watch or participate in the Olympic Games.  Women were expected to manage the house and slaves, make all the clothing and coordinate weddings, funerals (no crying was allowed of these women, their only function was to prepare the body, carry the libations during the funeral, make sure that food was delivered to the gravesite on the 3rd and 9th day), and state religious events.  The article suggests that the men of Athens though of their women as highly sexual and vile creatures that could not control their urges. Therefore, the believed that they had to be controlled.  The men were more taken with the goddesses than their own women.  The only women that had any rights in Athens were the Concubines or hetaerae whom were considered the prostitutes.  They could move freely through society; however it was noted that they were highly exploited.  They could develop relationships with their male companions and have children, but their children were illegitimate and, therefore, not citizens of Athens.  Women of poorer classes that did not have slaves worked in the fields and in the marketplace alongside the men.



Oborne, Robin. "Law, the Democratic Citizen and the Representation of Women in
     Classical Athens." Past & Present 05 1997: 155. :9- . Infotrac.
     Expanded Academic ASAP. J. Sargeant Reynolds Library. 20 Nov 2005.


     This article focuses mainly on how Pericles' Citizenship Law brought women to the forefront by insisting that one could only be a citizen of Athens if he or she had both a Athenian mom and dad.  This brought women into the limelight and men into a domestic context. It also allowed for the many representations of women in funeral monuments at the end of the 5th century BC.  However, Pericles was no womenís rights activist.  His new law was meant as a slap in the face to the Athenian elite whom though it fashionable and profitable to have foreign wives.  It was truly an anti-aristocratic move by allowing him to ostracize individual politicians for ten years.  Plus Athens was overpopulated at the time and the law was meant to prevent outsiders from tapping Athens resources.  The rise in displaying women in funeral monuments came at the end of the 5th century.  This perk came with no change in legal status just a lot of statues.  There was no reluctance to put women on display in this fashion, though the death of a woman was no worthy of commemoration.  They were allowed in sculpture as a symbol of marriage and family but not as individuals because they played no important role in society.  The article points out that woman truly did have joint role in protecting the city and ensuring that the prominence of the city continued through continuous reproduction.



"The Women of Athens." Ancient Greek Civilizations. 11 Nov. 2005.
     < of athens.html>.


     This site brings to light how little power Athenian women had in Greek society.  By the 5th century BC, Athenian women were barely considered to be better than slaves.  They were generally not taught to read or write and were not expected to be educated.  It was stated in this article that women prior to the 7th century BC were required to take the same rites of passage as men.  However after the 7th century BC and Pericleís Law on the legitimacy of marriage, womenís rights took a large decline.  An Athenian woman was not allowed out of the home (girls were raised to be kept and protected)and were expected to rule the running of the house by the slaves (the more slaves a family had the less work that a woman was allowed to do) and to bear lots of children.  Athenian women did have a large role in the 120 festivals, religious rituals, and funerals.  However, even in these situations, it was mostly the noble and upper class whom were allowed to participate.  The article also brings to light three classes of woman:  slave women (carried out domestic chores and were nannies to the woman of the housesí children), Athenian citizen women, and Hetaerae (considered prostitutes though were allowed education and to visit the Agora or marketplace).  The article states that the most important thing that women were used for were marriages which the father of the bride arranged.  This was because of the large dowry that was given to the groom but kept by the fatherís brother.  The fatherís brother was responsible for finding the bride a new husband if she was widowed.  If he was dead, then the woman became a slave because she could own no property and would have no where to reside.  The article also states that the general purpose of being a wife was to have health children to carry on the fatherís name.  Women in Athens had to be cunning since their lives were very restricted.  The article suggests that domestic retribution was practiced if the husband did something the woman did not like.

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This instructional web was made in July, 2002, by Prof. Eric Hibbison, who is solely responsible for its content.