ARTICLE | The Position of Attic Women in Democratic Athens

David M. Pritchard

Greece & Rome / Volume 61 / Issue 02 / October 2014, pp 174 – 193
DOI: 10.1017/S0017383514000072, Published online: 12 September 2014

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David M. Pritchard (2014). THE POSITION OF ATTIC WOMEN IN DEMOCRATIC ATHENS. Greece & Rome, 61, pp 174-193 doi:10.1017/S0017383514000072

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1. Evidence

The study of the women of classical Athens involves an evidentiary paradox. Women and their pastimes were prominent subjects in this state’s literature and in the pictures on its painted pottery, while its comedies and tragedies regularly had articulate and forthright female characters. But none of this gives us 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’. What is more, we lack any works from democratic Athens by female writers to counter this persistently male perspective. Two further biases complicate the study of Attic women. What evidence we have focuses almost without exception on the girls and the wives of Athenian citizens and so provides limited insight into the different circumstances of female slaves and female resident aliens. Typically this evidence also presents the life of wealthy females as the norm for every Attic woman, hampering our ability to reconstruct how exactly the daughters and the wives of poor citizens lived their lives.

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Greek translations are my own unless otherwise indicated.

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A slightly different version of this article has appeared in Ancient History 41-4 (2015) 43-65. View here