The Public Sphere of Athenian Women

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Women are often excluded from discussion when looking at all periods of history from ancient Greece to our own Canadian history. The lack of sources pertaining to women was likely caused by the traditional view that women are, in some ways, inferior to men. Athenian women are usually studied in two domains: the private sphere and the public sphere. Many studies acknowledge that women are consumed by the family and remain in the home. However, there are scholars who believe that Greek, but more specifically Athenian women practised a separate public life. Research suggests these women were engaged in the economy as well as religious activities.

This study relies on evidence found at Athens. Athens was a major polis in the Greek world and controlled a great deal of power as well as a fluctuating empire. Athens is also considered the birthplace of ?democracy? and home to a celebrated culture.

In comparison, the city-state of Athens yields far more abundant materials than all the other city-states of ancient Greece combined. The absence of other city-states from this review does not lend to the notion that other regions were identical to Athens. On the contrary, it is proven that Athens was quite unique, even radical when compared to other city-states i.e. Sparta, Thebes, or Corinth. Therefore the economic and religious roles of women in these areas might differ from that of Athens, but the sources are simply not present. The types of sources that are consulted ranges dramatically; we see the interpretation of political and funerary speeches, books, laws, pottery, architecture, statues, plays, poems and archaeological findings.

Sue Blundell, in her book Women in Ancient Greece, provides perhaps the most significant remark towards women from the period; which came from Thucydides (2.46) in his funeral speech to Pericles. Thucydides claims ?the...