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What can we learn from ancient sources about the role of Greek women in family life and marriage?

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Introduction

What can we learn from ancient sources about the role of Greek women in family life and marriage? How does it compare to women's roles today? I am going to look at Ancient Greek women and their roles at home and in family life. I am also going to look at aspects of Ancient Greek marriages, as shown in Greek vases, and compare them with women's lifestyles today. "Of all living, thinking beings, we women are the most unlucky..." This source by Euripides, written in the fifth century BC, shows the unimportance of women in Ancient Greek culture. Women were regarded as lower than men, they spent their life under the control of men - as a young girl and up until the day she was married she would remain under the control of her father (or uncle if her father was dead), and as soon as she was married she, and all her belongings, would be under the possession of her husband. She would almost be living as a prisoner. The same source later reads: "We have a dowry which must buy a husband to control our bodies" It suggests women were like robots made to fulfil all of their husband's desires on demand. Seeing as men dominated the Ancient Greek society and looked after and controlled their wives, their paternal characteristics are apparent; they acted more like fathers rather than lovers. Another source showing that to be a woman was salao (the worst form of unlucky) is one taken from a letter from Egypt written in the 1st Century AD. "If - and good luck to you - you have a baby and it is male, let it live; but if it is female, expose." To expose of a female was a last resort however it was done. Women were perceived by men as lower than them. Women were to produce children - sons rather than daughters as women were not highly regarded. ...read more.

Middle

This was because the women never owned anything and always belonged to either her father or her husband. It was of such significant importance because whoever possessed the dowry was required, by law, to maintain the woman. In some religions today, such as Hinduism, a dowry is still passed on to the bride and her new family when she is married. It can be used to benefit the whole family or be used for the dowry of groom's sisters. On the vase you can also see a woman carrying a "lebes gamikos". This is a form of Ancient Greek pottery used it marriage ceremonies. It is thought that it would be filled with water and used in the nuptial ritual. This is where both the bride and groom were cleansed of their pasts so that they were ready to start a new life with their partner. They would have had the water from the vase sprinkled over them before the wedding. There is, however, and alternative suggestion on what this type of vase was used for. It can be said that a "lebes gamikos" holds food for the marrying couple and was presented to the bride in the same way that wedding gifts are received in marriage ceremonies today. This vase painting shows a veiled bride with her husband inside a chariot drawn by four horses. In this vase they couple are leaving their wedding. This is similar to weddings today; the bride and the bride-groom leave the wedding together in a special or spectacular vehicle, sometimes with the sign "Just Married" attached to the back. In the picture the bride is wearing a veil. Today at traditional weddings the woman wears a veil as a sign of modesty and the groom is the only person who is able to reveal this brides face. Greek marriages were arranged by the bride's father as she was possessed by him. ...read more.

Conclusion

This meant that numerous women were left with the authority of the land and could eventually own it for themselves. "Another woman, as she was handing her son his shield and giving him some encouragement, said: 'Son, either with this or on this" The source above is from Plutarch. When the woman says to her son "either with this or on this" she means that he should return with it if they are victorious whilst at battle or on it is they are unsuccessful for example loosing the battle. At no point should a Spartan man ever return from battle leaving men behind. It shows them to be cowardly, which is the opposite of the impression the Spartans wanted to give. Nowadays women can own their own land or property and so it is similar in that way. The difference is that women today do not need a reason to have their own house like the Spartans did. From these sources I can conclude that, although there are many similarities between Ancient Greek society and that of today, the inequality between men and women is not a case today. There are some church denominations which do not treat women as equals to men however the majority of society accept and treat both sexes equally, for example when applying for a job no discrimination against women is carried out. Marriage ceremonies have changed dramatically too. There are still some religions which carry out similar rituals and use similar items etc to the ones performed in Ancient Greece and it is common to be given away by your father however the over all the difference is immense, for example being led between houses and having your father pay your husband to marry you. Spartan society is easier to associate with modern day civilization due to the allowance of women being involved in events and activities; on the other hand women today have a much bigger role in society than purely producing fit and healthy babies. ...read more.

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