When a young woman was to marry, she was “given in marriage by her male relatives and choice had no legal bearing on the contract” (Sealey, p. 5). A woman was not allowed to decide whom she wanted to wed, whether she loved her proposed spouse or not. A woman was not given the opportunity or option to select her husband; therefore she “did not marry; she was given in marriage” (Sealey, p. 25). Women were not active in making the initial decision, because it was arranged and planned by a father figure or male relative. A woman, such as Medea, often dreaded the day of her wedding rather than looking forward to it as one of the happiest and meaningful affairs in her life.
- Theocritus, in his exquisite Epithalamium, pays an unalloyed tribute to her beauty and goodness.
- A social life for a female was only achieved in boundaries “within her husband’s house and the domain of his power” (Lacey, p. 153).
- They consummated the marriage in public on the porch of a building in downtown Athens.
- In contrast, Spartan women rarely married before 20, and were understood as important figureheads when raising future Spartan warriors correctly.
The rose seems to have been her favorite flower, for, says Philostratus, “Sappho loves the rose, and always crowns it with some praise, likening beautiful maidens to it.” Sappho wrote in the Æolic dialect, noted for the soft quality of its vowel sounds; and her poems were undoubtedly written for recitation to the accompaniment of the lyre, being the earliest specimens of the song or ballad so popular in modern times. These are the few facts we can positively state regarding the life of Sappho; but myth and legend have supplied what was lacking, and those scandalmongers, the Greek comic poets, have woven all sorts of stories about her manner of life. These stories centre chiefly about the names of three men,–Alcæus and Anacreon, the poets, and Phaon, the mythical boatman of Mytilene, endowed by Aphrodite with extraordinary and irresistible beauty. A different note is struck by Archilochus’s contemporary, Semonides of Amorgus, who takes up and continues the tradition of Hesiod in speaking of woman in tones of contempt and disparagement.
But when we become acquainted with the heroines of this age, and study their characters in the environment in which Homer places them, we shall be all the more impressed with the high status maintained by the gentler sex at the dawn of Greek civilization. Endowed with charms of intellect, as well as of person, she regulates the life and determines the tone of the society about her; and she is but an example of the high social position of the Homeric women. Though not exact history, the heroic epics of Greece are of great value as pictures of life and manners. Hence we may turn to them as valuable memorials of that state of society which must be for us the starting point of the history of the Greek woman. The first condition of a successful study of Greek women is to familiarize one’s self with the milieu in which they lived and moved.
Four days are devoted to the making of the barge, and on the fifth the goddess sends him on his way, providing him with food and drink for his journey, and causing a gentle wind to blow. Meanwhile, the suitors in Ithaca learn of Telemachus’s departure and lay an ambush to intercept him on his return. Discreet Penelope, too, learns by chance of his absence, and of the plots of the wooers, and her heart melts within her at the thought of danger to her child. The good nurse Euryclea tells her of Telemachus’s plan, and lulls her queen’s grief. Penelope returns to her chamber and prays to Athena to save her dear son and ward off from him the malice of the suitors. As she lies there in her upper chamber, fasting, and tasting neither meat nor drink, and musing over the fate of her dear son, gray-eyed Athena makes a phantom in the likeness of Penelope’s sister, Iphthime, and sends her to comfort Penelope amid her sorrow and lamenting.
In this period, epic poetry declined, and lyric poetry took its place in the three forms of elegiac, iambic, and melic; the arts, too, were beginning to be cultivated. In aristocratic circles, among the families of the oligarchs and in the courts of tyrants, woman continued to hold a prominent place; but among the poorer classes, who were ground down by the aristocrats, life was hard and bitter, and woman was censured as the source of many of the ills of mankind.
In Alexandria under the Ptolemies, accordingly, owing to Macedonian respect for woman and the old Egyptian idea of feminine worth and capacity, the gentler sex experienced conditions altogether different from those in ancient Athens and enjoyed a freedom similar to that of modern times. In general, religious roles were the same for men and women in ancient Greece. They worshipped the same gods and were involved in the same ritual activities, including choral dance, prayer, the offering of libations, and sacrifice.
Born in either Eressos or Mytilene on the island of Lesbos, likely to a wealthy family , Sappho’s lyrics and poetry were remarkable for their candid depictions of passion and sexuality – particularly between women. The seventh-century BC poet was even dubbed by Plato as the “Tenth Muse”, and honoured on ancient coins. Although mostly women lacked political and equal rights in ancient Greece, they enjoyed a certain freedom of movement until the Archaic age.
Plato, who was in many respects a great admirer of the Spartans, criticises this singular defect. He found fault with a system which regarded woman only as a mother, and consequently, when children had been born and turned over to the State, did not by law provide occupation for the mothers or in any way regulate their conduct. There was nothing to restrain their luxury or keep them loyal to duty and probity. Higher culture was discouraged, intercourse with strangers was forbidden, and woman was left largely to her own devices for employment and recreation; but she was deprived in large measure of the usual feminine occupations. The early tribal divisions among the Greeks must also be taken into consideration. The Achæans are closely identified with the Heroic Age; they built up the powerful States in the Peloponnesus, and undertook the first great national expedition of Hellas. Thus the Achæans are the representative Homeric people, with its monarchical life and the prominent social status of its women.
The picture which Aristophanes, in his clever bit of satire, presents of the women of his day is an exceedingly repulsive one. They are represented as profligate, licentious, stupid, fond of drink, thieves and liars.
The best known representative of this class was Glycera, whom Goethe has immortalized. She was a native of Sicyon, and supported herself by the sale of flower wreaths, which she knew how to make most artistically, for use at banquets, funerals, and for adornment of the door of one’s sweetheart. The painter Pausias, likewise a native of Sicyon, loved her passionately and used to enter into competition with her, whether she could wreathe flowers more artistically than he himself could paint them. He painted a portrait which represented her seated with a flower wreath; it was so excellent that the Roman general Lucullus, after the Mithridatic War, when he was making a collection of statues and paintings, paid two talents for a copy.
They would take the hemp-smoking equipment inside the tent and get high. I give a recipe in the book for a freezing technique they used to raise its potency.
Telemachus tells his mother of his journey, and his friend Theoclymenus, who has the gift of second-sight, prophesies the speedy return of Odysseus. Soon the hero himself appears as a beggar in his own halls, and is roughly treated by the haughty wooers. He soundly whips the braggart beggar Irus, and the story of his presence is noised throughout the house.