Women in Ancient Greece: Seclusion, Exclusion or Illusion?

This book is a companion volume to the authors Women in Ancient Rome, first published in 2013. It provides a much-needed analysis of how women behaved in Greek society, how they were regarded and the various restrictions imposed on their freedoms, movements and actions. Naturally, given that ancient Greece in most of its manifestations was very much a man’s world, the majority of books on ancient Greek society even now tend to focus almost exclusively on men; this book redresses the balance by shining the spotlight on that other somewhat neglected or dismissed half: women had a significant role to play in many aspects of Greek society and culture and this book illuminates those roles. Women in Ancient Greece asks the controversial question: how far is the commonly accepted assumption that women were secluded and excluded just an illusion ? It answers the question by extending from the treatment of women in Greek myth, and the role of women in Homer and Hesiod through the playwrights, poets and philosophers to the comparatively liberated and powerful women in Sparta and Macedon until the end of the Hellenistic era; it covers women’s lives in ancient Athens, Sparta and in other city states; it examines the role of women in Crete. It describes eminent women writers, philosophers, artists and scientists; it explores love, marriage and adultery, the virtuous and the meretricious, and the key roles women played in Greek death and religion. Crucially, the book is people- based, drawing much of its evidence and many of its conclusions from the lives lived by actual historical Greek women. In short, Women in Ancient Greece provides evidence for the important active role women played in ancient Greece, highlighting the contribution they made to one of the world’s most influential and enlightened civilisations. Amongst many other ground-breaking things, the ancient Greeks developed a form of democracy; however, at the same time, to a large extent, they felt it necessary to keep their women secluded, and excluded from public business. This book acknowledges this seclusion and exclusion as inarguable fact, but contends that it is all very much a question of degree: the presumption through centuries of scholarship has been that women were locked in and at the same time locked out; Women in Ancient Greece goes further to question just how illusory this generalisation actually was.