ANCIENT GREEK WOMEN

By Tim Lambert

The Greeks worshiped goddesses as well as gods. Women participated in religious festivals. Among the goddesses were Aphrodite, goddess of beauty and love and Athena, goddess of wisdom, Artemis goddess of hunting, the moon and childbirth. They Greeks also worshiped Demeter goddess of crops.

However in a wealthy family women usually stayed apart from men. They usually stayed in the back or upper part of the house. In a rich family the wife was expected to run the home and very often to manage the finances. However rich women would normally stay indoors and send slaves to do the shopping. Poor women, of course had no choice. They might also have to help their husbands with farm work. Women, even rich ones were expected to spin and weave cloth and make clothes. However in Sparta women owned much of the land. We also know from records that women owned land in Thessaly and in the Cretan city-state of Gortyn. In Ancient Greece some women were tavern keepers. Others sold food or perfume. Some were wool workers.

Girls married when they were about 15. (Except in Sparta where they were typically older). Marriages were often arranged. However Ancient Greek women could divorce their husbands.

Greek women were not allowed to participate in the Olympic Games. However women had their own games dedicated to the goddess Hera (wife of Zeus). The Heraen games were held once every 4 years.

Ancient Greek women wore rectangles of woolen cloth folded and pinned together with holes for the arms and head. It was tied at the waist. This garment was called a peplos. Towards the end of the 5th century some Greek women began to wear a long linen tunic called a chiton. Women also wore cloaks called himations. Women wore jewelry like necklaces, bracelets and anklets. Rich women carried parasols to protect them from the sun. Women did not cut their hair unless they were mourning. It was worn in many different styles.

There were many great women in Ancient Greece. Sappho (6th century BC) was a famous Greek woman poet. Theano of Crotona (born c.546 BC) was a famous mathematician. Telesilla of Argos was a famous poet who lived around 500 BC. Gorgo queen of Sparta (born c. 508 BC) was an influential woman. About 400 BC Arete of Cyrene was a famous philosopher. Timycha of Sparta was a philosopher about 375 BC. Hipparchia of Maroneia (350-280 BC) was a philosopher. Anyte of Tegea was a great poet who lived around 250 BC. About 150 BC Aglaonike was a woman astronomer.

Women in the Middle Ages

Women in the 16th Century

Women in the 19th Century

Women in the 20th Century

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