the household. They were not to be seen in public. The only time it was appropriate for
a woman to leave the home was if she was visiting a female neighbor. If a divorce were
to occur, it was by the man’s choosing. He could select to divorce his wife by rejecting
her in front of witnesses or by sending her back to her family home. If children were
present, he would automatically receive custody and would return the dowry. However,
if a woman committed adultery, he did not have to return the dowry. The only way a
woman might seek a divorce would be to find an archon (an Athenian official) and
provide excellent reasons for this request to be granted. Even then, it was not very
common for them to be allowed to divorce.
Not only did women have few rights, they certainly did not have any legal rights.
They could not vote or have any say in the operation of the state. The participants who
competed in the Olympic Games did not wear clothing so women were not allowed to
watch. Women were allowed to participate in Chariot racing but only those who owned
horses would be included in that group. The only activities they could participate in out
in public were in weddings, funerals, and religious festivals. There were certain religious
events that women were required to attend. At these events women prepared sacrifices
and offerings to the goddesses. All women were expected to attend and to perform at
these religious festivals. There has even been some archaeological proof that women had
the most significant role over men as it pertained to religious life in ancient Greek
society. Excavations at an ancient burial site in Athens have proven they also played
The role of ancient Greek women in society was not a coveted one. Ancient Egypt saw very little distinction between men and women as far as free rights. Athens drew a sharp discernment between. citizen and alien, legitimate born and illegitimate born, and between a woman who was a wife and one who was not a wife. Men dictated the ins and outs of their daily life. fathers would control them before they were married and husbands controlled them once they were married. Women had no choice as to whom they would marry. The marriage was usually arranged at a young age by the girls father once the dowry (her portion of her father’s estate) was agreed upon. All archaeological evidence that has been found tells a story of women who were hidden away from the rest of society and treated unfairly. They were seen as nothing more than bearers of children but this could have been a feather in their cap as far as their lack of power was concerned. In Aristophanes’ “Lysistrata” the main power women had was from withholding their biological capabilities. If the husband did something the wife did not like she could retaliate using domestic retribution. Then there is the underlying question of how the goddesses – whom were strong female figures – were worshipped by men but ordinary women were treated as second-class citizens. Apparently men did not look down upon all women because they clearly celebrated the Greek goddesses that were fixtures in their society.

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