Women in Athens

The status of women in Ancient Greece varied across different city-states.

In Athens a woman remained under the guardianship of her father or male relative. This then became her husband following marriage.

Women were never classed as full citizens in Athens. Full citizenship was related to the ownership of property and political rights. As women were barred from conducting legal proceedings and could only obtain property as a gift, dowry or inheritance, they never acquired full citizenship.

Athenian women were very closeted and were rarely allowed outside of the home. They would spend much of their time within the outside courtyard of the home. If they did leave the home, they would need their fathers, husband or guardians permission. They also spent much of their time with other females and had very limited contact with men, including their husbands.

Wealthy women often had separate female only quarters of the house and would not partake of meals with their husbands. They were not allowed contact with men unless they were part of their immediate family.

The men of the household would often hold male only parties; the women and children were not allowed to attend. Athenian women were also not allowed to attend the Olympic Games.

Women however did have important duties in Athens and were responsible for the running of the household. Wealthy women would have many slaves to undertake the duties of the household and they would spend their time managing the household, but poorer women would complete these duties themselves.

Poor women would often work in the fields, shops or in trade. They would spin, weave and sew clothes, cook and maintain the household.

The main purpose of women was to bear healthy children, preferably male.

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