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CLA219H1 Lecture Notes - Epikleros, 2-Step Garage, Oral Contract

Course Code
Regina Höschele

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CLA 219 – Women in Antiquity R. Höschele 10/23/12
Daily lives of Women and their Legal Status in Greco-Roman Antiquity
-Average life expectancy of males = 45 years
oFemales = 35 years
-Infant mortality rate high – over a third of babies die (between 30-40% in 1st
- Look at tombstone inscriptions, skeleton analysis because no ancient data – no
death or birth registry
- Most children die before age 10 (50%)
- Statistically couples try for kids 6x to see at least 2 children grow to adulthood
-Infants can be exposed at birth – not illegal to abandon child in the wilderness or
in public spaces (where it might be taken up by other people)
oIf child is disabled, unwanted parents sometimes choose this option
oNot common but entirely possible
- Text 249 (?) from textbook: Ancient Egypt, husband’s letter to wife, advises her to
expose child if female (wife assumed possibly pregnant at the time)
- Sickly children, but especially the female ones, most often exposed
oMore desirable to have a male offspring than a female because they are
costly (feed/raise them, dowry)
-Aristotle, Politeia, law forbidding the raising of disabled children
- High mortality rate of women in child-bearing ages (between 15-29)
oMultiple births in short intervals can complicate things
- Girls less nurtured than boys, which is why they die easily
oBecause they are not taken care of as well as boys
-Girls are raised among the female members of the household, trained to run the
household – cooking, washing, weaving
oHow to take care of household based on class – elite women have larger
and grander households to maintain than peasant women
- Greek elite women can read and write
oIlliteracy widespread among women in antiquity
- Roman elite and middle class (equestrian) educated their women
- Education often stops at 13-15 years old depending on when the girl gets married
(marriageable age as of now)
- Boy considered a full adult when they finish education at a later age than girls
- Girls can be married as early as 12 years in Greece,
oSpartan girls married at 18
-Women are never “full” adults – in that they always require guardianship

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oTrue for Greek and Roman women
oGuardians = father, or closest male kin
- Augustus, freedom from guardianship for Roman women with 3 children,
freedwomen with 4
- Oikos, polis ~ Xenophon’s Oikonomikos
oSidenote: Socrates’ teachings were made known through Xenophon’s (and
Plato’s) works
- Ischomachus, training of 14 year old wife
oPerfect wife - shape her from scratch, introduce her properly to duties of a
wife – able to mould her to his satisfaction (“good wife”)
o7.18, distribution of chores between male and female, and gods making
them complimentary to each other, “effective in partnership”
o “yoke” ~ marriage – negative and positive connotations
Weight/burden vs. joining together to work together
-Ischomachus - marriage occurs to produce children for increasing the citizenry
and as old age insurance
oWhat’s at stake is the legitimacy of children in Athens (pass on property
and be taken care of in old age)
-Ischomachus – gods endowed man and woman with specific qualities that makes
them compatible to outdoor and indoor work respectively
[7.18] For it seems to me, dear, that the gods with great discernment have coupled
together male and female, as they are called, chiefly in order that they may form a
perfect partnership in mutual service. [7.19] For, in the first place, that the various
species of living creatures may not fail, they are joined in wedlock for the production
of children. Secondly, offspring to support them in old age is provided by this union,
to human beings, at any rate. Thirdly, human beings live not in the open air, like
beasts, but obviously need shelter. [7.20] Nevertheless, those who mean to win store
to fill the covered place, have need of someone to work at the open-air occupations;
since ploughing, sowing, planting and grazing are all such open-air employments; and
these supply the needful food. [7.21] Then again, as soon as this is stored in the
covered place, then there is need of someone to keep it and to work at the things that
must be done under cover. Cover is needed for the nursing of the infants; cover is
needed for the making of the corn into bread, and likewise for the manufacture of
clothes from the wool. [7.22] And since both the indoor and the outdoor tasks demand
labour and attention, God from the first adapted the woman's nature, I think, to the
indoor and man's to the outdoor tasks and cares.

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[7.23] "'For he made the man's body and mind more capable of enduring cold and
heat, and journeys and campaigns; and therefore imposed on him the outdoor tasks.
To the woman, since he has made her body less capable of such endurance, I take it
that God has assigned the indoor tasks. [7.24] And knowing that he had created in the
woman and had imposed on her the nourishment of the infants, he meted out to her a
larger portion of affection for new-born babes than to the man. [7.25] And since he
imposed on the woman the protection of the stores also, knowing that for protection a
fearful disposition is no disadvantage, God meted out a larger share of fear to the
woman than to the man; and knowing that he who deals with the outdoor tasks will
have to be their defender against any wrong-doer, he meted out to him again a larger
share of courage. [7.26] But because both must give and take, he granted to both
impartially memory and attention; and so you could not distinguish whether the male
or the female sex has the larger share of these. [7.27] And God also gave to both
impartially the power to practise due self-control, and gave authority to whichever is
the better--whether it be the man or the woman--to win a larger portion of the good
that comes from it. [7.28] And just because both have not the same aptitudes, they
have the more need of each other, and each member of the pair is the more useful to
the other, the one being competent where the other is deficient.
---Xenophon, Oikonomikos
- Indoor activities are not devalued – they are regarded as important as outdoor
oPhysical appropriateness of the division of labour
- Oikos a miniature state – polis can only function properly if individual oikoi ran
well by its people
- 7.33, wife should think self as a leader bee
oFair disciplinarian, caring and organized
- Ancient Athens
oStrict sexual segregation – houses, separate rooms for women’s (usually
upstairs)and men’s quarters
One entrance, women’s farthest away from it
Symposia are not for women – only hetaera are allowed
(Roman women had more liberties)
The richer, the more confined – go outside only for religious duties
and for funerals, not supposed to interact to strange men (even
husband’s friends) – Ischomachus recommends walking around the
house as wife goes about her duties for exercise
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