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Household, Gender and Property in Classical Athens

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 February 2009

Lin Foxhall
Affiliation:
University college London
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Extract

The idea that the household was the fundamental building block of ancient Greek society, explicit in the ancient sources, has now become widely accepted. It is no exaggeration to say that ancient Athenians would have found it almost inconceivable that individuals of any status existed who did not belong to some household; and the few who were in this position were almost certainly regarded as anomalous. In ancient Athens, as elsewhere, households ‘are a primary arena for the expression of age and sex roles, kinship, socialization and economic cooperation’. It has been suggested for modern Greece that our own cultural biases, along with the Greek ideology of male dominance, have led to the assumption that the foundations of power in Greek society lie solely in the public sphere, and that domestic power is ‘less important’. In a less simple reality the preeminent role of the household cannot be underestimated. Here I hope to question similar assumptions about ancient Greece, focusing in particular on the relationships that existed between Athenian households and the property of the individuals, particularly women, within these households.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Classical Association 1989

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