Godesses,Whores,Wives,And Slaves Essay, Research Paper
Sarah Pomeroy asked herself the question, “What were women doing while men were active in all the areas traditionally emphasized by classical scholars?.” This question is the reason for her book Goddesses, Whores, Wives and Slaves, Women in Classical Antiquity. Pomeroy basically wanted to write a book to tell what women were doing during Greek and Roman times. This is the first book written in English devoted entirely to the subject. Pomeroy covers about fifteen hundred years starting during Bronze Age and ends with the death of Constantine in A.D. 337. The book is broken down into ten chapters that start with Goddesses and Gods and then travels through time progressing to the women of Rome and Late Republic. Pomeroy does a very good job of describing all sides of life that women went through during these years of antiquity.The book begins with mythology Gods and Goddesses. Mythology gives theGreeks some of their views of women and how they are to be treated. Even with titles ofGoddesses, Aphrodite, Hestia, Athena and Artemis are still subject to the male God Zeus. Some of the Goddesses were born of man, not of woman, showing that women weren’t even important or needed in child baring.The Bronze Age brings with it oral traditions of history and storytelling, this tied with hard evidence gives some information on how women were viewed by men. In the story of Homer’s Illiad, the ten-year war is fought over a woman (Helen). Women were viewed as property, they were won in contests and used for payment of debt. Through the Bronze and Dark Ages, and the entire Archaic period, women were treated pretty muchthe same was varying some from city to city.Pomeroy describes many types of women who lived during Classical Greek times. Not necessarily different races of women, but different classes of women. There where citizen women, this was a woman who was born in the city who had parents that were citizens. To remain a citizen, a woman had to either marry a citizen or not marry at all. There were also slave women. Slave women worked around the house and most male slaves were sent to work and die in the mines. Woman slaves were wet nurses, housekeepers and baby-sitters. Women slaves were also subject to sexual relations with the man of the house. A free man could have sexual intercourse with his wife, his slaves, and with other males without fear of punishment. A woman, on the other hand, could only have sexual intercourse with her husband. From the time a woman is even starting in life in her mother’s womb she will suffer at the hand of males. If a female survived abortion, it was up to the father on whether or not to keep her. Females were seen as a burden or just another cost to the father. Male children were needed at all times, there was hardly doubt about letting a male child live unless the child was weak or sickly. Females were only needed for baring children, making clothing and taking care of the homestead. When a daughter was ready for marriage around the age of fourteen, her father would have to supply her with a dowry, if a father had several daughters that meant several dowries, so fathers often chose to kill females at birth.Females were used to gain power through marriages to sons of prominent men. If a woman that was already in a wealthy family she usually would marry a family relative to keep the wealth and land within the family. As you can see women were thought of as property throughout their lives. The daily life of a woman in the Archaic period was to take care of potential soldiers or command a slave with the task. She would make clothing along with her slaves all day, prepare meals and bathe their husbands. Women in other cities did not have to work as much but didn’t have any other privileges either. Women were not taught like the males, they weren’t even given the same amount of food as males. Boys went to schools to learn rhetoric and also exercise, women were not formally taught. As far as political power, women had none. Only free citizen men had authority. Women were given some legal rights dealing with divorce. If a husband was found guilty of adultery, the wife could divorce him. If divorced because the man was at fault, he had to repay her dowry. Women rarely went to public functions or even to draw water from the city well.A wife was to send a slave to do it as to protect the wife from being in contact with gossiping women and also away from contact with other men.Prostitution was a way of life for many women. If fathers didn’t want to kill there newborn daughter they were given away or said to have been killed and then given away, these babies would probably grow up to be prostitutes. Also, slave girls were sold for the purpose of prostitution. Prostitution was legal and very common. Aspasia was probably the most famous prostitute of the time. She was considered to be a Hetairai which is basically a well educated prostitute or high-class prostitute.Things did not improve much until Roman times and then not too much improvement by our standards. Women slowly began to be educated, make their own money, or have their own land. Women were beginning to be seen in public even having public meetings. With money and land comes power, not as equal as mans power, but some power none the less. Roman women still had domestic duty first and then some social freedom. Prostitution and slavery thrived as well as ever. I believe Pomeroy has written a fine book on a topic that needs to be explored more. It’s hard for me to understand why the subject of women in history has been neglected as long as it has. Pomeroy has compiled a lot of information on the subject and put it into a well written and cited book. The information has been there for years but not collected until this book. It is hard to say if the book has all elements of women known to man but it is a start and better than what we have had before it. I think it is a valuable piece of work in that it might inspire others to try their hand at what I consider to be new history. There is not much written with the female slant on history. Other voices of history need to be heard and Pomeroy delivered a great start to the cause of women’s history.