, Research Paper
The Golden Age of Athens was one of the most brilliant eras in Athenian history. Yet this brilliance did not reflect women?s roles during this time period. The Golden Age of Athens was a low point for women; through society?s opinion of women, the city?s politics, and their household lives.
The Athenians viewed all classes of women as an unimportant distraction to society. The most constant view of woman in the Golden Age was that they were only necessary to produce children. Euripides from his book ?Medea? writes: ?If only children could be got some other way without the female sex! If woman didn?t exist, human life would be rid of its miseries?(www.angelfire.com/ca3/ancientchix). Women were viewed as highly sexual beings who could not control their sexual urges and therefore had to have restricted rights for their own benefit. Men also believed that women represented the forces of chaos, and should be treated as they are depicted of, as animals. Based on society?s viewpoints, three classes of women formed in Ancient Greece. The work and freedom of a woman depended on her social position in society. The classes of women consisted of hetaeras, prostitutes, and wives. The hetaerae and prostitute classes were both seen as sexual ?companions? of men, and were paid to do sexual favors unto them. This shows that men had little respect for these classes of women and treated them more as animals, than of human beings. Ancient Athens also consisted of a large slave population of women. These women slaves had no rights and were always at the mercy of their master. On account of society?s sexism of women, unjust political rights were enforced specifically for them.
Athenian women had virtually no political rights and were controlled by men throughout nearly every stage of their lives. Legal rights of women were very few, which further denounced their position in society. Women had no rights to vote or take part in the operation of the state. They also were not allowed to own property in their own right, because of their restriction to commerce, and so the control of ownership belonged to either their father or husband. These examples reflect society?s belief that women were not capable of intellectual matters, simply because they were considered more as property than as human beings. The politically segregated culture of classical Athens caused Athenian women to become secluded in public society. State law did not permit women to any type of public events. While women had no political rights, could not attend plays or festivals, and aristocratic women were confined to their homes. Staying out of sight was a basic lifestyle for the Greek women of the Golden Age. Women?s exclusion from politics and the public caused them to become ?prisoners? of their own households.
Women had very little influence on society and were highly disregarded until they could bear children, and fulfill their household duties. The Greeks believed that the only purpose that women possessed were to conceive children. The writer Simonides stated that ?woman is the consumer of men, their sex, their strength, their food, and their wealth, and the instigator of all evils in the world; yet without her, society cannot continue?(www.angelfire.com/ca3/ancientchix). Although society constantly degraded women, they acknowledged their one importance of child bearing. The woman of a Greek marriage would only become a full member of the new household when she produced her first child. Household duties and responsibilities became official for wives at the arrival of their first born. As Aristotle once wrote, ?A good wife should be the mistress of her home, having under her care all that is within, according to the rules we [men] have laid down?(Aristotle). Women supervised the daily running of the household, under her husband?s rules. Since men spent most of their time away from their houses, women dominated the Greek home life. The responsibilities of the women were to raise children, spinning, and sewing family clothes. Yet, some women who chose not to follow her husband?s instructions, were then divorced. In the society of Athens, the far most respected job that a woman could do was run a household.
During the Golden Age, the cultural achievements of Athens were extraordinary, yet Athens might have become even more powerful, if society had accepted women. Through Athenian society?s beliefs, this era became a low point for women in history. The women of the Golden Age of Athens were subject to strong sexism that caused them unlimited degradation of their gender. If only women had been appreciated in early history, then the evolution of conquering prejudice boundaries for them, might not have taken so long.
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