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The Sacred and the Feminine in Ancient Greece. Edition 1st Edition. First Published Imprint Routledge. Pages pages. Subjects Humanities. Athena , the goddess of wisdom and patron of Athens stands out as a powerful figure blessed with intelligence, courage and honour.

Again common to most ancient cultures where agriculture was crucial to the community, female fertility goddesses were extremely important and particularly venerated - Demeter and Persephone being the most revered for the Greeks. As in other ancient male-dominated literature , women are often cast as troublemakers, from jealous Hera to Aphrodite employing her charms to make men lose their wits. Myths and literature abound with female characters trying their best to derail the plans of male heroes, from the supreme witch Medea to the deadly, if lovely, Sirens.

They can also be represented as ruled only by wild passion and ecstatic emotion such as the Maenads. The Muses are another positive representation, celebrated not only for their physical beauty but also their wide-ranging skills in the arts. Whether these fictional characters had any bearing on the role of women in real life is an open question, as is the more intriguing one of what did Greek women themselves think of such male-created role-models?

Perhaps we will never know. As in many other male-dominated and agrarian cultures, female babies were at a much higher risk of being abandoned at birth by their parents than male offspring. Children of citizens attended schools where the curriculum covered reading, writing , and mathematics. After these basics were mastered, studies turned to literature for example, Homer , poetry, and music especially the lyre.

Girls were educated in a similar manner to boys but with a greater emphasis on dancing, gymnastics, and musical accomplishment which could be shown off in musical competitions and at religious festivals and ceremonies. Young women were expected to marry as a virgin, and marriage was usually organised by their father, who chose the husband and accepted from him a dowry.

If a woman had no father, then her interests marriage prospects and property management were looked after by a guardian kyrios or kurios , perhaps an uncle or another male relative. Married at the typical age of 13 or 14, love had little to do with the matching of husband and wife damar. All women were expected to marry, there was no provision and no role in Greek society for single mature females.

In the family home, women were expected to rear children and manage the daily requirements of the household. They had the help of slaves if the husband could afford them. Contact with non-family males was discouraged and women largely occupied their time with indoor activities such as wool-work and weaving.


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They could go out and visit the homes of friends and were able to participate in public religious ceremonies and festivals. Whether women could attend theatre performances or not is still disputed amongst scholars. More clear is that women could not attend public assemblies, vote, or hold public office. Married women were, at least in the eyes of the law , under the complete authority of their husbands. Such writers as Aristotle have no doubts that women were intellectually incapable of making important decisions for themselves.

In practice, of course, individual couples may well have shared their lives more equitably. Women were expected to be faithful to their husbands, but the reverse was not the case as husbands could freely engage the services of prostitutes, live-in lovers, and courtesans. Any woman who did not preserve the honour of the family and so protect the legitimacy of the male line was guilty of the serious crime of moicheia which would lead to her being banned from practising in public religious ceremonies.

A husband who discovered that their wife was engaging in sexual relations with another man could murder the lover without fear of prosecution. If she were a single child, then either her guardian or husband, when married, took control of the inheritance. Females could inherit from the death of other male relatives, providing there was no male relative in line.

Women did have some personal property, typically acquired as gifts from family members, which was usually in the form of clothes and jewellery. Women could not make a will and, on death, all of their property would go to their husband. Marriages could be ended on three grounds. The first and most common was repudiation by the husband apopempsis or ekpempsis. Why, then, is this behavior noticed and censured only in dogs?

The prejudice underlying the explicit reasons offered by informants is not exclusive to the traditions of this Thai village but rather seems to be a regular feature in many folk theories about the lowly position of dogs. Here we can cite another case, this time from ancient Greece. In a passage discussing why in Rome the priest of Jupiter, the flamen dialis, was not allowed to touch or even speak the name of the dog or the goat, Plutarch notes that in Greece as well the dog endured ritual exclusions:.

Some argue that the dog is not allowed in the Acropolis of Athens or on the island of Delos because they copulate openly-as though cattle, pigs, and horses copulate in bedrooms and not shamelessly in the open! This brilliant critical observation has not received the attention it deserves. Most classical scholars have been content to repeat the traditional explanation, that the dog was despised in Greece because it explicitly displays its sexuality-no matter that Plutarch had already pointed out the absurd pretext of this claim that imputes to dogs alone sexual conduct that is in fact common to all animal species.

To bolster the "objective" validity of this traditional Greek explanation in modern times, appeals are made to the authority of Sigmund Freud, who argued that "man's best friend" has lent its name to disparaging uses because dogs pay no heed to the two strongest taboos imposed by civilization: that linked to sexual behavior and that associated with the handling of excrement. Rebellious against the cultural imperative to repress the organic, like an eternal infant incapable of feeling disgust for its excrement or shame for its sexuality, the dog arouses an unconscious reaction of rejection and contempt in man, expressed in the various cultural forms of a negative stamp-insults, proverbs, traditional stories-that concern it.

It's hardly necessary to emphasize that the Freudian explanation still leaves open the important question that Plutarch's incisive critique raises: since no animal shares with man the sense of shame for its sexuality or revulsion for its excrement, why do dogs alone attract such heavy human contempt in these areas? When Plutarch notes the strange bias of his compatriots who are shocked by canine sexuality but not at all upset by the sexual exhibitions of other domestic animals, he identifies a crucial node for interpreting the cultural representation of the dog, and not only in ancient Greece.

Let us look more closely, then, at what position dogs may occupy in the cultural spaces organized by man. In fact, in Italy also until not very long ago, names such as Giorgio and Pietro were not given to house animals. So the fact that a recent trend has introduced such usage among pet owners is thus a good subject of study for anthropologists of modern urban society. In essence, the dog is in such a promiscuous position, such an intimate participant in human social life, that giving it a human name would cause an excessive identification.

It may live in the house, in the bedroom, be present at its master's meals, "dialogue" with people in the house-but at least in its name it must be clear that a dog is a dog and a human is something else. This concern for distinction thus falls upon the dog, and only the dog, precisely because of its special position with respect to the community. In other words, this position is distinguished by a marked metonymy-that is, by the animal's full participation in the ranks of the social organization.

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Other domestic animals, such as cattle and pigs, also participate in the human community in which they live. But their metonymic relation is weaker, since, although close to man, they are always perceived as nonhuman or instruments of labor or even objects of our action, there for our use and consumption. Dogs, on the other hand, not just are constantly and intensely present in cultural spaces but also collaborate and communicate in ways that make them social subjects within the human community.

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By contrast, with animals such as horses and birds the relation with humans may be so much less participative that it becomes at most metaphorical: such animals, clearly distinct and distant, are perceived as decidedly other, beings different from humans that can be represented only through an act of transference.

In summary, then, some animals are felt to be decisively different and other and thus can be thought of at most as metaphors for humanity; others instead are "metonymic," having their own part in the theater of social life, but only as objects of human action; and finally there is the dog, not only implicated metonymically in the spaces of human action but also participating as a subject. The distinctions it introduces permit one to think about the relationship between humans and dogs in categories more refined than those generally evoked.

The Sacred and the Feminine in Ancient Greece

Labels such as proximate and domestic, so often employed in discussions of the dog, are altogether too vague and lacking in explanatory power. Just consider the fact that they apply equally well to other animals-such as cats and farmyard animals-which elicit cultural formations clearly different from and even the opposite of those regarding dogs.

With the dual definition of metonymic subject we are instead able to reflect on the position of the animal and on the structural constants of the human-dog relationship, taking into account both their unique and specific traits and how these were imagined in ancient culture. The figure of the dog is a paradox. As in so many cultures, past and present, the dog in ancient Greece was seen as the animal closest to humans, even as it elicited from them the most negative representations. Still a loaded term today, the word bitch not only signified shamelessness and a lack of self-control but was also exclusively figured as female.

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Woman and dogs in the Greek imagination were intimately intertwined, and in this careful, engaging analysis, Cristiana Franco explores the ancients' complex relationship with both. By analyzing the relationship between humans and dogs as depicted in a vast array of myths, proverbs, spontaneous metaphors, and comic jokes, Franco in particular shows how the symbolic overlap between dog and woman provided the conceptual tools to maintain feminine subordination.

Intended for general readers as well as scholars, Shameless extends the boundaries of classics and anthropology, forming a model of the sensitive work that can be done to illuminate how deeply animals are imbricated in human history. The English translation has been revised and expanded from the original Italian edition, and it includes a new methodological appendix by the author that points the way toward future work in the emerging field of human-animal studies.

Please …. Preface Prologue 1. Offensive Epithets 2. The Dog in Greece 3.

Women in Ancient Greece

Food for Dogs 4. Books Digital Products Journals. Insults and Animal Categories Let us step back a bit from ancient Greece and turn to some considerations of a more general nature. Questions of Position As in many places in the world, in the Thai village of Baan Phraan Muan Village of the hunter Muan the only domestic animals allowed to frequent the inside of houses, to come and go at will as humans do, are dogs and cats. In a passage discussing why in Rome the priest of Jupiter, the flamen dialis, was not allowed to touch or even speak the name of the dog or the goat, Plutarch notes that in Greece as well the dog endured ritual exclusions: Some argue that the dog is not allowed in the Acropolis of Athens or on the island of Delos because they copulate openly-as though cattle, pigs, and horses copulate in bedrooms and not shamelessly in the open!

About the Book The figure of the dog is a paradox. From Our Blog. Reviews "[The English edition] is accompanied by a short new preface and, most importantly, a long appendix full of rich and complex ideas that makes an important contribution to the field of animal studies This book is a masterwork. A master-book that will be cited often.

Marriage, sacred, Greece and Rome - Holland - - Major Reference Works - Wiley Online Library

The book will attract wide attention—not easy for a book based on ancient Greek evidence—from scholars of anthropology, archaeology, and even those interested in animal rights, feminism, ecology, and cultural history. The intricately detailed chapters are framed between two phases of comparison between the dog and the woman; the two evoke a common ambivalence. Table of Contents Preface Prologue 1. Related Books.