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It is the purpose of this volume to give a simple sketch of the history

of Greek womanhood from the Heroic Age down to Roman times, so far as it

can be gathered from ancient Greek literature and from other available

sources for a knowledge of antique life. Greek civilization was

essentially a masculine one; and it is really remarkable how scant are

the references to feminine life in Greek writers, and how few books have

been written by modern scholars on this subject. In the preparation of

this work, the author has consulted all the authorities bearing on old

Greek life, acknowledgment of which can only be made in general terms.

He feels, however, particularly indebted to the following works: Mlle.

Clarisse Bader, _La Femme Grecque_, Paris, 1872; Jos.

Cal. Poestion,

_Griechische Philosophinnen_, Norden, 1885; ibid., _Griechische

Dichterinnen_, Leipzig, 1876; E. Notor, _La Femme dans l'Antiquite

Grecque_, Paris, 1901; R. Lallier, _De la Condition de la Femme

Athenienne au Veme et au IVeme Siecle_, Paris, 1875; Ivo Bruns,

_Frauenemancipation in Athen_, Kiel, 1900; Walter Copeland Perry, _The

Women of Homer_, New York, 1898; Albert Galloway Keller, _Homeric

Society_, London, 1902; and Mahaffy's various works, especially _Social

Life in Greece from Homer to Menander_, and _Greek Life and Thought_. In

making quotations from Greek authors, standard translations have been

used, of which especial acknowledgment cannot always be given, but Lang,

Leaf and Myers' _Iliad_, Butcher's and Lang's _Odyssey_, Wharton's

_Sappho_, and Way's _Euripides_, call for particular mention.

In the spelling of Greek proper names the author has endeavored to adapt

himself to the convenience of his readers by being consistently Roman,

and has used in most cases the Latin forms. He has retained, however,

the Greek forms where usage has made them current, as Poseidon, Lesbos,

Samos, etc., and has invariably adopted forms, neither Greek nor Latin,

which have become universal, as Athens, Constantinople, Rhodes, and the

like. The Greek names of Greek divinities have been preferred to their

Roman equivalents.

To conclude, my thanks are due to the publishers for their uniform

courtesy and help, and to Mr. J.A. Burgan for the careful reading of the

proof; nor could I have undertaken and carried through the work without

the sympathetic aid and encouragement of my wife.


_The George Washington University_.



Whenever culture or art or beauty is theme for thought, the fancy at

once wanders back to the Ancient Greeks, whom we regard as the ultimate

source of all the aesthetic influences which surround us. To them we look

for instruction in philosophy, in poetry, in oratory, in many of the

problems of science. But it is in their arts that the Greeks have left

us their richest and most beneficent legacy; and when we consider how

much they have contributed to the world's civilization, we wonder what

manner of men and women they must have been to attain such achievements.

Though woman's influence is exercised silently and unobtrusively, it is

none the less potent in determining the character and destiny of a

people. Historians do not take note of it, men overlook and undervalue

it, and yet it is ever present; and in a civilization like that of the

Greeks, where the feminine element manifests itself in all its higher

activities,--in its literature, its art, its religion,--

it becomes an

interesting problem to inquire into the character and status of woman

among the Greek peoples. We do not desire to know merely the purely

external features of feminine life among the Greeks, such as their

dress, their ornaments, their home surroundings; we would, above all,

investigate the subjective side of their life--how they regarded

themselves, and were regarded by men; how they reasoned, and felt, and

loved; how they experienced the joys and sorrows of life; what part they

took in the social life of the times; how their conduct influenced the

actions of men and determined the course of history; what were their

moral and spiritual endowments;--in short, we should like to know the

Greek woman in all those phases of life which make the modern woman

interesting and influential and the conserving force in human society.

Yet, when we estimate our sources of information, we find that there is

no problem in the whole range of Greek life so difficult of solution as

that concerning the status and character of Greek women.

The first condition of a successful study of Greek women is to

familiarize one's self with the _milieu_ in which they lived and moved.

To do this we must adapt ourselves to a manner of life and to

conceptions and feelings widely different from our own.

The Greek spirit

of the fifth century before the Christian era has but little in common

with the spirit of the twentieth century; and unless we gain some

insight into the spirit of the Greeks, we cannot understand the

fundamental differences between the life of the Greek woman and that of

the modern woman. Let us note a few respects in which this difference

shows itself.

The Greek attitude toward nature was that of reverent children who saw

everywhere therein manifestations of the divine. To them everything was

what we call supernatural. If wine gladdened the heart of man, it was

the influence of a god. If love stirred the breast, a god was inspiring

man with a sweet influence, and the divine power must not be resisted.

The gods themselves yielded to the impulses of love; why should not men?

Furthermore, Greek thought conceived of the human being as the noblest

creation of nature. Christian theology conceives of the body as the

prison house of the soul, from which the soul must escape to attain its

highest development; the Greeks, on the other hand, regarded body and

soul as forming a complete, inseparable, and harmonious unit. There was

no impulse toward distinguishing between the two, no restless reaching

out toward something regarded as higher and nobler; seeing infinite

possibilities in man as man, the Greek sought only the idealization of

the human being as such, the completion and realization of the highest

type of humanity, physical and spiritual. Because of this peculiar

conception of man, the gods of the Greeks rose out of nature and did not

transcend it. Some of them were personifications of the forces of

nature; others were merely, according to Greek ideas, the highest

conceptions of what was admirable in man and woman. When we consider the

goddesses of the Olympian Pantheon, we see that this conception of the

ideal in woman must have been very high, manifesting itself in the

characters of Hera, the goddess of marriage and of the birth of

children; Athena, "intellect unmoved by fleshly lust, the perfection of

serene, unclouded wisdom;" Demeter, goddess of agriculture and of the

domestic life; Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty and the

idealization of feminine graces and charm; Artemis, the maiden divinity

never conquered by love, and the protectress of maidens; and Hestia,

goddess of the hearth and preserver of the sanctity of the home.

It is difficult for us to appreciate the passionate love of beauty which

animated the Greeks.

"What is good and fair

Shall ever be our care.

That shall never be our care

Which is neither good nor fair."

This immortal burden from the stanzas of Theognis, sung by the Muses and

Graces at the wedding of Cadmus and Harmonia, "strikes,"

says Symonds,

"the keynote to the music of the Greek genius." This innate love of

beauty, fostered by natural surroundings and held in restraint by a

sense of measure, was the most salient characteristic of the Greek

people. It is impossible for us to realize the intensity of the Greek

feeling for beauty; and to them the human body was the noblest form of

earthly loveliness. To illustrate, we may recall the incident of

Phryne's trial before the judges. Hyperides, her advocate, failing in

his other arguments, drew aside her tunic and revealed to them a bosom

perfectly marvellous in its beauty. Phryne was at once acquitted, not

from any prurient motives, but because "the judges beheld in such an

exquisite form not an ordinary mortal, but a priestess and prophetess of

the divine Aphrodite. They were inspired with awe, and would have deemed

it sacrilege to mar or destroy such a perfect masterpiece of creative

power." Nor was the Greek conception of beauty purely sensual. Through

the perfection of human loveliness they had glimpses of divine beauty,

and "the fleshly vehicle was but the means to lead on the soul to what

is eternally and imperishably beautiful." Thus the lesson of the

_Phaedrus_ and _Symposium_ of Plato is that "the passion which grovels in

the filth of sensual grossness may be transformed into a glorious

enthusiasm, a winged splendor, capable of rising to the contemplation of

eternal verities and reuniting the soul of man to God."

This last reflection leads us to the most important difference between

ancient and modern conceptions, that in regard to the relations between

the sexes. We of the Christian era have a clear doctrine of right and

wrong to guide us, a law given from without ourselves, the result of

revelation. The Greeks, on the other hand, "had to interrogate nature

and their own hearts for the mode of action to be pursued. They did not

feel or think that one definite course of action was right and the

others wrong; but they had to judge in each case whether the action was

becoming, whether it was in harmony with the nobler side of human

nature, whether it was beautiful or useful. Utility, appropriateness,

and the sense of the beautiful were the only guides which the Greeks

could find to direct them in the relations of the sexes to each other."

Hence we find that the Greeks deemed permissible much which offends the

modern sense of propriety; for example, when maidens captured in war

became for a time the concubines of the victors, as Chryseis in the

Iliad, and were afterward restored to their homes, they were not thought

in the least disgraced by their misfortune; "for if such a stain happen

to a woman by force of circumstances," says Xenophon,

"men honor her

none the less if her affection seems to them to remain untainted."

How, then, are we to bridge over the gulf which separates us from the

Greeks? What are our sources of knowledge of Greek woman and her manner

of life?

We must first of all know the country of the Greeks. The influence of

country and climate on the Greek nationality has been frequently

emphasized, and the physical phenomena which moulded the characters of

the men must also have affected the women. A climate so mild that, as

Euripides says, "the cold of winter is without rigor, and the shafts of

Phoebus do not wound;" a soil midway between harsh sterility and

luxurious vegetation; a system of fertile plains and rugged plateaus and

varied mountain chains; a coast indented with innumerable inlets and

gulfs and bays--these were the physical characteristics which moulded

the destinies of Greek women. Furthermore, the modern Greek people trace

the threads of their history unbroken back to ancient times, in spite

of the incursions of alien peoples and years of subjugation to the Turk.

Many ancient customs survive, such as the giving of a dowry and the

bathing of the bride before the wedding ceremony. On the islands of the

AEgean, where there has been but little intercourse with foreigners, the

type of features so familiar to us from Greek sculpture still prevails,

and the visitor can see beautiful maidens who might have served as

models for Phidias and Praxiteles. The configuration of the land led to

the Greek conception of the city-state--the feature of internal polity

which had most to do with the seclusion of women.

Greek literature, however, is our chief source of knowledge in this

regard, yet even the information afforded by that literature is

inadequate and unsatisfactory in the glimpses it gives of the life of

woman. All that we know about Greek women, with the exception of the

fragments of Sappho's poems, is derived from chronicles written by men.

Now, men never write dispassionately about women. They either love or

hate them; they either idealize or caricature them.

Furthermore, Greek

literature was not only written by men, but also by men for men. The

Greek reading public, the audience at the theatre, the gathering in the

Assembly and in the law courts, were almost exclusively masculine.

Remarks indicating the inferiority of the frailer but more fascinating

sex are even in our day not altogether displeasing to the average man,

and constitute one of the stock _motifs_ of humor; hence it is not to be

taken too seriously that on the Greek stage there was much abuse of

woman--though this is offset by passages in which the sex is

extravagantly praised. Euripides was once called a woman hater in the

presence of Sophocles. "Yes," was the clever response,

"in his


Then, aside from the point of view of the writer, only meagre facts can

be gleaned here and there from Greek literature regarding the life of

Greek women. Only by gathering and comparing disparate passages

collected from writers of different views, of different States, and of

different periods, can we get anything like a systematic presentation of

the outward aspect of feminine life. We are more fortunate, however,

when we consider the subjective side; for the Greek epos and drama

present feminine portraitures which necessarily reflect, more or less

clearly, the thought and feelings of woman in the age in which the poet

flourished. Homer gives an accurate portrayal of the Heroic Age, on the

borderland of which his own life was passed, while memories of it were

still fresh in the minds of men. The Athenian tragedians also locate

their plots in the Heroic Age, but they endow their characters with a

depth of thought, with a power of reflection, with an insight into the

problems of life, which were altogether foreign to men and women in the

childhood of the world, and were characteristic of Athens in its

brilliant intellectual epoch. Hence a history of Greek womanhood must

draw largely from the works of the poets, and must endeavor to give a

picture of the women who figure in the Iliad and the Odyssey and in the

dramas of AEschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. The lyric poets of Greece

are also of unique importance in the study of ancient humanity, for they

reveal the hearts of men and women and make known the conflicts of the

soul. The historical women of Hellas are few in number, and are known to

us only through meagre passages in the historians, orators, and


A third source of information is Greek art. When woman figures so

largely in the few relics of antiquity which have come down to us

intact, what a commentary on ancient womanhood must the art of the

Greeks have been, before the ruthless hands of Romans and barbarians and

the tooth of time effaced her most precious treasures!

The vase

paintings of the Greeks illustrate every phase of private life, and

abound in representations of the maiden and the matron, in the home, at

the loom, in the bridal procession, at the wedding. And Greek sculpture

presents ideal types of woman, perfect physically and highly endowed

with every intellectual and sensuous charm. From these works of plastic

art, abounding in the museums of Europe, we know that the Greek woman

was beautiful, the peer of man in physical excellence.

In form, the

Greek woman was so perfect as to be still taken as the type of her sex.

"Her beauty, from whatever cause, bordered closely upon the ideal, or

rather was that which, because now only found in works of art, we call

the ideal. But our conceptions of form never transcend what is found in

nature. She bounds our ideas by a circle over which we cannot step. The

sculptors of Greece represented nothing but what they saw; and even when

the cunning of their hand was most felicitous, even when love and grace

and all the poetry of womanhood appeared to breathe from their marbles,

the inferiority of their imitation to the creations of God, in

properties belonging to form, in mere contour, in the grouping and

development of features, must have sufficed to impress even upon

Phidias, that high priest of art, how childish it was to rise above

nature." But it is not merely physical perfection which appeals to us in

these masterpieces of plastic art. Love and tenderness and every womanly

charm find expression in every feature of the countenance; and there is,

above all, a moral dignity, an elevation of soul, a spiritual fervor,

which lift us from things of earth and impart aspirations toward the

eternal. The women who gave insight and inspiration to the sculptor in

his portrayal of Hera and of Athena and of Aphrodite must have possessed

in some measure the qualities imparted by the artist to his works. The

status of woman among the Greeks differs according to the period, tribe,

and form of government, and all the various phases of life and

civilization arising from these must be taken into consideration in

reaching our conclusions. Greek history falls into certain well-defined

periods which are distinct in culture and civilization.

There is first

the Heroic Age, portrayed in Greek mythology and in the Homeric poems,

the age of demigods and valiant warriors and noble women. This is the

monarchical period in Greek history. Kings presided over the destinies

of men, and about them were gathered the nobles. Society was

aristocratic; the life portrayed was the life of courts.

A court made a

queen necessary; and where there is a queen, woman is always a source of

influence and power for good or evil, and wins either the deference and

regard, or the fear and resentment of men. Succeeding the Heroic Age,

there followed the "storm and stress" period in Greek life, when

monarchies were overturned and gave place to oligarchies, and they, in

turn, to tyrannies; when commerce was developing, colonies were being

sent out to distant parts of the Mediterranean, and the aristocratic

classes were enjoying the results of wealth and travel and the

interchange of social courtesies. In this period, epic poetry declined,

and lyric poetry took its place in the three forms of elegiac, iambic,

and melic; the arts, too, were beginning to be cultivated. This is the

Transition Age of Greece. In aristocratic circles, among the families of

the oligarchs and in the courts of tyrants, woman continued to hold a

prominent place; but among the poorer classes, who were ground down by

the aristocrats, life was hard and bitter, and woman was censured as

the source of many of the ills of mankind.

The Transition Age constitutes the portal admitting to Historical Greece

proper. In most communities, the levelling process has gone on, and

democracies have taken the place of oligarchies and tyrannies. The

people have asserted themselves and are regnant. It is a noteworthy fact

in Greek history that where democracy prevailed woman was least highly

regarded and had fewest privileges. In Athens, where democracy was

all-controlling, feminine activities were confined largely to the

women's apartments of the house. In other cities, oligarchies continued

to have power, and an aristocracy was still recognized, as at Sparta;

and here the privileges and freedom of woman were very great.

The early tribal divisions among the Greeks must also be taken into

consideration. The Achaeans are closely identified with the Heroic Age;

they built up the powerful States in the Peloponnesus, and undertook the

first great national expedition of Hellas. Thus the Achaeans are the

representative Homeric people, with its monarchical life and the

prominent social status of its women. The Achaean civilization gave way

before the Dorian migration, and ceased to be a factor in Greek history.

Of the three remaining divisions, the AEolians inhabited parts of

Thessaly, Boeotia, and especially the island of Lesbos, and the Greek

colonies of Asia Minor along the shores of the North AEgean. Their most

brilliant period was during the Transition Age, when Lesbos was ruled by

a wealthy and powerful aristocracy and later by a tyranny, and when

lyric poetry reached its perfect bloom in the verses of Sappho. AEolian

culture was marked by its devotion to music and poetry and by its

richness and voluptuousness. At no other time and place in the whole

history of Hellas did woman possess so much freedom and enjoy all the

benefits of wealth and culture in so marked a degree as among the AEolian

people of Lesbos.

The Dorian and the Ionian peoples occupied the arena during the

historical period; and, representing as they did opposing tendencies,

they were continually in conflict. The Dorians mainly occupied the

Southern and Western Peloponnesus, Argos, Corinth, Megara, AEgina, Magna

Graecia, and the southern coast of Asia Minor; the Ionians inhabited

Attica, Euboea, most of the islands of the AEgean, and the famous twelve

Ionian cities along the coast of Asia Minor. The chief city of the

Dorians was Sparta; but Sparta had a form of government peculiar to

itself, which must not be taken as representing all the Dorian States.

Yet among the Dorian States in general there was much the same degree of

freedom enjoyed by women as in Sparta, though they were not subjected to

the same harsh discipline.

The Ionian cities of Asia Minor were greatly influenced by Asiatic love

of ease and luxury, and they introduced into Greece many aspects of the

civilization and art of Asia. There is a tradition that when the Ionians

migrated from Hellas to Asia Minor they did not take their wives with

them, as did the Dorians and AEolians, and, consequently, they were

compelled to wed the native women of the conquered districts. As they

looked upon the wives thus acquired as inferior, they were glad to shut

them up in the women's apartments, following the Oriental custom, and to

treat them as domestics rather than as companions. Thus is supposed to

have arisen the custom of secluding the women of the household, which

rapidly spread among Ionian peoples, even in Continental Greece.

Athens was the chief city among the Ionian peoples, but it developed a

civilization peculiarly its own, known as the Attic-Ionian, combining

much of the rugged strength and vigor of the Dorians with the

refinement, delicacy, and versatility of the Ionians.

Yet the status of

woman in the city of the violet crown was a reproach to its otherwise

unapproachable preeminence. Nowhere else in entire Hellas were Greek

women in like measure repressed and excluded from the higher life of the

men as among the Athenians. Consequently, the name of no great Athenian

woman is known to us. But the Ionian repression of women of honorable

station led to the rise of a class of "emancipated"

women, who threw off

the shackles that had bound their sex and united their fortunes with men

in unlawful relations as hetaerae, or "companions."

Owing to their pursuit

of the higher learning of the times and their cultivation of all the

feminine arts and graces, the hetaerae constituted a most interesting

phenomenon in the social life of Greece, and played an important role in

Greek culture, especially in Athens. As the centre of culture for

Hellas, and as the exponent of literature and art for the civilized

world, Athens demands especial attention in its treatment of women.

The classical period of Greek history was succeeded by the Hellenistic

Age, an epoch introduced by the spread of the Greek language and culture

over the vast empire of Alexander the Great. The theory of the

city-state had been one of the chief causes of the seclusion of women;

and as Alexander broke down the barriers between the Greek cities and

introduced uniformity of life and manners throughout his empire, from

this time on the status of woman is gradually elevated, her attention to

the higher education becomes more general, and she takes a more

prominent part in culture and politics and all the living interests of

the day. Alexandria usurps the place of Athens as the chief centre of

Greek life and thought, and here the Greek woman plays a conspicuous

and prominent role. Then, as Rome spread her conquests over the Orient,

the Graeco-Roman period succeeds the Hellenistic, and through the

intermingling of alien civilizations a womanhood of purely Greek culture

is merged into the cosmopolitan womanhood of the Roman world.

Christianity rapidly becomes the leaven that permeates the lump of the

Roman Empire, and, appealing as it did to all that was highest and best

in feminine character, finds ready acceptance among the women of

Hellenic lands. The woman of Greek culture, with rare exceptions, ceases

to exist, and our subject reaches its natural termination.



The life of the earliest Greeks is mirrored in their legends. Though not

exact history, the heroic epics of Greece are of great value as pictures

of life and manners. Hence we may turn to them as valuable memorials of

that state of society which must be for us the starting point of the

history of the Greek woman.

The evidence of Homer regarding the Heroic Age is comprehensive and

accurate. The discoveries of recent years are making Troy and Mycenae and

other cities of Homeric life very real to us. We find that Homer

accurately described the material surroundings of his heroes and

heroines--their houses and clothing and weapons and jewels. The royal

palaces at Troy and Tiryns and Mycenae have been unearthed, and we know

that their human occupants must have been persons of the character

described by Homer, for only such could have made proper use of the

objects of utility and adornment found in these palaces and now to be

studied in the museums of Europe. Hence we are driven to the conclusion

that though Agamemnon be a myth and Helen a poet's fancy, yet men and

women like Agamemnon and Helen must once have lived and loved and

suffered on Greek soil.

Furthermore, great movements in the world's history are brought about

only by great men and great women. The great epics of the world tell the

stories of national heroes, not as they actually were, but idealized and

deified by generations of admiring descendants. Hence, behind all the

marvellous stories in myth and legend were doubtless actual figures of

men and women who influenced the course of events and left behind them

reputations of sufficient magnitude to give at least a basis for the

heroic figures of epic poetry.

To appreciate the elements from which the immortal types of Greek Epic

were composed, a comparison with the Book of Judges is apposite. In

Judges we have represented, though in disconnected narrative, the heroic

age of Ancient Israel, and from material such as this the national epic

of the Hebrew people might have been written. In such an epic, women

like Deborah and Jephthah's Daughter and Delilah would be the idealized

heroines, as are Penelope and Andromache and Helen in Homeric poems. It

is not unreasonable, therefore, to suppose that in the Achaean Age there

lived actual women, of heroic qualities, who were the prototypes of the

idealized figures presented by Homer and the dramatic poets.

Woman must have played a prominent role in the childhood of the Greek

world, for much of the romantic interest which Greek legend inspires is

derived from the mention of the women. Helen and Penelope, Clytemnestra

and Andromache, and the other celebrated dames of heroic times, stand in

the foreground of the picture, and are noted for their beauty, their

virtues, their crimes, or their sufferings. Thus, a study of the history

of woman in Ancient Greece properly begins with a contemplation of

feminine life as it is presented in the poems of Homer.

Homer's portrayal of the Achaean Age is complete and satisfactory,

largely because he devotes so much attention to woman and the conditions

of her life. His chivalrous spirit manifests itself in his attitude

toward the weaker sex. Homer's men are frequently childish and

impulsive; Homer's women present the characteristics universally

regarded as essential to true womanhood. They even seem strangely

modern; the general tone of culture, the relation of the sexes, the

motives that govern men and women, present striking parallels to what we

find in modern times.

Homer has presented to us eternal types of womanhood, which are in

consequence worthy of the immortality they have acquired. At present, we

shall merely seek to learn from these works as much as possible about

the life of woman as seen in the customs of society, and in

archaeological and ethnographic details.

That which strikes us as most noticeable in the organization of society

in heroic times is its patriarchal simplicity. Monarchy is the

prevailing form of government. "Basileus," "leader of the people," is

the title of the sovereign, and every Basileus rules by right hereditary

and divine: the sceptre of his house is derived from Zeus. The king is

leader in war, head of the Council and of the Assembly of the people,

and supreme judge in all matters involving equity. The


constitute the Council, and the people are gathered together in Assembly

to endorse the actions of their chiefs. The Iliad describes the life of

a Greek camp; but Agamemnon, the suzerain, has under him men who are

kings at home. The Odyssey describes civil life in the centres where the

chieftains at Ilium are royal rulers. The two epics are chiefly

concerned with the lives of these kings and their families. It is the

life of courts and kings, of the aristocracy, with which Homer makes us

familiar; and in the monarchies of Homer the status of woman is always

elevated and her influence great. The wife shares the position of her

husband, and his family are treated with all the deference due the head.

As the king derives his authority by divine right, the people live

peaceably under the government of their chief as under the authority and

protection of the gods. Such are the salient features of the Homeric


With what inimitable grace does the poet initiate us even into the life

of the little girl at her mother's side. Achilles is chiding Patroclus

for his tears: "Wherefore weepest thou, Patroclus, like a fond little

maid that runs by her mother's side and bids her mother take her up, and

tearfully looks at her till the mother takes her up?"

Now, let us note

the maiden at the dawn of womanhood. The mother had prayed that her

daughter might grow up like Aphrodite in beauty and charm, and like

Athena in wisdom and skill in handiwork. Father and mother observe with

happiness her radiant youth; and her brothers care tenderly for her. Her

pastimes consist in singing and dancing and playing ball and the various

forms of outdoor recreation. Young men and maidens join together in

these sports. Homer represented such scenes on the Shield of Achilles:

"Also did the lame god devise a dancing place like unto that which once

in wide Cnossos Daedalus wrought for Ariadne of the lovely tresses. There

were youths dancing and maidens of costly wooing, their hands upon one

another's wrists. Fine linen the maidens had on, and the youths

well-woven doublets, faintly glistening with oil. Fair wreaths had the

maidens, and the youths daggers of gold hanging from silver baldrics.

And now they would run round with deft feet exceeding lightly, as when a

potter sitting by his wheel that fitteth between his hands maketh trial

of it whether it will run: and now anon they would run in line to meet

each other." Such were their pastimes, and equally joyous were their

occupations. To the maidens seem to have been chiefly assigned the

outdoor tasks of the household, which would contribute to their physical

development. Thus the Princess Nausicaa and her girl friends wash in the

river the garments of fathers and brothers; and the Shield of Achilles

represented a vintage scene where "maidens and striplings in childish

glee bear the sweet fruit in plaited baskets, and in the midst of them a

boy made pleasant music on a clear-toned viol, and sang thereto a sweet

Linus-song, while the rest with feet falling together kept time with the

music and the song."

The education of the girls was of the simplest character. They grew up

in the apartment of the mother, and learned from her simple piety toward

the gods a modest bearing, skill in needlework, and efficiency in the

management of a household.

While enjoying a freedom far greater than that allowed to maidens in the

classical period, the Homeric girls did not take part in the feasts and

pastimes of court life. Thus the poet tells us that Nausicaa, who is a

perfect picture of the Greek girl in the springtime of her youth and

beauty, "retired to her chamber upon her return to the palace, and

supper was served to her by a nurse in her apartments,"

while Odysseus

was being graciously entertained by her father and mother in the court

below. Strict attention to the _convenances_ of their sex and station

was required of these primitive women; and the high-minded maiden

Nausicaa feared evil report should the stranger, Odysseus, be seen with

her in the streets of the city, as such intimacy would be a "shame" to

her, a maiden; while it was also a "shame" for a married woman to go

alone into the presence of men, even when in her own house, though she

could enter their presence when attended by her handmaidens. Thus

Penelope is followed by her maidens when she goes to the hall of the men

to hear the minstrel Phemius. "Bid Antinoe and Hippodamia," says she,

"come to stand by my side in the halls, for alone I will not go among

men, for I am ashamed." Nor did Helen and Andromache ever appear in

public without their handmaidens. In seeming opposition to this

excessive modesty was that office of hospitality which ofttimes required

young women to bathe and anoint the distinguished strangers who were

guests in the house. Thus Polycaste, the beautiful daughter of Nestor,

bathed and anointed Telemachus, and put on him a cloak and vest. Helen

performed like offices for Odysseus when he came in disguise into Troy,

and Circe later for the same hero. Though the poet's statements may at

times, in matters of outward appearance, do violence to modern social

rules, yet, because life in heroic times was simpler and less

conventional, there could innocently be greater freedom of expression

between the sexes regarding many matters which are tabooed in good

society in this very conventional age. Hence such passages as those

cited are to be taken rather as an evidence of the innocence and

ingenuousness of Homer's maidens than as an imputation of lack of


There are many indications pointing to the universal beauty of Homeric

women. Thus a favorite epithet of the country is

"Hellas, famed for fair

women." There are also numerous epithets applied to Homeric characters

significant of beauty, as "fair in form," "with beautiful cheeks," "with

beautiful locks," "with beautiful breasts," and the like, demonstrating

the universal love of physical beauty as well as the prevalence of

beautiful types.

Marriage was a highly honorable estate, and both young men and maidens

looked forward to it as a natural and desirable step in the sequence of

life. The preliminaries were of a distinctly patriarchal type. The

marriage was usually a matter of arrangement between the suitor and his

intended father-in-law. Sometimes a man might win his bride by heroic

deed or personal merit; but usually the successful suitor was he who

brought the most costly wedding gifts. Thus the characteristic feature

was wife purchase. Usually these gifts were offered to the bride's

father or family; but in the case of the (supposed) widow Penelope, they

were presented to the woman herself. The gifts were added to the wealth

of the bride's household. The idea of dower as such is foreign to the

Homeric poems, though the poet occasionally represents the bride as

receiving from parents rich gifts, which apparently were to be her

personal property, in addition to the nuptial gifts from her family,

consisting of herds or jewels or precious raiment.

From the eagerness with which suitors sought to win the regard of the

maiden, it would seem that she had some choice in the selection of a

husband; but in general the father decided whom he would have for his

son-in-law, though at times the maiden was given her choice from a

number of young men approved by her father. Widows were expected to

remarry; and in their case considerable freedom of choice existed.

The marriage ceremonies were of a social rather than religious or civil

character. The wedding day was celebrated by a feast provided by the

groom in the house of the bride's father. All the guests were clad in

their most costly raiment, and they brought presents to the young

couple. In these patriarchal times, when the father was both chief and

pontiff, so that his approval gave a sacred character to the union, the

leading away of the bride from the house of her father seems to have

constituted the most important act of the marriage ceremony. In the

description of the Shield of Achilles, Homer gives us a glimpse of this

solemnity. Under the glow of torches, surrounded by a joyous company,

dancing and singing hymeneal songs, the bride was led to the house of

her future husband. She was veiled, a custom that was a survival of the

old attempt to avoid angering the ancestral spirits by withdrawing

unceremoniously from their surveillance. The gods presided over

marriage, but no priest or sacrifice was needed; no ceremonies have been

recorded which confirm the theory of bride capture, so often said to be

at the basis of Homeric marriages, nor is there mention of any

ceremonial rites on the wedding night.

Marriage among the Homeric Greeks had primarily two distinct objects in

view: the preservation of a pure line of descent, and the protection of

the property rights of the family. Hence the wife and mother had in her

hands all the sacred traditions of the family; if these were preserved

by her, she added to their glory; if violated, the prestige of the

family suffered untold loss. In consequence, there was no polygamy and

no divorce. Monogamy could be the only sanctioned form of marriage where

such conceptions of wedded life prevailed. Concubinage existed,

especially when the husband was long absent from home; but it was looked

upon with disfavor and frequently led to unfortunate consequences, as in

the cases of Phoenix and Agamemnon. Hetairism and prostitution did not

receive in the Homeric days the recognized place that was later accorded

them in the social structure of the Greeks. The many instances of

conjugal devotion in the Iliad and the Odyssey, as seen, for example, in

Hector and Andromache, Odysseus and Penelope, Alcinous and Arete, show

the high average of marital fidelity in heroic times.

There are also

many minor indications that the ties of the family were very sacred

among the Achaeans, and that conjugal affection was very strong. One of

the lamented hardships of the long siege was separation from one's wife:

"For he that stayeth away but one single month far from his wife in his

benched ship fretteth himself when winter storms and the furious sea

imprison him; but for us the ninth year of our stay here is upon us in

its course." And the prayer of Odysseus for Nausicaa shows the Greek

love of home and happy married life: "And may the gods grant thee all

thy heart's desire: a husband and a home, and a mind at one with his may

they give--a good gift; for there is nothing mightier and nobler than

when man and wife are of one heart and mind in a house, a grief to their

foes, and to their friends great joy, but their own hearts know it


The view taken of adultery is a good test of the position of woman in

society. In Homeric times, adultery was regarded as the violation of a

property right. There are few harsh words in the Iliad against Helen;