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Athenian Slaves And Women Essay, Research Paper

Athens was Classical Greece?s most famous city-state.In the Classical Athens?s society,men were recognized as the superior beings,whereas women and slaves were the lower form of peoples in the society at that time.(Perry et al 1996:63).In this essay ,I?ll first investigate the rights of Classical Athenian women and slaves from several different aspects and make comparisons between the two before judging whether women had significantly more rights than slaves.

Firstly,from a political point of view,Classical Athenian society denied both women and slaves from and political rights.They were not allowed into the Assembly.This is because Classical Athenians believe that women are unable to reason intellectually ,they can?t translate their reasons effectively and their reasoning lack authority because of their inferior status.(Cartledge 1993:70)The management of the city-state was strickly permitted to the free-mens only,who were the ?superiors? as Aristotle once said:?The male is by nature superior and the female inferior and the one rules and the other is ruled.?(Aristotle Politics cited in Perry 1996:63)Slaves were diminished,undoubtedly,by the Athenians too,as Aristotle said:?He[slaves]can recognise intelligence in others,although he has none?? (Aristotle Politics Extracts paragraph 5).This gives expression that slaves do not have the intelligence to rule,and therefore should be ruled .Women and slaves did not take part in any political activities and both shared the same levels in this field of politics.

The city-state of Classical Athens had a population of around 100,000 people(Lewitt 2000:7)and the Assembly was the place to meet to discuss the matters of the city-state,but not all 100,000 could attend at once to discuss,therefore,there was a ruling that said only ?citizens? were allowed to attend(Lewitt 2000:7).This implied that women and slaves weren?t ?citizens? of the city-state.Citizenship was given to men that are above 18 years of age,and was heriditary,that clearly excluded women(although if they are free-women too) and slaves.(Lewitt 2000:7)In other words,women and slaves weren?t given appreciable status as far as the field of politics and civics are concerned.Plato said in his book Republic:?He[not she] who has the power to take part in the delibrate and judicial administration of the state is said by us?to be a citizen of that state.?(Plato Republic cited in Burckhardt 1998:109).Women and slaves who made up most of the Classical Athens population were not citizens.

Another similarity that both women and slaves shared was that they were under the control of men for almost the whole of their lives. Women were controlled by their fathers before marriage and their husbands after marriage.slaves were to obey the masters all the time,who were practically Athenian men.Athenian women were married off by their fathers during their early or middle teens to men twice their age.(Papas 1997:104) and after marriage,they serve their husbands at home .And as for slaves,they were treated as properties.(Aristotle Politics Extracts paragraph 2 ).But when it comes to punishments,slaves were less privileged than women,slaves were usually punished severely is they didn’t?perform their duties well .Aristippos said in Xenophon?s description of an imaginary conversation between Socrates and Aristippos I punish them[slaves] with every kind of misery until I can force them to behave like a slave should.?(Xenophon Memorabilia II.1.15-17 Extracts ).

Classical Athenian wives were women that were chosen by their husbands to share a life with them.This includes bringing up their children,contribute financially to the family,taking care of household chores and basically managing their entire house.(Xenophon Oeconomicus 6-10 Extracts paragraph 2)Both husband and wife have their own responsibility in the house and they both need the company of each other because own have the abilities that the other lacks,by this pairing,life in the family would be complete.(Xenophone Oeconomicus 6-10 Extracts paragraph4).On the other hand,slaves are considered as properties of their masters.To say,they serve their masters as if they were instruments (Cartledge 1993:124)in the house.They are expected to perform their duties according to their master?s commands.From this perspective,women had a little more rights than slaves.

Women and slaves spend most of their time within the compounds of the houses,unlike men who spent most of their time away from their houses (The Ancient Greek World:www.museum.upenn.edu)therefore,the work of women and slaves are almost alike,they?re mainly household chores such as raising the children,weaving,preparing meals,sewing and so on.( The Ancient Greek World:www.museum.upenn.edu).But there?s a significant diferrence,the women or wife,although share the same work as slaves,they are given the responsibility to act somewhat like a mistress of the house.They supervised and overlook all the duties that were carried out by the slaves,making sure everything in the house?s in the right order,and so on(Xenophon,Oeconomicus 6-10 Extracts,paragraph 8)If the an Athenian house were to be compared with a factory,the wife will act as the factory supervisor,while the slaves were just common factory workers.

In Classical Athens ,laws that protected free women existed.One that Solon introduces concerned the raping of free Athenian women.Various sort of penalties were to be carried out on a rapist,depending on the degree of crimes that he had committed on the women.(Plutarch Solon 20-23 Extracts paragraph 23.12)Solon also dissallowed anyone from selling their daughters or sisters into slavery,unless there were substantial reasons.(Plutarch Solon 20-23 Extracts paragraph 23.1-2)but for slaves,just a few law that protected them.This showed that women was much more favoured by the Athenian society than slaves,in the sense of legal rights.

However,Solon too did make some restrictions on the activities of both women and slaves.For example,their appearance when they were outside their house were to be modest,so that to prevent disorders.??when they went out they were not to have more than three garments,not to carry more than an obol?s worth of food or drink,or a basket more than a cubit in size,nor to go out at night except in a wagon with a lamp in front??(Plutarch Solon 20-23 Extracts paragraph 21.5)Slaves were also (obviously) restricted by some laws such as they are not allowed to choose who or where they want to love with,they have to follow their master?s wish at all times.(Greek Civilisation:www.greekciv.pdx.edu.)

Although it was relatively easy for a man in Ancient Greece to obtain a wife,there must at least be some amount of affection and love between both the groom and bridegromm.For that,Solon abolished dowries(payment of money by the bride?s father to her husband)as he doesn?t want marriage to be like a trade,but for the purpose of union between both man and women.(Plutarch Solon 20-23 Extracts paragraph 20).In addition,a consent and blessing from the brides parents were neede before the marriage could proceed.To say,the marriage between man and women cannot be a forceful matter.Adversely,slaves were sold in places like markets and so on,as objects that could be purchased for an amount of money,depending on their age,appearance and attitude(Greek Civilization:www.greekciv.pdx.edu.)

Women and slaves of Classical Athens were undoubtedly the class of people that were below free-men in the Athenian society hierarchy.But there were also a certain group of women and slaves that were accorded slightly a little more respects than the usual women and slaves of Classical Athens.To name,the Cartesans were a group of women that were allowed to have a social life.They attended social functions,and were admired for their wit.(Burckhardt 1998:251).Some slaves,like the Scythian archers were given duties as police officers(which is considered a prestigious occupation for slaves)and those who were educated worked as clerks and so on.(Perry 1996:63) These group of women and slaves were the ones that enjoyed better status and better rights too.

Athenian men were satisfied sexually by both women and slaves.Athenian men frequently engage in sexual activities with his wife and slaves at home,but these men gives some preferences to his wife as the preferred sexual partner.This is because his wife would be better dressed and made up than a slaves,and most importantly,the wife is submitting into his sexual desires willingly,whereas the slave have no choice in this,but to just oblige to his/her masters desire.(Xenophon Oeconomicus 6-10 Extracts paragraph 8)Ischomacus once said to Socrates in an imaginary conversation that?women who put on air and sit around are inviting comparison with tarted up seductresses.?(Xenophon Oeconomicus 6-10 Extracts paragraph 8)The wife(women) literally have more rights in this matter than slaves.

Women and slaves of classical Athens were always under the control of Athenian free-men,and they both seem to have almost the same status,but from the analysis done above,it could be said that womens had slightly more rights than slaves.

In conclusion,women of Classical Athens had slightly more rights than slaves,but the status gap between the two wouldn?t be really significant.Only in certain matters where women had more rights than slaves,but overall,they both had almost equal rights,and most importantly they were the on the lower level of the Greek Society heirarchy,below free-men.


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