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Women in Ancient Greece Hardcover – Mar 1995

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: British Museum Press; 1st Edition edition (Mar. 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0714112968
  • ISBN-13: 978-0714112961
  • Product Dimensions: 24 x 17.8 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,390,248 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


This is an exploration of an often-overlooked group in ancient Greece: women. Though they played little or no public role, women were an integral part of Greek society and it is impossible to gain a full and balanced idea of that society without considering their experience alongside that of men. This book looks at the available evidence for women's lives: their status in the family and in marriage, their legal and political situation and their place in religious observance. It studies depictions of women in art and literature and discusses what these reveal of the prevailing (male) attitudes to women. The book focuses on the Archaic and Classical ages, exploring the political and cultural changes of the period and how they would have affected women in Athens, Sparta and Gortyn (the three city-states for which evidence exists).

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 27 Aug. 2003
Format: Paperback
For those studying the classics there are many books covering this multi-faceted subject; Sue Blundell's book manages to satisfy both reading for enjoyment's sake and as a scholarly source of information. It is well-researched and makes this fascinating period come to life. Many things have changed for women during the intervening two millenia - but funnily enough some seem scarily familiar through twenty-first century eyes.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 8 Sept. 2003
Format: Paperback
I found this book invaluable whilst studying fifth-century Athens and the Classics generally. It is written is style that is easy-to-read and has been a valuable source book, outlining and expanding the sparse evidence on women and their day-to-day lives in Ancient Greece. Good chapter headings and an excellent index provided by Sue Blundell.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 8 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
A fine treatise on the women of ancient Greece 18 Feb. 2008
By D. Roberts - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a very insightful overview of women in ancient Greece. It's a good companion to Sarah Pomeroy's Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves: Women in Classical Antiquity. Pomeroy's book is a pioneering work in women's historicity, while Blundell expounds on some of the themes.

Blundell spends just one chapter on the women of Sparta. This is understandable, but Spartan women are a marked distinction to women from elsewhere in Greece, due to the fact that they enjoyed so many more rights & privileges than women from other city states. For a more extensive study of the women of Lacedamon, I would recommend Spartan Women.

I have been working on my own commentary on the ancient Greeks, and I found this book very informative and useful in researching my sections on Grecian women. Blundell is certainly erudite and is able to discern a great many plausible details of the lives & times of Greek women from the most generic of evidence. This book is indispensable for all persons interested in feminist topics.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Interesting and well written account 3 Oct. 2002
By Magellan - Published on
Format: Paperback
You wouldn't think anyone could come up with a new or original idea for a book about ancient Greece, but actually, this book comes close in its focus on the treatment of women. Blundell's book is well-written, scholarly, and even includes the occasionally humorous (and possibly apocryphal) story. For example, there is a section in which she discusses the punishments for adultery. According to Athenian law, a husband had the right to kill a man caught in the act of adultery with his wife. However, the law also allowed the dead man's family to sue the aggrieved man for damages, so it's suspected that very few men actually availed themselves of this right, and perhaps opted for other choices, such as payment for damages, and so on. There is even mentioned the punishment of "radishment," which is "to have a large radish stuffed up one's anus." I kid you not. Well, this piece of information comes from the satiric playwright Aeschylus, who mentions it in one of his plays, and so is perhaps the product of the writer's over-active imagination. But whether this was actually part of the law or not, I found this to be a well-written, scholarly, and occasionally humorous account of life in ancient Greece.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Stops too soon 10 Aug. 2007
By D. P. Birkett - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The question of the status of women in ancient Greece is of more than purely scholarly interest. It has some contemporary political relevance. Feminists and neo-conservatives both point at the ancient world for examples of doing what comes naturally. Their theory is that if certain patterns of human behavior have persisted a long time them they are due to nature not nurture. Blundell's survey is thorough, but largely based on well-known literary sources. In general she finds that repression was usual, especially in classical Athens, and women had little in the way of rights or independence. Connelly's recent book "Portrait of a Priestess" points to the important role of females in Greek religion and gives a somewhat different view. Although the title refers in to "ancient" Greece it, only covers the archaic and classical periods and stops at the death of Alexander. Hellenistic Greece is dealt with in a three page postscript, which is, in many ways, the most interesting and original part, because she suggests that this was an age of relative emancipation. Works such as the "Leucippe and Clitophon" of Achilles Tatius suggest that brother sister (or at least half-brother to half-sister) marriage became common. It would be interesting to learn how (or whether) this came about. The women of the New Testament are not mentioned at all. It would have been interesting to have her views on Lydia of Thyatira, in the 16th chapter of Acts, the dealer in purple cloth, who made her whole staff convert with her, and insisted on Paul and Timothy staying in her house.
Perhaps Blundell has a second book in mind.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Startlingly Clinical 29 Dec. 2005
By Kenneth Sohl - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have to disagree with another reviewer. I am definitely NOT "PC", so I read this book with a careful eye towards bias. I must have some myself, because I was pleasantly surprised at how absolutely objective the writing was (I was half expecting some feminist's agenda-mongering cloaked as "history", but found in fact history written more objectively and lively than many male historians' ). Ms. Blundell never writes to purposefully bash the male-centric culture of ancient Athens, just recounts embarassing truths. If someone is offended by what she had to say, perhaps they were reading her words with a biased eye, or simply wanted to ignore the truth. I mean, if you open your eyes to a different viewpoint, you can see where some radical feminist might take offense also, for she just tells it like it is for the sake of comlpleteness (as a historian should), with no axe to grind. I ordered her book to learn about women's life in ancient Greece for a book I'm writing, but again, was pleasantly surprised to find some information on the multifacted nature of the Greek Gods that one doesn't see in the typical books about myths as well as very specific information on the state of medicine in classical times that is hard to find anywhere. This, and references to several Greek poets made this book unexpectedly interesting, more so than I would have thought just from the title. Highly recommended, this is one of the best researched and most clinical books on ancient Greece I have read yet, not to mention necessary. After all, it's about how the other half lived.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Women in Ancient Greece 27 July 2005
By T. Geyer - Published on
Format: Paperback
I had to buy this book for a Gender and Society in Ancient Greece. It is an interesting read. I believe the author gets offended too easily at the treatment of women without taking into consideration the time period. In doing so she does not give enough credit to the positive impact that women in Ancient Greece had, even though their rights were extremely limited.
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