Essay The Concept of Gender in the Study of Ancient History

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The Concept of Gender in the Study of Ancient History

In antiquity gender was a defining feature of life, we can note that it affected the way society was structured, specifically in the Athenian 'polis', as well as public events, such as those associated with religious cults. Gender was also influential in politics, especially that of the Romans. Moreover, it is through gender that we can observe the general ancient view towards women, found throughout numerous literary sources and archaeological remains.

Firstly, there is a strong link between gender and the Athenian 'polis', which was commonly considered to be 'male dominated'.[1]

From an early age male and female youths were polarised, so
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In Aristophanic comedies he frequently alludes to scenes of inebriation and obscenity mixed with intervals of learned opinions. The latter would have prepared the youths for athletic competitions. Keuls' suggests that it is through these activities young boys were instilled, 'with the norms of competitiveness and male privilege'.[2]

In comparison, Greek women were initiated into society through religious roles, specifically those associated with chastity, labour and submission.

The cult of Athena was particularly important, in which a robe known as a 'peplos' was dedicated to the goddess that had been especially woven for the occasion. It was then presented to her either by two or four noble girls, known as 'arrhephoroi', 'bearers of sacred objects'. Scenes from this cult can be found on sections of the Parthenon frieze (440BC-432BC), detailing events such as the folding of the 'peplos' by the 'Archon Basileus', chief magistrate, helped by a young child.

This was a significant affair because the cult of Athena portrayed the characteristics sought desirable in each sex. That is, she represented the 'male patriarchal ethos',[3] through a wild war dance, the 'pyrrhic dance', which was performed by armed dancers. This highlights, through the festival that males were associated with war and

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