Tag Archives: Law Code of Gortyn

Women in Ancient Greece were Chattels. Or were they?

Greek temple at Paestum, Italy

Greek temple but not in Greece. This temple is in Paestum, Italy

Everything I’d read suggested that women in Ancient Greece were chattels. That their position was even worse than that of women in Ancient Rome. Neither could be citizens. First their fathers governed (owned?) them; then husbands and sometimes even grown-up sons. They should remain within the home, concentrating on children and weaving. (The distaff side that Sarah mentioned last week was much to the fore.)

gold ornaments from Machlos, Crete, 2600-1900 BC

gold ornaments, Machlos, Crete, 2600-1900 BC

You may recall that the law placed restrictions on what freeborn women in Ancient Greece could do (see my earlier blog on sumptuary laws). Our freeborn woman could not leave the city at night, nor could she wear gold jewellery or a  garment with a purple border, nor could she be attended by more than one slave. (There were exceptions, relating to being drunk or a courtesan or committing adultery. Yes, quite.)

Women in Crete were different?

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