Children & Childhood
Above: A house on the island of Corfu, Greece. Source: Unsplash. Creator: Fleur. License: Unsplash license.
Articles from the
Oxford Classical Dictionary
Hestia | household | houses | housework | dining-rooms | furniture | heating | lamps | lighting | meals | mosaic | palaces | adultery | betrothal | endogamy | inheritance | marriage ceremonies | marriage law | matrilocality | widows | abortion | adoption | age | age classes | breast-feeding | cemeteries | childbirth | children | contraception | disposal of dead | epheboi | genos | gynaecology | incest | infanticide | initiation | menopause | menstruation | midwives | motherhood | population | rites of passage | toys
The Archaeology of Household Activities
This pioneering collection engages with recent research in different areas of the archaeological discipline to bring together case-studies of the household material culture from later prehistoric and classical periods. The book provides a comprehensive and accessible study for students into the material records of past households, aiding wider understanding of our own domestic development.
Children in Antiquity: Perspectives and Experiences of Childhood in the Ancient Mediterranean
ed. Lesley A Beaumont, Matthew Dillon, and Nicola Harrington, 2021
This collection employs a multi-disciplinary approach treating ancient childhood in a holistic manner according to diachronic, regional and thematic perspectives. This multi-disciplinary approach encompasses classical studies, Egyptology, ancient history and the broad spectrum of archaeology, including iconography and bioarchaeology. With a chronological range of the Bronze Age to Byzantium and regional coverage of Egypt, Greece, and Italy this is the largest survey of childhood yet undertaken for the ancient world. Within this chronological and regional framework both the social construction of childhood and the child’s life experience are explored through the key topics of the definition of childhood, daily life, religion and ritual, death, and the information provided by bioarchaeology. No other volume to date provides such a comprehensive, systematic and cross-cultural study of childhood in the ancient Mediterranean world.
As old as the prehistoric bones jumbled in caves, as new as the latest union consummated in a test tube, the family in one form or another is at the heart of every society. Our most common institution, it is also the source of some of the world's most compelling and persistent questions, touching the very quick of history, anthropology, psychology, and sociology. A History of the Family is the first work to address all these aspects of the family over time and across the earth--to search out what the family means in its most particular and universal senses. This monumental work in two volumes brings together experts from every discipline to show what the study of each epoch has to tell us about the family. Why is the family universal and yet so different in its various cultural manifestations? What notions of kinship regulate it, and how do these develop and change? Françoise Zonabend's anthropological perspective on these questions, leading off Volume I, surveys familial terms and arrangements from familiar patrilinear models to matrilinear societies in Sumatra and Ghana to polyandry among the Nayar and the Toda of India. The following essays, which move from prehistory to antiquity to the middle ages, trace the evolution of the family from primate behavior to codified practices--in Sumer and Babylon and ancient Rome, in feudal Europe and medieval Byzantium, in China and Japan and Arab Islam--and relate these developments to religious, economic, and governmental concerns from land ownership to dynastic control and the maintenance of public order.
Below: A crowded hillside in Santorini, Greece. Source: Unsplash. Creator: Chris Lawton. License: Unsplash license.
Aidōs: The Psychology and Ethics of Honour and Shame in Ancient Greek Literature
This is the first study in English to examine one of the most crucial terms in Greek ethical and social discourse, aidos, within a wide range of Greek literature. Commonly rendered "shame," "modesty," or "respect," aidos is one of the most elusive and difficult Greek words to translate. Cairns discusses the nature and application of aidos and other relevant terms in a number of authors; with particular emphasis on their manifestations in epic, tragedy, and philosophy. He shows that the essence of the concept is to be found in its relationship with Greek values of honor, in which context it can recognize and respond to the honor of both the self and others. It thus involves both self- and other- regarding behavior, competitive and cooperative values.
Law, Sexuality, and Society: The Enforcement of Morals in Classical Athens
Centering on the examination of the social and legal context of adultery, homosexuality, impiety, and the public-private dichotomy in Athenian society, this book attempts to examine the problems of social control and the regulation of sexuality in a way that will be of interest to a broad readership. It uses a comparative approach to show how the examination of such issues can deepen our understanding of classical Athens, particularly in regard to the role of law in society. Further, it argues that this historical investigation can, in turn, enrich our general appreciation of the relation of social and legal norms, and the roles they play in regulating complex social practices such as those associated with sexuality, morals, and the family. This illuminating book develops a view of classical Athenian society that emphasizes the study of social control as the dynamic interplay of legal and social norms within the context of ideology and practice.
The division of land and consolidation of territory that created the Greek polis also divided sacred from productive space, sharpened distinctions between purity and pollution, and created a ritual system premised on gender difference. Regional sanctuaries ameliorated competition between city-states, publicized the results of competitive rituals for males, and encouraged judicial alternatives to violence. Female ritual efforts, focused on reproduction and the health of the family, are less visible, but, as this provocative study shows, no less significant. Taking a fresh look at the epigraphical evidence for Greek ritual practice in the context of recent studies of landscape and political organization, Susan Guettel Cole illuminates the profoundly gendered nature of Greek cult practice and explains the connections between female rituals and the integrity of the community. In a rich integration of ancient sources and current theory, Cole brings together the complex evidence for Greek ritual practice. She discusses relevant medical and philosophical theories about the female body; considers Greek ideas about purity, pollution, and ritual purification; and examines the cult of Artemis in detail. Her nuanced study demonstrates the social contribution of women's rituals to the sustenance of the polis and the identity of its people.
Below: View of a room in the Villa Kerylos, a painstaking early 20th-century recreation of an ancient Greek house in Beaulieu-sur-Mer, France.
Source: Wikimedia Commons. Creator: Abxbay. License: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.
Birth, Death, and Motherhood in Classical Greece
Why did Greek society foster social conditions, especially early marriage with its attendant early childbearing, that were known to be dangerous for both mother and child? What were the actual causes of death among women described as dying of childbirth in the Hippocratic Epidemics? Why did families choose to portray labor scenes on tombstones when the Greek commemorative tradition otherwise avoided reference to suffering and illness? In this book, Nancy Demand offers the first comprehensive exploration of the social and cultural construction of childbirth in ancient Greece. Reading the ancient evidence in light of feminist theory, the Foucauldian notion of discursively constituted objects, medical anthropology, and anthropological studies of the modern Greek village, Demand discusses topics that include midwifery, abortion, attitudes of doctors toward women patients, and the treatment of women generally. For evidence, she relies primarily on the case histories in the Epidemics concerning women with complications in pregnancy, abortion, and childbirth. She also draws relevant details from cure records and dedications from healing sanctuaries, labor scenes depicted on tombstones, Aristophanic comedy, andPlatonic philosophy.
John Dillon's exploration of Athenian society vividly brings to life how the ancient Greeks behaved towards each other. How did husbands treat their wives and parents their children? What were the rights enjoyed, and the perils faced, by a courtesan? What were the obligations of love and friendship between men and men, men and women, and men and boys? He shows how slaves were to be treated and what it was like to be a slave or a slave's child; and asks how, when and why duties to the gods were fulfilled. The problems of inheritance and the position of widows, daughters and sons are also examined.In each chapter two or more stories drawn from ancient sources give contrasting perspectives on the Greeks' attitudes and beliefs, and to discussions of the works of literature, history, and philosophy they used to beguile and guide their lives. This thoughtful and entertaining book shows the practical outcomes of ancient Greek thought and literature and how the strange and familiar are mixed in the customs of this civilization.
Risk and Survival in Ancient Greece
This new work from Thomas Gallant provides a highly original analysis of the ancient Greek domestic economy. The nature of their environment together with only rudimentary technology caused the Greek peasants to develop an extensive but delicate web of risk-management strategies. The author details these strategies alongside the key adaptive measures by which the ancient Greeks coped with major fluctuations in food production and supply. As a whole, the book makes a major contribution to the perennial debate about how peasants secure the basic conditions of material subsistence.
Below: Terracotta kylix (drinking cup) depicting a housemaid working at a washbasin, ca. 500 BCE.
Source/creator: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. License: CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.
Children & Childhood in Classical Athens
First published in 1990, Children and Childhood in Classical Athens was the first book in English to explore the lives of children in ancient Athens. Drawing on literary, artistic, and archaeological sources as well as on comparative studies of family history, Mark Golden offers a vivid portrait of the public and private lives of children from about 500 to 300 B.C. Golden discusses how the Athenians viewed children and childhood, describes everyday activities of children at home and in the community, and explores the differences in the social lives of boys and girls. He details the complex bonds among children, parents, siblings, and household slaves, and he shows how a growing child’s changing roles often led to conflict between the demands of family and the demands of community. In this thoroughly revised edition, Golden places particular emphasis on the problem of identifying change over time and the relationship of children to adults. He also explores three dominant topics in the recent historiography of childhood: the agency of children, the archaeology of childhood, and representations of children in art. The book includes a completely new final chapter, text and notes rewritten throughout to incorporate evidence and scholarship that has appeared over the past twenty-five years, and an index of ancient sources.
Growing Up Fatherless in Antiquity
ed. Sabine R. Hübner & David M. Ratzan, 2009
As the changes in the traditional family accelerated toward the end of the twentieth century, a great deal of attention came to focus on fathers, both modern and ancient. While academics and politicians alike singled out the conspicuous and growing absence of the modern father as a crucial factor affecting contemporary family and social dynamics, ancient historians and classicists have rarely explored ancient father-absence, despite the likelihood that nearly a third of all children in the ancient Mediterranean world were fatherless before they turned fifteen. The proportion of children raised by single mothers, relatives, step-parents, or others was thus at least as high in antiquity as it is today. This book assesses the wide-ranging impact high levels of chronic father-absence had on the cultures, politics, and families of the ancient world.
At once daring and authoritative, this book offers a profusely illustrated history of sexual politics in ancient Athens. The phallus was pictured everywhere in ancient Athens: painted on vases, sculpted in marble, held aloft in gigantic form in public processions, and shown in stage comedies. This obsession with the phallus dominated almost every aspect of public life, influencing law, myth, and customs, affecting family life, the status of women, even foreign policy. This is the first book to draw together all the elements that made up the "reign of the phallus"―men's blatant claim to general dominance, the myths of rape and conquest of women, and the reduction of sex to a game of dominance and submission, both of women by men and of men by men. In her elegant and lucid text, Eva Keuls not only examines the ideology and practices that underlay the reign of the phallus, but also uncovers an intense counter-movement―the earliest expressions of feminism and antimilitarism. Complementing the text are 345 reproductions of Athenian vase paintings. Some have been reproduced in a larger format and gathered in an appendix for easy reference and closer study. These revealing illustrations are a vivid demonstration that classical Athens was more sexually polarized and repressive of women than any other culture in Western history.
Below: View of a bedroom in the Villa Kerylos, a painstaking early 20th-century recreation of an ancient Greek house in Beaulieu-sur-Mer, France.
Source: Flickr. Creator: Kotomi_. License: Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial 2.0 Generic.
The papers in this volume were all among the contributions presented at an international symposium: Ancient Marriage in Myth and Reality which was held at the Swedish Institute in Rome in October 2006. The symposium was held under the aegis of ARACHNE - the Nordic network for women's history and gender studies in Antiquity. The study of ancient marriage has been largely the province of historians working with texts, and the result of this was an emphasis on elite marriages discussed by the male writers of the upper classes and on laws pertaining to marriage. Neither area has been exhausted, as several essays in this new international collection indicate, but the balance among the papers reveals the shift in focus. Along with innovative readings of authors from Livy to Porphyry, we find examinations of demographic and contractual evidence as well as inscriptions and visual imagery. Among the contributors of the volume are: Pauline Schmitt Pantel, Judith Evans Grubbs, Ray Laurence, Marjatta Nielsen and Mary Harlow. The editors of this volume, Lena Larsson Loven and Agneta Stromberg, were responsible for organising the symposium on Ancient Marriage. They are also the founders of the network ARACHNE and both are at the University of Gothenburg (Sweden).
The Children of Athena: Athenian Ideas about Citizenship and the Division Between the Sexes
According to one myth, the first Athenian citizen was born from the earth after the sperm of a rejected lover, the god Hephaistos, dripped off the virgin goddess Athena's leg and onto fertile soil. Henceforth Athenian citizens could claim to be truly indigenous to their city and to have divine origins that bypassed maternity. In these essays, the renowned French Hellenist Nicole Loraux examines the implication of this and other Greek origin myths as she explores how Athenians in the fifth century forged and maintained a collective identity.
Nicole Loraux, trans. Lorine Pache, 1998
Nicole Loraux brilliantly elucidates how Athenian politics were 'gendered' in the Classical period. She investigates the Athenian state's interdiction of ritualized mourning by women, in a city where public mourning constituted a vital act of civic self-definition and solidarity. As Loraux shows, the silencing and exclusion of female―especially maternal―claims to a crucial relationship with the city's fallen war heroes served, and was reinforced by, the ideologically charged, distinctively Athenian notion of the polis as mother of its citizens. But, Loraux points out, the voice and audience that were denied the bereaved women in the political arena were made available to them in the Athenian theater. She focuses on the representation of mothers in mourning in the myths that are the substance of epic poetry and, principally, in Athenian drama, where the dire, menacing implications of their relentless grief are exposed and played out. Using evidence from sources as diverse as legal inscriptions, forensic oratory, ancient historiography, and early religious treatises, Loraux once again illuminates the culture of democracy, specifically the institutional suppression of women as a political and social force in the most flourishing period of Athenian history.
Below: Terracotta lekythos (oil flask) depicting an Attic wedding, digitally unrolled from the surface of the vase; ca. 550-530 BCE.
Source/creator: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. License: CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.
What was childhood like in ancient Greece? What activities and games did Greek children embrace? How were they schooled and what religious and ceremonial rites of passage were key to their development? These fascinating questions and many more are answered in this groundbreaking book―the first English-language study to feature and discuss imagery and artifacts relating to childhood in ancient Greece.Coming of Age in Ancient Greece shows that the Greeks were the first culture to represent children and their activities naturalistically in their art. Here we learn about depictions of children in myth as well as life, from infancy to adolescence. This beautifully illustrated book features such archaeological artifacts as toys and gaming pieces alongside images of them in use by children on ancient vases, coins, terracotta figurines, bronze and stone sculpture, and marble grave monuments. Essays by eminent scholars in the fields of Greek social history, literature, archaeology, anthropology, and art history discuss a wide range of topics, including the burgeoning role of childhood studies in interdisciplinary studies; the status of children in Greek culture; the evolution of attitudes toward children from the Bronze Age to the Hellenistic period as documented by literature and art; the relationships of fathers and sons and mothers and daughters; and the roles of cult practice and death in a child’s existence.This delightful book illuminates what is most universal and specific about childhood in ancient Greece and examines childhood’s effects on Greek life and culture, the foundation on which Western civilization has been based.
House and Society in the Ancient Greek World
This book considers traditional assumptions about the nature of social relationships in Greek households during the Classical and Hellenistic periods, which draws on archaeological evidence from individual houses rather than textual sources. The focus of the study is the domestic organization of households, particularly the relationships between men and women within the households, between household members and outsiders, and with the wider social structures of the polis or city state, and how these changed with time.
The family, Cynthia Patterson demonstrates, played a key role in the political changes that mark the history of ancient Greece. From the archaic society portrayed in Homer and Hesiod to the Hellenistic age, the private world of the family and household was integral with and essential to the civic realm. Early Greek society was rooted not in clans but in individual households, and a man's or woman's place in the larger community was determined by relationships within those households. The development of the city-state did not result in loss of the family's power and authority, Patterson argues; rather, the protection of household relationships was an important element of early public law. The interaction of civic and family concerns in classical Athens is neatly articulated by the examples of marriage and adultery laws. In law courts and in theater performances, violation of marital relationships was presented as a public danger, the adulterer as a sexual thief. This is an understanding that fits the Athenian concept of the city as the highest form of family. The suppression of the cities with the ascendancy of Alexander's empire led to a new resolution of the relationship between public and private authority: the concept of a community of households, which is clearly exemplified in Menander's plays. Undercutting common interpretations of Greek experience as evolving from clan to patriarchal state, Patterson's insightful analysis sheds new light on the role of men and women in Greek culture.
Below: View of a ceiling in the Villa Kerylos, a painstaking early 20th-century recreation of an ancient Greek house in Beaulieu-sur-Mer, France.
Source: Flickr. Creator: Kotomi_. License: Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial 2.0 Generic.
This collection of essays explores the lives and roles of women in antiquity. A recurring theme is the relationship between private and public, and many of the essays find that women's public roles develop as a result of their private lives, specifically their family relationships. Essays on Hellenistic queens and Spartan and Roman women document how women exerted political power--usually, but not always, through their relationship to male leaders--and show how political upheaval created opportunities for them to exercise powers previously reserved for men. Essays on the writings of Sappho and Nossis focus on the interaction between women's public and private discourses. The collection also includes discussion of Athenian and Roman marriage and the intrusion of the state into the sexual lives of Greek, Roman, and Jewish women as well as an investigation of scientific opinion about female physiology. The contributors are Sarah B. Pomeroy, Jane McIntosh Snyder, Marilyn M. Skinner, Cynthia B. Patterson, Ann Ellis Hanson, Lesley Dean-Jones, Natalie Boymel Kampen, Mary Taliaferro Boatwright, and Shaye J.D. Cohen.
Athens dominates textbook accounts of ancient Greece. But was it, for the Greeks themselves, a model city-state or a creative, even a corrupt, departure from the model? Or was there a model? This book reveals Epizephyrian Locri--a Greek colony on the Adriatic coast of Italy--as a third way in Greek culture, neither Athens nor Sparta. Drawing on a wide range of literary and archaeological evidence, James Redfield offers a fascinating account of this poorly understood Greek city-state, and in particular the distinctive role of women and marriage therein. Redfield devotes much of the book to placing Locri within a more general account of Greek culture, particularly with the institution of marriage in relation to private property, sexual identity, and the fate of the soul. He begins by considering the annual practice of sending two maidens from old-world Locris, the putative place of origin of the Italian Locrians, to serve in the temple of Athena at Ilion, finding here some key themes of Locrian culture. He goes on to provide a richly detailed overview of the Italian city; in a set of iconographic essays he suggests that marriage was seen in Locri as a life transformation akin to the eternal bliss hoped for after death. Nothing less than a general reevaluation of classical Greek society in both its political and theological dimensions, The Locrian Maidens is must reading for students and scholars of classics, while remaining accessible and of particular interest to those in women's studies and to anyone seeking a broader understanding of ancient Greece.
John Riddle uncovers the obscure history of contraception and abortifacients from ancient Egypt to the seventeenth century with forays into Victorian England―a topic that until now has evaded the pens of able historians. Riddle’s thesis is, quite simply, that the ancient world did indeed possess effective (and safe) contraceptives and abortifacients. The author maintains that this rich body of knowledge about fertility control―widely held in the ancient world―was gradually lost over the course of the Middle Ages, becoming nearly extinct by the early modern period. The reasons for this he suggests, stemmed from changes in the organization of medicine. As university medical training became increasingly important, physicians’ ties with folk traditions were broken. The study of birth control methods was just not part of the curriculum. In an especially telling passage, Riddle reveals how Renaissance humanists were ill equipped to provide accurate translations of ancient texts concerning abortifacients due to their limited experience with women’s ailments. Much of the knowledge about contraception belonged to an oral culture―a distinctively female-centered culture. From ancient times until the seventeenth century, women held a monopoly on birthing and the treatment of related matters; information passed from midwife to mother, from mother to daughter. Riddle reflects on the difficulty of finding traces of oral culture and the fact that the little existing evidence is drawn from male writers who knew that culture only from a distance. Nevertheless, through extraordinary scholarly sleuthing, the author pieces together the clues and evaluates the scientific merit of these ancient remedies in language that is easily understood by the general reader. His findings will be useful to anyone interested in learning whether it was possible for premodern people to regulate their reproduction without resorting to the extremities of dangerous surgical abortions, the killing of infants, or the denial of biological urges.
Adoption in 4th Century Athens
This study aims to throw light on the institution and procedures of adoption in ancient Athens, and suggests that the community of classical Athens did not in fact intervene actively to preserve oikoi (households) through adoption, but that the initiative for preserving them was left up to private individuals. "Rather than social pressure, it was individual concern for providing a descendent for oneself that constituted the chief motive force behind adoption in classical Athens. This is a major revision of received opinion and will help to guarantee Rubinstein's important monograph a large and eager readership." --Paul Cartledge
Below: Terracotta figure depicting two young girls playing knucklebones; ca. 330-300 BCE.
Source/creator: British Museum. License: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International.
Greek scholars have produced a vast body of evidence bearing on nuptial practices that has yet to be mined by a professional economist. By standing on their shoulders, the author proposes and tests radically new interpretations of three important status groups in Greek history: the pallake, the nothos, and the hetaira. It is argued that legitimate marriage – marriage by loan of the bride to the groom – was not the only form of legal marriage in classical Athens and the ancient Greek world generally. Pallakia – marriage by sale of the bride to the groom – was also legally recognized. The pallake-wifeship transaction is a sale into slavery with a restrictive covenant mandating the employment of the sold woman as a wife. In this highly original and challenging new book, economist Morris Silver proposes and tests the hypothesis that the likelihood of bride sale rises with increases in the distance between the ancestral residence of the groom and the father’s household. Nothoi, the bastard children of pallakai, lacked the legal right to inherit from their fathers but were routinely eligible for Athenian citizenship. It is argued that the basic social meaning of hetaira (companion) is not ‘prostitute’ or ’courtesan,’ but ‘single woman’ – a woman legally recognized as being under her own authority (kuria). The defensive adaptation of single women is reflected in Greek myth and social practice by their grouping into packs, most famously the Daniads and Amazons.
The ancient Athenians were "quarrelsome as friends, treacherous as neighbors, brutal as masters, faithless as servants, shallow as lovers--all of which was in part redeemed by their intelligence and creativity." Thus writes Philip Slater in this classic work on narcissism and family relationships in fifth-century Athenian society. Exploring a rich corpus of Greek mythology and drama, he argues that the personalities and social behavior of the gods were neurotic, and that their neurotic conditions must have mirrored the family life of the people who perpetuated their myths. The author traces the issue of narcissism to mother-son relationships, focusing primarily on the literary representation of Hera and the male gods and showing how it related to devalued women raising boys in an ambitious society dominated by men. "The role of homosexuality in society, fatherless families, working mothers, women's status, and violence, male pride, and male bonding -- all these find their place in Slater's analysis, so honestly and carefully addressed that we see our own societal dilemmas reflected in archaic mythic narratives all the more clearly." --Richard P. Martin, Princeton University
The Black Hunter: Forms of Thought and Forms of Society in the Greek World
Pierre Vidal-Naquet, trans. Andrew Szegedy-Maszak, 1986
The black hunter travels through the mountains and forests of Greek mythology, living on the frontier of the city-state, of adulthood, of class, of ethics, of sexuality. Taking its title from this figure, this work approaches the Greek world from its margins and charts the elaborate system of oppositions that pervaded Greek culture and society: cultivated and wild, citizen and foreigner, real and imaginary, god and man. Organizing his discussions around four principle themes―space and time; youth and warriors; women, slaves, and artisans; and the city of vision and of reality―Pierre Vidal-Naquet focuses on the congruence of the textual and the actual, on the patterns that link literary, philosophical, and historical works with such social activities as war, slavery, education, and commemoration. The Black Hunter probes the interplay of world view, language, and social practice "to bring into dialogue that which does not naturally communicate according to the usual criteria of historical judgement.
Peasant-Citizen and Slave: The Foundations of Athenian Democracy
The controversial thesis at the center of this study is that, despite the importance of slavery in Athenian society, the most distinctive characteristic of Athenian democracy was the unprecedented prominence it gave to free labor. Wood argues that the emergence of the peasant as citizen, juridically and politically independent, accounts for much that is remarkable in Athenian political institutions and culture. From a survey of historical writings of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the focus of which distorted later debates, Wood goes on to take issue with influential arguments, such as those of G.E.M. de Ste Croix, about the importance of slavery in agricultural production. The social, political and cultural influence of the peasant-citizen is explored in a way which questions some of the most cherished conventions of Marxist and non-Marxist historiography.
Below: View of the library in the Villa Kerylos, a painstaking early 20th-century recreation of an ancient Greek house in Beaulieu-sur-Mer, France.
Source: Flickr. Creator: Kotomi_. License: Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial 2.0 Generic.