Goddesses, Whores, Wives and Slaves: Classical Women of Antiquity

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Goddesses, Whores, Wives and Slaves: Classical Women of Antiquity

The title of Sarah B. Pomeroy's book on women in antiquity is a summary of the main categories of females in the literary imagination and the societies of ancient Greece and Rome, over a period of fifteen hundred years. Beginning with goddesses, Pomery retells some Greek myths, outlining the social functions of female Olympians – the goddesses are archetypical images of human females, as envisioned by males. Desirable characteristics among a number of females rather than their concentration in one being are appropriate to a patriarchal society. Demosthenes states in the fourth century B.C. this ideal among mortal men, "We have mistresses for our enjoyment, concubines to serve our person and wives for the bearing of legitimate children (Pomery 1995)." Pomery’s goal in writing this book was to detail and outline the true significance of women in all other their roles in antiquity.
In any era of ancient society, only a wealthy man could afford to surround himself with a number of women, each playing a different role in his life. However, the Olympian pattern survived as the ideal. On the human level, Pomeroy shows how the "ahistorical oral tradition (Pomery 1995)" of epics by Homer provides us with a set of attitudes toward women which may reflect back to the Bronze Age. Pomeroy provides a good discussion of marriage patterns alluded to in the epic cycles, based on the marriages of royal women such as Helen,
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