Women in the Apology of Socrates Essay

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Women in the Apology of Socrates

The most striking thing about women in the Apology of Socrates is their absence from where we might expect them. Only two specific women are mentioned: 1) the Pythia, the priestess of Apollo, who answers Chaerephon's question that no one is wiser than Socrates (21a); and 2) Thetis, the mother of Achilles (who himself is not mentioned by name but only referred to as the "son of Thetis"), who warns him that he will die if he kills the Trojan hero Hector (28c). Only two other times does Socrates even mention women: 1) a disparaging reference that those who embarrass the city by coming into court, weeping and carrying on to win the sympathy of the jury, "are in no way better than women"
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Note Matthew 5:27, where there were certainly women present in the crowd that Jesus spoke to, here in the Sermon on the Mount, but he merely says "everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." There is nothing about what happens if a woman looks at a man lustfully. We are left to assume that this must be equally as bad for women, but Jesus doesn't actually say so.

There certainly were no women actors in Greek plays, which would have been unacceptably scandalous -- the same situation as in Shakespearian Britain and in the Kabuki plays of Tokugawa Japan. By Roman times there were some female actors, but when the future Roman Emperor Justinian married the former actress Theodora, they were afflicted with vicious rumors from then on that she had been a prostitute. Unmarried Greek women attended events like the Olympic games -- where the athletes went naked -- but married women did not. Respectable women did not even go shopping in the marketplace. The only women who freely moved in public life were courtesans (like Theodotê).

Although Plato will later question separate spheres and roles for the sexes (at least among his Guardians) and admitted women to the Academy (Axiothea of Phlius and Lasthenia of Mantinea -- as Pythagoras is supposed to have admitted at least one woman, Theano, to his order), Socrates does not. Indeed, the spheres of life of

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