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Sex and Difference in Ancient Greece and Rome$
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Mark Golden and Peter Toohey

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780748613199

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748613199.001.0001

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Women's Life in Oriental Seclusion? On the History and Use of a Topos†

Women's Life in Oriental Seclusion? On the History and Use of a Topos†

Chapter:
(p.241) 12 Women's Life in Oriental Seclusion? On the History and Use of a Topos
Source:
Sex and Difference in Ancient Greece and Rome
Author(s):

S. Wagner-Hasel

Reyes Bertolín-Cebrián

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9780748613199.003.0012

A glance at the general handbooks of ancient history, even a glance at some recent studies of social history in antiquity, seems to confirm the impression that women have been neglected. Often, we encounter only the male actors of history: politicians, heroes, warriors, farmers and, sometimes also, the male victims – the slaves, the persecuted, the defeated. The impression, however, is misleading. The discourse about women's place is older than the silence in some works suggests. This chapter considers a topos: the assumption that women in ancient Greece, but especially in Athens, lived in Oriental seclusion. It treats the question of the separation of women from the public sphere and the amount of freedom of movement within it in this conceptual frame, which has given rise to an almost 200-year-old controversy. The debate is not only an attempt to reconstruct past conditions of life, but is also, at the same time, a discourse about the place of women in modern bourgeois society.

Keywords:   Oriental seclusion, ancient Greece, women, public sphere, bourgeois society, history, Athens, freedom of movement

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