Women in Ancient Persia, 559-331 B.C

By Maria Brosius | Go to book overview

5
Women and the Economy of Achaemenid Persia

ROYAL WOMEN

Judging from the Greek sources the wealth of Achaemenid royal women was well known. Herodotus recalls that the Egyptian town Anthylla provided the king's wife with shoes (2. 98. 1). In Alcibiades I Plato refers to the vast amount of property owned by the mother of the Persian king, Amestris ( Alc. I 121c-123cd). Xenophon mentions the estates of Parysatis in Syria from which she supplied the rebellious troops of her son Cyrus in his revolt against Artaxerxes II (an. 1. 4. 9). It was also known that Parysatis owned villages in Media (an. 2. 4. 27; Lewis 1977: 22 and n. 113). Accordingly we have to assume that the peasants and craftsmen of these villages were officially in Parysatis' service. When Parysatis was banned from the Persian court and moved to Babylon, she presumably took up residence on her estates ( Plut. Art. 19. 10).

Plato's reference to the wealth of the king's mother was intended to mock Alcibiades by comparing his wealth to that of someone who, besides being wealthier, was both a foreigner and a woman. Obviously the reader of Plato's text understood the implication; so it must have been common knowledge that Amestris held land as property. Extensive land holding by Greek women was uncommon.1 Aristotle drew attention to the danger which could arise by allowing women to have such power in his criticism of Spartan society, in which women held most of the property ( pol. 1270a 27-32).

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1
On land ownership by Greek women see de Ste. Croix 1970: 273-8. Pomeroy ( 1975: 72-3) accepts de Ste. Croix's opinion that women in Athens do not figure as landowners but could acquire ownership of property, for example by inheritance. This applies especially to sisters, possibly aunts, nieces, and cousins (PS.-Dem. 43. 51; Isaeus 11. 2, 11-12)

-123-

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Women in Ancient Persia, 559-331 B.C
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Contents ix
  • List of Tables xi
  • Abbreviations and Symbols xiii
  • Weights and Measures xviii
  • Note to the Reader xix
  • I - Introduction 1
  • 2 - Titles for Royal Women 13
  • Introduction 13
  • 3 - Royal Marriage Alliances 35
  • 4 - Royal Women and the Achaemenid Court 83
  • Introduction 83
  • Conclusion 119
  • 5 - Women and the Economy of Achaemenid Persia 123
  • Summary 180
  • 6 - Conclusion 183
  • Glossary 201
  • List of Royal Marriage Alliances 204
  • Bibliography 207
  • Index of Ancient Sources 245
  • General Index 254
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