Royal Women and the Achaemenid Court
Greek sources concentrate in their description of Achaemenid royal women on their activities at the court. The way the actions of these women were described shapes our understanding of their role at court, and the influence they might have had on the court. To what extent were their activities understood by the Greeks? Were they judged from a Greek point of view or did Greek writers see their actions in the context of the cultural background of the Persian court? It is crucial to examine the descriptions of the individual actions of women since this will help us to clarify perceptions of the Persian court. We need to consider whether the Greek historical narrative used female figures in particular ways. Do the descriptions of women offered by these authors fall into patterns which would suggest women were assigned stereotypical roles for the sake of the narrative development?
Among the aspects of the court life of royal women studied in this chapter are women's public appearances, as travellers, as members of the king's entourage, and as participants at feasts, in funerary ceremonies, and in palace politics. Women's involvement in economic matters will be discussed separately in Chapter 5. The present discussion concentrates on the social activities of royal women, although those of some noble and non-aristocratic women are included.
One of the central questions about Persian royal women is to what extent they were confined to the royal palace or were able to appear in public. Influenced by vague ideas about the harem our