Women's History and Ancient History

By Sarah B. Pomeroy | Go to book overview

(using the marriage bed to represent the marriage institution), 70 is both "bigger than oaths" and "guarded by the right of nature" (217-22 Lattimore). By the end of the play (and trilogy), with Athena's vote for Orestes and her persuasion (and transformation) of the Furies, marriage has won a place among those "most dear" (philtaton, 608) familial bonds protected by the Furies. Instead of afflicting Athens with a destructive (aphullos, ateknos, 815) blight, the Furies accept Athena's offer of an honored place from which they will receive sacrifices pro paidōn kai gamēliou telous--in behalf of children and the telos ("fulfillment" or "rite") of marriage (835). In the civic, familial, and sexual reconciliation that marks the end of the Oresteia female power and authority is not so much appropriated by the male as subordinated with the male to the "yoke" of marriage and to the fostering of the oikos. 71 Outside the theater of Dionysos as well, Athenian marriage should not be considered simply as a transfer or "exchange" of women but as the multifaceted process through which a man and a woman set up a common household (sunoikein), whose purpose was a productive and reproductive koinōnia.


Notes

This essay was begun during a National Endowment for the Humanities summer seminar, "The Family in Classical and Hellenistic Greece," directed by Sarah B. Pomeroy , and finished at the Center for Hellenic Studies. I am grateful to the Endowment and the Center for their support, and to Richard Patterson, Sarah B. Pomeroy, Zeph Stewart, Herman Schibli, Susan Cole, Tom Gallant, David Halperin, Phyllis Culham, Adele Scafuro, Genevieve Edwards, and Rush Rehm for their criticism and comments. I cannot guarantee that I have satisfied all of the above critics in this short essay.

1.
There is probably an implicit contrast here with the customs of the Persians described in book 1:γαμέοσι δὲ ἔκαστος αυ + ̓τω + ̃ν πολλὰς μὲν κουƍιδίας γυναῖκας, πολλω + ̃ + ̩ δ + ̕ ἔτι παλλακὰς κτω + ̃νται, "Each of them possesses many kouridias gunaikas, and still many more concubines" (135). For the significance of kouridiē see below, note 53. In beginning with this passage from Herodotus, I begin from the same point of reference as does R. Sealey in "On Lawful Concubinage in Athens", Classical Antiquity 3 ( 1984): 111-33. However, as will be seen, my interest and argument are quite different. For additional discussion of the issues raised by Sealey see my "Those Athenian Bastards", Classical Antiquity 9 ( 1990): 40-73.
2.
So the laws on sunoikein in [ Demosthenes] 59.16 and 52 are generally under-

-61-

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