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Page 5

The Mental Horizon of Athenian Women

 

    Despite the suggestions in the poets, probably the normal Athenian woman is neither degraded nor miserable. If she is a girl of good ancestry and the usual bringing up, she has never expected any other conditions than these. She knows that her parents care for her and have tried to secure for her a husband who will be her guardian and solace when they are gone. Xenophon's ideal young husband, Ischomachus, says he married his wife at the age of fifteen.[6] She had been "trained to see and to hear as little as possible"; but her mother had taught her to have a sound control of her appetite and of all kinds of self-indulgence, to take wool and to make a dress of it, and to manage the slave maids in their spinning tasks. She was at first desperately afraid of her husband, and it was some time before he had "tamed" her sufficiently to discuss their household problems freely. Then Ischomachus made her join with him in a prayer to the gods that "he might teach and she might learn all that could conduce to their joint happiness"; after which they took admirable counsel together, and her tactful and experienced husband (probably more than twice her age) trained her into a model housewife.

 

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