The Construction of Women’s Gender Identity through Religious Activity in Classical Greece
KeywordsReligion; PL1; History of Religion; BL700
women's rites; ancient Greece & Rome; gender and ancient religion
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AbstractWhile the emphasis of that branch of feminist studies which is concerned with religious structures, hermeneutics and religious literature has been on the core faiths of the modern world (and until relatively recently, in fact, on the Western religious tradition), the roles which women played in the two most important precursors to Christianity, ancient Greek and Roman religion, have been neglected. In ancient Greece, patriarchy prevailed. Yet while women were restricted in the social, political and legal spheres, they were active participants in religious activities. Many of the rites in which they engaged were connected with marriage and childbirth and could be said to reflect their societal roles. In addition, however, women participated in a variety of women-only rites which were not connected with their domestic status and in which they had a great deal of freedom from patriarchal restriction. Women’s freedom of religious expression owed much to the lack of androcentric sacred texts which could have been used to justify women’s lack of participation and/or the subordination of women’s roles in Greek religion, as well as men’s willingness for women to engage in meaningful religious activities.