Domestic Depictions: Women of the Home in 5th-Century Attic Vase Painting

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Landgraf, Georgia
Ancient Athens , Attic vase painting , Women , Athenian , Ancient Greece , Women and the home , Domestic life , Ancient Art
Mortal women in the Ancient Greek world are generally understudied when compared to their male counterparts. This is partially due to a lack of information from antiquity and a lack of interest from modern scholars. Second wave feminism acted as a catalyst in the study of women in academia, however, larger scale studies of women on Attic vase painting were not seen widely in major scientific journals and books until the 1980s. This thesis attempts to fill in this gap in knowledge through the examination of women depicted in domestic space on 5th-century Attic vessels. This wide time span allows for the evaluation of the changing attitudes towards women as related to historical events within Athens over the century. Through the study of a selection of vessels from the Beazley Archive Pottery Database (BAPD), scenes of mortal women were divided into seven major types: marriage preparations, childcare, household labour, women at leisure, music, a warrior’s departure, and funerary practices. The scenes on these vases are also compared to grave stele of the fifth century due to their similar iconography. Representations of women on the 5th-century vases do not necessarily show the daily lives of the average Athenian housewife, but rather express the important socio-political role women played for both the oikos and the polis serving as a symbolic motif of Athenian prosperity. The iconography of vessels such as these allows for modern viewers to understand the ancient societal expectations placed upon Athenian women throughout the turbulent political context of the fifth century.
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