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Who’s your tent-buddy? The social worlds of Athenian women

Katherine Backler, University of Oxford

Fri, 4/5 · 1:00 pm2:30 pm · 209 Scheide Caldwell

Program in the Ancient World
vase painted with Greek women bowing, receiving, etc.

Despite significant scholarly advances, current thinking about classical Athens still too often views Athenian women through the lens of the marital relationship and the obligation to produce citizens. In reality, women could shape for themselves diverse and expansive roles and relationships—as friends, neighbours, employees, employers—that were not determined by their roles and relationships as wives or polis-members. Through these relationships, they developed networks which cross-cut the legal and household boundaries that supposedly determined Athenian social structure. This talk examines two means by which women articulated the boundaries of their social worlds: commemoration and religious practice. Whom did women put up gravestones for, and how did they describe them? Whom did they invite to their parties and picnics? When they camped out, who shared whose tent?

Katherine Backler is the Career Development Fellow in Ancient History at Trinity College, Oxford. She primarily works on ancient Greek social history but teaches across Graeco-Roman history and literature. After an undergraduate degree in Classics at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, she was awarded a Prize Fellowship at All Souls College, where she did her doctorate. She is working with translator Martin Hammond on a new Oxford World’s Classics edition of Lysias’ speeches, and her first book, Athena’s Sisters: Reclaiming the Women of Classical Athens, is forthcoming with Cambridge University Press. Her current research project explores women’s authorship of Greek inscriptions.

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