The glory of Sueris and the place of “Greek women”

In an article about women in the service of gods (Georgoudi 2005), Stella Georgoudi points out the value of so-called auxiliary functions in sanctuary life. “This is evidenced by the words of old Sueris, who in the 3rd century BCE worked as a diakonos for a priestess to Athena Polias in Athens. In the engraved inscription on the plinth of her honorary statue – or relief (see SEG 51, 216) -, Sueris expresses her pride at having served “Pure Pallas”, because the “pains” that she took were not “without glory” (ponon ouk aklea). Undoubtedly, what matters most in this case in not to have assisted the great Athenian priestess, but to have done so for the tutelary goddess.” (pp.74-75)

“Before we discuss the situation of Greek women, we had better reconsider the question by factoring in their sacerdotal status—and, more generally, the status of the various feminine agents within in cultural sphere. For we must acknowledge that these particular statuses constitute a reduction factor for gender inequalities; even, sometimes, in certain punctual cases or for certain actions, one that almost effaces them. It has been argued that serving as a public priestess would “convert” a woman into “a male” while she performs the tasks required by her function. I do not believe, however, that what we have here is the transformation of a woman into a man for the duration of a public service. Conceivably, serving the gods for the good of the city confers on women and men alike a set of specific rights and duties that, being inherent to this function, go beyond the mere status of male or female citizenship. The priestess has not become “a male”: it is as a woman that she gains access to certain religious and civic responsibilities that set her apart not only from other women but also from ordinary men.” (p.77, in French in the text)

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