Variety of meaning for gender distinction in the denomination practices of Classical Athens
Todd 1997, pp. 117-118 : « Public representation includes the manner in which people are publicly identified. An important paper by Schaps (1977) pointed out that in law-court speeches, Athenian citizen women are carefully referred to not by name but in term of their male relatives (« my [unnamed] mother was the daughter of X », etc.) Shaps suggested that to name a respectable women in the masculine context of a lawcourt is to cast reproach. Only three categories of women are named in the speeches : those who are dead, and so beyond reproach ; those who ae of ill repute ; and the female relatives of the speaker’s opponent, who are by definition no better than they ought to be.
This is not to say that Athenian women, like their Roman couterparts, have no personal names. We hear of new-born girls as well as boys being named at the dekatê (tenth-day feast) within the household, and in one case the evidence of those allegedly present at this event is called into question precisely because of a dispute over the name that had been given to the woman in question (Phile or Kleitarete, Isaios 3.30). Moreover, there are contexts in which women’s names are freely reported. For instance, women are regularly on private inscriptions recording dedications.
Unlike a citizen woman, a citizen male could be named in any context. The formal pattern of citizen nomenclature was by name, patronymic (i.e. father’s name in the genitive, thus « X [son] of Y », and demotic (i.e. name of deme). Demotics can be constructed in a number of ways, andlinguistic usage even for the same deme is not always consistent, but a general pattern can be observed. A few exceptionnal demes use either the proposition ek or the suffix –êthen, both meaning « from » (thus ek Kêdôn after a citizen’s name literraly means « [X] from Kedoi », Oêthen, « [X] from Oe », and Kephalêthen « [X] from Kephale »), but these are rare. Overwhelmingly the typical demotic, however, is an adjective of a characteristically if not explicitly masculine form ending in –eus, and for which there is no feminine equivalent ; thus Kudathênaieus denotes « [X] the Kydathenaian » (i.e. the member of Kydathenaion), and Peiraieus « [X] the Peiraian » (i.e. member of Peiraieus). There is both a lingustic and an ideological point here, but it is hard to see which has priority. Is it that demotics are for men because demotics are masculine, or that demotics are for men because men are masculine ?
There is here an important contrast with the nomenclature of metics. A metic was registered not as a member of a deme, but as living there. The formula oikôn en (« [X] living in [deme Z] ») is regularly used to denote metics in public inscriptions, such as the accounts of the builfing of the Erekhtheion ( ..) The participle oikôn has a convenient feminine oikousa, and the formula oikousa en is readily available to designate female metics on the phialai exeleutherikai inscriptions (..) Citizen women, by contrast, are not normally named in Athenian public inscriptions. ( …)
There is a sense in which slaves at Athens are regarded as sexless, in the sense that they are sexually undifferenciated, because they can never grow up : Athenian owners and Athenian public officials are equally ready to flog or torture females as males. Thus for instance a female slave alleged to have poisoned her master by mistake is tortured (possibly as a judicial penalty) and executed in Antiphon I.20, and the self-proclaimed joint-owner of another female–slave.. (…) There is another sense, of course, in which male and female slaves are equally sexed, in that the owner has the right to the sexual services of males and females alike (Finley 1980 : 95-96) ».
Then, p. 123-124 : « In the speeches and fragments of the Orators, as we saw, citizen women are mute. But in these inscriptions [=phialai exeleutherikai] we have 86 women and probably more, presumably appearing in person before the court and offering in principle to plead their own cases – it is difficult to suggest an alternative reconstruction, because there is nobody else available to do it, given that the former master is the nominal prosecutor. Once again, however, as it is not that these are particularly powerful or effective women, but rather that they are surounded by defective men : their de facto husbands are not recorded as their kurioi. Yet another example of the construction (or for non-citizens, the non-construction) of male gender. »