Naming respectable women: the case of the “religious sphere”, Christiane Sourvinou-Inwood (1996)

According to Christiane Sourvinou-Inwood, the distinction between the public and the private sphere readily applies to the Athens of the Classical period. As we understand from documents produced from a judiciary context, in which we find the notion of kurios, female Athenian citizens were subordinates at home. However, the author maintains, this was not the case within the public sphere: “If it is correct that respectable women were not named in public, such prohibition was not valid in the sphere of religion. Not only were priestesses named, but also, and more significantly, women named themselves in dedications and others named them as dedicators in inventories. Thus respectable women other than priestesses were named in the public sphere, even in their lifetime. This may suggest that women were named in the facet of the public in which they had a social persona not wholly correlative with that of their position in the oikos and on their relationships to males; they had such a persona in religion, both as priestesses and as individual devotees, and so they were named in the religious sphere”. In this analysis the religious sphere is not an isolated one but rather a constituent of the public sphere, more precisely “one particular public sphere”. C. Sourvinou-Inwood, 1996, pp. 111 and 118.

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