Scholars in the two disciplines of Classics and Ancient Near Eastern Studies have recently focused a great deal of attention on the economic roles of women in the societies that they each study. In societies that are generally labeled “patriarchal,” and whose wealth was essentially derived from agriculture, the control and use of property was a determining factor in the maintenance of hierarchical, legal, and ideological structures in general. It therefore provides a perspective through which gender relations within an ancient society may fruitfully be explored.
Research in each of these disciplines has proceeded more or less independently, despite the fact that they apply similar new approaches to ancient economic behavior. Both are concerned to explore its ideological underpinnings as well its tangible effects, by taking into account legal, material, mythic and literary evidence. Both increasingly make use of cross-cultural comparison. They rely, however, mainly on the work of anthropologists working in traditional societies today. Comparisons between the ancient societies of the Mediterranean and Near East have rarely been undertaken, notwithstanding the fact that they were geographically contiguous, in part contemporaneous, and had strong cultural and economic links.
The collection of papers published in this volume derive from a colloquium held at the Center for Hellenic Studies in August 2003, which brought together scholars of ancient Greece, the Levant, Egypt, and Mesopotamia in order to initiate cross-cultural study and cross-disciplinary exchange. The discussion focused on free women as active participants in the control of property and examined three main aspects of the relationship between women and property:
- how a society represents to itself the relationship, e.g., through literature and art;
- what structures exist to control the relationship, e.g., legal, social, economic;
- what are the material manifestations of the relationship, e.g., through grave goods, dedications, dowry lists.
[from the Introduction]
Introduction (Deborah Lyons and Raymond Westbrook)
Deborah Lyons, “Dangerous Gifts: Ideologies of Marriage and Exchange in Ancient Greece.”
Lin Foxhall, “Female inheritance in Athenian law.”
Sophie Démare-Lafont, “Inheritance Law of and through Women in the Middle Assyrian Period.”
Cornelia Wunsch, “Women’s Property and the Law of Inheritance in the Neo-Babylonian Period.“
Annalisa Azzoni, “Women and Property in Persian Egypt and Mesopotamia.”
Stefan Link, “‘…, but not more!’ Female Inheritance in Cretan Gortyn.”
Stephen Hodkinson, “Female Property Ownership and Status in Classical and Hellenistic Sparta.”
Raymond Westbrook, “Penelope’s Dowry and Odysseus’ Kingship.”
Betsy Bryan, “Property and the God’s Wives of Amun.”
Stefania Mazzoni, “Having and Showing: Women’s Possessions in the Afterlife in Iron Age” (with figures).
Susan Langdon, “Views of Wealth, a Wealth of Views: Grave Goods in Iron Age Attica.”
Diane Harris-Cline, “Women and Sacred Property: The Evidence from Greek Inscriptions.”