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Gynaeceum

Gynaeceum

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A Gynaeceum or Gynaeconitis in Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 was a building or was the portion of a house reserved for women, generally the innermost apartment. In other words, a women's quarters, similar to the Persian zenana
Zenana
Zenana , refers to the part of a house belonging to a Muslim family in the Middle East and South Asia reserved for the women of the household. The Zenana are the inner apartments of a house in which the women of the family live...

. The gynaeceum is the opposite to the andron
Andron
Andron , or Andronitis, is part of a Greek house that is reserved for men, as distinguished from the gynaeceum , the women's quarters. Symposium, social events with food and wine, were held in the andron. For this purpose the andron held several couches and tables in addition to artwork and any...

, or male quarters.

The married woman of the household would often join the unmarried women and the female slaves at night when she did not join her husband. The women spent most of their days in this area of the house. These rooms were more remote from those reserved for the men by placing them away from the streets and public areas of the house. When visitors were entertained the women were not present, but remained in this secluded portion of the house.

A section of the imperial palace of Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 during the Greek Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 reign was known as the gynaikonitis and was reserved to women. It had its own ceremonial rites and processions as well as political dynamics.

Searching for Women in Antiquity



In sorting through the remaining crumbles of residential architectural complexes found in sites such as Zagora
Zagora
Zagora may refer to:*Zagora, Morocco*Zagora Province, Morocco*Zagora, Greece* The region Zagore in north-eastern Bulgaria*The city of Stara Zagora*The city of Nova Zagora*Zagora , a region in inland Dalmatia...

and Olynthos archeologists have been able to explore the social dynamics of Ancient Greek society as it developed into the polis
Polis
Polis , plural poleis , literally means city in Greek. It could also mean citizenship and body of citizens. In modern historiography "polis" is normally used to indicate the ancient Greek city-states, like Classical Athens and its contemporaries, so polis is often translated as "city-state."The...

 or city-state. Archeologists have developed various perspectives on how architectural design was fundamentally utilized in the domination of women and the lower classes through various periods of history. The segregation of women from the public sphere through the addition of doors, limits of sight lines in between rooms, the addition of a courtyard, and even the addition of a second floor parallels the gradual evolution of the city-state. Some would argue that the presence of women in the public sphere increased at a certain point through changes to dress and the increased use of the veil or hijab
Hijab
The word "hijab" or "'" refers to both the head covering traditionally worn by Muslim women and modest Muslim styles of dress in general....

 in some Muslim communities.The hijab
Hijab
The word "hijab" or "'" refers to both the head covering traditionally worn by Muslim women and modest Muslim styles of dress in general....

 or veil is seen by some researchers as an extension of the home and functions to protect women from the view of non-kin males. The domination of women through social conventions such as enforcing the use of the veil and the creation of guardians of women, and limits to movement within and outside of the home are evident in existing historical record. Archeological record provides a limited perception of the realities of women as much of the record has been lost of the centuries.



Searching for the Gynaeceum through the Andron




Free-born male citizens held political, social and economic power within the domestic and public sphere, as evidenced by the vast amount of historical records available regarding inheritance, property rights, and trade agreements.Ancient law books and surviving artwork reveal inheritance and property rights favoring male kin and even male non-kin over the women of the household. The practice of exposing new born female babies revealed a society that favored the male sex.the creation of specific rooms in the house designated for male only socialization appeared at a certain point in the Classical Greek period. The practice of holding symposium
Symposium
In ancient Greece, the symposium was a drinking party. Literary works that describe or take place at a symposium include two Socratic dialogues, Plato's Symposium and Xenophon's Symposium, as well as a number of Greek poems such as the elegies of Theognis of Megara...

 within the andron
Andron
Andron , or Andronitis, is part of a Greek house that is reserved for men, as distinguished from the gynaeceum , the women's quarters. Symposium, social events with food and wine, were held in the andron. For this purpose the andron held several couches and tables in addition to artwork and any...

 for the possible purpose of arranging economic agreements within the male aristocratic community is alluded to in many ceramic vases and murals.It is in sifting through these surviving remnants of the domestic sphere that archeologists have been able to piece together an understanding of women’s social, economic, and political realities.




Textual & Artistic References




Artistic references may shed some light on the religious, cultural, and economic activities of the aristocratic elements of society. Key to research into the status of women has been the archeological evidence found or implied within the excavated residential structures. Artifacts such as ceramic vases, looms, cups, and metal hinges found within the excavated sites suggest social, cultural, and economic clues.Looms and olive presses located within the residential excavation zones, further suggests the economic role of women within the home.Textual evidence proves the production of textiles and the role that men played in the trade of such products, while women and their slaves created the products to be traded and sold. The writings of Xenophon
Xenophon
Xenophon , son of Gryllus, of the deme Erchia of Athens, also known as Xenophon of Athens, was a Greek historian, soldier, mercenary, philosopher and a contemporary and admirer of Socrates...

 expresses Socrates
Socrates
Socrates was a classical Greek Athenian philosopher. Credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, he is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon, and the plays of his contemporary ...

 perception of the role of aristocratic women as that of weaving and managing the slaves of the household, while the men having citizenship rights can move freely in the public sphere.Other social norms found through popularized literature include the idea that the whiteness of the skin of women proved ones status.Slaves and prostitutes had access to the areas of the public and privates spheres and often labored outdoors.



Segregation of the sexes within the household proved very important to the maintenance of the home which was the economic foundation of the city-state, through its production of marketable goods. The culture of surveillance seemed to be evident through the changes of shape of the household,to a radial shape which allowed for better viewing, and the use of symposium in the andron
Andron
Andron , or Andronitis, is part of a Greek house that is reserved for men, as distinguished from the gynaeceum , the women's quarters. Symposium, social events with food and wine, were held in the andron. For this purpose the andron held several couches and tables in addition to artwork and any...

.Cups found in rooms identified as the andron also contained other artifacts like remnants of a wooden bench, also prove similar to the painted depictions of symposium found on the ceramic vases. The metal hinges and indentations on structures that could be said to be load bearing suggest the partitioning of space for possible private functions that required limited view by members of the household. Archeologists have discussed the possibility of religious acts taking place within the home prior to the creation of temples, these religious acts were usually conducted by women of certain status in the communities.



The Single to Multi-Room Residence




Dominant in the discourse is the notion of public and private sphere
Private sphere
The private sphere is the complement or opposite to the public sphere. The private sphere is a certain sector of societal life in which an individual enjoys a degree of authority, unhampered by interventions from governmental or other institutions. Examples of the private sphere are family and home...

s evolving in tandem with the changes to the architectural designs of the home, which suggest the idea of the use of space in facilitating social conditioning in order to maintain social, cultural, political norms. The layout and design of the residential structures hint at the functionality of the space and the social and cultural norms that may or may not have been in place. Changes to the architectural designs of the residential sites suggest the influence of political and social changes. The megaron
Megaron
The megaron is the great hall of the Grecian palace complexes. It was a rectangular hall, fronted by an open, two-columned porch, and a more or less central, open hearth vented though an oculus in the roof above it and surrounded by four columns. It is the architectural predecessor of the...

, single room structure, expanded in size to fit multiple rooms with a courtyard in the middle, and some to include a second floor.The sightlines or the lack of lines of sight also provide a certain amount of privacy between rooms within the home. The addition of a courtyard with a single entrance to the outside also allowed for further privacy for the household and limiting access from those considered outside of kin relationship. The new structure allowed members of the household to control the right of passage through the use of partitions such as curtains and doors, some with locks. Some excavated sites revealed, however, that some multi-room residences were designed in such a way that each room connected to the other, suggesting that in order for someone to go to another room, they had to pass through a room and possibly be unable to avoid interaction with other members of the household.The use of an ante room next to the andron alludes to the use of social conventions in controlling the movement between rooms and the possibility of interaction between members of the household.



Research suggests that the increase in size of residential structures paralleled the increase in wealth and further entrenchment of the aristocratic elite in that period. The possible purpose for this gradual change of architectural design is seen by many as that of maintaining the social and hierarchal norms of the oikos
Oikos
An oikos is the ancient Greek equivalent of a household, house, or family....

 and the polis
Polis
Polis , plural poleis , literally means city in Greek. It could also mean citizenship and body of citizens. In modern historiography "polis" is normally used to indicate the ancient Greek city-states, like Classical Athens and its contemporaries, so polis is often translated as "city-state."The...

. In these large residences, the symposium
Symposium
In ancient Greece, the symposium was a drinking party. Literary works that describe or take place at a symposium include two Socratic dialogues, Plato's Symposium and Xenophon's Symposium, as well as a number of Greek poems such as the elegies of Theognis of Megara...

 and the andron
Andron
Andron , or Andronitis, is part of a Greek house that is reserved for men, as distinguished from the gynaeceum , the women's quarters. Symposium, social events with food and wine, were held in the andron. For this purpose the andron held several couches and tables in addition to artwork and any...

 became spaces within the home that which men performed and displayed citizenship and maintenance of the polis
Polis
Polis , plural poleis , literally means city in Greek. It could also mean citizenship and body of citizens. In modern historiography "polis" is normally used to indicate the ancient Greek city-states, like Classical Athens and its contemporaries, so polis is often translated as "city-state."The...

. Women of a certain class were segregated from participation in symposium
Symposium
In ancient Greece, the symposium was a drinking party. Literary works that describe or take place at a symposium include two Socratic dialogues, Plato's Symposium and Xenophon's Symposium, as well as a number of Greek poems such as the elegies of Theognis of Megara...

 and various other areas of society and were regulated within the gynaeceum. It is in finding the andron and the evidence of symposium
Symposium
In ancient Greece, the symposium was a drinking party. Literary works that describe or take place at a symposium include two Socratic dialogues, Plato's Symposium and Xenophon's Symposium, as well as a number of Greek poems such as the elegies of Theognis of Megara...

 that one is able to determine the location of the gynaeceum, or women's quarters.



Gynaikonomoi





Much of the information that is known of women in Ancient Greece comes through literary sources as the written word grew in use during the Classical and Hellenic
Hellenic
Hellenic is a synonym for Greek and may refer to:* Hellenic languages* Hellenic Airlines* Hellenic College, a liberal arts college in Brookline, Massachusetts* Hellenic College of London* Hellenic FC, a football club in South Africa...

 period, such as Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

’s Iliad
Iliad
The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles...

 and the Odyssey
Odyssey
The Odyssey is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other work ascribed to Homer. The poem is fundamental to the modern Western canon, and is the second—the Iliad being the first—extant work of Western literature...

 and through the writings of Euripedes, Xenophon
Xenophon
Xenophon , son of Gryllus, of the deme Erchia of Athens, also known as Xenophon of Athens, was a Greek historian, soldier, mercenary, philosopher and a contemporary and admirer of Socrates...

, and Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

.Through textual analysis, one can see early philosophical perceptions of women as being the foundation on which justifications for the domination of women during the formation of the city-state. Women were considered the weaker gender and therefore needed to be controlled. The control of women both within the home and in the public sphere became an important function of the growing city-states and lead to the eventual adoption of guardians of women also known as gynaikonomoi.Certain laws gave freedom of movement to freed slaves if they gave birth to four children and freeborn women could go without a guardian if they gave birth to three or more children. The Laws of Draco (lawgiver) brought forth punishment of women for adultery, and justified the need for guardianship due to the supposed weakness of gender expressed through Aristotle’s popular literature.The written word as it became popularized in its use also functioned as a tool of domination of women, through the formation of laws and judiciary systems. The hereditary ownership of property once a mother’s role transferred to later the next male kin and even non-kin males. The home became the domestic private sphere in which women’s virtue needed to be protected from the outside world of male dominance and rational thought. Sarah Pomeroy discusses the role of Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

, Hesiod
Hesiod
Hesiod was a Greek oral poet generally thought by scholars to have been active between 750 and 650 BC, around the same time as Homer. His is the first European poetry in which the poet regards himself as a topic, an individual with a distinctive role to play. Ancient authors credited him and...

ic poems, and Aristotelian philosophy in painting the picture of women as reproducers of wealth through the maintenance of the home and slaves. The separation of the sexes of household slaves became an important role of aristocratic women, as it prevented the birth of new slaves at the cost of the household.



Methods of Analysis and Interpretation of Evidence




Archeologists have had to look further into other areas of knowledge like social history, to further understand women’s participation and segregation in Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

 societies. Recent investigation of large archeological complexes, such as in Olynthos and Zagora
Zagora
Zagora may refer to:*Zagora, Morocco*Zagora Province, Morocco*Zagora, Greece* The region Zagore in north-eastern Bulgaria*The city of Stara Zagora*The city of Nova Zagora*Zagora , a region in inland Dalmatia...

, have opened up further avenues for analysis. According to Sarah Pomeroy, archeologists of the past have been guilty of many biases that have limited the research and understanding of women in antiquity.The bias of repeating the past research, as well as, using the “fill in the gaps” style of interpretation when there is a lack of archeological evidence can be problematic. However,others suggest cross cultural analysis into the political, social, and economic avenues of society to fill in the missing information.



See Also




Timeline of Ancient Greece
Timeline of Ancient Greece
This is a timeline of Ancient Greece from 800 BC to 146 BC.For earlier times, see Greek Dark Ages, Aegean civilizations and Mycenaean Greece. For later times see Roman Greece, Byzantine Empire and Ottoman Greece....



History of Greece
History of Greece
The history of Greece encompasses the history of the territory of the modern state of Greece, as well as that of the Greek people and the areas they ruled historically. The scope of Greek habitation and rule has varied much through the ages, and, as a result, the history of Greece is similarly...



Hellenistic Greece
Hellenistic Greece
In the context of Ancient Greek art, architecture, and culture, Hellenistic Greece corresponds to the period between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the annexation of the classical Greek heartlands by Rome in 146 BC...



Ancient Greek religion
Ancient Greek religion
Greek religion encompasses the collection of beliefs and rituals practiced in ancient Greece in the form of both popular public religion and cult practices. These different groups varied enough for it to be possible to speak of Greek religions or "cults" in the plural, though most of them shared...



Feminism
Feminism
Feminism is a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights and equal opportunities for women. Its concepts overlap with those of women's rights...



Women's rights
Women's rights
Women's rights are entitlements and freedoms claimed for women and girls of all ages in many societies.In some places these rights are institutionalized or supported by law, local custom, and behaviour, whereas in others they may be ignored or suppressed...



women's suffrage
Women's suffrage
Women's suffrage or woman suffrage is the right of women to vote and to run for office. The expression is also used for the economic and political reform movement aimed at extending these rights to women and without any restrictions or qualifications such as property ownership, payment of tax, or...