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$90, $75 mbrs. (discounted price will display for members upon login)
Limit 12 students.
Online lectures: Tuesdays November 10, 17 and 24 at 5pm EST (sessions will run for 1.5 hours)
Students will meet via Zoom.
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With the exception the poetess Sappho’s works, no female voices have come down to us from ancient Greece, except the words put into women’s mouths by male writers. Although a crucial part of society’s survival, women were politically marginalized and legally treated as the property of their male relatives, primarily expected to remain secluded within their domestic quarters. Despite these restrictive measures, female influence was profound and abundantly documented in the archaeological record, a facet of antiquity that first became a focus of study only in the mid 1970s. This course explores three key aspects of women’s lives in ancient Greece by looking primarily at their representation in visual culture and objects they would have used in their daily lives.
Session 1: Growing Up – Life in ancient Greece could be brutal and short, especially for women. Girls spent much of their childhood preparing for marriage and motherhood, which would occur when they reached puberty. However, we have plenty of evidence that life was not all work and no play for young women. In this session, we will discuss education, toys and games, coming of age rituals, and more.
Session 2: Dressing Like a Goddess – Women and Textiles in Ancient Greece – Women spent most of their adult lives producing textiles, which was their major contribution to the household economy. From garments to bedlinens, female activity revolved around dyeing, spinning, weaving, and embroidering, all of which were tasks that could be easily done while tending young children. The close connection between women and the fabrics they produced is repeatedly reflected in Greek mythology, with characters like Circe, Penelope, and Arachne all described as working at their looms. The ability to produce fine textiles was seen as one of the highest of virtues, exemplifying a woman’s skill and industry. Clothing was also an important means by which women could express themselves in a world where they lacked a public voice. In this session, we will not only explore what ancient Greek women wore, but we will also discuss how their creations continue to influence fashion today.
Session 3: Priestess of the People – In the Greek polis, women had few opportunities to participate in official roles or receive public recognition due to their lack of citizen status. Although barred from the political sphere, they played a crucial role as sacred servants in both civic and Panhellenic Greek cults, particularly those associated with the worship of female divinities. During this session, we will focus on Myrrhine, who was the first priestess of Athena Nike at Athens. Her selection is remarkable because she was chosen by lot as opposed to the more traditional method of inheriting such a position. Together, we will explore the opportunities that female participation in state cult provided and how Myrrhine’s service immortalized her.
Dr. Keely Heuer is an Assistant Professor of Art History at SUNY New Paltz, specializing in the visual culture of ancient Greece and Rome. Her research concentrates primarily on the iconography of Greek vase-painting and the interrelations between Greek settlers and indigenous populations of pre-Roman Italy. She received her PhD from New York University and was a Bothmer Fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art before teaching at SUNY New Paltz. Her essays have appeared in the Metropolitan Museum Journal and specialized Greek vase studies including Athenian Potters and Painters III and several supplemental volumes of the Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum.