Bloody women : rites of passage, blood and Artemis : women in Classical Athenian conception
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The expected role for women in 5th century Athens as presented in evidence from myths, rituals, medicine and religion was socially and biologically conceived of in strict terms, but it was also perceived as conflicted. This conflict will be explored by investigating women in real life and women in myth and ritual. The ideal rites of passage women were intended to pass through in their lives as exemplified in medical texts required women to shed their blood at appropriate times from menarche to marriage to motherhood. These transitions are socially signified by certain rituals designed to highlight the change in the individuals' status. This medical conception of the female body and its functions was affected by social expectations of the proper female role in society: to be a wife and mother. Myths presented extraordinary women as failing to bleed in the standard socially expected transitions from parthenos to gyne. The discrepancy between the presentation of women in social and medical thought and the presentation of women in myth indicates the ambiguities and difficulties that surround the development of girls into complete women often explored in rituals. These two provinces, women in everyday life and women in myth and ritual, overlap, relate and interpenetrate in the presentation of the goddess Artemis. Artemis operates in a place where myth and real life function together in the form of rituals surrounding women bleeding in these rites of passage. The methodology of social anthropology adopted in this study allows the interpretation of myth in action in women's lives and investigates where social ideals, mythology and the goddess Artemis overlap to inform the lives of women. Rather than merely describe what occurred in myth and ritual or what a woman's life was meant to be, this model will illustrate how such elements combined to affect a woman's life and the functioning of the society in which she lived. The picture which is created of the position of women when this evidence is considered in conjunction with the precepts of social anthropology illustrates part of a discourse about the position women and reveals how the social structure of their place in society was produced and reproduced.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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