In this talk, I would like to explain why female prominence in religion was such an anomaly in classical Athens. The male dēmos believed their womenfolk to be nothing more than housekeepers and child bearers. They were seen as perpetual minors, incapable of making their own decisions. As such women could not participate in politics, the legal arena, or anything involved in what is considered to be the public sphere of the city. This belief was so strong that women were not even allowed to talk about politics. Women then spent their time managing their husband's household, which included things such as making clothes and book-keeping. Mainstream male beliefs held onto the ideal that a woman's place was in the home. The ideal of seclusion protected women and ensured legitimate children, so the male members of the household did what they could to ensure that their wives, daughters and other female relatives remained in seclusion. Yet women could and did participate in activities outside of the home, the most prominent of which was in the religious sphere of the city. Women could obtain a number of roles within religious cults throughout their life. They also actively participated in a variety of festivals throughout the year and made their own private dedications to the deities of Olympus. However, it was their menfolk who paid for these religious activities and made their participation in religion possible. This is a striking anomaly which has yet to be explained satisfactorily by the few modern scholars who have attempted to address this problem. Clearly, this is a problem which deserves more work.
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