Man Becomes the Measure

"O would that the female sex were nowhere to be found - but in my lap!" - Euripides
Essay 1 Due on Wednesday, Feburary 15
Exekias, Achilles and Ajax Playing a Game of Draughts (detail), Black-figured amphora, ca. 540 BCE.











Understanding the Art Historical Methodologies











As Friedrich "Engels's [argues in] The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State (1884) prehistoric matriarchies were the original sites of communism - and this was a compliment! ...mothers first controlled communal property, but when agriculture was introduced (in the Neolithic [period]), man used and therefore owned the farming tools, especially the ploughs and domesticated animals. Men thus became the first sex to have private property. Of course, by that time man had figured out his biological contribution to reproduction. And in order to pass on his property to his children, he had to make sure they were indeed his, so he introduced monogamy to control the descent system. As a result, women were subordinated economically and restricted sexually."
- Shari L. Thurer in The Myths of Motherhood
Greek Menstrual Dress and Culture
Menstruation in Sacred spaces
Ancient Greek Home (note the clean division between public and private spaces)











patriarchy = a form of social organization in which the father is the supreme authority in the family, clan, or tribe and descent is reckoned in the male line, with the children belonging to the father's clan or tribe.

To the Greeks, matriarchy represented chaos and disorder. It was in opposition to civilization and therefore, normalcy. - Shari L. Thurer
"Every woman is trouble, she has only two good times: one is the wedding, the other is her death." - Palladas
“AD” Painter, Women at the Fountain House,
Greek Hydria, 520 – 510 BCE.











"During the 2500 year transitional period, in which patricarchal attitudes gained ascendency, woman was still valued for her ability to reproduce. Her fertility potential determined her worth as a commodity. But now woman was valued only for her maternity. Her scope and dignity were reduced; she had become an instrument for reproduction. And now this power was not solely hers." - Shari L. Thurer
Tondo of an Attic red-figured cup, ca 490 BCE.












"Not surprisingly, there was a shift in magic, ritual, and imagery from the womb to the phallus. The number of female figurines diminished with respect to male figurines. The penis replaced the womb as the primary symbol of generation." - Shari L. Thurer
Woman carrying a phallus painted
on ancient Greek vessel ca. 480 - 450 BCE
Dionysian Temple with phallic decorative elements, Delos











Washington Monument and Reflecting Pool at the National Mall











What's a girl to do with all of that "free" time in the home?


Attributed to Amasis Painter, Lekythos, Women Working Wool,  c. 56 BC.








Women's magic becomes something to fear

Odysseus, Circe and transformed man, Athenian red-figure calyx krater ca. 5th BCE.











The sirens song from O Brother Where Art Thou






















"Man is the measure of all things." - Protagoras
  • Class was decided at birth, & upward mobility was impossible
  • Only native men of high social rank could be citizens
  • Only citizens could vote or own land
  • Citizens made up about 13% of the population
  • With the exception of slaves, women were rarely able to leave the home
  • Women of all classes were considered far inferior to males
  • Female infanticide was fairly common
  • Girls married once they began to menstruate, around age 13
  • Men married around age 30 after they'd had a few intimate relationships (preferably with other males)
Riace Warrior, c. 450 - 440 BCE.









Polykleitos, Doryphoros, 450 - 440 BCE.
Knidian Aphrodite, Roman copy
after Praxiteles of ca. 340 - 330 BCE.