Although women in fact play virtually no public role other than a religious one in the political and social life of ancient Greece, they dominate the imaginative life of Greek men to a degree almost unparalleled in the Western tradition. Greek writers used the female-in a fashion that bore little resemblance to the lives of actual women-to understand, express, criticize, and experiment with the problems and contradictions of their culture.(Foley).
How does the statement made by Foley hold true? Before one can assess the argument of "real" women versus "literary" women of Ancient Greece, it is crucial to know their place in Greek culture. .
Women in Ancient Greece were believed to have strong emotions with weak minds. Thus, they were given a kyrio, or guardian, to protect them from not only damaging themselves but from others as well. This guardian, the closest male birth relative or when applicable, husband, controlled most of her life, as her citizenship entitled her only to the possibility of marriage and to her husband's religious associations. While having the ability to own her own clothing, jewelry, and slave, as well as to procure other inexpensive items, she was forbidden to own property, buy anything of .
considerably value, cross the threshold into a verbal or written contract, or boast any political or economical benefits.
Women were married soon after puberty to a man of her father's choosing. Love was not necessary for marriage, as the only two purposes for marriage were the administration and conservation of property and to procreate. Women did not usually marry out of their class, as marriage ceremonies, for the most part, took place between close families. The rich married the rich. The poor married the poor.
As one can see, women did not play a very large public role in Greece. Their role can be summed up simply as "the best wife, according to one writer, was the one about whom the least was said, whether it be good or bad"(Thompson 1).