08 February 2012

Art History Wednesday!

Attic red-figure hydria, 490-480 BC
People. I am learning big things in my Hellenisitc Art History course. Love it!

Last week, we learned a little about the Greek Hetairai. They were kind of like Japanese Geishas, but they also did other... favors. In the heydays of Greek culture, women did not have any rights, but the Hetairai were very privileged. They were able to study many scholarly topics such as writing and poetry. Men also sought them out to have intelligent conversations, and often formed personal relationships with them. Now, marrying a Hetara was illegal for Athenians to do, so when Pericles fell in love with Aspasia, it was quite the scandal.

They are identified in ancient Greek art quite easily, because Greek women don't appear in ancient art unless they mythological characters or prostitutes. They also were required to have short, cropped hair. That makes them easy to identify, because the other few times Greek women are depicted in art, they have long hair coiled on top of their heads.

Women were not allowed to appear in public places, so they definitely weren't going to be depicted in such places. One of the few examples of "every day life" in ancient Greece shows some ladies at a watering hole. That's about it for them. Poor ladies. The Hetairai were having quite the time with their husbands. It was perfectly respectable for men to have wives and go to symposiums, which were these crazy parties they used to have. Kind of like a frat party, I'm guessing? Also they worked out in public in the nude?

I thought it was interesting that the ancient Greek culture chose to allow only these ladies to be educated. Why not their wives who they should be spending time with? This is strange to me, because I have Christian beliefs, which the ancient Greeks did not. I know that you are supposed to be dedicated to your significant other, and that is what I think.

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