Friday, December 13, 2002

On my ancient Rome discussion group we have been talking about changes in women's roles in the Roman Empire. The role of women in Rome had evolved significantly beyond the role of women in Greek society. Women were included in banquets and social gatherings and even engaged in business. Gaius Julius Caesar's mother Aurelia was a landlord in the Suburra. Women were even allowed to attend public entertainments, although they were seated in a remote section up by the seats reserved for slaves in the amphitheater.

Women of the upper classes in ancient Greece were so sequestered that they were not even allowed to go to the market. Scholars are still unsure if women were allowed to attend theatrical performances except those staged during specific festivals held for women. In my current audio course on Greek tragedy, Professor Vandiver mentioned that one of the few clues scholars have to indicate women may have attended general performances was an ancient source remarking that the first appearance of the Furies in Aeschylus' play "The Eumenides" caused women to faint and pregnant women to miscarry. However, she pointed out that the source of this report was written decades after the first performance of "The Eumenides" and may have been written to emphasize the spectacular nature of Aeschylus' stagecraft not as a valid reference to a change in women's activities.
I found a very good site on Aeschylus and his plays: