Mothering in Ancient Athens

Class, identity, and experience

Authored by: Yurie Hong

Women in Antiquity

Print publication date:  August  2016
Online publication date:  August  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138808362
eBook ISBN: 9781315621425
Adobe ISBN: 9781317219910


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For the majority of Greek women, motherhood was a defining experience and a primary source of identity. Virtually all women were expected to marry and bear children, who were viewed as fundamental to the wellbeing of the household and the functioning of society. However, mothers were not a homogenous group, neither was mothering a fixed experience. This chapter explores the lives of both citizen mothers and poor, immigrant, and slave mothers in Athens during the fifth and fourth centuries bce. 2 Two concerns, consciously held or not, govern mothering across all social groups: (1) balancing the immediate needs of children with daily tasks; and (2) securing long-term stability for oneself, one’s children, and one’s household within Athenian society.

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