[MGSA-L] Princeton Hellenic Studies Workshop: April 29, 2011

Dimitri H. Gondicas gondicas at Princeton.EDU
Thu Apr 28 08:18:18 PDT 2011


Program in Hellenic Studies


“Housing” Women in Classical Athens:
Reading Domestic Space and Women’s Seclusion on Attic Vases

Joanna Papayiannis
Department of Art and Archaeology

Interpretation of the meager evidence on housing in ancient Athens has resulted in a standard view of the house as a place that secluded and confined women in “women’s quarters” (γυναικωνῖτις).  The corollary to this is that measures were taken, both architecturally and behaviorally, to restrict women’s movements and interactions within the house.  Literary evidence, vase-paintings and archaeological remains have been employed to corroborate this belief;  the use of vase-paintings is perhaps the most problematic.  Certain architectural elements (doors, walls, pillars) in vase-paintings are generally read as delineating an isolated part of the Athenian house in which women were kept under lock and bolt.  Vase-painters, however, were restricted by the shape and size of their vases so that images had to fit into awkward or cramped spaces.  This resulted in a lack of architectural accuracy and an abbreviation of architectural setting.  In this paper, architectural elements in the vase-paintings are viewed as repetitive symbols whose meaning can be recovered from the pictorial language at large.  A more complex reading of the architectural elements may see in them a far greater physical and symbolic mobility for women than has been acknowledged.

Joanna Papayiannis is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Art and Archaeology in the field of Classical Archaeology.  She has excavated at the site of Argilos in northern Greece and has conducted field research on domestic architecture throughout mainland Greece.  Her dissertation examines the literary, iconographical and architectural evidence for gendered space in Classical Greek houses.
Friday, April 29, 2011
1:30 p.m.
Scheide Caldwell House, Room 103
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