The weaving women of Athens: Attic vase paintings of women working with wool
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This master's thesis has 3 principle objectives. (1) To identify the problematic identity and roles associated with the hetaira in Athens, (2) to present the iconographic evidence and material culture of both Athenian housewife and hetaira working with wool from the end of the Archaic to Classical period, and (3) to present arguments in favor and against the "spinning hetaira " debate. Scholars praise and negate the arguments concerning "spinning hetairai " yet no definitive conclusions are made. This paper seeks to fill this scholarly omission by raising a current discussion about both wool-working parties in Athens. It will utilize literary, archaeological, and visual evidence from the mid 6 th to the late 4 th centuries in ancient Greek history. In the Athenian polis women's work included spinning and weaving, food preparation, fetching water, child rearing, and agricultural work. Although women contributed to the polis by working in its private sphere behind the scenes, their work was depicted on both black-figure and red-figure pottery. If the work of women was performed in the private sphere of the polis , it is striking that there was a public interest and a market for Attic pottery depicting women working, especially with wool. The hetaira , or courtesan, also took on wool-work. The hetaira was one who was able to move between the strictly domestic world of the Athenian wife, and into the world of the man, who attended symposia , Greek drinking parties. The hetairai that took on wool-work were known as the "spinning hetairai ". Quite literally, there is a common thread presenting both wives and hetairai , in a sophisticated packaging to depict these women taking on a virtuous task. This paper aims to answer questions such as: how does one identify Athenian wife from the hetaira ? As well as, why did the hetairai take an interest in wool-work?