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In Death Not Divided: Gender, Family, and State on Classical Athenian Grave Stelae

Ruth E. Leader
American Journal of Archaeology
Vol. 101, No. 4 (Oct., 1997), pp. 683-699
DOI: 10.2307/506830
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/506830
Page Count: 17
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In Death Not Divided: Gender, Family, and State on Classical Athenian Grave Stelae
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Abstract

This article focuses on the Attic grave stelae of the late fifth and fourth centuries B. C. as a source for understanding the construction of gender in Classical Athenian society. After a discussion of the nature of the Athenian cemetery and the stelae as artistic productions, selected images on stelae of single-sex and mixed-sex (family) groups, and accompanying inscriptions, are analyzed. The varied strategies of gender representation on them are shown to be linked to the differing models of gender relations appropriate to the Athenian state (polis) and the family (oikos). While on both types of stelae the commemoration of women typically invoked relationships with male members of their family, on the single-sex type this is done covertly, through allusions to dowry in the representation of jewelry, or verbally through epitaphs, preserving an image of women's separation from men. On stelae showing males and females, male family members are represented overtly in the visual sphere of women. Men's importance as members of the family unit is asserted on stelae depicting family groups, but not on stelae depicting only males, which assert their civic role. In conclusion, the tension between polis and oikos implicit in these representations of gender relations is related to the wider problem of the unstable division between state and family in the space of the cemetery and in the grave stelae as monuments.

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